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Don't Get Lost In Heaven

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Joshua walks through Shibuya. He didn't need to, but he wanted to.

He remembers when that very thought alone would have repulsed him. Yet even though it's crystal clear in memory, it feels a lifetime away. Shibuya has changed, and he has with it. He finds he can now admit it without being terrified.

But what does give him pause is his goal for the afternoon.

Facing his problems is not something Joshua does, being an escapist at heart. He'd let others do work for him where he could and lets himself get distracted playing games. He'd let Neku take charge of battles in their partnership and Megumi had been soloing Games long before their wager.

Maybe he's not over all of it, but he thinks this is a necessary step in the right direction. He flexed his grip on the headphones in his hand. It's just a very troublesome and difficult step.

WildKat looks as empty as always, considering Joshua is usually it's only other occupant. He opens the door and Sanae looks at him from his usual spot behind the counter. Joshua is unsure of his expression.

“Hey. Josh.” Joshua thinks he may have intended that to sound like one statement instead of two, but it's hard to tell with the neutrality in his voice. Considering how things concluded between them before, it shouldn't be a surprise.

Joshua is still standing in the doorway. It's silly to ask, but he still does. “Can I come in?”

“O'course,” Sanae says. His gaze drops to the headphones–Neku's old headphones–in his grip.

Joshua sits down at the counter as he has many times before, placing the headphone on the seat next to him as he does. He then laces empty fingers together on the counter's icy surface.

“What brings ya here?” His Producer has offered no sampling from his cafe, so he assumes they’re forgoing the formalities as it were, which he prefers. It means Joshua doesn't have to sidestep them. He doesn't have the stomach for it either.

“I believe you already know,” Joshua replies. Though he suspects it’s only half-true.

Sanae nods. “Phones dropped by again. The other day.”

Joshua did already know this. Neku had informed him, which he appreciates. However, it still doesn't stop him from the slight internal wince he gets hearing it from Sanae. He deserves it though, he'd gone AWOL. He doesn't blame Neku, or his Producer for that matter. They weren't given much of a choice.

He never gives anyone much of a choice.

“I'm assuming he talked to you too?”

“He did,” Joshua admits, but he's already decided to spare Sanae the gory details. “We talked. And I'm here because it made me realize I have something to talk to you about.”

Joshua has already broken their unspoken agreement with his outburst not long ago. So any further pretense is a waste of time.

“You tried to dethrone me,” he states, “You gave Minamimoto the tools to assassinate me. You–” He swallows. This is a little more difficult than expected. “You betrayed me.”

Sanae’s expression has faded from neutral to grave, but he doesn't attempt any justification in response. “I did,” he says, though it doesn't make it hurt less. “Are you asking me why I did?”

Maybe Joshua could take a page out of Neku's book, say that's exactly it, and head down a further line of questioning. He may even be lucky enough to get a few tears out Sanae even. But that's not what he wants. He doesn't need to know why. He already knows why. Is painfully aware of it, in fact.

“No,” Joshua murmurs, “I wanted to acknowledge it. I'm tired of running away.” He thinks Sanae would be proud of him in any other circumstance.

He continues. “I didn't make it easy on you, I know, I fought against you at every turn. I pushed you away. It's a wonder you didn't give up on me sooner.

“I wasn't a good friend, and you are still the best friend I've ever had.” That probably says a lot about my fucked up relationships, doesn't it? “And I'm sorry I put you in the position I did.”

While he cares about Neku and their relationship is the best it's ever been, their track record has more misses than it does hits and that's not Neku's fault.

But there's too much he and his Producer have been through, too much they've risked, and although the betrayal throws that into contrast, it can't erase it. If Joshua was angrier, he might want it to.

“But I can't say I'm not affected.”

Hindsight tells him he should have expected it. Sanae had put his job on the line and broken rules before to help him become Composer. But, well, Joshua had thought it was out of affection for him. He thought he was, nauseating as it may seem now, special.

But perhaps that sentiment could still be applied considering what the Long Game had cost his Producer. Sanae had done even worse this time around. This time he hadn't gotten out of it unscathed. He is Fallen. Though that could be more of a testament of Minamimoto's worth than Joshua's.

This train of thought isn't doing him any favors.

Sanae has said nothing before this point. His eyes appear shadowed by his shades more than usual. “Joshua, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have...” His voice is tinged with something that sounds like guilt, but it seems to die with the rest of the sentence. Perhaps he doesn't mean it. Maybe he realizes an apology isn't enough, just like Joshua's isn't.

Joshua smiles at his Producer sadly. “It's funny, I find I can forgive you,” he says, “But I can't trust you.”

And that's all there is to say.

“These are yours,” Joshua then speaks up after their moment of silence. He takes the headphones off the seat to place them on the counter. “Neku said he didn't need them anymore.” He pushes them a little ways. “And neither do I.”

Joshua then gets up to leave when Sanae speaks again to only tell him, “We set the date.”

The so-called repercussions upstairs, Joshua thinks sourly. That's fine. He's ready to get it over with. Games have been postponed long enough as it is. But just another thing to scratch at bleeding wounds.

“Hmm. So be it,” he parses, “See you then, Sanae.”

“... Take care, J.”

And he leaves with no fanfare and steps out into Shibuya once again. Joshua is going to meet his friends. They're alive. The future is a possibility for all of them.

And now that includes Joshua, too.