He'd gotten in over his head when he plunged into the round pool to find and defeat Abominus, Generation G1 transformer, who met the same fate by blindly leaping in after speedy, over-sized ducks with chubby faces. How was he supposed to know those ducks were fast enough to win races? Maybe he could have reached an arm and grabbed one by the tail before it sped away, if only he had working use of his thumbs -- that detestable advantage of his own God, who watched from above through a curtain of white curls and a glacial blue stare -- but he had found the bottom of the pool some time ago, his air long gone.
A flurry of bubbles floated skyward like a school of fish from Godzilla's mouth, each one seeming to pop at the surface in their own cry for 'Help him, please!' in their short-lived language.
Near shifted his weight and leaned over the pool, watching in mute fascination.
It was deeper than his last: two feet tall, one and a half feet deep, and four feet in diameter. There was room for all the ducks, who bobbed in two separate herds with their blank eyes staring anywhere but Godzilla. It was as if they didn't see him: they only saw each other.
Godzilla was drowning.
An unavoidable conclusion, really. That's what he'd gotten for his stupid choice. Near watched Godzilla's pitiable face, his own sharp eyes locked into a stare without the key for release.
Lester knew why.
Near knew Lester knew why, but said nothing, which was why Lester made conversation for him. Somehow, his deep voice made the room rigid: "How many months has it been?" Gevanni and Halle had already left for the day. Only he remained, and only him because he was concerned.
Near's games had stopped making sense since Yagami Light had died.
"Three months, seventeen--no, twenty-two days, two hours, and twelve minutes." Near's breath paused, watching the last bubble struggle upwards and break the surface. Godzilla's body twisted in the water, turning on his side until he rolled over, dead at the bottom fo the pool like a great submarine that wouldn't make it to shore, forever sealed away in a place where it could never see the sun again.
Softly, Near amended, "Thirteen minutes."
Lester began to realise his mistake, but by then it was too late. Near's voice lifted from the floor like a gray storm cloud, threatening to rain and strike with white-hot lightning at a moment's notice. "Lester..."
"What's that silly idiom people say about those who have little to say, but have complicated personalities?" Lester thought Gevanni would be better to ask for that sort of useless tripe, but he wasn't here and Near had never been fond of clichés and wouldn't deliberately seek them himself.
Obediently, Lester provided an answer: "I believe that's 'still waters run deep'?"
"Yes, that's it." Never once did Near's body flinch, nor did his gaze lift from Godzilla's face. "Thank you."
The seconds sped by like they were fueled by rocket power, colliding with minutes, minutes slamming into each other and sticking together until there were ten awkward ones in the same place, wondering where they should have been instead, embarrassed to have bunched up that way. As it was, they felt like they were in the wrong place: the room was a child's room, not unlike any other any other room in the sense that it was square-shaped and contained one door. What set it apart was something else: monitors stretched across the wall, each displaying a different scene like an animated quilt, dim light, the computer equipment, the cold and uncomfortable steel feeling of a ruthless work place, and a pool full of toys.
Lester understood the dilemma of each of those ten minutes. Sometimes, he felt the same way.
Beside him, a light-coloured tabby cat came to life on one monitor, sniffing what appeared to have been a dead lizard on a driveway.
It wasn't a good day for the cold-blooded kind.
At once, Lester asked, "What are you thinking?" and wasn't sure if it was the right thing to say. In the past it had been safe to hazard a guess at Near's general state of mind, but it had become more and more difficult: his logic hadn't adhered to the strict rules it normally followed up until nearly four months ago.
It wasn't Near's style to outright lie unless it served his purpose, but Lester had noticed it wasn't his style to confess, either. When Near must have decided today it was all right, his voice came as a surprise: "About Mello."
Lester was silent.
"In this situation," continued the boy, leaning over the pool and reaching out one of his hands, dipping his fingertips in. "Even a plastic toy's eyes look like they're desperate and shrieking 'Save me!', waiting for someone to steal it from death."
Having long since learned that when Near spoke like this, it was time to let him talk, Lester remained silent. Near needed ears: he didn't need 'don't think about such a depressing subject' or 'don't dwell on it' or any other miserable attempts at consolation. As long as he had silence, he'd figure it out for himself.
"Mello didn't have eyes like that."
A thin silence passed over the room, so thin Lester thought it was going to tear apart and spill its bloody guts into the room. If it had been anyone else, maybe it would have.
Near resumed his explanation, almost flawlessly, Lester thought. Almost. If it had been truly flawless, there wouldn't have been a pause. "I thought that idiom you spoke of fits me and I compared it to an idiom that fits Mello: I've come to a conclusion."
Now was his time to speak: "What conclusion?"
Near shifted his weight. "You need to come here in order to understand."
Click by click, Lester's hard but polished shoes clacked five times before he reached the pool. When he looked down at the boy, he surmised that it might have taken him eleven steps to make it there from the spot in which he'd been standing.
"Closer," said Near, lifting a slightly-wet palm and pointing somewhere in the pool where it was impossible to tell what he was pointing at: there were more toys at the bottom of it than Lester originally saw.
Lester crouched across from Near, looking over the short expanse of water that was the pool, trying to follow the path of Near's fingertip. Even if he wasn't beside the boy (a child, really), he still managed to look like a great hulking shape anywhere near that small, white-clad body.
A smile as strong as flickering lights haunted Near's mouth. He lowered his head so far down that his eyes were overshadowed from the curly wall of bright hair. How strange that a colour so light could create shadows dark enough to hide his eyes.
Without so much as a 'Here!' or a 'Look!', Near's upper torso plunged into the water and swept a grand arc at Lester's face, drenching his front in a wave of wet while he crawled straight into the pool like a monkey, splashing and making a mess.
For his part, Lester was surprised: his eyebrows raised and he looked down at himself in unadulterated disbelief, as if asking what he had done to deserve such a thing. When he looked up again, he saw the way Near carelessly went to gather his toys, not seeming to mind that you could see his pale skin through the fabric of his clothes.
He lifted Godzilla and Abominus from the bottom of the pool, holding one in each hand. Water fled from Godzilla's mouth, and for one moment it seemed as if the plastic beast could breathe again.
Before he could think of anything to say, Lester heard a soft voice that sounded as if it had finally cleared and allowed sunlight to pass. It said: "Still water is stale."
Somewhere in the background, on a monitor to which no one seemed to pay attention (Near did, but it hadn't been important), the lizard and the cat were gone.
A soft exhale escaped Lester's mouth that, perhaps, one day might become a laugh. He closed his eyes and remained crouched there with his hands on his knees, surpressing the urge to smile.
The gray cloud had evaporated.