Someone knocking and then pounding on his door at three or so in the morning isn't enough to make him put down his game controller.

Someone he knows, Mello, screaming for help and slamming both palms flat on the wood, with unmistakable pain and panic filling his voice, that's enough to get him over the back of the couch, cigarette thrown at the direction of the sink.

He makes it to the door and pulls it open so fast that Mello staggers through the threshold and into Matt in a way that if it were anyone else would be a graceful movie-style swoon and heroic catch, but with Mello it's a shoulder in the solar-plexus and the scent of burnt hair and skin.

It's not that he hasn't been treated. He's not that stupid. He's bandaged and everything, it's just that he's done the Mello thing where he spends hours awake getting what he wanted and not showering or taking care of himself, or bothering to deal with the fact that he was hurt and needed to rest. It disturbs Matt that he knows Mello this well. Even though it's been a long, long time.

But Mello came to him, so he ignores the bashed solar-plexus, and that it's stupidly late, because Mello came to him. So he drags him in and drops him on the couch, and goes for the first aid kit.

The microwave timer reads 4:22 but he hasn't changed it since daylight saving's and it was seventeen minutes fast, and he's probably technically a genius, right now with Mello unconscious on his couch, whimpering in pain anyways, he can't work out the math. He also knows this is probably why Mello is smarter than he is. Mello would not forget how to do math over Matt. But Matt also reads people better than Mello does, so maybe out here, in the real world, it evens out.

The clock reads 6:03 by the time he's cleaned Mello off completely with gentle, damp towels, and used all the antiseptic in the apartment (except the stuff in the emergency EMERGENCY kit underneath the sofa) and half of the bandages. He's also trimmed the blackened edges out of his hair, and wrapped him in a tattered old terrycloth bathrobe that he'd forgotten he owned.

The bathrobe is bright red and makes Mello look completely bloodless, and the bandages even whiter on his skin.

Matt is man enough to admit that the sight is kind of frightening. He makes sure his goggles are on, nice and secure, throws a blanket over his new house guest, and heads for bed.

In the morning Mello doesn't wake up, but Matt knows him and that it's alright because he'll probably sleep until tomorrow afternoon at least. It's a shitty apartment so the landlord and neighbours don't ask questions about the screaming in the hallways; they all just figure they're better off not knowing.


For the first few days Mello is unconscious most of the time, and for the second few he's drugged to the gills on painkillers and wrapped in bandages and bathrobes and blankets, and being fed chicken noodle soup and tea and more painkillers and vitamin pills a girlfriend forgot in his cupboard for no reason except that Matt wants to get rid of them without feeling guilty.

But aside from objections to the vitamins, which Matt pushes aside easily thanks to his drugged state and subsequent suggestibility, he is an extremely amicable houseguest.

So of course Matt is worried. This is Mello, for fuck's sake. He's not amicable unless he wants something really, really badly. And even then, he's not amicable until he's first pulled a gun on it, yelled at it, tried to set it on fire, tried to emotionally blackmail it, flashed it some skin, stared at it in bewilderment and then tried politeness.

Amicability means he is not himself. Matt wonders if maybe it's the scarring that's doing it, because he was so very pretty before... and while Matt thinks he still is, he guesses Mello might not feel the same way.

Matt sits up with him a lot, and misses sleep over him, ducking his hands as the Demerol kicks in and he starts trying to feed Matt the vitamins too since he's not sleeping any and that's probably not too good for him. Or at least, that's the giggling explanation he gets.

It's a lot harder to play video games with someone trying to force feed you medication, especially when you can't just hit them, because Mello is hurt and that would not be playing fair.

Sometimes, at five am, he seriously considers just tying the fucker up with a bathrobe sash, but then he just goes and makes coffee and chamomile tea for Mello, and listening to the subsequent griping always makes him feel a lot better.

Steps in the right direction. Baby steps, but steps, all the same.


Mello didn't arrive with more than what he was wearing, and most of that was either cut off him or just plain stolen and thrown out by Matt, who claimed it was either that or have the things fumigated.

When Mello woke up enough to ask about this, he seethed for a long time afterwards. Although the scarring on his face was taking some getting used to, and undoubtedly made him look a little more ominous, the fact that his hair currently made him look a little bit like a dandelion took away from the seriousness of the whole issue somewhat.

This didn't make Mello any less angry.

Eventually he insisted on being given something other than the bathrobe. Matt told him, on his way out to pick up cigarettes, to help himself. This is what Mello had driven him to. Running out of cigarettes at one am. He blamed the stress.

When he came back, an un-dandelioned Mello was in the kitchen, in the only pair of black pants he owned, that he honestly didn't remember had existed, and a black and white striped shirt that was far too long for him at the arms.

"You look like a nine year old girl dressed up as a convict for Halloween," Matt observes, lighting one cigarette off the end of the other. He's chain-smoking now. Mello's fault.

Mello throws a coffee cup at him, and misses.



He doesn't open his eyes. Three in the morning. He wasn't sleeping, when Mello knocked on his door, but he should have been. Who wouldn't be sleeping at three in the morning?

"Matt, you bitch."

If he keeps still, Mello will probably go away. He hears the doors open a crack. The light from the unprotected bulb in the hallway sears the back of his eyes.


If he keeps still, Mello will probably go away.

"What? Jesus, fuck."

He's just considering sitting up when Mello bursts in, stops in the doorway, then as good as slinks towards the bed. Matt thinks for a second that he probably shouldn't have let him move in, but only for the time it takes for Mello to lift one black army boot, and for it to hit the ground again. Four more steps and then he's at the bed.

Matt feels the bed shift as Mello lands on it, knees first. The mattress shrieks in protest, and Matt groans and rolls onto his stomach. Matt wonders if this is a come-on, but Mello isn't reaching for him. His hair is flopped on the pillow and something freezing and hard brushes Matt's ankle.

"Are those steel-toed?" And more importantly. "Get them the fuck out of my bed."

Mello makes short work of the boots, and in the time that takes Matt wraps his head around the concept of words and language, and the fact that although he might like Mello in his bed to be a normal occurrence, it most certainly is not.

"Mello." He clears his throat. He needs a cigarette. "What the shit?"

Mello's eyes look peculiar for some reason. It's a look Matt may not have seen in them before. Which is why it takes him another twelve seconds to place it.

"Are you afraid?"

The punch to his shoulder he gets when he laughs is so, so, so worth it.

"You were watching tv."

He knows that much, the sounds were part of what was keeping him up. It sounded like a lot of Latin, some growling, and interspersed with late night sex-line commercials. He'd have got up and said something, but... Mello pipes up, voice thin and reedy.


Matt promptly goes into hysterics. Mello shouldn't really be able to punch this hard, with his left hand, lying on his side, but he manages to wind him, which just leads to messy, wheezing, uncontrollable laughter.

"Fuck you," Mello eventually snarls, and starts to pull away, so Matt snags him and drags him closer, keeping him trapped.

"Mello," he explains, pulling his head back a little because he has blonde hair in his mouth and that's not pleasant, "you kill shit on a regular basis. You're handy with explosives. You're fighting a man who can kill you just by looking at you and writing down your name. You wrapped several major mafia members around your dainty little fingers. You intimidated a Death God a few weeks ago. Whatever they were fighting in the Exorcist, you could kill it."

Mello is looking at him with a new, queer smile, and with eyes that are practically starry. No wait, that's glassy.

"And you're stoned?"

A drowsy nod.

"Go to sleep, for fuck's sake. You owe me weed in the morning."

Another nod.

"You're also the only person I know who can punch someone in this frame of mind."

Still with the nodding. His eyes have closed.

"Goodnight, Mello."


Matt hears the door slam and sticks his head out into the hallway. Enough is e-fucking enough.

"Shut up!"

Mello isn't there. He could have sworn he heard him talking. He can hear him talking. And he's talking another voice, a deeper voice. Matt hears the thump of someone being pushed against the wall. He has an insane moment where he wonders if they might be fighting, when he knows full fucking well what's going on out there.

The blonde little tramp has got someone in Matt's apartment. He's either pinned against the wall or is pinning someone against it, and they are in Matt's apartment. This is a problem.

He might be slightly jealous.

Of course, he can't doanything about this realization. It paralyzes him completely, with all it's repercussions and possibilities, and he remembers Lawliet for a long moment and thinks in sheer percentages of how wrong it could all go.

The numbers frighten him. He was never as good at numbers as Mello or Near. He just did computers and loopholes, and hail mary expect-the-unexpecteds.



He wakes up fast, and has a gun in his hand in the time it takes for Mello to push the door to his room open, and bound in, regardless. He doesn't ask how Mello knew he wouldn't get shot, just puts it away and lets the adrenaline subside.

This might be a mistake. A second or two later, the hangover and exhaustion kick in.

"Good morning."


Mello is being amicable. This is because he wants something, and he knows that he cannot pull a gun on Matt, that yelling at him rolls off his skin like it's Teflon, that he's calm about fires and perfectly able to stop drop and roll (having seen him do so on numerous occasions,) that emotionally blackmailing him will end in his eviction... and, well, he's in here in a shirt with slits on the shoulders, and who knew that two inches of Mello's skin could make thinking for Matt that much harder?

He's lost the logical train of thought here somewhere. In fact, it has derailed, and people should be evacuated. Mello's still talking.

"...surveillance for me, I came here because I knew you were the best..."

Matt blinks at him, and Mello pauses.

Neither of them speak.

Mello cracks first, he always does. He's too impetuous, everyone's always told him. But because Near said it too, he never listened too hard.

"Okay, because I knew you were the best and because you- you. Shut the fuck up, don't give me that look. I need you to bug this guy's apartment for me. It shouldn't be hard for you, you're genius at this sort of stuff."

Matt groans, but they both know he'll do it. If only because Mello came just two inches closer to saying things that Mello doesn't say. Two inches of shoulder and two inches of friendship, and Matt's probably going to get killed this time around.

He really doesn't care.


If Mello had just brought a stranger home once, then maybe it wouldn't have been so bad. He'd told himself he'd forgotten about it, gone out and bought a new game and beaten it inside and out, bugged an apartment and listened to the tapes. Done what he liked, and what he was good at, and got on with life.

And then there were people moaning in his hallway again in the middle of the night. Just like that, the decision is made.

He bursts out of his room, dragging on a pair of jeans in case Mello goes for the tall type, and there's a fight. He doesn't want to fight someone naked in his hallway. Also, because this way he can chase them down through the streets and beat them to death with a kitchen chair. Maybe that's the lack of sleep talking.

Mello's not the one against the wall. How unsurprised is Matt? He was always a pushy little snot. But this is good, because he can grab Mello around the shoulders and yank him off the other man, who he barely even sees, and push him in the direction of the couch.

"Matt, you psycho!"

Mello is screaming at him, the guy is screaming at him, and Matt think everyone could probably use a cigarette, he certainly could, it'd calm them down nice as anything and he's perfectly willing to acknowledge that this behaviour is not rational.

The minute the stranger is out the door, Mello takes a swing at Matt, who catches the punch and grabs his arm to drag him closer. Mello must have been drinking, because he stumbles into Matt, who catches him and turns them around, lifts him and shoves him up against the door.

He feels it in Mello's body, the moment he realizes they're not fighting, they're fucking, and gets his lips bitten so hard that he tastes blood in with the strange combination of vodka and chocolate. It should probably be disgusting but it's so hot he can't breathe.

Mello falls asleep on top of him, and when Matt wakes up his arm's gone to sleep and he has Mello's hair in his mouth again and a crick in his neck, but he doesn't care.


Whatever Mello might be, he is not subtle. This extends to most definitions of the word. Apparently, it includes quiet, because his sneaking into the living room involves enough noise to wake the living dead. It certainly wakes Matt up off the couch.

He stays still long enough to watch what Mello's doing.

Oh hell no.

"Touch the x-box, and I will pump you full of lead, Sparky."

Mello looks up at him and glares. He looks actually angry. Which means, of course, that since Matt didn't do anything really wrong, he's probably angry with himself and projecting it on to Matt.

"The Godfather? Is that what you're playing?"

Matt doesn't answer him. He is actually fairly sure there's a gun under the couch cushion, but he isn't reaching for it just yet. Not unless Mello calls his bluff.

"Unless he's yellow and round, and gets chased by ghosts and eats nothing but fruit..."

His goggles are tangled in his hair. When he tries to pull them off his head, it catches and tugs and distracts him just long enough for Mello to take another step towards the tv and surrounding electronics.


It's like a game of red light green light. Mello stops again.

"What did pac-man ever do to you?"

Mello mutters something that's definitely rude in the language he probably used to speak all the time before he was just Mello, but the words are sounding more and more rusty nowadays. Matt correctly interprets this as meaning that he isn't going to get an actual answer.

Mello heads off for the kitchen, still muttering, and Matt closes his eyes and wonders why the fuck geniuses have to be such lunatics all the time.

Later, next morning, he catches Mello talking to the gaming system. To be fair, he's drunk (already) but it's still mildly disconcerting to walk in on someone making 'beep beep brrrdleep' noises and calling your x-box Jezebel, with easy, malevolent familiarity.


"Wake the fuck up!"

He's fallen asleep with his head in his arms on the kitchen table. Mello's hand on his shoulder, just the cruel side of comforting, pinches him awake and he sits up like nothing happened at all. He can hear voices coming in over the machine. The bugs are picking up sounds loud and clear.

"I told you so," he mutters, and drops his head back down in his arms.

"Fucker," says Mello, who never really doubted him but griped at him anyways, because the bandages are off, the game is on, and they had sex. Him and Matt.

Matt sees the look in Mello's eyes, and grins, because he saw something coming that Mello didn't, even though he was just third best and not worth paying attention to, most of the time. It feels good to beat him, once in a while.

Except Mello wins, of course, with the neat little trump card where he just leans in and gives Matt a little kiss. If two inches of friendship and two inches of skin was enough to make him quake before, this practically liquefies him. Mello doesn't know it, or he'd be angry. Matt is glad.

"Let's get pizza," says Matt impulsively, "and vodka," Mello likes vodka, "and tequila," for Matt, "and the second cheapest chocolate on the shelf, and we can watch a movie."

Mello blinks at him, expression creasing into lopsided distrust. Matt finds him easier to read since the burns, since Mello's getting used to how his face feels again, and can no longer operate like it's surgery. One eyebrow up, eyes a little bit wider in distress, bottom lip between his teeth. Now it's all awkward, tense lines and newness. He's fucking beautiful like this.

"What movie?"

What he's actually asking is, why now? When Mello has just got this started and the game is about to begin. Matt tries to think of a way to word his answer.

Because we're both alive right now, and because I'm as close to having you as I ever will be, and because you mumble when you're drunk and chocolate makes you smile, and because I'm hungry and the pizza place down the road is good, and you'll lick the grease off your fingers and we can let ourselves be kids for thirty fucking seconds.

"How about the Exorcist?"

Mello gets it. He punches Matt's shoulder really fucking hard, but he's grinning, so he gets it.

Matt is happy.