"Neku…I told you to wear a tie."

Keiko sighed heavily as her thin fingers reached out and began fumbling with her son's collar. In response, Neku rolled his eyes and struggled out of his mother's grasp. Keiko frowned at once, slapping Neku's hand away when it came to push hers away. "Neku," she began evenly, blue eyes darting up to stare deeply into her son's, "I want you to look nice for today and right now you're the equivalent of a homeless person."

Neku scowled. "Do not. A homeless guy wouldn't have a dress shirt," he argued, settling upon defeat.

Keiko rolled her eyes this time and continued fixing his collar before descending on the hem of the shirt that was hanging loosely over Neku's slacks. "I also told you to tuck this in…" she muttered and began stuffing the white shirt into the tight waistband of her son's pants.

"Mom!" Neku complained, cheeks turning red in embarrassment. "C'mon!...Stop that!...I can do it myself." Grumble grumble.

"If you could, you would have," Keiko answered and continued her tedious task. "Besides, don't you want to look nice for Josephina?"

Neku's mind dislocated for a collective sum of ten seconds. "Not really."

"But Neku, you're never going to impress a girl if you don't look your best," Keiko lilted and stepped away, admiring her handiwork.

"I'm not looking to impress anyone, Mom. If someone doesn't like me for who I am, then screw them," Neku responded and resisted the urge to tug his shirt out again. "I'm going upstairs until Dad gets here."

"Language," Keiko interrupted belatedly and shook her head. "And no, you're not holing up there like a mole until your Father arrives. What you are going to do is quickly get a belt and tie and then come back down here and wait for Josephina and your Father like a gentleman."

Neku cringed. "They don't need me holding their hands into the house."

"Neku…" Keiko warned, eyes narrowing.

"Fine!" Neku conceded and threw his hands up, beginning to walk to the small steps of their home. "What colour tie?"

"That checkered blue one I bought you last year," Keiko decided as she turned her back to her son and began cooking once more, messing with a few pots and pans.

"Right…" Neku nodded and departed, dragging his feet as he went. He didn't need Composer powers to know that today was going to be horrendous.


"Good afternoon, dear~"

"Don't call me that," Neku said through gritted teeth as he begrudgingly held the door open for his 'guest'. Joshua stepped in accordingly, his garb finally catching Neku's gaze. The redhead's throat went dry and he plastered an annoyed glare onto his face as quickly as possible.

"What are you wearing, Josh?"

"Oh, just something I found lying around—thought it'd be suitable." An infernal giggle followed as the Composer tauntingly spun around, the dress he was wearing catching the air and flowing out.

Neku twitched and cast his gaze away. The dress was simple—white with pale lavender stripes on the lower half. The only eye-catching quality was the deep violet material around the bust of the dress that complimented the straps. Neku aimlessly wondered how a real girl would look in the dress, considering how natural Joshua made it look. His stomach knotted consequently.

"Do you like it, Neku?" Another giggle.

"I think I finally figured out why Mr. H chose this as your punishment," the ex-Player mumbled, heading over to the couch.

Joshua cocked a brow, hand coming to rest on his hip. "Is that so?"

"He wanted you to realize that, deep down, you're a transsexual," Neku stated simply, plopping down on the sofa and closing his eyes. It was so hard not to punch Joshua whenever he took the whole 'cross-dressing' bet out of proportions.

A smirk flowered on the Composer's lips. "You have such a dirty mouth, Neku."

"No, I don't," Neku sighed.

Joshua rolled his eyes and walked over to Neku, making sure not to trip over his feet. At least he had opted to wear flats and not heels. "You're so deep in denial it isn't funny," the ashen-haired boy noted, hand covering his mouth to hold back another laugh.

"And this is coming from the guy in the dress?" Neku asked, cracking open an eye. He blinked a few times in surprise, however, when noticing how close Joshua suddenly was. "Uh?"

"You clean up well, Neku. Perhaps you're not a lost cause after all."

With that, Joshua took a seat next to his Proxy. Neku was about to snarl, shout, and slam his fist into the idiot's face when Keiko entered the room, holding a tray of something that appeared to be deep-fried. Neku decided, in order to preserve whatever sanity he had left, to ignore the Composer for the time being.

"Would you like some ebi-fry, Josephina?" Keiko asked kindly, smiling warmly at the newcomer.

"No thank you, Mrs. Sakuraba," Joshua responded politely and watched as the woman set the small tray on the coffee table. "Thank you for inviting me over."

"Of course," Keiko answered, clasping her hands together cordially. "Neku told me how your parents were away until the New Year. I couldn't have you all alone on Christmas." Her smile seemed contagious.

"That's very thoughtful of you," Joshua noted, careful to keep his hands laced in his lap.

Keiko's smile did not falter, but only seemed to brighten. "That's a beautiful dress, Josephina."

Neku bit back a snicker as he reached out to collect a fried shrimp.

"Thank you," Joshua answered hesitantly, bowing his head respectfully. "As is the one you're wearing."

Keiko giggled softly and turned to her son. "You have such a polite friend, Neku," she almost-cooed and reached over to pat Neku on the head. "I have to finish the meal up before your Father arrives. In the meantime, you two better behave." She tossed the two boys a wink before disappearing from the room.

Neku nearly choked on his appetizer.

Joshua smirked darkly and dramatically lifted a hand to his forehead. "Oh Neku, don't touch me there~"

"Shut up, you asshole!" Neku growled and shoved at Joshua's shoulder.

Joshua snickered to himself and dropped his hand. "It seems your Mother has quite the affinity for pairing us up, Neku."

Neku rolled his eyes. "Don't flatter yourself—she does that with me and Shiki, too. Besides, I'd rather deal with Pi-face than date you."

"Mm." Joshua laced his hands behind his head, eying the cozy living room carefully. "It'd be horribly improper—an Ex-Player and a Composer. You'd be so unfitting."

Neku's eyes narrowed. "Are you saying I'm not good enough for you?"

Joshua cocked a brow. "Am I?"

"I think you are," Neku answered, offended, and took another shrimp to distract himself from his growing urge to knock Joshua's lights out. "You've got it wrong, Josh. The only person you deserve is some Wall-Reaper."

"That was a pathetic comeback, Neku," Joshua noted and shook his head.

"This conversation is pathetic," Neku argued. "Besides, if you forgot, we're both guys. That's wrong on so many levels and—"

"Your point?"

"Huh?" Neku paused, lips hovering over the shrimp.

"I chose you as my Proxy because of your heightened Imagination and Soul. True, your Soul went through a crash-course in purification during your weeks in the Game, but it was bright to begin with. I would think that someone as polished as yourself would be more open-minded."

Neku wasn't sure whether to wince from the assault of eloquent words or to just laugh right in Joshua's face. "…I'm not homophobic, ass. I was just saying," he attempted in defense. "Besides, you're…"

"I'm what, hm?"

"You're barely a guy."

Joshua chose to ignore the chuckles that left Neku's mouth. The Composer was about to respond wistfully when the doorbell rang. The redhead tensed and passed his friend a pitiable stare. The usual game of wit ended abruptly when Joshua nodded ambiguously and lightly pushed at his Proxy's shoulder. The contact caused Neku to tense but before Joshua could notice, he was up and off the couch and across the room. Neku hurried to the door and, with a deep breath and a knotting stomach, opened the door.

A man, about six foot two, stood in the doorway, dark brown (almost black in the odd lighting) hair messily combed to the right, framing hard eyes. His gaze converged with Neku's briefly, blue meeting blue. No words were exchanged until Neku coughed awkwardly and glanced off to the right, finding the threshold interesting.

"Hello, son."

"…Hi, Dad."

Another moment of discomfited silence engulfed the pair.

"Neku, is that your Father?"

Keiko's voice drifted through the small home towards the door and out onto the bustling street. "…Uhm, yeah," Neku called back and turned his attention his Father. "…Come in," he added in tardily and quickly stepped aside, fingers holding the door open halfheartedly.

When Neku returned to the living room, Keiko was waiting, a frail smile on her face. "Katsumi, how have you been?"

"Good, and yourself?"


Keiko's smile faltered as her gaze wandered from her ex-Husband to Joshua and Neku. "Katsumi, this Neku's friend, Josephina." She gestured kindly towards the boy.

Katsumi's gaze settled upon the mentioned boy who waved a hand gently in greeting. "Nice to meet you…Josephina? Is that American?"

"Yes sir," Joshua responded calmly, ignoring Neku's surprised look, "My Mother came over when she was a teenager and fell in love with my father."

"That's nice."

The dryness of Katsumi's statement caused the Composer to bit the inside of his lip and nod distantly. After a moment, though, the two adults disappeared into the kitchen, leaving the 'teenagers' alone once again.

"He's a ball of sunshine, isn't he?" Neku muttered, exhaling deeply.

"Charming, really," Joshua noted sarcastically, tangible malice growing in his voice.

"…Are you really half American?"

Joshua blinked, gaze returning to the redhead. "…Of course, you didn't know?"

"Of course not. You avoid all personal questions," Neku huffed, arms folding to his chest.

Joshua giggled in amusement. "Why else would my parents call me an English nickname? Besides," his hand came up to run through his almost silver hair, "I don't think this hair colour is natural around here, no?"

"I doubt it's natural there, either," Neku scoffed, shaking his head. "You look albino."

"Not exactly, but many people thought I was," Joshua giggled and closed his eyes. "Honestly, Neku. I thought that you, of all people, would have noticed my nationality."

"Oh shut the hell up," Neku groaned and lifted a hand to rub at his face. "Anyway…if you don't want to stick around for my dad's lamenting, you can go back to work or whatever you're supposed to be doing instead of following me around."

"But Neku~ I've been a good boy and caught up on all my work," Joshua cooed and reached out to pat his Ex-Proxy's head condescendingly. Before Neku could swat the hand away, it was gone and Joshua was speaking again. "I'll stick around."


"I already said I would," Joshua sighed, lips curling up in discontent. "Would I go back on my word?"

"…I dunno," Neku admitted and shook his head, choosing to change the topic. "Maybe now that I have a 'girl' over for Christmas, he'll stop thinking I'm not 'normal'."

The look on Joshua's face morphed from discontent to amusement. "Would you like to propel that notion?"

"…Excuse me? I can't understand you when you talk like a dictionary."

Joshua held back a snicker and reached out to carefully touch the back of Neku's hand. The boy glared and yanked his hand away, frowning. Joshua seized the boy's hand and lifted the adjoined appendages in the air, gesturing with his gaze. "If your Father sees this, he won't have any more suspicions."

"…But Mom," Neku argued, eying the hands with a scowl. "And what if this plan backfires? And what if I melt from touching you for so long?"

"Details, details," Joshua chided. "I'm not all too keen on touching you either—I'd probably contract your disgusting personality."

Neku's eyes narrowed. "And you're charismatic as well."

"Thank you, Neku," Joshua hummed, pausing afterwards. "I hear your parents. Are we going to do this or not?"

"Fine," Neku grumbled and allowed Joshua's slim fingers to fill in the gaps between his own.


After dinner was over, Keiko pulled her son aside in the hallway, leaving Joshua and Katsumi to meander into the living room. The red-haired woman inhaled deeply as her back hit the wall, tugging Neku into a weak embrace.

"Thank you so much for behaving, Neku," she whispered comfortingly into his ear. "You've matured so much…I'm so proud of you."

Neku's ears burned in shameless embarrassment. "It's nothing big, Mom. I'm just avoiding a Civil War."

Keiko laughed lightly and hugged her son tightly before letting go, meeting his gaze. "I did want to talk to you about something, though."

Neku's elated mood was short-lived as his nerves came crashing down, forming a lump in his throat. "Oh?...About what?" He plastered an innocent stare on his face.

"…Why didn't you tell me you and Josephina were dating?" she asked calmly, hands coming to rest on her hips. "If I had known, I would have given you some extra money to buy her something special for the holidays."

"I already bought her something," Neku complained and looked away, cheeks burning. "And I dunno if you could say we're dating, persay…"

"Why else would you be holding hands? I've never seen you two, or any other girl, hold hands before just because it was a comforting thing to do," Keiko interjected, arching a brow knowingly.

Neku crumbled under his mother's scrutiny. He inhaled deeply. If this plan was to go off without a hitch, he needed his mom's cooperation. "We're trying to trick Dad."


"Mom, you know as well as I do that he thinks…stuff about me," Neku murmured, gaze drifting away from his mother. "I want to show him that he's just imagining it and he needs to finally grow up."


"Josephina doesn't mind, I promise," Neku added in hurriedly, risking eye-contact. "Please don't tell him."

"…What you're doing is deceptive, Neku."

"I know, but I'd rather lie than have him think I'm some sort of creep," Neku argued and clenched his fists, almost offended at the idea. "I want him to judge me like a father should—based on my personality, not his own damn suspicions."

Keiko winced and lifted a hand to brush through her son's bangs. "Neku, calm down. You know your Father loves you…he's always had an odd way of showing it."

"Stop making excuses for him…"

"It's true." She closed her eyes. "But I'll keep my mouth shut."

"Thanks, Mom."

"…I'm just glad you told me the truth."

And in that moment, Neku felt worse than he did after having been shot twice.


As the 'family' consumed the customary Christmas Cakes, Neku's hand remained tightly entangled with Joshua's. The Composer chose not to comment on how tongue-tied and different Neku was suddenly acting. Deep down, the ashen-haired boy knew he had no room to complain—he barely knew Neku, even after all these months. They were expendable to each other, and that was that. They used each other, yelled at each other, and that was it.

"So, how long have you two been seeing each other?"

Katsumi's questions regarding the two's 'relationship' never seemed to cease. "Two weeks," the redhead answered and shoved another piece of sponge cake in his mouth.

"Honey, didn't you ask that already?" Keiko laughed nervously, poking at her creation with a fork.

Neku cringed at the Freudian slip, looking off to the side. Joshua sighed to himself and absently tightened his hold on the boy's hand. The Ex-Player chose to ignore this also, sensing an extremely awkward moment if he questioned it. Why did Christmas always suck?

"Mr. Sakuraba…I heard you ran to be one of the city assemble?"

Neku inwardly groaned.

"What an educated girlfriend you have, Neku," Katsumi remarked, gaze settling on the Composer. "Why yes, I did. A few years ago—why?"

"Just wondering if you were the same Katsumi Sakuraba," Joshua explained simply and offered a horridly fake smile before tightening his fingers in Neku's. 'Don't be alarmed that I'm speaking in your head, it's one of my many talents as the Composer.'

'Reassuring…' Neku zoned out, fingers toying with his fork.

'The assemble has been my main enemy for as long as I can remember, Neku. They are constantly undermining my choices as Composer and passing new laws that go against the better of Shibuya.'

'Great, a history lesson?'

'Focus, Neku. What I'm trying to say is that I thought I recognize your Father. He was one of the many that ran a few years ago. Sanae and I had to fix the ballet so that he wouldn't win—his Soul is horribly tainted. I'll spare you the details…'

Neku's gaze drifted to his father, lips curling up into a silent expression of anger. 'I'm so glad I told Mom, then…'

'About his affair?'


'Don't let your anger consume you, Neku. It'll ruin your Soul.'

'…When did you become so concerned and philosophical?'

Joshua didn't answer and removed his hand from Neku's, returning to his dessert. Violet eyes settled on the treat and did not meet Neku's once more. Keiko and Katsumi continued their conversation, never suspecting the wordless conversation that had transpired between the pair. Neku attempted to restart the conversation but failed, realizing slowly that some form of physical contact was needed. Ironic.


"I think that went over quite well."

"I'm glad you think so," Neku answered as he passed a glance over to Joshua who was comfortably lounging on his bed. "…Why are you still wearing that dress?"

"Because," Joshua giggled. "As long as your parents are home, I need to keep up the façade," he purred and waved a hand absently across the room to Neku who was fiddling with his stereo. "…What are you doing anyhow?"

"Putting on music, what else would I be doing?" Neku sighed and began flipping through his case of CDs. "I need something on to drown out your nasally voice."

"Ouch," Joshua mused with a dramatic pout and closed his eyes, pulling his knees up into the air to get more comfortable. "Put something on that'll set the mood, at least."

Neku cringed. "Like what?"

"Something…" Joshua trailed off and cracked open an eye, peering at Neku in amusement. "Oh Neku~ Don't look up my skirt, you naughty boy."

Neku growled and flung a CD in, setting the volume on low. Anything to break the monotonous silence that sometimes plagued them. "Move over so I can lie down."

"Just lay down on me, Neku. You are my 'boyfriend'," Joshua mused, bending his fingers to make air quotes. His violet eyes shimmered mischievously as he tossed the redhead an innocent look. "I promise I won't be too vocal, hehe."

"You are insufferable," Neku grumbled and chose to sit on the edge of the bed. "At least my dad thinks I'm straight now."

Joshua licked his lips and sat up, propping his chin on his Proxy's shoulder. "Thanks to me, that is~"

"You and your harebrained ideas, yes," Neku exhaled deeply, wincing at the confession. "I guess I should thank you."

"Why don't you thank me properly?" Joshua breathed warmly, and loudly, into the other's ear, tickling the skin efficiently.

"Personal space," Neku quipped and raised his hand to push Joshua's face away. "Go take a cold shower or something. Your libido is starting to bug me."

Joshua pouted and kept his chin clamped on Neku's shoulder. "As if I'd ever let you touch me," he giggled, blowing air lazily against Neku's ear.

Neku shivered, but quickly hid such with a scowl. "Stop that. My ears are sensitive."

"…That so?" Joshua smirked. "Now, why would you tell me that?" Another giggle.

"So you won't do it," Neku argued and shook his head.

"But Neku," Joshua crowed, "If it 'turns you on' why wouldn't I do it?"


"Now be a proper gentleman and take me," Joshua ordered, lips a mere centimeter from Neku's earlobe.

"As if I'd ever have sex with a guy, let alone you! Stop being so damn perverted and get the hell away from me, you creep!" Neku snarled and sat up quickly, narrowing his eyes. "I can't believe you're getting so many kicks out of pretending to be a girl. You are a disgrace to the male race. God damnit, Josh, you are so fucked up—"

The door promptly creaked open in response to Neku's rant. Joshua cocked a brow at the sound of creaking hinges and sat up. Both boys paled at the same time when they saw the slim figure of Katsumi Sakuraba, looking a cross between horrified and disgusted. Joshua bit his lip, swallowed thickly, and fixed an indifferent stare on his face. Neku, on the other hand, had lost all the colour in his face and his knees wobbled.

"Get the hell away from my son you trans—"

"Leave Josh alone!" Neku instinctively hollered when he saw his father take a step into the room. His eyes fumed silently. When father's gaze met son's, Neku's temporary courage faltered and his visage matched that of a six year old. "I…"

"I always knew something was flighty about you, boy," Katsumi growled unoriginally, as if quoting the text of something that had transpired countless times before. "I can't believe you'd trick your Mother and I like that, you good for nothing—"

"And the man who cheated on his wife and threatened to corrupt Shibuya is trying to ridicule his son?" Joshua interrupted darkly, eyes glowing darker in the dim light of Neku's room.

"Shut up, fag—"

"I hate you both!" Neku decided in a fit of displaced rage, dramatically shoving past his father and out of the room. He didn't want to hear the usual lecture. Not this time. He ignored his mother's concerned calls as he fumbled out of the house and onto the chilly streets of Shibuya.

Joshua, meanwhile, met Katsumi's dark gaze. "A prime example of why Shibuya should have been erased," he muttered venomously and slid off the bed, clothes morphing slowly back into his customary slacks and shirt. "Now, if you'll excuse me." He pushed past the fuming man. "I'll deal with you later."

And with that, Joshua's form disappeared from sight, an air of absolute cold appearing where his body once stood.

For once, Katsumi Sakuraba had no retort.


Joshua didn't have to seek out Neku's Soul and Music, but instead relied upon his memory to find where the redhead had raced off to. The cool night of Christmas in Shibuya wrapped the silently sobbing redhead in a blanket—a blanket that would never be enough, no matter how much he pushed and shoved at it. It'd only ever cover his feet. He cursed himself silently for thinking that he could have had it all—a normal family, normal friends, and a normal life. Joshua seemed hell-bent on screwing him over every chance he got. Joshua probably knew his Dad was listening the entire time. Joshua had never ever been that teasing before, never gotten him that damn frustrated.

That damn…that damn worked up.

Neku's fingers trailed uneasily along the chipping paint of Cat's Mural. Blue eyes shut, not need to rely on his vision to know the image before him. The trembling Ex-Player sucked in a deep breath, replaying the day's events in his mind over and over. Christmas wasn't supposed to be this eventful—Christmas wasn't supposed to be this horrific.

A chill danced down Neku's spine as he muttered curses, the combinations not making any sense. He felt betrayed, hurt, and just confused. He felt weak and light-headed and stupid. Every single conceivable emotion gushed through Neku's body. He should have never allowed Joshua in that day. He should have never agreed to Mr. H's stupid bet thing. He should have never allowed himself to become friend with his two time killer. He should have done the smart thing and smacked Joshua and told him to take a hike. He never should have been able to hear and then proceed to worry himself over Joshua's troubling Music. He should have told the whole school Joshua was a guy just to spite the Composer. He should have moved on with his life.

It would have been disappointing, but it would have been safe.

Neku's slew of offending words came to a halt with a hitch of his breath. Something cold and hard pressed to his right temple, causing his heart to lurch and then plummet into the core of his stomach and being. He didn't breathe for a few moments as he heard metallic clang. The sound resonated in his ears and body, sounding far louder than the two times prior. His hands gripped weakly at the cold cement before him, as if doing such would bring him safety. The noise continued to echo in his mind as the barrel of the familiar gun rested snuggly against his head.

"You know, I was going to give this to you, Neku."

Despite his earlier convictions, Neku decided this would have been all the less painful if he hadn't heard that voice just then.

"But you probably wouldn't understand why—you're so simple-minded and generic," the voice reasoned lifelessly, allowing the head of the gun to slip down to the top of Neku's cheek, tracing the bone there.

When Neku found his voice after having fell to his knees, unable to support himself any longer, he managed to ask, "…Why this time?"

"What was that?" The gun returned to his temple.

"Why this time? What's the reason this time?" He bit back a betrayed sob. Why had he expected anything less from a cold-blooded murderer?

"I don't need to explain myself to you."

Neku felt his heart clench as the gun returned its tracing of the right side of his face. He gripped painfully at the ground, wishing to be somewhere safe and warm. Wishing to be in the past. Wishing to take everything back.

Neku choked out a gasp, willing back the hot, blinding tears from leaving his eyes. At least Joshua couldn't see him this time. At least he could die this time with his dignity.


Neku shivered, gulping down a ball of uncomfortable nerves that reappeared automatically. "You're g-going to kill me, aren't you?"

Joshua didn't answer, leaving the redhead to stare blankly at the graffiti wall before him. Life was too ironic.

"Go ahead, kill me. I don't care anymore," Neku whispered weakly.

The wind swept past the pair again, the gun sliding somewhat from Neku's cheek to his neck. Neku gulped and went on to add, "I don't even know why I trusted you in the first place…why I let myself get so close to you…" His words fell on deaf ears as a single sob escaped his trembling torso.

Two minutes passed before the cold metal against Neku's face was gone. A loud sound engulfed the area as the gun smacked against the wall a few yards away, landing on the ground lifelessly, loaded and ready to kill if one ill step was made. Neku's breathing seized, eyes weakly turning to the left to stare at the now discarded gun. He didn't make a move to stand for a long while, allowing the gravity of the situation to set in.

When footsteps sounded, Neku scrambled to his feet. "…Huh?" he asked bleakly, rubbing at his burning eyes. His gaze locked with Joshua's retreating form. At once, the Ex-Player took chase, mind and heart breaking all speed limits.

When he finally caught up to the Composer, he seized the ashen-haired male's arm. In a fit of confusion, Neku began screaming into the night air. "What the hell was all that for? Why, damnit? Why didn't you kill me? Why, Joshua?"

Joshua said nothing.

"Answer me!" Neku's other hand found Joshua's free arm, forcefully turning the Composer around to meet his gaze. Joshua pointedly averted his gaze indifferently.

"Just forget it, Neku. Just forget me," the Composer stated curtly.

"…After all that trouble I went through to get your Christmas present and you were about to kill me!" Neku snarled, fingers digging into Joshua's arms. "I can't believe you!"

"…What gift?" Joshua blinked, refusing to make eye-contact.

"I got Kariya to take back the job, asshole!" Neku screeched, his shakes transferring through his arms and hands. "I would think you'd at least thank me but you're…you're stuck in your old ways and when something goes wrong you just kill people off instead of fixing problems like normal people! But no! I can't believe you actually thought I hated you. You are so…so!..."

Joshua bit his tongue, looking almost touched for a moment. The magnitude of Neku's words hit him hard.

Neku looked away, breathing heavily.

"It wasn't loaded."

Neku tried to regulate his breathing but was failing miserably. However, the statement caught him off guard.

"I was planning to give it to you—it was never loaded."

Neku winced, zoning out. He allowed silence to engulf them. He couldn't look at Joshua anymore. He was too confused, too hurt, and too dizzy. For a long while, he just stood there, fingers eventually just pressing against Joshua's arms. His dangerous grip was gone and left with a confused and human touch.

Carefully, the Composer reached out to touch Neku's face. Expectedly, Neku flinched. The Composer frowned and pulled his hand back, eyes shutting with a heavy sigh. Never before had Joshua's lack of humanity been so apparent. Never before had it been so evident how long Joshua had gone without normal human contact.

"I don't get you," Neku whispered as his trembling frame fell against Joshua, face disappearing against the Composer's chest. All the stress from the day—between his Father, the confession, the confusion, and Joshua's little stunt—came pouring out of him in silent, hot tears that stained Joshua's shirt—stained it worse than blood could ever have done.

Awkwardly, the ashen-haired male's arms came to hook around Neku's form, hands hesitantly resting on the boy's back. It was obvious that Joshua had no idea what he was doing—no idea how to handle true emotions.

As the cold wind continued to whip against the pair, Joshua's eyes slipped shut and his head fell down against Neku's, cautiously finding his ear. "….I'm sorry."

Because no one had ever stayed.