I can't let go.


With the window partially cracked and the air in his car calm and hazy with nicotine, Matt almost felt as though he was embarking on the beginning of some great adventure. Maybe, in some way, he was. Despite the radio being on and spewing things in Japanese that he only half-understood, everything seemed eerily quiet. Unattached. All he could feel was the anticipation churning like a storm inside of him, the voice in his head yearning for something to hold it all down. Something to keep the monsters at bay, to keep his mind in place. He tried to shake it off. There was a job to do and in this crucial hour, he couldn't fail Mello.

Traffic started to thicken as he approached the NHN headquarters. Areas of the street were blocked off and people bottlenecked on the sidewalk like insects. He inhaled deeply though the filter of his cigarette, feeling almost like it was protecting him. He didn't know why, particularly, but today the world seemed dangerous. There was only him, smoking and his car—and Mello, somewhere in the distance.

Camera bulbs flashing threatened momentary disorientation for anyone standing too close, but Matt was about to disorient them further. He reached to the otherwise empty passenger seat and took the gun that Mello had given him into his hand, wielding its bulk with considerable diligence. Resting its barrel against his car door, pointing beyond the open window, he fired a single shot to the first open area he saw. Screams erupted from the crowd—briefly, he saw a head of blonde hair crouch over Takada—Hal Lidner? He lingered for a second, waiting—his breath held tightly in his lungs until he heard and saw the motorcycle that Mello had gotten on just earlier. Job done, he threw the gun aside and floored it, whirling his wheel around to turn the nearest corner as Lidner deployed Takada's guards behind him.

Adrenaline immediately flooded his veins, making his head pound. He gripped his cigarette in his teeth, the taste of it bitter and real, tying him to this moment, this particular place in time as the world flew by in an unnatural pace around him. He vaguely wondered if Mello had achieved his ends, but quickly shook the thought off. Of course. It was Mello, so of course he had done what he had set to do. Of course.

Skidding around a corner, Matt slammed the brakes to force the car into a stop, swerving in a messy arc on the pavement to avoid a head-on collision with the sleek black cars that had cut him off at the intersection ahead. "Shit," he muttered to himself, quickly weighing his options. Still, Takada's guard closed in on him, completely blockading anything that even slightly resembled an exit. He swallowed. Shit. "How many fucking guards does she have?" This did not look good. This did not feel good—not in the slightest, remotest way did this seem positive. The only thing he could think to do was attempt to talk his way into custody to stay alive long enough to think of a better plan.

Steeling himself and getting out of the car against his better judgment, Matt inhaled through the cigarette and tried his damndest to execute the perfect picture of nonchalance, speaking in a manner that seemed utterly rehearsed in his effort to sound calm. "You really shouldn't shoot me, you know," he started in a sort of genial manner, his voice sounding overly casual. It was difficult in the face of all those hidden eyes staring at him,, the barrels of those guns trained on him. One false move and he'd be riddled with holes from every direction. God. Matt had never prayed before, but he vaguely remembered… back when he had first found Mello in that wreck, the senseless babble that had come from the blonde's mouth…

"And Matt… I was scared, Matt… I knew I had to make it… But God… only if God was on my side."

Matt's breathing felt shallow, like his lungs were made of unforgiving metal. God, for fuck's sake, please… for him. "I can give you information on Takada's kidnapper," he stated; while it wasn't a lie, it was something that he wouldn't do, even though he could. He opened his mouth to try a couple more charming words, but the start of a syllable quickly became a ghost on his tongue.

Pain.

This was pain. Unimaginable pain—pain like a tiny monster ripping through his body. This monster was quickly joined by friends that bore into his chest, into his lungs, tearing through his muscles. A breath lingered in his throat as he fell back against his car, his trembling fingertips half-raised against his abdomen. Fuck.

Matt exhaled slowly, the world falling to ruins beyond the edges of his vision. No.

God.

No.

He clenched his fingers into a fist—or at least, tried. His brain had seemed to sever connection to his body in a last ditch effort to save him from the unbearable, searing pain that coursed through his torso—it knew that this was the end.

No.

But then there was no pain. There was no warmth, no cold. There was just him, him and the world that turned to gray ash around him, him and his thoughts, just Matt… and that was all. This was it, then. "Sorry, Mel'…" the redhead whispered to himself, the last syllable causing the still-lit cigarette to fall from his dry lips as he tried, tried so hard to remember the taste of Mello's kiss… the way things would have been if only…

… if only…

God, save Mihael.

--

There was no prayer.

Despite the cross hanging around his neck and how his fingers itched to touch it, to caress it to count across it to pray and to hope and hold—god he hadn't felt this way in such a long time—but he ignored it. There was a mission, there was this girl, there was this speed. There was Matt waiting for him, there was Nagano. There was a plane and there was a future—there was no time for praying in the present.

The truck felt foreign beneath his fingertips, the clothes on his person a little too lose. They didn't belong to him, they weren't the familiar caress of leather. This seat was a little too tall, the back of the truck too quiet. Everything still felt wrong. The engine was too noisy, too old and clunky. Mello took a breath. God. Everything seemed…

He shook the thoughts off—it wasn't like him to think like this. He was supposed to be level-headed and right, everything was going to work out because this was his plan. This was his plan that he had tried so hard to perfect, and god damn it all, it was. It had to be. The alternative to perfection was… He swallowed. No, he couldn't think about that.

Reaching to the television built into the console, Mello flicked through the channels until he found the Japanese news. He could only understand fleeting bits of it, but the noise of the old speakers was a slight comfort to him, something to focus on, some bit of the real world outside of this truck. The news was alight with Takada's kidnapping. It seemed that nothing else was of interest—he couldn't blame them.

He gave the screen a brief glance—an intersection, a car.

A body.

His heart jolted. The name rose to his tongue but wilted behind his lips—he couldn't say it. No.

It was hard to breathe.

His fingers were shaking.

The blonde pulled over, stared intently at the television's tiny screen, groping for words he knew. They were saying that the man in the car had tried to pull a gun on them—but he knew that was a lie. That was a lie, Matt hadn't been carrying a gun but the smoke screen, and even then… he wasn't so foolish.

He gritted his teeth together. "Fuck, I'm sorry…" he whispered, feeling as though his words were glass that cut the roof of his mouth, tore apart his tongue in saying it. But he had to. He had to admit it—it was… his fault… "I got you killed… Matt." He wanted to say the other's name—his friend's name. He couldn't deny it; Matt was the best friend he'd ever had, possibly the only real friend. Someone who had stayed with him all this time, who had hunted him out, who had sought his company when he had adamantly disagreed… But the strange syllable wouldn't leave him. It clung to his throat until he swallowed it again where a throb in his chest made him swore that he felt it stay with him. Matt's name—his friend. It wouldn't leave him.

The throbbing happened again. His heart felt strange. Heavy. Like stone.

He felt as though someone had reached into his chest and squeezed the muscle. Was this grief? Was this what it was like to mourn someone that you had not looked up to, as he had L, but someone who had stood by your side? He swallowed.

No. This was different.

He gripped the wheel, leaned forward over it. This was… death. He could taste it. That bitch. That tremendous bitch…

A laugh escaped his lips, a dry laugh that died shortly after it came into being. That whore… how did she know what he wanted?

He closed his eyes. His goal was so far away. Miles and miles and miles—and Near, where the fuck was Near? Near was where his goal was—far so far away… Miles away… But Mello knew that it would be over soon. Near would finish their game. The three of them, the brilliant Wammy orphans, they would win. Near would owe them. He wanted to be the best, he wanted… so much to be number one… but that figure by his side that had always been there, even when he had tried so hard to push him away… He had always been like a shadow, even if he was a few steps behind. But now he wasn't there. What use would it be to stand at the end without him?

Mello laid his head against the wheel, his gaze unfocused on the other side of the car. If only… if only things had been different. If only Matt had lived, if only they had chosen a different route, a different plan. If only L hadn't died… There was so much to wish for, but there was only one thing Mello wanted.

Matt was so close, he could feel the other's body heat. He could feel the warmth of those hands on his shoulders, the smell of nicotine that he had so claimed to despise, but had been secretly comforted by… the taste of those faults so close, the flaws that they had shared and loved in their own, twisted way…

Matt was so close.

For the briefest moment, he thought that he could see heaven. But there was no God, no one to pray to, no one to answer his prayers. There was a hand, a familiar hand that was slightly calloused with fingers outreached to him. He wanted to take the hand, but it was so hard to lift his own. There was a pressing whiteness all around him, it was hard to breathe. It was hard for his heart to beat, his heart that was now a stone, a dead stone… And suddenly, he didn't need to breathe anymore. He stretched his fingers to the hand that reached for him, brushing against the fingertips before he slipped.

No… No—he wanted it. He wanted that hand; he wanted it more than anything. More than he had wanted to be number one, more than he wanted to beat Near. He wanted that hand—but fuck, he was slipping away—no—

But the hand reached for him.

The fingers took hold of his palm and grasped tight, pulling closer. He heard the whisper, a slightly familiar voice that seemed from a time long ago, a time when they were just children.

God, save Mihael…

The hand took him closer, took hold of him. The hand became an arm, an arm that was attached to a body, a body that smelled of nicotine.

There was a heartbeat. Soft, like a dull lullaby lost ages ago.

God, save Mihael…

But he didn't need to be saved. He had everything he wanted.


AN: I know I deviated from the script in the manga/anime, but I like it better this way. It's easier to use sort of my own words, from what I remember of the moment, then to replicate what someone else translates they're saying.

So... that's it. Thanks to everyone who stuck with me this long (two years and only 36,137 words to show for it, sad, isn't it?). I lost a lot of motivation after the series ended and Madi and I stopped RPing so much, but this fic always kind of stuck with me. I like it a lot, I'm proud of it, and mostly, what kept me going was the knowledge that other people enjoyed what I wrote and wanted to read it. So thanks, guys. All those reviews that you sent-- I made an effort to reply to every one of them. If I didn't, I'm sorry, feel free to shoot me up with a PM if you want to say anything. (:

HEY IF YOU READ THIS CHAPTER REVIEW IT.

JUST SAY SOMETHING. ANYTHING. LIKE 'LSDKJFAS;LFA' WILL DO.

I'm just curious as to how many people made it to the end. (: If anyone you know reads this fic, please let them know that I finished. I completed the fic because I owed it to everyone who started it, no matter how much they liked or didn't like it. So that's the end of my speech.

Bottom line: thank you very much. Love you all. (: Thank you especially to Madi, whom I really started this fic for.