A/N: After reading the prologue to "Another Note" and seeing some fanart on deviantART, I just had to write about how much Mello looked up to L. (So cute!) And even though I enjoy looking at cutesy fanart of L and the Wammy boys, I don't think he was truly that affectionate with them, so this is what I came up with. Oh, and Mello's 12 years old, which would make L about 22.
Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note.
News of when L would visit always spread fast. Mainly, it was because the children wanted to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic detective. Near and Mello were the only ones who had seen him, since L habitually managed to keep himself hidden from the eyes of those who were not likely to become his heir. Eventually, it turned into some sort of game. The children would compete against each other to try to seek the detective out, but none had ever succeeded.
Mello thought they were all a bunch of losers. Whenever he heard them talking about how they would finally get to see his face, he'd roll his eyes and mumble that they weren't good enough to even hear his voice. But it was through those "losers" that he would know when L would be coming. Yes, Roger would call the two of them into his office to let them know, but the orphans' mouths were too fast for the elderly man.
L didn't come to Wammy's House often, but his timing couldn't have been any better. There was a big test that day, and Mello could finally prove that he was number one. He would finally beat Near and proudly show the man he admired his victory.
"Mello, turn off the light," Matt whined. "I'm trying to sleep, something you should be doing, too."
"Quit complaining," the blonde said as he suppressed a yawn. "I just need another hour."
Ever since he heard the news, Mello had went into overdrive, studying during every waking minute. He even had a book open while he ate. And when he noticed that the white-haired brat was busy playing with his toys, he felt as confident as ever that he would come out on top.
"What's another hour gonna do?" Matt groaned as he shoved his face into the pillow. "You always get like this when you know L's coming."
"Shut up," Mello said with mild annoyance. Then he scribbled more notes down in the already cramped margin of his English book. "I get excited. Is that such a bad thing?"
Matt rolled over and sat up, exhaustion clearly displayed on his face. "I'd say you get obsessed, not 'excited.' It's all you think about until the day comes, and then you get disappointed when he doesn't pay that much attention to you."
For the first time in hours, Mello looked up from his book. "I do not! And he does pay attention to me when he visits."
"Not how you want him to, though," Matt replied bluntly. "He usually only talks to you about formal crap, the sorta things he has to know about even if he doesn't care. I know you just wanna talk to him about normal stuff, see what he's really like."
Mello frowned and looked out their window. It was a new moon, so the sky was an eerie jet-black. He hated it when he couldn't see the moon. Unlike most of the children in the orphanage, he preferred nighttime. He was never afraid of the dark. In fact, he couldn't wait for the sun to set so that he could gaze up at the moon. He liked how mysterious it appeared. Before he went to bed every night, he had to look at it at least once. The moon brought him a strange sense of comfort, the same kind of comfort that L brought Mello whenever he showed an interest in him.
"Didn't you say that he talked about a few of his cases with you?" Matt asked, breaking the silence. "That's close enough, right?"
"Yeah, I guess. He's not that talkative anyway, so I should stop expecting so much." Then he went back to the textbook and tapped his pencil against the side of his head. "Do you think I'll beat Near?"
Mello asked the same question every time, and Matt always gave the same answer. Grinning, he said, "Yup. He won't know what hit him."
After weakly smiling back at his friend, he closed the book and grabbed another from the pile beside his bed. Onto math, he thought as he finally let out a yawn.
The day of the test, and L's visit, finally arrived three weeks later. Mello was done way before the allotted time was up, so he checked his answers three times to be sure. After the blonde was satisfied, he stood and handed his test booklet and answer sheet in, radiating self-assurance. As he walked out, he glanced over at Near and saw that the younger boy was looking right back at him, twirling a lock of hair around his index finger. It irked Mello so much that he slammed the door behind him.
There were still a few hours before L would reach the orphanage, and by that time, the scores would be posted. He felt like he would go crazy with anticipation. What could he do to keep himself busy until then? All the children were taking that test in whatever room they were assigned to, and with him being in the top two (and Near taking his sweet time), of course he was the only one done.
Then the door opened. Mello hadn't moved that far down the hall, so he turned around, expecting to see his arch rival, but instead he saw Matt.
"Hey," the goggled boy said apathetically.
"You're done already?"
Matt nodded. "It wasn't too hard."
Rolling his eyes, Mello said, "You barely studied. You just wanted to get out of there, so you rushed through it. And so that you wouldn't be bored, you waited for me to finish first."
He shrugged. "So?"
"Ah, whatever. You wanna do something?"
"We pretty much have the whole place to ourselves for a little while. Let's go throw toilet paper over the statue out back!"
He cocked his head slightly. "Don't you wanna be good on the day that L's coming?"
"Nah, he already knows I'm a troublemaker."
Matt opened his mouth to say something, but he immediately closed it and looked behind Mello. For a second, the blonde thought it was L whom he was staring at, but then he realized that it couldn't be the detective, since he never showed himself to Matt. When he turned around, he was greeted with Watari's kind face.
"Good afternoon," he said warmly to the boys.
"Oh, hey, old man," Mello responded. "Wait. If you're here, then L . . . "
Watari nodded. "He decided to come earlier. And since we weren't expected, there is no tea ready, so if you'll excuse me." He quickly bowed and walked passed them.
"No way," Mello breathed.
Since Watari was just getting the tea now, that meant they had arrived not too long ago. He didn't understand why they didn't just ask one of the caretakers to bring it to the door, but L was particular about odd things.
"You're getting nervous now, aren't you?" Matt asked with a hint of amusement.
"Ahh, shut up," he replied, briskly walking down the hallway.
He was nervous. Since most of the children were still taking the test, it was L's perfect opportunity to see him. But if he stayed with Matt, the detective wouldn't go near him. As much as he wanted to see L, he was afraid that he'd act like an idiot. He had done that in the past. Being around the person he admired so deeply made him say and do foolish things.
Once, he even tripped over his own feet and fell onto a wooden chair. He was so incredibly embarrassed, not only at the fact that he tripped but that L obviously had no clue how to react. He made the teenager feel uncomfortable. Mello saw it in his eyes. After asking him if he was alright, L had no idea what to do. It was in that moment Mello realized how socially awkward the detective was. Most people would try to console a seven-year-old who was on the brink of tears from pain, but L merely stood there for a few seconds with his eyes wide until he asked Watari to retrieve a first-aid kit. Mello refused to cry, even though his cheek was throbbing and a sharp pain shot up his arms when he moved his wrists.
He didn't see L for the remainder of his visit. Even if the detective had asked to see him, Mello was too ashamed. But he was happy when he found a small, plain card that had been slipped under his door. In L's hand, it read:
I am sorry we never truly got the chance to talk. I hope you are feeling better now.
It was short, but it made him smile. He put the card in a special place and never told anyone about it. The card was still there, five years later. It was rather worn, though, since Mello took it out whenever he felt like beating Near to a bloody pulp. For whatever reason, L's words gave him strength. It wasn't as if it was an encouraging message. It was just the fact that he knew L cared. He had cared enough to send it to him.
To calm himself down, he turned to Matt and said, "Well, c'mon. Let's go get some rolls and toss them around out back."
"Huh? Oh, that."
Mello needed to get his mind off of L before he got so nervous it was humiliating.
The test scores were finally posted several hours later outside of Roger's office. A horde of children had already gathered around the list, many on their tiptoes to get a better view, when Mello came running, Matt trailing him not too far behind. After they reached the crowd, the blonde shoved his way through while Matt leaned against the opposite wall. Mello's eyes automatically went to the name at the top of the list, and his whole body sagged.
1: Near - 500
2: Mello - 499
Second place again. He was one point away from a perfect score. Mello didn't even care if he tied with Near. He was just sick of being second best.
The children scattered after they found out what their scores were, either cheering or practically in tears, leaving Mello and Matt by themselves. Matt walked up to see what he got, then shrugged.
"I tried so damn hard," the blonde said quietly, struggling to retain the anger that was building up. "For three weeks, I studied day and night, barely got any sleep, and never went outside or did anything fun. All that . . . for nothing."
"But it was just by one point."
"Exactly! That's what's killing me!" he erupted. "God . . . " His voice lowered. "I checked all my answers three times. Where did I screw up?"
"Just forget it. Go play a video game or something."
He was about to place a hand on Mello's shoulder, but he stopped when the boy glared at him. "I'll be in our room then."
After his friend left, his eyes traveled back up to the list. He didn't know how much more of it he could take. Every time, it didn't matter how hard he tried. He'd be confident and answer each question carefully, and it wouldn't matter.
It never mattered.
He froze. That voice . . .
"Thanks. Should you be in the hall?"
"It's fine. Everyone is too busy talking about what score they received to think about me at the moment."
Mello wanted to run. He was so ashamed of himself. But he knew there was no point in running, for L would see him eventually. I may as well get it over with, he thought, resigning himself to his fate.
After Near left, he heard L pad over to where he stood. The boy couldn't look at him, so he looked at the rug as if it held the answer to all of his problems. L didn't speak for a moment, but Mello could feel his eyes on him. He almost twitched from the uncomfortable atmosphere he had created around himself, but it vanished the second he heard L's deep voice.
"Don't worry. Test results never really mattered to me."
Mello hesitantly looked up at the detective. He wasn't surprised to see the lack of emotion on L's face, since he had only seen his expression change once in his entire life, that time when he fell onto the chair. He got the impression that L was very guarded and kept all of his emotions to himself unless he was extremely shocked by something.
Swallowing hard, he asked, "What does matter to you?"
L's eyes rolled upwards in thought, then he replied, "A person's character is what matters the most. Knowledge and deduction skills are important, of course, but it ultimately comes down to what kind of person they are."
Mello looked to the floor again, then back up at L. He debated on whether he should ask it or not. Did he really want to know? What if L told him flat out that Mello's disposition was the complete opposite of what he was looking for? Well, he could always change. Oh, please. How much could I change? he berated himself. I'm too stubborn, too stupid, too—no. I have to stop thinking like this. Just ask him!
L appeared to be patiently waiting for Mello to speak.
"Ah, um . . . What kind of person are you looking for?"
No emotion shown through his features, no reaction at all. He simply walked passed him, hunched over with his hands in his pockets.
Mello was crushed. L probably only spoke to him just because he was the second smartest child and was a "good" candidate to become his successor. Maybe he never really cared. Maybe he only saw Near as the next "L" and bothered with Mello either because he felt he had to or because he was playing some kind of cruel game. The person he had been admiring for practically his whole life looked at him as nothing more than an entertainment? What had he been working for? He was becoming so upset that he didn't even have the strength to be angry.
"Aren't you coming?"
Mello's head snapped in the direction the voice came from, and he saw L peering at him from over his shoulder, standing in the middle of the hallway.
Confused and shocked, he stupidly asked, "What?"
"I could go for some chocolate cake."
Instantly, all negative thoughts left him. L remembered. Mello had only mentioned it once. When they first met six years ago, L said he loved sweets, and Mello replied that he loved chocolate. After all that time, L remembered. And not only did he remember something rather insignificant, but he actually wanted the boy as company. Mello was ecstatic.
He ran over to the detective's side, beaming, and L grinned back very slightly.
The memory of eating chocolate cake with L would stay with Mello forever.
I got the impression from "Another Note" that L was closer to Mello than to Near, so I think in L's eyes, Mello wasn't second. -smiles-