Author: Severe Cabbage PM
UPDATED AT LAST At twenty-one, Near is a detective working out of a glorified closet in a decrepit London apartment. His dull existence is interrupted quite rudely by an old rival, a new case, and a thoroughly unwelcome romance. Near/Mello, L/Light, AU.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Mystery - Light Y. & L - Chapters: 5 - Words: 15,828 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 34 - Updated: 04-01-13 - Published: 05-18-09 - id: 5072027
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
So. Um. Yesssss. Remember me?
I have left this story abandoned for so long that any returning readers likely think that I perished at nerd camp a year ago. But, hey, I didn't! I just got sucked in by school and pals and theatre and various other geeky interests, and I really do apologize. Unlike some stories, it was never my intent to completely desert this one. It's quite fun to write, after all.
So I have returned. I think that I'll stick around for a while—I feel obligated to see this one through to the end. I need to go back and edit some things because certain elements of the plot as they were are, um, stupid.
Apologies for what is probably a shift in my writing style. It's been a while, hopefully I've improved instead of regressed.
If you review, I'll love you forever and feel even more guilty. So you should totally do that.
And now, without further ado, let us resume this long-delayed epic.
DISCLAIMER: haha, do you really think I own Death Note?
"Are you sure that you don't want a piece of cake?"
Mello looked down at the bowl of chocolate ice cream balanced in his lap, the cup of overly sweetened tea sitting untouched in his right hand, and the plate of brownies that had been set upon the floor next to him. He then looked back up and was met by the intense and rather discomfiting gaze of the mentor he had not seen in over eight years.
Were it not for the small plate containing vanilla frosted cake being repeatedly nudged against Mello's leather-clad knee, it likely would have been a touching moment.
"Pretty sure, yeah," Mello said, as the rim of the plate bounced gently against his kneecap. "But thanks."
"Really? No cake at all?" L frowned and withdrew his arm. "Near, I suppose you have to finish this off, then."
The cake was set in front of the white-haired boy, who made no move save to stare at his unexpected windfall dispassionately. He had eaten cake once in his life before and saw no need to repeat the experience.
Mello took a gulp of his tea in order to appease his host, who seemed displeased by the lack of cake-directed enthusiasm. This gesture prompted two unfortunate results. One: even taking Mello's alarmingly high tolerance for sweetness into account, the tea was less actual tea and more a turgid mug of vaguely herb-flavored water and swirling sugar. The tooth-crumbling taste of the beverage caused Mello to shudder, a gesture that was only partly suppressed and resulted in the second unfortunate result, namely the violent collision of Mello's elbow with the wall.
The pain was negligible, but the sudden contact with plaster served to remind Mello that—for whatever reason—he was sitting in what amounted to a closet with two adult men, surrounded by plates of dessert, computer equipment, and obsessively organized file folders.
Mello had realized upon stepping into Near and L's apartment that, all things considered, he should have taken into account that the home of two antisocial geniuses with compulsive mannerisms would be, well, not the most welcoming place in London.
Mello's apartment was-if not, strictly speaking, tasteful-then at least luxuriously decorated. He had applied the deep red paint to the walls himself, hunted high and low for the ideal monochrome wall prints, and spent his first commission check on the gleaming and shockingly comfortable leather couch that served as a centerpiece to his living room. It was immediately obvious to him that Near and L had taken no such pains with their own abode, despite having—cumulatively—more money than God.
The apartment was blatantly a shithole; there was no helping that. But instead of trying to brighten the place up, the two detectives had simply allowed entropy to devour the place whole. The cracks in the walls surrounded by thumbtacked papers from files and hastily-scribbled notes, the perpetually damp carpeting scattered with cords and puzzle pieces, the mismatched chairs set at the wobbly kitchen table—all these signs pointed to residents whose intense focus on intellectual pursuits eclipsed any inclination towards comfort or basic physical well-being. Mello had shuddered as soon as he set foot in the place and drawn his leather trench close to his body in order to avoid contact with the grayish mold creeping up the walls.
And now he was crammed into this, this sleuthing cupboard, knee-to-knee (face to face was a given in such crowded quarters) with both his least favorite person and the man whose footsteps he had been trying to follow in since the day that they had met.
Mello would continue to worship L if the man turned out to be the Antichrist himself, so he had decided to transfer all his disgust at the current situation toward Near, who had been the recipient of at least twelve deadly glares since he had first brought Mello to the apartment roughly twelve minutes ago.
Mello shot another one of these at the curly white head next to him and was met with the boy's typically passive gaze. He snorted and turned his attention back to L.
"You probably know why I'm here," he said, and downed a spoonful of ice cream. No use ignoring chocolate, even if it wasn't his favored method of conveyance.
"You want to work on the Kira case. Or rather, you want to work with me—the Kira case, however, is the best opportunity you have found, " L replied instantly. Statements, not questions. L's eyes were as wide and emotionless as ever, but Mello fancied he could detect some hint of amused approval twinkling in their depths.
"Yeah. I figure, if you haven't solved this Kira thing already, then it's pretty damn challenging. And I'm one of the best in the continent now, I know I am, and if you're going to have any help it might as well be me."
"I do have Near already," L pointed out. Near studiously avoided Mello's gaze.
"Yeah." Mello stared at the boy his idol had chosen to adopt—the boy who was nothing like himself—and his eyes narrowed. "You have Near. But does that mean you can't have me?"
"No," L said, and this time the smile actually worked its way to his face, the corners of his lips tugging almost imperceptibly upwards. "I suppose it doesn't."
Mello grinned and realized that he could hear his heart thumping in his ears. That tiny smile from the world's number-one detective couldn't have been more satisfying. He had made it to L at last, quite literally in fact.
But Near—Near was still better, wasn't he? It was Near who lived here, Near who had set up this little closet base of operations, Near who was exchanging a glance with L that meant nothing to Mello.
They were close, and Mello, despite having finally broken into their operation, wasn't part of whatever confusingly familial bond they shared. He had imagined, as he carefully drew closer and closer to L and this case, that once he was accepted, he would be able to fit in with no trouble, be able to work and talk and even laugh with the man who was, for lack of a better word, his hero.
But as he sprawled in the corner of this tiny office, watching Near and L sit in those uncomfortable and nervous manners that were so eerily similar, he realized he was still outside, and someone close to him—not that there was a wide population able to claim that distinction—might have seen the sudden bitter sadness that clouded his grin and caused his back to slouch further against the musty wall. But then again, they might not have noticed; for once, Mello had determined to keep his emotions to himself.
Near and L were impassive and disconnected, and if he was going to intrude on what they had formed for themselves, his feelings would only be a liability, just as they always had been.
Mello had got what he wanted at last. It was time to dispense with weakness.
So he grinned his crooked grin that so resembled a smirk, chuckled, and stuck out an arrogant hand. "Does that mean I'm in, then?"
L took his palm between two bony fingers and approximated a handshake. "It does. Welcome to the Kira case, Mello."
Surprisingly, Near also extended a pale arm. "I look forward to working with you," he murmured, expression entirely opaque as he shook Mello's reluctant hand.
"Yeah," Mello said. "Whatever."
Light Yagami opened his eyes, groaned, and said frankly to the ceiling of his flat: "Grrrngh."
After a brief pause, he tried again. "Ugh."
Better. That was better. Not strictly a word, but verging on coherent. He was ready to face the day.
Light sat up slowly, the muscles in his shoulders still tense and creaky with exhaustion. He had fallen asleep on the couch at some point, and now the dark brown tweedish fabric had worked its pattern into the creased flesh of his arms—likely his face, too, he realized with some irritation.
A quick look around the flat assured him that Misa was long gone. He remembered her presence from last night, sitting on the couch and chattering enthusiastically and…. oh. Right. Storming out in a twirling huff when Light had resisted her efforts to pull him into the bedroom for an entirely different sort of activity.
The couch cushions still smelled of her perfume, bright and flowery and presumably enticing. Light winced and shoved the cushions to the floor, standing up and stretching stiffly in the same movement. His neck and back echoed with an impressive chorus of cracks, and his stomach swayed queasily with the change in position.
The feeling of yesterday's clothing against his skin had started to bother him already and he headed for the bathroom, grabbing a towel from the neatly folded stack in the hall closet. The sudden shock of the cold wood flooring against his feet made him shiver, but he stripped off his shirt regardless and tossed it onto the floor outside the bathroom. A departure from the usual fastidiousness, yes, but he would take care of it presently.
Teeth. That was the first thing. His mouth tasted awful, as though he had been chewing on newspaper. He stood in front of the sink and hunted methodically for the toothpaste, which Misa—as ever—had moved from its customary spot. This time it was on top of the toilet tank.
A sudden beeping sound indicated that his phone, kept in his pocket all night, had some banal communication to impart. He pulled the sleek black rectangle out of its wrinkled khaki prison and typed in the passcode, tired fingers still fumbling slightly over the keys.
A text from his sister. His university student sister who never woke up before ten on Tuesdays, her one free day of the week. Light frowned and opened the text.
His eyes widened and his hands, slack with shock, dropped the phone to the hard tile floor, where it landed noisily and proceeded to skitter under the sink cabinet.
Light cursed weakly and dropped to his hands and knees, groping around until he located the now chipped phone. It was still on, amazingly, and he opened the browser to his homepage, a world news site.
It was on the front page, just as he'd expected. The headline said all that he needed to know.
Light lunged for the toilet, the queasiness in his stomach twisting suddenly into a violent pain. Happily, he didn't have far to go.
Light Yagami was a lot of things. He was vomiting into a toilet at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning, first of all. He was the darling of the SPK, a brilliant young man with worlds of potential. He was the boyfriend of a model.
He was Kira, and responsible for the deaths of over 75 criminals.
He was crying, although he hadn't quite noticed yet.
Most importantly, Light Yagami was the son of a man who had just been shot in the head.
"I've got an idea," Mello said. It was less of an idea than a demand, really, but this was likely the best way to frame it.
Two pairs of dark and unreadable eyes instantly locked onto his face. Near, seated on the ground in front of a typically elaborate puzzle of the Alhambra, continued to sort corner and side pieces into their separate piles, while L—balanced awkwardly on the room's one chair—ceased typing for a moment.
There was an overlong silence while Near and L waited for Mello to state his idea and Mello in turn waited to be asked about said idea. All parties, unfortunately, surrendered at once.
"I think that it would be wisest to—"
"Yes, what is—"
"By all means say it—"
All concerned broke off at once at stared blankly at each other.
"Mello, please tell us your idea," L hazarded again.
Mello grimaced. That exact exchange was one of the reasons why his idea was absolutely and irrefutably awful. However, it was also entirely practical, and thus he had to sell it convincingly.
"Alright. You've probably noticed…that is, it's evident…." Mello tried, he really did, but when it came right down to it he did not speak as elegantly or coolly as his two companions. They'd really just have to adjust.
"This bloody apartment, that's the thing. I've seen nicer crack dens. You lot mustn't be happy here, right?"
"I am happier here than I would be in a crack den," Near stated. Mello stared oddly at him.
"You're right, Mello," L said amiably. "I'm afraid it was all we could find on short notice while still keeping a low profile. I assume your idea, then, relates to the quality of our accommodations?"
"Yeah." Mello grimaced mentally, but plowed on nonetheless. "This place is tiny and shitty and probably kind of dangerous. I haven't needed to keep that low a profile, so I've got a really nice flat a few streets away. Now that we're all working together…it might be in our best interests…that is…ugh."
He stared into the eyes of his companions and saw a complete lack of comprehension. Geniuses. They made everything somehow more difficult.
"You two. You should come and live with me. I've only got the one bedroom, but L—you don't sleep except in chairs in any case, do you?"
"That is often where I lose consciousness, yes," L admitted cheerfully.
"And Near can take the couch."
"I am bringing my things," Near stated flatly. This appeared to be an acquiescence of sorts.
"So, you're both…alright with that?"
"I see no problem with it," L replied. "Near?"
"Mello has adequate floor space, I assume?" the young man asked, once more piecing his puzzle together and staring intently at the floor.
"Yes," Mello said dryly. "Mello does."
"I agree to Mello's proposition, then," Near said. In a glorious display of social facility, he now appeared to be addressing his puzzle.
"Great. Fantastic. Argh."
"Argh?" Near murmured.
"Didn't say that," Mello lied. That part had been intended for his thoughts but, he reasoned, a man could only take so much horror at a self-inflicted fate before crumbling a bit.
"We will pack up our belongings. Mello, would you like to return to your flat and prepare it for our arrival?" L asked, standing—or rather, hunching slowly upwards—and closing his laptop with a snap.
"Yeah, sure." The blond man turned to leave, and then hesitated. "You've already found out where I live, haven't you?"
"Of course," Near and L replied in tandem.
Mello shuddered. He would ask himself just what he'd gotten himself into, but unfortunately, he already knew the answer.
Alright, well, there you go. I hope it was a decent effort. Let me know if you still like this darn thing, and hopefully I'll see you next time!