The Calling

Solitude can teach us how to live with other people

Rage, to show us the infinite value of peace

Boredom can underline the importance of adventure and spontaneity

And death shows us the importance of life

Paulo Coelho

"I find that at this point of the day, the orphanage's bells will ring so clearly. It's quite nice. Don't you agree?"

The young boy was certain this was leading somewhere, but at the moment it was unclear so he said nothing.

"Can you not hear it?" The man asked with a slight tip of his head. Near still did not understand and again said nothing, only standing there curling a white lock of hair between thumb and finger. When the man still did not receive an answer, he went on as if he had. "That is odd. Well when you do hear it, you should tell me what you think of it. I can never figure out what they're ringing for."

Near had always been perplexed over that little memory. One of the earliest and first encounters he'd had with the enigma only known as 'L'. Contemplating L's words, Near remember setting off determined to find the answer: The mystery behind the orphanage's ringing bells.

Surprisingly, he never heard the bells of the Wammy's House toll, and to this he spoke with Roger (the stand in care taker of Wammy's House when the founder was away.) who reported that those bells had long since been broken and had not rang once in years! It had something to do with the mechanism, that prevented it from ringing at the specified hours. Oddly enough, when Near had asked why this problem had not been remedied, (such a simple thing that could be fixed he was sure) Roger replied simply that both the founder and L himself preferred to leave it this way. And no one could go against either's wishes.

So the bells to the orphanage were broken? Then what were the bells L was referring to? Undeterred, Near continued on with his 'investigation.'

Over the course of the years, little Near heard many types of bells, as the Wammys House was located near various churches. They would ring at specific hours, marking the passage of time, or occasions.

However, on the rare opportunity that L would return (for the man was very busy and was always away for months at a time) Near would attempt to share what he'd gathered. He spoke of the bells in the nearby churches, the hours they tolled, and the occasions they tolled for. But his answer did not satisfy L, which perplexed him even more. This was especially so when even Mello claimed to hear it. And to add insult to injury, many children at the Wammy's House claimed to hear them as well! But when little Near asked how this was so for he had sat hours on end waiting and listening for those bells to ring, the children laughed and said that he was perhaps listening 'too hard'. When asked to explain he got various answers all of which made absolutely no sense! Soon it ranged from 'imagining' the bells ringing to hearing the ringing in your surroundings!

Simply nonsense! He couldn't make heads or tails of it all and the children stopped trying to explain.

Near could never hear the bells that both Mello and L claimed to hear ringing so clearly in the heavy silence. The children at The Wammy's House began to treat it like the greatest joke and Near (the smartest Wammy child of them all no less!) was not a part of it. Soon Near began to brush it off as perhaps a strange metaphor or some kind of joke the two (or apparently everyone) shared together. If the latter was so, then Near was determined not to let it bother him further.

That was really all there was to it. L never brought it up again, and Near never attempted to. And eventually all the children at the orphanage dropped it because something could only be funny for so long before it got boring, and forgotten. Just like that the case of the bells was pushed back to the corner of the young prodigy's mind.

How much time had passed by since that first meeting that had set his whole universe into motion? How long had it been since Near considered the question , the mystery, he wasn't able to solve and probably would never be able to now that both said persons were forever beyond his reach, their secrets brought with them to the grave?

Here and there, the memory would resurface from time to time, unbidden but not unwanted causing Near to wonder if it had any relevance to why he was not the 'perfect' heir. That in L's question, there may have been a hidden clue, a key? Quite possibly. But then again, Mello had understood, yet he was not considered the perfect heir either. But other factors would be obvious in that argument. But they were not so in Near's case.

Why did it even matter now? Perhaps just one of those things never settled, unfinished like a towering building made of dice or legos. Near hated leaving things unfinished. But as the years went on, the memory faded greatly, yet never completely.

But he never forgot about the bells...

In the early hours of the morning when the ground was freshly kissed by the dew and the air was silent and unbroken, a pale figure slid between the rows of head stones. Monuments of various shapes and sizes, carved and molded of stone, marble and bronze, towered over the slight figure much like the tall buildings of the distant cities, each marker standing as a testament to the lives recently and long since past.

Ghostly by all aspects and just as gaunt, the young boy was however very much among the living despite what his surrounding suggested. With one hand raised to his own hair and curling it mindlessly the other hand held a colorful bouquet of roses. Four in all, and all a different color.

Out of place and yet seemingly in his element, the child walked with not a sound to his steps. Movements careful and deliberate, thoughtless and yet full of purpose. Finally he had navigated that invisible trail that only he seemed to see through the maze of the dead coming to a full stop before a grand memorial.

Near had to actually raise his head as the structure loomed above him, for just a moment, the slender fingers that curled his pale locks actually stopped their habitual manner. A brief pause perhaps out of respect or awe.

Not that he'd expected any less, but the grave of Quilsh Wammy was quite a spectacle indeed. It was clear by the intricate carvings, the fresco of marble that adorned the monolith, that no expense was spared in paying tribute to the old man who had made such a difference in the lives of many people, children especially, around the world.

Near wasn't an exception, for had Quilsh Wammy not decided to bring him to the Wammy's House, Near really had no idea where he would be now. But he did not like to dwell on the probable variations for long. All that mattered was that, thanks to Mr. Wammy, he was here now, and the world was still sane. The small boy would have almost laughed had the situation warranted it. If only the rest of the world had known that it was thanks to some half baked idea of an idealistic old man, a killer of millions in the guise of a righteous demigod had been vanquished soundly into the darkness.

This grave might have been a tad bit more grand.

But then defeating evil in the name of justice was often a thankless job, for those in his line of work, and more often than not, victory would come at a high price. Near's fingers moved, resuming their constant twirling of the thin lock of hair once more as he regarded the grave with all it's splendor and carved designs with the same silent impassiveness he'd schooled himself into all these years. There were already many bouquets of flowers at the base of monolith, left by earlier visitors, children from the other orphanages, caring souls, and perhaps family members.

Except for the time when he was first brought to the Wammys House, Near had never spoken much with Mr. Wammy. But from what he'd observed the rare few times he'd met with him, Near could easily see he was a nice man who always spoke gently as if he were cradling a baby with his words. He possessed such a kind disposition that you'd almost believe he'd never known hardships or experienced sadness in his life. Almost like someone who had grown believing in one thing and had stubbornly stuck to it. Such traits were ones that could get a child to easily trust him, to easily grow attached to him like some venerated old grandparent. It was almost too cliched.

Before Near moved on, he added to the growing floral mess by leaving a single pink rose. A sign of admiration and gratitude for everything the old man had done and the only sign of Near's visit. And if the dead could hear, Near would have apologized for not visiting sooner. When Quilsh Wammy was laid to rest six years ago, Near had not been able to attend the funeral.

Having finally been affirmed of his predecessor's death, he was then quickly immersed, in the Kira case file (or lack there of, as the information was reported to be completely deleted, a caution taken perhaps by his predecessor), attacking the case with such cold unrelenting vehemnence, that he really thought of little else. There was no time to mourn and much work to do, Near had sworn that after it was all over, if he was still alive, he'd come visit Mr. Wammy. But at the time, he needed to pour all his energies and concentration into this case. Wouldn't stop, wouldn't rest till Kira had been brought to justice. It was perhaps his way of venting the pain of a child who had someone he adored, being suddenly taken away from him.

Speaking of which...

Feeling he'd lingered too long, Near moved, taking what he knew would only be a few steps away from the large grave to one that was much simpler in contrast to the grandeur of the grave it sat next to. Mr. Wammy's memorial immensely dwarfed this grave in size and splendor, and one would wonder who had thought it was such a great idea to place someone who was seemingly not as important enough next to someone who held the admiration of millions.

L's final resting place was not much to look at compared to the orphanage's founder.

The greatest detective in the world's grave was marked by a simple white stone cross, his name etched into the base of the pedestal the cross was erected upon. In life, this name was forbidden to those who sought it, but in death, it could not harm the man anymore, and Near took it upon himself to return what rightfully belonged to the eccentric detective.

True, he could have simply etch a single old English styled 'L' but heaven forbid! That would be just like saying; 'here lies justice' when in fact it was still very much alive! (A little worse for wear and less defined after the Kira incident, but still alive!) The title of L had been passed on, leaving the former with out a name and that could not be tolerated.

Just like leaving the detective to rest in a foreign land, under a make shift grave with the false name of 'Ryuzaki' could not be tolerated. It was just...plain disrespectful to the one who had willingly given his life to prove to the world that there was murderer by the name of Kira. Even if L did not have any reservations about it (he always struck Near as a man with simple wants and no desire or care to be glorified in any sort of fashion) Near simply would not have it. It was most apparent to the child that his strong feelings for L stemmed from his worship of him.

Going so far as to interrogate the Japanese Task Force to get the exact location of L's hidden burial place, then taking such effort to keep not only the excavation but also the transportation and care of the man's remains out of the country a secret, was a testament to the fact. Near had personally seen to all the arrangements giving specific orders and under such secrecy, one would think he was working directly under the American government to smuggle U.F.O crafts or little green aliens out of Japan!

So just as quietly as L had entered Japan, L had left, leaving not a trace behind. It was very much his style that marked much of his life, and it was fitting that it mark his death as well.

L's remains had been re interred in the very same grave yard that Mr. Wammy himself was laid to rest. The 'Garden of Angels' was a quaint plot of land located a little ways behind the Wammy's House. Far enough for it to keep it's peaceful solitude, but close enough so that Mr. Wammy would never miss his beloved orphanage. And like his orphanages, this burial ground was open to all of Mr. Wammy's children who passed on before their time. ( Near recalled passing a particular grave a ways back that could verify that the grave yard was indeed for ALL of the unfortunate little souls to have passed on while under the protection of Mr. Wammy's orphanages.)

So after six years and five months, L finally came home and was reunited with Mr. Wammy. L could finally be content and happy.

Cool winds flowed through the sacred grounds and seemed to wind themselves playfully around each tombstone, rustling up the loose flower petals and leaves. It ghosted past Near's long and loose white attire, and caressed his pale features with envious and sad wispy fingers. The surrounding trees moved to the wind's rhythm and seemed to whisper a name through it's rustling leaves.


But since Near knew that trees could not speak, and winds had no secrets to give, he paid them no mind. Not that he believed staring at the dead long enough would grant them the power to speak once again either. So Near forced his quickened heart beat to slow once more. Scolding it for even hoping...

L was gone. Crying over it now would be pointless since it's already been so long, and everyone knew (but perhaps didn't quite believe) that you could speak to the dead, but they would never hear. So no matter how hard Near would cry, it wouldn't be able to reach L where ever he resided now.

Hard resolve and self control could keep waves of emotions back to where it would never break the surface of his calm countenance, but it could never stop the memories from clawing their way from the depths of his heart. The very center of himself where he would let no one see. It mildly disturbed him at how quickly the images flooded his mind, threatening to swallow him whole, the emotions he deprived himself of, raging to be set loose to drown him in their depths.

All because this was the closest he's been to L in so many years.

Near, can you hear it?

Was it possible to be used to a life of solitude, and still feel the pang of loneliness? Near bowed his head slightly as one hand drew another rose from the bouquet. As though he were walking upon sacred ground, Near carefully closed the distance between himself and the one he adored.

The only one who seemed to not only understand him, but could see right past all those walls he'd built around himself.

A white rose was drawn and Near raised it gently to his lips kissing it's pristine petal before laying upon the pedestal that bore the name 'L Lawliet'.

The pure white rose was synonymous with Near's feelings for the detective which spoke of a love that was sustained more by loyalty, reverence and humility than by red-blooded passion. It was an unchanging loyalty that endures beyond all else, even death.

L was the light of justice that fled into the darkness, and now Near had to become the new light for this was L's wishes, this was L's legacy.

To Near completing the Kira case was more than just a test L had left behind to his heirs that would come after him, it was a trial by fire that would establish who was worthy of the detective's title. But at the same time Near also saw it as the greatest gift he could ever give to L (L never believed in revenge as they were a crime of passion in itself.): to avenge his death by giving him the perfect victory he could never have and to show him that his heir was prepared to shoulder the heavy burden of justice.

Now Near knew he was to carry on unhindered, knew it would be the best way to express his admiration to the late detective, and tears would only blur his vision.

So a kiss upon a rose that no one would see, would be all Near could leave L.

This was perhaps the most he would ever express to L of his feelings. But that was okay, some how, in his own way L always seemed to know, and that was just as good as saying it aloud wasn't it?

It would take a few more steps than it had from Mr. Wammy's to L's grave, before he would reach two identical tomb stones each topped with a chubby (ugly, in Near's opinion) cherub guardians keeping a constant vigilance over the sleeping souls.

Compared to most of the graves in this cemetery, these two were buried very close together as if they were related by blood. Near surmised that what they had between them was probably just as good, and felt that it would be best to bury the two hellions next to each other.

The first grave that Near stood before had the name 'Mihael 'Mello' Keehl'. Next to him was 'Mail 'Matt' Jeevas'.

Near had never considered himself very close to Mello who had been a long standing rival to be the first to inherit L's name. But in all the time they spent together at the Wammy's house, they'd established a sort of unspoken understanding of each other. Neither would ever care to admit it, and spent most of their time avoiding one another when at all possible.

Just as Mello was quite aware of Near's cold intellect and indifferent attitude towards everything that had a pulse, Near was aware of what an emotional fireball with an inferiority complex Mello was.

Near never hated Mello ( he was just rather annoyed that Mello found it a point from time to time, to make his problems Near's business) and in fact admired a lot of things about him. If only Mello had learned to reign in those emotions of his and channel them properly, there would have been no doubt in Near's mind that together they would have boosted L's efficiency by 80!

Then again, self control was never Mello's forte and he was not one to conform to the standards of society just to 'fit in'. He always followed his own path that he tore open with his own hands, always preferring to be the loose cannon on the battle field. He was dangerously self destructive once his fuse was lit and he raged like a wild fire, setting the whole western hemisphere in up flames.

Such an intense fire, so beautiful as it burned brightly, that could consume or refine the lives it touched and give you the thrill and danger of not knowing which it was until the moment it was upon you. Was this Mello's allure? Near had often wondered. Or was he more like an addictive drug? A lethal injection of venom and chocolate?

'...I'll never tell you Near'

An unwavering gaze of cool ice rested upon the grave marker of his self proclaimed rival. Even though the memories burned through his mind of that familiar leering, contorted, infuriated, exultant, and insanely intoxicating face, Near remained in that state of untouchable and unperturbed ambience he'd assumed, and kept for years.


'You'll never understand...'

Was it just his imagination? Or was he still feeling the warmth of that fire life that was suppose to have gone out when the body expired? Was it the mere memoryof Mello's heated stare boring holes into him like he always did, what Near was feeling?

Again with the hope. Near began to think that he had stayed here long enough and the eerie enchantment of the hidden, forbidden, holy ground was getting the better of him. Silly, all of it, just silly, childish nonsense.

Like before, Near approached the grave and before he reached for yet another rose, the hand left the silver tresses of curls before slipping into the front of his white blouse to retrieve a quaint rosary. Unfortunately it was not the same rosary Mello had always worn, for that was unfortunately destroyed in the fire (a symbol that also seemed to mark much of Mello's life and body) so Near on his own, replicated it.

It's red beads were stunningly sharp in contrast to the white of his garments and the silver cross that dangled at the end of the necklace equally caught the light of the sun and reflected it back adamant, as if determined to shine on it's own.

Near never believed in God (rather he preferred to believe in himself more than God), but his pale lips met the center of the cross with a light kiss as if begging that invisible and unseen force where ever it was to watch over Mello and finally give peace to that raging fire.

For all that Mello had endured his entire life, Near was certain that he never deserved this fate. Some how, in all that frayed and tangled emotions, it simply made sense to Mello that to do what he believed was right, he had to do what no one else dared to, and embraced the dark side of the world.

He had to do what only he could do. As if it were a calling from some higher power. Upon the road that Mello walked, where looking back was no more an option than failure was, Mello had decided to stride forward into the shadows and embrace uncertainty unafraid. And naturally like everything else in his life, he had done so with all the power he could muster, perhaps hoping that his fire would light the way.

Near could never do that. He could never hope to be like that, because it simply just did not make sense to him.

Even as he removed the rosary from around his neck to drape it around the guardian cherub's neck, Near imagined (in spite of himself) a very ragged Mello standing before a heavenly shining being surrounded by light and angels. His arms spread to his sides open as if to say, 'I have nothing left to give back to you, because I used everything you gave me God.'. No apologies, no self pity, because that was just how Mello was. And it would be enough to be redeemed.

An orange rose was drawn and set at the base of the marker. It carried a tinge of the burning flame in its bosom that Near felt was significant to the all consuming fire of passion and desire of Mello's life.

Mello, the ever and always passionate fool. Always enjoyed badgering Near to no ends and was able to have one last laugh as he'd ultimately gotten the one up upon Near even after death. Now that was something only Mello could ever pull off.

He may have been the last one standing, but Near would never gloat. It didn't feel right. Because weather Mello meant to or not, the blond had saved his life with that stupid recklessness of his and caused Near a bit of uneasiness as he realized then that there was some flaw to his cool, detached thinking and that perhaps there was something he could learn by taking a look from Mello's side.

But for now, for all Near cared, he hoped Mello was enjoying those bells that he and L could hear and be deafened by them. Near admitted his defeat to Mello silently and thanked him even though Mello was not there to savor the words he had so longed to hear.

The winds picked up, rustling the loose leaves around the cemetery playfully as if to give a mocking and ghastly laugh.

'Haha haha...ha...'

Even the orange rose seemed to be beaming up at Near as the boy straightened to stand. Though the color of it's flame petals could not compare to Mello's bright fire light, Near felt that this was just as well.

The orange rose was proud regardless.

Near was proud to have known Mello, to be the one to bring Mello back home, and vowed (inwardly) to one day find a way to match the intensity of his fire. After all it was a very admirable trait and people often admired what they did not posses.

It took less than two steps to stand before Mail 'Matt' Jeevas' grave, perhaps the very first victim to be smitten by such a deadly flame. Everyone at Wammy's House knew him simply as Matt, Near himself did not know much about the quiet boy who's eyes were often obscured behind a hand held video game or a pair of tinted shades. Near did of course acknowledge that Matt was the third in line to inherit L's name (a feat not easily achieved or as easily as Matt made it appear) and that where ever Mello went, little Matt was sure to follow.

At the time, Near found it rather odd that someone who was capable of attaining the third highest ranking in the institution would be as laid back as Matt appeared to be. Everything from the careless layers of dark chestnut hair to those cool unassuming jade eyes, spoke volumes of a carefree life uncommon to those in Wammys House. That was Matt's charm Near surmised. To everyone he was the boy next door, buoyant, breezy and as close to ordinary as any brainchild from the institution could ever hope to pretend to be. Naturally, to achieve success as easily as he did, some were jealous of Matt's gift, or rather how the boy treated it with such utter disregard. L's name was a coveted title, a holy grail to all who strived to reach it! Had Matt found something more important than that to not care?

It was so absurd, it actually made Near want to laugh. For some stupid reason it made him want to laugh, even thinking of it now after so many years!

Near could only guess that the old saying 'opposites attract' was only too true in Mello and Matt's case. Matt, the ease in Mello's high strung life. Mello, the driving force to Matt's almost too apathetic (lazy would be more like it) life style. Once they started running the play grounds and terrorizing the staff together, Near felt that it was an indication of things to come.

...And it was upon this hunch that lead the young prodigy to request suddenly that photos also be relayed to him of the unidentified man who was party to Mello's kidnaping. It was such an insignificant detail that even those of the SPK didn't understand Near's reasoning behind it. Why was it suddenly so important? It could have easily been some poor soul tricked into doing Mello's bidding. So easily...

As they say, the devil is in the details and even silence must be heard. When Lester brought up the photographs taken at the scene of the shooting (execution would be closer to the truth) and then at the morgue on one of the many large screens that surrounded them, Near really was not surprised in the least to find himself staring at that same dark hair, darker still as it was matted in blood, falling back from lifeless green eyes. Gevanni had arrived just in time it seemed, as Matt lay upon the cold autopsy table, surgical instruments and laboratory supplies for postmortem examinations had not been laid out yet and he remained in his formal attire. The tinted goggles had been lowered from his face to allow a clear view of his profile in all it's bloody glory, those eyes seemed to stare right back at Near squarely. His lips were parted slightly (perhaps due to that last cigarette that left trace amount of ash upon his bullet riddled vest) ready to speak but no longer able to. Silence pervaded him as it did much of his life but Matt it seemed, was content with that.

'I'm bored to tears already...'

Blank beautiful jades seemed to be calmly waiting. Near felt that it was silly that a dead man be making such demands. It was only by a slim chance Near had found Matt, had thought to listen to the silence. It was Matt's own fault for being so easy going and allowing Mello to tug him along. Following the other to the end, he probably never thought to question Mello, never did, and probably had no regrets that things had ended this way. He probably didn't even blame Mello for all this.

They were partners in crime, yet didn't that entail that they see through the flaws in their grand scheme, in each other? Even then, at any time, Matt could have walked away, more than capable to walk his road alone. People are capable of facing the world alone and this is neither good nor bad. It was just life. For the children at the institution, this was a reality and one they'd have to embrace once they had achieved the impossible and transcended to become L. Near had accepted this long ago, and a life lived alone was not bad, just necessary for him.

What was more important than playing it smart? What was more important than putting your survival first? What was more important than reaching out and grasping that holy grail when you had the power to do so?

'...He's waiting, it's time to go...'

When the silence rose to a scream, Near instructed (a very dumbfounded) Gevanni that arrangements were to be made to take possession of the young man's body along with all his effects and that a completely phoney autopsy and identity be released to the media just as they had done for Mello. Near shipped both Mello's and Matt's remains out of the country together in utter secrecy. None of the members of the SPK questioned Near about the young man's identity, but by this time, Near felt that it was no longer necessary to say.

Silence said all that needed to be said and confirmed their suspicions.

The last rose that was drawn and held between slender, delicate fingers was one that lacked the heat of passion but held the warmth of a genuine smile. Charming and simple as Matt had been, the yellow rose held no hidden depths. It was just simply what it was.

If only things were that simple, Near would have openly thanked Matt for being with Mello and doing what he himself could never do, being a friend and watching out for Mello up till the very last moments of his life. Most likely, if the man were still alive, he wouldn't have acknowledged Near's thanks, as he was probably doing what he'd done his entire life, just what he wanted.

While some would think it was stupid, all of matt's choices that lead to his own death, (Near was really inclined to agree) Near, in spite of himself, could not help but find it admirable. It was then that something occurred to Near as he was setting down the rose at the base of the headstone. He had wanted the yellow rose to attest to the friendship between Matt and Mello, but perhaps it also hinted of the jealousy he, himself possibly harbored?

Well wasn't that an interesting thought? Him? Jealous? Possibly. He could not deny there was something alluring, no, comforting in having someone, something familiar stay with you always. To look over and know that your comrade knew exactly what you were thinking, why, and followed you regardless because it was all so simple to understand...

But it was too late.

Almost instantly he felt that sharp ache strike him at the very core of himself and in reaction, Near felt himself shy away from those foreign and alien thoughts, afraid to tread those waters so early. The pain was momentary, but frighteningly vivid. He quickly shoved it to the back of his mind where he packed it away, zipped it up and tied it down tightly.

Near decided that he'd lingered here long enough. The sun had already fully risen welcoming the new day with clear weather and cool winds. With nothing left to give to those who passed on and much work to do back in the world of the living, the young boy took his leave with only one look back and a slight tip of his head to his fallen comrades. A sign that he'd return for another visit again.

The light was too bright for comfort, and the air was too cold, seeping through his white garments and chilling Near slightly. Regardless, he refused to vacate his seat upon the swing set.

Chains creaked quietly now and then, here and there. With one hand gripping the swing's chain, and the other thoughtfully twirling alabaster locks that glinted in the gentle rays of the sunlight, Near swung carefully and almost with out purpose. Using the tip of his white sneaker to move the swing if only slightly, he looked to all the world like a lonely child. The birds had long since awoken and their songs pierced the silence now. Soon the children of the Wammy's House would rise and get ready for another busy day of classes.

From where he sat, Near could easily see both the main building that was the Wammy's House and the small church built in close proximity. Between the two buildings was a quaint cobble stone courtyard where many children gathered and played their games. Since it was still fairly early in the morning, the children wouldn't be out and about for a few more hours. This gave Near more than enough time to dally to his heart's content. He'd only been back for 2 weeks, but his duty as the new L was already calling and he had to leave again, so Near decided that today he would take the time to visit the graves of Wammy's fallen soldiers and say good bye to the institution again. And though Near knew he shouldn't be bothered by the broken bell of Wammy's church, he still found himself watching the immaculate sanctuary, eyes tracing every corner, every detail till he could draw it out in his sleep perfectly.

He knew that as everything was now it was pointless to be discontented by L's little mysteries, or Mello's barbs, or even Matt's careless lifestyle, but the longer he sat there, the harder he found himself not to give into the memories.

Near would look to the orphanage and could pick out the exact window that belonged to his old room and knew that a few windows down from that, was the play room where he spent countless hours assembling puzzles only to take them apart and put them back together again. When his eyes roamed to the open playground fields and then to the court yard, the memory of the two young Wammy hellions tore across his mind and he could see them there laughing as only children could before they faded as memories did.

At the front of the simple white cathedral he saw L standing there, not from any sort of particular memory, but L seemed to love the sound of the non existent bells of the orphanage and Near could just imagine him standing there, listening. Hands placed into his pockets, standing in that horrible slouch that was so uniquely L, head tilted slightly to hear the bells better.

'...the orphanage's bells will ring so clearly...'

Near felt his heart beat painfully, longingly, but this time, it was okay. When you go away, it was suppose to be sad. And really if it scared him too much or was too early, he could always just close that door again. Easy.

'Haha haha...ha...'

He wondered if it was just the sound of the trees this time, or had he recreated the sound of childish laughter in his mind that sounded suspiciously like Mello's? Near decided to listen a little bit closer.

During that time he noticed the sunlight had become more softer. At his back, Near found it more bearable, warm and pleasant. This was so because of the gentle spring breeze that ghosted by him keeping him cool against the sun's rays. As it passed, Near briefly wondered if it carried with it the scents of those distant cities, the oceans, far away places, maybe even as far as Japan.

Perhaps if he breathed it in deep enough he could catch the faintest hints. For one who is always surrounded by a controlled environment by choice, it was still an exciting thought. A shiver ran through his body and something inside him sighed in relief as if to say: 'You're so close!'

'What are you waiting for?'

A warm tentative smile flashed through his mind, encouraging and honest. Near could just imagine those deep emeralds half lidded, laughing behind those tinted shades. It was nice to pretend that the smile was just for him. It made Near wish that he could give something just as good back. A smile that was wonderful coupled with eyes that could buy trust by the bushel and trust they did, but only in one person. Near went so far to believe that Matt's words probably weren't abundant, but they would be true. least true enough to make Near believe that things really could be so simple. If gods of death existed and something as mundane as a black note book could take a life just by writing a name in it, then maybe it was possible that the dead could hear, that the winds really did carry secrets and that there were more important things than your own lonely life. But all this could only be to those who would believe it so.

Finally Near rose from his swing and looked to his natural surroundings. Because he no longer lived here, it was easier to miss it. Even if it contained some painful and lonely memories of his childhood, it was also where his more precious memories were born and he believed one day those memories would no longer hurt him. He honestly looked forward to that, simply because, no matter where he went, or how long he'd be gone, this was always going to be his home, no, their home.

Near felt that all the missing pieces of the puzzle had come together and only then it completed the beautiful picture that only he could see. And that made him happy. He stood there in all the sun, feeling the soft winds play across him, and heard the distant laughter of the children echoing from the house that he'd grown to love.

Then suddenly he heard the first bell and all the world fell to silence and the seconds stretched into infinity. Near was shocked to say the least, but the bell was clear and it rung again, and again, the sound coming from the church steeple. The broken bell rang deeply and it reverberated through every part of him. So stunned was he that he almost didn't notice when someone passed him, stalking forward in that same horrible posture, hands in his pockets as they always were. Grey eyes grew wider as Near didn't even question what he was seeing.

Everything was just all too surreal, the bells, and now this, but Near did nothing for fear of dispelling the enchantment. It felt as though he'd waited all his life for this moment no matter how brief it was!

L walked forward in that sort of slow and graceful manner of his. Ahead of him were three familiar figures who had seemingly appeared out of no where but at the same time felt as if they'd been there the whole time. Maybe they had. They had been waiting a long time for him after all. Mr. Wammy was smiling as Near always remembered seeing in his pictures. Mello and Matt stood at either side of Mr. Wammy, Mello not bothering to hide his joy as the grin was wide. For once, it was not laced with malice nor cruelty. It was just happy, he missed L a lot, Near could tell. Matt's smile was a little more breezy as was his style, but it was happy all the same. Then, just before L could be united with them, he paused, allowing his head to turn slightly but not all the way so that Near could see his face clearly. It was just enough for Near to spot that coy smile that nearly caused his heart to cry out because it all was really quite simple to understand. Amazing he'd not caught it sooner.

The bells perhaps rang when the children of Wammy's House returned home after being gone for so long or simply just for the children who wanted to listen or even those who were far away from home, to comfort them. And though Near could never understand why Mello would get as emotional as he did, it was perhaps just the way it was. Emotions were hard to understand because they come from the heart of a human. But Mello was never afraid to feel and never afraid to listen to his own heart and that was something Near knew he'd have to learn on his own now. L never wanted a machine to take his place, he wanted a person, a soul to go after a case and presue it because it was their passion to see justice prevail. Near would need more than cold logic, because his cases would involve people and sometimes people did not make sense because they were a slave to their own emotions. Near openly admitted that he was jealous of what Mello found in Matt. Matt had maybe known all along. Everyone dreams of a person, who would come along and see in them, the real them, a friend and a companion. And a true partner isn't one that can see through to another's flaws, but rather, see the other through to the end no matter where that end would lead them.

When the ringing of the bell had faded, and time began again, Near found himself gazing at the Wammy's House, at the last place he'd seen the ghostly specters, speaking quietly after them.

"Welcome home." Near finally said aloud because he knew that 'they' could hear it and it was a long time coming.