A/N: Started in December, on an impulse while watching the rain. Finished today, in honor of the holiday. Happy Valentine's Day.
Valentine's day dawned cold and clear that Friday at Wammy's House, with the sun setting the sky alight with dancing rays.
It was a special day to them, to the orphans, one they tended to look forward to especially. In a place where the mind and its power was help revered above all else, a day for social interaction and fun was a rarity indeed.
Already, the children were up, laughing and flirting with one another, gossiping as they made their way to class. Chrome had been seen slipping a card under Eureka's door. Tail had caught Sheen and Hall kissing outside the fourth-quarter rooms. And everyone was talking about the dance.
"What do you mean you're not going with anyone?!"
Mello scoffed and rolled his eyes, striding down the hall as Matt hurried to catch up.
"Just what I said, Matt," Mello informed him. "Dances are stupid, petty things. Whoever heard of forced social interaction? They're requiring we go to this."
"But Mello!" Matt objected, trotting along. "You know the most people of anyone here! You may not like anyone, but surely someone would have gone with you... even I have a date!"
"I never said I didn't like anyone," Mello snapped. "And getting a date is not the issue." He yanked open the door to the classroom, going to his cubby hole to put his things away, Matt following at his side.
"There! Look at all the stuff you got, Mello!" Matt pointed out, gesturing to Mello's crammed cubby hole. "You got chocolates and cards and candies and everything! Anyone you would have asked would have said yes!"
Mello rolled his eyes, scooping all the junk, candy, and cards from his cubby into his bad. He paused, once, removing an odd-looking cube from his spot and examining it by hand. Matt looked too, intrigued.
"What is that?" Matt asked, incredulous, poking Mello's cube a bit. "Is that a Rubik's cube made entirely of chocolate and candy?"
Mello snatched it away, pocketing it. "So what if it is?"
"It-it just seems a bit weird, is all," Matt said, blinking. "If anything, it seems more like the sort of thing someone would get Near, rather than you..."
At the mention of Near, the two simultaneously turned to regard the quiet white boy, who was at the side of the cubby holes, kneeling, quietly pulling his own valentine's from his cubby.
Near had quite a few cards and treats, Mello noted, but the kind that people gave everyone in the class, not individually, Mello thought, somewhat smug. He raised an eyebrow as near withdrew a large, heart-shaped box of chocolates, his eyes flashing as the boy shook it a bit, listening, before examining it for a name and setting it aside.
"Wow..." Matt murmured from his side. "I wonder who got him that..."
Mello didn't respond, his eyes still watching the other boy as he withdrew a black box with a red ribbon tied on top, securing a lone chocolate bar to the lid. Near pulled the red ribbon off, setting the candy bar aside to pick up the box and shake it slightly, a small smile coming over his face as he heard the contents move.
Near's smile was small, what it was there, and it was real, Mello thought breathlessly, watching as Near's eyes sparkled as he carefully set the box aside.
He liked the gift.
He liked it.
"I wonder what's got him so happy." Matt's voiced question pierced through Mello's thoughts, and he turned to shoot Matt a dirty look, who continued on obliviously. "I mean, he didn't even open it, and there wasn't even a card. What's he smiling about?"
"Maybe he knows who sent it to him and what it is already," Mello said, tearing his eyes away from the small white boy, now busy getting his books in order. "After all, it is Near. C'mon Matt, let's go."
"Yeah..." Matt said dubiously, as if he didn't quite believe him, but going on ahead of him into the classroom nonetheless. Mello held the door open for him before following him through, pausing in the doorway to cast one glance back at the other boy.
Near had been looking at him. Their eyes locked together, both boys freezing as they did. Mello's hand somehow found its way to his pocket to squeeze the chocolate puzzle cube, and Near's fingers tightened around the black box in his hands, unnoticed.
A short of a smile touched Mello's lips and he watched Near's eyes widen, as if in disbelief of what he was seeing. The two looked at each other for a long moment, motionless, a world of knowledge and emotion passing between their eyes, before a loud noise from the other room broke the spell, jolting them both back to reality.
Near jumped and Mello jerked, both breaking the contact, flushing. Near hurriedly looked down at the floor while Mello's eyes hastily went to the ceiling. An awkward moment of silences passed, before Matt called out "Mello!", making both boys look to the door to the other room. Mello sighed and went to it, casting a last lingering glance at the small white-clad child inside, meeting his eyes and holding his gaze for a moment, before finally vanishing inside.
"Mellooooooooo!! You can still ask someone, you know!"
"Shut up, Matt!" Mello snapped, bent over his work, one of the few people in the room actually doing what they were supposed to be doing in a study hall. "I don't want a damn date to the dance! I still think it's stupid!"
"You might as well make the most of it, though," Matt insisted, playing his DS as he talked. "Like, even if they're forcing us all to go, at least if you have a date, you'll have someone to suffer with."
"I have you for that, don't I?" Mello said, glancing up sideways, smirking. Matt flushed.
"Hey, shut up, Mello!" he said, shoving him, embarrassed. "I have a date, you know!"
Mello rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Ishtar," he scoffed. "You know you only asked her because you knew she wouldn't say no. I bet she'll have her nose in one of hers stupid novels the entire time, anyway."
"At least I have a date!" Matt hissed. "I'll have someone to dance with, even if she steps on my feet with her nose in a book! But you won't have anyone!"
"I don't want anyone," Mello snapped, moving onto his next math problem. "Dances are stupid. Girls are stupid. This whole day is stupid."
Mello closed his eyes, thankful for a moment of peace. A minute later, raising an eyebrow, Matt spoke again, his tone considerably toned down; curious now, even. "...girls are stupid?"
"Yes," Mello said, content that Matt was finally calming down. "Girls are stupid, along with dances, hearts, dates, and all that other crud."
Matt looked at him sideways. "...if you don't like girls," he said slyly, "does that mean you like guys instead?"
For just a moment, Mello froze, and Matt leapt at the opening, seizing the chance.
"You do!" he exclaimed, triumphant! "Admit it, Mello! You only flirt with all the girls so no one will know! You didn't ask someone to the dance because you'd have asked a guy and didn't want to be teased! Admit it, Mello! You do!"
"God, shut up, Matt!" Mello said irritably. "Where do you get off on these screwy theories? I'm trying to do my Math."
"Yeah, but- c'mon, Mello! You know you-"
Mello stopped listening, something odd moving in the corner of his eye. He glanced up, pausing, his eyes narrowing at this new sight.
"Matt," Mello interrupted, his tone low. "What's Linda doing?"
Matt paused as the two looked up from their table over to their classmate, watching. Her cheeks flushed, Linda was holding a thornless white rose as she walked, determined, toward the carpeted area of the room, fully looking like she was about to wet herself.
Mello's eyes flashed, narrowing further. There was only one person on the carpeted area of the room.
"She's going to give that to Near," Mello said, his tone low, dangerous, as his eyes sparked. "She's going to confess her love to Near."
Matt looked worried. "She might not be," he said anxiously, watching. "White roses mean friendship, after all, so... she could just be being nice..."
"All the kid wears is white. It's Valentine's Day. And how the fuck do you know what flowers mean? God, Matt-"
"My sister owned a flower shop, okay?" Matt said hotly. "so I can't help but know these sorts of-"
"Shut up, Matt," Mello cut in, his eyes narrowed, pinned to the scene. "I want to watch this, okay?"
"...okay." Mello paid no attention to the sulky response.
Linda was nervous, Mello noticed, as she shuffled over to Near. Her knees were practically shaking, she was twirling the rose in her fingers, agitated, and she looked like she wanted nothing more than to run away.
Near, however, appeared completely oblivious. Crouching on the carpet, solving a puzzle, Near appeared completely absorbed, ignorant of Linda's approach. Mello took a moment to glance at the puzzle, noting that it was new, a solid black, as opposed to his usual milk puzzle, allowing a small smile to touch his lips at this.
Mello's eyes darted up to Linda as she spoke, shuffling slightly. Near paused, before slowly looking up to her, and Linda thrust out the rose toward him, silent.
"She's doing it," Matt murmured in disbelief from his place at Mello's side. "I can't believe she's actually doing it."
"Shhh," Mello hissed, his eyes locked onto the scene like every other pair of eyes in the room. The two on the carpet seemed oblivious to the stir they were creating, though, as if trapped in a glass world all of their own.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Near reached out and took the flower from her, his hand not touching hers. His eyes still locked with hers, he brought the rose to his nose and sniffed slightly, before moving the blossom away, softly setting it down.
"Thank you," he said quietly, before looking back down to his puzzle.
Near's passive manner and utter social incompetence seemed almost overwhelming to Linda, as she looked about to bail. Mello and Matt exchanged contemptuous looks, stifling snickers, as Linda took a deep breath to steady herself.
"I- I really like you, Near!" she burst out suddenly, awkward, blushing a bright red. "I- I put that big chocolate heart in your cubby, and I- I just wanted you to know! Will you go to the dance with me?!"
Her voice was almost hysterical, and the silence that followed her outburst was so loud it deafened Mello's ears. Near just sat there for a long moment, unmoving. Slowly, his expression measured, he looked up to meet her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Linda," Near said quietly. "But I'm afraid that I must decline."
A breath of relief that he hadn't realized he was holding escaped from Mello, and Matt turned to shoot him a questioning look, but Mello was too fixed on watching Linda, who looked ready to break down.
"I- I don't- ... - why, Near? Why not? I mean, you don't have a date to the dance!" There was a desperate look in Linda's eyes, almost determined, though she looked thoroughly miserably. "Do you not want to go with anyone? Or do you just not want to go with me? Is that it?? Do you really hate me all that much?!?"
Now Near looked embarrassed, Mello noted, as Linda hid her face in her hands, on the verge of tears. Mello made a mental note that if an insane love-stuck girl ever came up to him that way to get the hell out of there as fast as he could.
"Linda..." Near's voice was soft, quiet, but Mello heard it all the same, watching as Near raised a hand up to touch her face gently, soft. Linda looked up at him, her face tear-stained, and Near gently brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear.
"I don't hate you, Linda," Near said quietly, looking at her with open eyes. "It's just... I can't go with you. I'm sorry. But..." Here, Near hesitated. "...if it'll make you feel better, I'll dance with you there..."
At that, Linda's face lit up with such hope that Mello felt sick to his stomach. He turned away from the sight, attacking his math problems furiously, and Matt cast a glance down at him that seemed almost sad.
"Linda's leaving now," Matt told him, still watching. "She looks happier, now. Near's looking over here. There's something in his eyes, too, as if he knows you're mad he's going to dance with her." Matt paused, glancing down at Mello. "...y'know, just because he has other things on his mind at times doesn't mean he's not constantly thinking about beating you too-"
"Shut up, Matt," Mello said roughly, nearly tearing the page in his math book as he turned it too quick. "You're crap at comforting. And it's not that he-"
"Eyes at 10 o'clock," Matt said suddenly. "It's Carmen. Carrying chocolate. Heading straight this way."
Mello blinked, looking up from his problems to see the Italian girl sashaying towards them. A tanned, black-haired beauty, Carmen was the most sought-after girl in their class, and Mello felt himself slip into his social-stud persona, a confident grin spreading across his face.
"Oh man oh man oh man," Matt groaned next to him. "If she comes any closer to me, I'm gonna die. I think I'm gonna cream my pants. I'm-"
Mello shoved him roughly. "Shut up, Matt," he said, his eyes exasperated. "D'you have to be so crude?"
"Yeah, I know, but-"
Mello and Matt both looked up to see Carmen leaning slightly over the desk, the heart-shaped box of chocolates set down on the desk. She wore a flirtatious smile, a coy look that reached her eyes, and Mello heard Matt start to hyperventilate beside him.
"Carmen- h-hi, Carmen-"
"Hey," Mello said simply, looking up at her with an expression of mild intrigue. Matt groaned, outclassed in one move.
"Mello," she said, smiling. "These," she gestured, "are for you. Happy Valentine's Day."
"Chocolates," Mello said, pulling the box over to him, looking up at her with a flirtatious grin of his own. "I'm impressed. You must be a mind reader, to know that I like them..."
Carmen laughed, amused, her eyes lighting up at the familiar teasing, and Matt looked jealous, Mello noted, as if he'd do anything to be able to make a girl laugh like that.
"I received your Valentine's day card this morning." Carmen withdrew a classy hand-made card from her pocket, dangling it from her fingers. "However," she continued, "it failed to contain your invitation for me to accompany you to the dance..."
Matt made a strangled noise to his right at Carmen's blatant proposition, though Mello's smile only widened. He was used to being the center of the social scene, and the eyes of the entire class on him didn't faze him at all.
"Really?" Mello took the card from her, feigning surprise, examining it for the omitted passage. "Wow, it doesn't. That must mean I didn't ask you to the dance, then."
Carmen took the card back, pouting. "I thought you might have made an exception just this once, to your non-exclusive rule," she said, pocketing it. "It is, after all, Valentine's day..."
Mello smirked, reclining in his chair. "Did you really think I'd ask you?" Mello asked. "For shame, Carmen. For all you know, I could have asked someone else to the dance."
Carmen gave him a look. "There's list Roger's keeping of who's going with who. You know that," she said, her voice betraying something. "You're not signed up with anyone."
"Maybe I asked someone so controversial that Roger wouldn't allow it," Mello said, wiggling his eyebrows, playful. "Maybe I asked the Queen Mother and she said yes."
Carmen laughed. "Only you would do that, Mello."
"I know," Mello grinned. "Sorry for not asking you. I'll save you a dance, though." he winked at her, flirtatious, and her cheeks colored slightly, pink on her caramel skin. "I'll see you there."
Carmen murmured a flushed reply before moving off slowly, as if dazed from the wink. Mello paid her no further attention, though, working through his next math problem as if nothing had just occurred.
Matt watched her move off, a tortured expression on his face, before turning to Mello, his eyes vivid. "You sent her a personal Valentine's day card?!?"
"I send hand-made cards to all the girls," Mello said boredly, scrawling out an answer to the problem. "A bit of effort, a clever personal cutline, and girls'll be eating out of your hand for weeks."
"I guess..." Matt trailed off, wondering at the logic of this. "But still-! I can't believe you turned down Carmen! I mean, sure you might not have wanted to go with her, but it's Carmen, for godssake-!"
Mello glanced up, amused at Matt's rant. "I have to be free for you when Ishtar dumps you for her novel, don't I?" he teased, noogying his head, ruffling his hair affectionately, a half-smile on his face.
Matt flushed and ducked his head, muttering something unintelligible, but Mello's eyes were looking over Matt's head, fixed on a lone white figure sitting over on the carpeted section of the room. He didn't look up, though, quiet, merely looking down at his puzzle. He never moved, Mello noted, not even his hand, leaving the puzzle unfinished, not placing a single piece.
It was almost as if something were wrong...
Mello managed to tear his eyes from the sight, but somehow, looking down at his homework, he couldn't manage to do another math problem for the rest of the day.
Dances, in retrospect, Mello thought, weren't all that bad.
Forced social interaction was still lame as hell, of course, as was Roger, and his "you two going together would cause a student uproar" bullcrap. But the music was alright, there were tons of various sweets and chocolates for refreshments, and the teachers had sighed but let him in with a black muscle shirt on underneath his suit coat.
Sipping from a punch cup against the wall, Mello watched the dance floor as he took a break, ignoring the slow-dance music playing in the background. He'd dance the fast ones with the girls who wanted him to, but... slow dancing was a different thing. He'd rather keep his distance.
Mello glanced over, watching as a red-faced Matt took up his position at his side, determinedly not looking at him. He pulled a DS from his pocket, switching the console on. Mello smirked, and Matt flushed darker.
"What'd you lose her to?"
"It was a thriller novel, okay?" Matt said hotly, obviously embarrassed. "She managed to tear herself away from it for like, an hour, but in the end, she just had to finish it. She said she was really, really sorry, but she just had to finish. And she's right; you know how it is with a new book..."
Mello laughed. "I do, Matt, but I doubt you do," he said, amused. "And besides, no one should ever be so into a book they turn down a chance at a normal social life to read instead."
"Shut up," Matt said, red. "At least I slow-danced with her. Which you seem to chicken to do."
Mello stiffened a bit, then shrugged. "Don't like any of the girls enough to ask them to slow dance," he said lazily. "Y'know, you have to hold them really close and whatnot... just not my thing..."
Matt glanced up at him. "You wanna dance with me instead, then?"
Mello choked on his punch, coughing, and shot Matt an incredulous look. Matt flushed, burying himself further into his DS game.
"...'was just a joke, anyway..."
Rolling his eyes, Mello looked around the dance floor. Romantic couples rocking back and forth all over, Mello scowled slightly as he watched. Everyone had someone in their arms, or was in someone's arms. Even Matt had his DS, now. Everyone had someone. Everyone except...
Mello's eyes halted on a familiar white figure standing alone on the opposite side of the dance floor, twirling his hair.
Near had come to the dance alone, wearing a white suit, a change from his usual dingy pajamas. He'd danced with Linda once, almost immediately, as if trying to get it out of the way; a waltz, a simple dance that didn't require him to move too much. But after that, he'd just stood there in his corner, watching the others dance, standing there and twirling his hair, his eyes watching the others move.
Near wasn't dancing with anyone, either. And Mello knew why.
It was the same reason that he had, after all...
Mello dragged his eyes away, watching the other happy couples dancing romantically, swaying in each other's arms. Annoyed, he bit his lip. They were allowed to do so, but he wasn't, because of a non-issue in today's day and age? This was ridiculous.
His mind made up, Mello pushed himself off the wall at the start of another slow song. Matt blinked, looking up, asking, "Where are you going?", not that Mello paid any heed. Roger could go to hell, Mello thought contemptuously. He did what he wanted, and no one would dictate otherwise.
Ignoring the curious glances as murmurs as he made his way through the crowd, Mello crossed the hall, stopping in front of a small, white-clad boy who was looking down at the floor.
"...may I have this dance?"
Mello watched, satisfaction in his eyes, as Near froze, before slowly, ever so slowly, letting his eyes trail up Mello to meet his own, a distinct pink tinge on his face at Mello's words, something flickering in his eyes.
"Roger said we couldn't," Near murmured, still looking at him. "He said it'd cause an uproar..."
"Bugger Roger. I don't give a damn," Mello said flatly, his eyes holding Near's. "I want to dance with you. Are you going to come willingly or not?"
Near smiled, a genuine, soft smile, and Mello smiled back, smugly tucking away the knowledge that he was the only one who ever got to see such a thing. Taking Near's hand, Mello took him out to the dance floor, ignoring the gasps and goggle-eyed stares from the others, right to the center of the room, where they began to dance.
Slow dancing was easy, Mello thought to himself, swaying to the song slowly, Near in his arms. It was just keeping the rhythm, mostly, and not so much about how you moved. It was easy to see why people liked it, though, Mello considered, looking down at Near with an affectionate expression on his face, who had rested his head on his shoulder, his hands lightly resting on Mello's chest as they swayed, his face flushed. With someone you cared about so close, how could you not?
"Near," Mello said quietly, his voice a mere whisper, only audible to them. Near looked up at him, blinking.
"Happy Valentine's Day," Mello said, a half-smile on his lips, as he leaned down to kiss the younger boy. Near flushed but leaned up, meeting him, coloring prettily as he kissed him softly, leaving a lingering kiss, before pulling away, his eyes sparkling, while Near just blushed, before opening his mouth, embarrassed, his words soft.
"Mello... happy valentine's day to you, too."
Yay for random MN fluff! Death note is always so twisted, but sometimes meaningless fluff is nice.
So, what did you think? Love it? Hate it? Prefer Single's Awareness Day? Let me know in a review!!