Near's busy building a city.

Admittedly - it's on a very small scale, but he enjoys the challenge anyway. There's just something satisfying about the complexity of fitting all the components together in such a way that they'll hold firm and survive, even when faced with the wrath of Mello's petty kicks.

It doesn't usually work quite that well, but he's getting there.

Outside, the sun is shining down on the large gardens of the Wammy House, and children are running around playing football on the yellowing grass, shrieking happily.

Near is vaguely aware of this - but for him, summer mostly just means that a little more sunlight comes in through the window. Right now, in fact, it's even a little troublesome - the room's become quite stuffy, and the sun's now making him squint.

He crawls a little to the side, finding shelter in the shadow of a bookcase, and lies on his front - gazing down the main street of the city, prodding at the buildings on either side. He lifts a leg, tapping it against the bookshelf listlessly.

It's enjoyable enough, but, sometimes...

"I think you're missing a town hall..."

The voice is casual and sounds lost in thought, but makes Near jump nonetheless. He glances up, and blinks in confusion as he wonders how this person came to be standing behind him without him having noticed. Most unsettling. He frowns and sits up, shrugging slightly.

"I don't think so."

The stranger just watches him, and Near wonders how he got in, since he's clearly too old to be one of the orphans. He's a little hunched over, too, hands stuck casually in his pockets, and Near can't help but focus on the trailing laces of his shoes. He's far too untidy to be a new member of staff.

"Well..." The man's crouching down beside him and biting on the end of his thumb, wide eyes scanning the miniature city curiously, "it's a bit symmetrical, don't you think?"

Near feels somewhat put out, and wonders why this strange visitor seems to want to waste his time. After all, what did it matter that his city was symmetrical? It might not be realistic, but it was mathematically sound, and very logical. Near had been quite pleased with it.

"...who are you?" Near can't help but ask - and then those dark eyes are focusing on him, and Near feels a little strange, suddenly not entirely certain he wants to know.

"Renjiro," he's told blandly, and, for a moment, there's a faint look of amusement there that Near almost misses.

"You're Japanese?"

Renjiro shrugs and reaches out, picking up a couple of the buildings and starting to disassemble them, "if you like."

What kind of an answer is that? Near is unimpressed and remains silent, simply watching the blocks get reconstructed in Renjiro's nimble hands.

"Do you like it here, Near?"

Of course, he's about to respond with a 'but how do you know my name?' - but then he sees the solemn, sharp intelligence in those eyes, sees how Renjiro is watching him carefully; studying him.

And -- oh. Of course.

"It's okay," he mumbles, and he's focusing on the faint pattern on the carpet; on how his bare toes dig into it, leaving little dents which slowly fade away. He doesn't really dare to look back up at Renjiro - no, L, he knows that it's L, now - why hadn't he realised sooner? Was this a test?

But it doesn't seem to matter, because L is standing up, finished construction in his hands, and leaning over to place it down within the tiny city.

It's no longer symmetrical.

"Yes," L nods, looking faintly pleased, "don't you think that's better?"

Is it? Near's at a loss, because this whole meeting has thrown him. Why now? Why had no-one told them? It's painfully confusing, and Near hates it.

"...are you here to assess me?" The words tumble out of his mouth before he realises he even intends to say them, and it strikes Near that he's nervous. Suddenly, after all he'd been told about him, L is here, in front of him. And if the accounts are to be believed, L is...

Near can't remember if there's ever been another adult he thought he could look up to.

L's watching him curiously, but Near doesn't want to meet those dark rimmed eyes.

"Why would you think that?"

Why do you think? Because you've been studying me, because you've been making pointless conversation, because you've been hiding who you are--

"...because you're L."

At that, L smiles and ducks his head a little, as though embarrassed, but he doesn't try to deny it.

"A logical conclusion," L says thoughtfully, "but the former does not necessarily follow on from the latter." He crouches down again, so he's closer to where Near is still sitting. "I suppose you don't trust me?"

"I--" Near falters, because he doesn't even know the answer to that question himself. He knows that, rationally, he shouldn't. After all, this is the first time he's even met him, and everything he's heard has surely just been hearsay. But - there's that look in L's eyes; that calculating shrewdness that he hides behind that fa├žade of simple pleasantries. But Near can see behind it.

And... for some, uncomfortable reason, Near feels as though L sees him as he really is. But that's absurd - it has to be - and makes Near want to hide behind the pale curls falling in front of his face, which he unconsciously twists around one finger.

L's watching him again with those large, dark eyes - and then he's reaching out; offering his hand; it hovers between them, like an unspoken question.

"Your instincts and emotions are some of the most important tools at your disposal, Near," L's gaze flickers over to where the miniature city lies, where his own creation sits haphazardly among the order, "logic and precision are important, but will only get you so far."

Near stares at the proffered hand, and at the small smile that accompanies it. He's almost tempted to say no, no, I'd rather rely on my own reasoned judgement - but then L's tilting his head, and Near's distracted again by his messy black hair and open eyes - and he thinks he can, perhaps, see what L means.

And so, abruptly, he decides no, that's not good enough, and approaches L, crawling awkwardly because L's still crouching, ignoring the outstretched hand.

Near can't see L's face when he hesitantly reaches out and boldly puts his arms around L's neck, but he can feel the warm hands which come up to rest against his back in response, and the way L's soft hair brushes against his face and tickles his nose.

Because although he doesn't like to acknowledge it, Near is, after all, only a nine year old boy, and he needs this.

He clutches onto L for as long as he dares, and... it feels so surreal. This is L; this is who they are supposed to aspire to be, and... here he is, hanging onto him like a child.

So he lets go, and moves back, unsurprised when L stands up.

But what he doesn't expect to see is the faint look of pride in L's eyes, or for that solemn mouth to suddenly say, "it was nice meeting you, Near. I can see why Roger thinks you have a lot of potential."

And then with a fleeting touch to Near's shoulder, he's leaving, and Near is left alone with his creation.

But once L was gone, Near felt something within him empty as well. Although the sun was now setting, the room was still warm, and the shadows the bookshelves cast across Near's city are long and stretched.

He gazes at it for a moment, and, of course, L's contribution stands out the most. He hates that it still bothers him - that it's not symmetrical anymore - after all that L said, and his small fists tighten, trembling slightly before he marches over and drops to his knees, swiftly demolishing it all.

It's hard. Because he can still feel the warmth of L's arms; can still see the pride and belief in his eyes - and because Near knows that although he'll try, he still can't help but feel guilty that, perhaps, he won't manage to become what L wants him to be.