Nana: This is the third request-fic that I've written for the Death Note fandom so far. It can be a very difficult job, but fun, too. Anyway, this one of a genfic, about Mello. As you can see from the summary. I hope you enjoy it, and leave me a review!

Kill It Or Get Out

By: SunMoonAndSpoon

For: melloxchocolate

Warnings: Some spoilers, and character death.

Part I

All anybody ever asks him anymore is how it felt when he was caught in the blast. He tries, but all that comes to mind are primitive holophrases, his grasp on the English language (and Japanese, German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and what he's learned so far of Swahili) have deserted him. He has a massive, multi-language vocabulary, but all he can say about the explosion is; hot. Pain. Loud. Kill it or get out.

It is far easier to describe his current agony—not that he does, pride takes control of his throat and makes him bark, "I'm fine!" But in his head he picks his pain apart, the nuances are clear. He has five major burns, one on his face, two on his arms (one far more severe than the other), one on his stomach and one on his chest. They're so close together that they could be one burn, but they do not feel the same. The one on his chest doesn't hurt at all, apparently that's the most severe one. His stomach seems to be always on fire, he goes through life constantly needing to vomit. His arms sting and crack when he tries to use them, they are stiff and if he allowed himself to be crippled by this, he would be. Just blinking brings agony, and he can't wait for this shit to scar over. Right now, he's hurting and sick all the time.

He ignores it. Matt rarely questions his condition, only quietly reminds him of his appointments with the doctor. Mello generally fails to keep these appointments, afraid to admit that his injuries are severe enough to need treatment. He has been told, repeatedly, that he should still be in the hospital, but that's out of the question. He has a murderer to catch, and a smug, albino freak to grind into the ground.

Today, he has to take two trains and a bus to visit the little fucktard. He has given up on trying to make sense of NYC's subway maze, instead asking Matt to look it up and give him directions. He could figure it out on his own if he weren't so distracted. He can barely see sometimes he's in so much pain. It takes everything he has not to feel like he's failed when he gives Matt these instructions. He pretends it's only because he has better things to do, because Matt is his lackey and must do as he's told.

Matt offers to go with him. It is painfully obvious that he does not want to do any such thing. He doesn't want to be here at all. Matt is stretching himself to be here with him, all he wants out of life is a game system, some cigarettes, and the occasional fuck. He likes comfort, and he's forgoing that, for Mello. That and the fact that he knows Matt will hold him back should he decide to kill Near makes Mello turn down his offer.

It's okay. He doesn't need him. Mello doesn't need anyone.

The subway ride is awkward, draining. Even in a city full of people so strange-looking that they put L to shame, Mello apparently stands out. He has not taken particular care to dress down. At Wammy's House they never really learned that there's a time and place for every outfit. L wore the same jeans and white tee shirt nearly everyday, so he couldn't possibly instruct the children striving to become him to defy their impulses. Matt was allowed to wear his goggles and his ridiculous vest, Near was allowed to wear pajamas all day, and Mello was allowed whatever he wanted. Which was more or less a blackened version of what L wore, until he left. Now he does everything he can to keep his scars hidden, but he has never learned to be inconspicuous. He will not do it unless he is trying to disguise himself. There is enough he must hide, as it is.

Today, there's no reason to. Today, he's wearing his massive, ratty pimp coat, gnawing chocolate and making sure the safety's on on his well-concealed gun. He is sweltering in this coat, but none of his long-sleeved shirts were clean enough to be wearable. He cannot be himself fully, the burns betray weakness, something he will not allow anyone to see. But people are staring. They're talking about him. The scars on his face are visible, and he pulls his hood up, tries to rearrange it so that nobody can see.

But they can see. And if he hears one more, 'wow, what happened to that guy?' or 'hey, take a look at that freak!' he will be forced to start snapping necks or shoot up the place. He despises every single person on this train now, from the obese old man asleep in the corner to the children running near his feet. One of them stares up at him, jabbing her finger in his face and shouting to her friends about it. Her finger is sticky, and it smells. Mello wants to tears it off, and he literally has to sit on his hands to keep himself from doing so. He snarls at the child to leave him alone, and almost immediately the woman's mother is screaming at him. "Don't you dare look at my little girl that way!" she barks, and it takes everything he's got not to whip his gun out.

"I will look at your filthy crotchdropping in whichever manner I choose," he says haughtily, fingering the gun. He imagines it going off and blasting him in the leg, and that stops him. The woman is gaping at him, apparently shocked that anyone could feel anything but love for her brat. She's pointing out his deformity, his inferiority, so what the fuck does she expect? He will not forgive her simply because of her age.

His stop comes, and he stands up, storms out. The little girl is crying, and he's glad.

For the first time in a long time, Mello is glad to see an elevator. Normally, he eschews them, stomps up the stairs in hopes of improving his speed and strength. But constant pain is annoyingly draining, and the last thing he wants to do is exhaust himself before confronting Near. He will not have to do much when he speaks to him, only retrieve his photograph. Provided, of course, that Near is cooperative about it. If he refuses, then it's a clear sign that he wants Mello to be killed by Kira. He'll have to end him right there, regardless of what Matt, L, or the legal system would have to say about it. L might approve. Mello likes to think that he would. He does not have a particularly good grasp of L's morals, though he likes to believe that he does. He wonders, angrily, if L bothered to thoroughly explain these things to Near. Near does, after all, have more in common with L than Mello does. The traits he shares with L are the only positive ones he has, but all the same. Mello would like to share some traits with L, too.

He shoves these thoughts aside, chomps on a chocolate bar to convince himself that they do have some things in common. The elevator arrives, and he steps in, pulling his hood on in an attempt to hide his scars.

Things unfold as smoothly as can be expected with Near. Guns are pulled, his own included, and that would make things exciting if he had more confidence in his body. His arm motion is limited, and it hurts to bend forward; dodging bullets is no longer something he can do thoughtlessly. Since the explosion, nothing is thoughtless, everything must be planned out with precision. How much pain he's in determines what his day will be like, and he hates that. He has not been thoughtless with this. He has the photograph, and he has given Near some information regarding the Kira case—there's no pride in winning if Near's way behind, after all. He is about to step out, pride intact.

That lasts until the noises start. He knows, logically, that nothing dangerous is happening, that the creaking, dripping sound is nothing like an explosion. He will not be thrown backwards, flesh charred and wrecked beyond repair. This is not his awful injury all over again, but the only thing that comes to mind is; hot. Pain. Loud. Kill it or get out.

And so he whirls around and whips his gun out, waves it in Near's face. Near doesn't blink, and his indifference is completely beyond Mello. How is it possible to be nonchalant when someone is holding a gun to your head? Is he even aware of what's happening? Mello snarls, puts his finger to the trigger. He will pull it if Near doesn't say something, because if he doesn't, Mello has nothing to work with, no way of knowing if the sounds spell his doom. If Near is planning to kill him or not. "What the fuck what that!?" he snarls, hands shaking so hard that he must take them off the gun for safety's sake. "What was that noise, Near?! What was it, what the fuck are you planning to do?!"

Guns are being pulled on him now, Near's lackeys threatening his life like they did when he first arrived. Strangely, this pleases Mello, makes him feel less afraid than he does with Near staring at him, and with that awful slow-motion explosion pounding away in the ceiling. "I'm not planning anything," Near says. "The water heater is acting up, that's all."

"Yeah fucking right," scoffs Mello. "Well whatever, Near, I'm leaving, so whatever your ridiculous plan is, it failed. Fuck you, and goodbye." And with that, he stalks off, closing his mind to the noise still pounding away in the ceiling.

Mello storms inside with great fury, tosses his coat on the floor. If Matt says a word to him about how he ought to pick it up or remove his shoes, he'll shoot him. His nerves are frayed, and he cannot handle anybody trying to control him, even in a small way. Thankfully, Matt stays glued to his game, pausing briefly to grunt a greeting and light a new cigarette. This too irritates Mello—everything does after that awful encounter. He shouldn't be rattled at all, he certainly shouldn't be scared, so he's prickly and pissed off instead. "Aren't you going to ask me how it went?" Mello asks, flinging himself onto the couch. "Or does nothing matter to you except your stupid games?"

"I figured you were going to tell me about it whether I wanted to know or not," Matt says, not looking up from the adventures of Princess Nectarine or whatever. He knows that isn't what he's playing, and that that's not even the name of the character, but he will not grace it with an actual title or name.

"I got the picture back," he says, throwing one leg over the other and leaning back. "So we don't have to worry about me being killed by Kira. It significantly decreases the likelihood, anyway. And I don't have to deal with Near anymore, at least until I've got a victory to rub in his face. So all in all, mission accomplished. Near is a fucking asshole, though."

"Well, yeah," Matt says, switching off the game for what seems like the first time in months. "I think that's obvious to everyone. Why bring it up now, though, did something happen?"

Mello shakes his head. Listens to the crackling in his neck as he does so, the slight tearing in his damaged skin. He hates this. "It wasn't anything special," Mello says. "He was trying to scare me, which is a completely pointless endeavor. If I did get scared, I certainly wouldn't show it to him. He should know that by now."

"What did he do?" asks Matt. As he speaks he unravels the bottom of his shirt, needing something to do with his hands if he's not playing video games. Mello wonders if he'd need this around anyone, or if his presence makes the man nervous. He is warped and ruined; he is not the Mello that Matt knows. He does not like admitting that the explosion changed him, and maybe it hasn't changed anything inside, but he looks different, and to Matt, that must mean that he is.

"He set up his water heater or whatever it was to sound like it was exploding. I guess he thought I'd be so fucking traumatized by the accident that I'd start crying or something." Mello leans forward, lets his hair obscure his wounds and laughs haughtily. "I'm not traumatized. It's my own fault it happened, after all. I'm the one who set off the bomb. There's nothing to be upset about, I mean, I got away, didn't I? It sucks that so much time was wasted recovering from my injuries, but I'm fine. I'm really fine." He heaves a sigh, and Matt rolls his eyes, mutters something about that being total bullshit. "I am!"

"Fine, so he was wrong then," Matt says, shaking his head, still not believing him. "Obviously, the next step is to get back at him. Think about it, what scares Near? If you come up with the right plan, you can have him wetting his pants and crying for Mommy."

"Near's not afraid of anything, he's a robot. Besides, it'd be a waste of time. I need to focus my energy on finding Kira. I want him to feel like he's failed as a human being, not just scare him. It wouldn't even work!" This isn't true, Mello would love to see Near terrified, see him crying or even mildly upset. Near feels nothing, and this enrages Mello, because he himself is filled with churning fire. He wants Near to be humiliated, raw and writhing on the floor, cracked, and not like L. Near is more like L than Mello could ever be, and that kills him. "Fuck…" he mumbles. "We need to get to work on that. Come on, Matt, get off the couch. We have stuff to do."

"Even if it wouldn't really help much, it'd still be fun to piss him off. I mean, there's got to be something that'll get to him. Everybody has a weakness. Weren't his parents killed in front of him or something? Don't you think something to do with that might freak him out?"

"I doubt that Near ever cared about his parents enough for it to matter when they died," Mello says. He wonders how much it will hurt to lift himself up off the couch. He might be able to do it without the aid of his arms or torso, but it's going to be difficult. He may need to ask for Matt's help. He will not ask for Matt's help. "Give it up Matt, this is pointless."

"Pointless, but fun. What the hell happened to your sense of fun, man? We used to do all kinds of pointless shit…" With that, he trails off, flips the switch on his game. Mello snorts, says that he's grown up, even if Matt hasn't. "Look," Matt says, "I'm not saying we should put off doing real work. I'm not even saying we should do anything. Just that it'd be kind of fun if, I don't know, we dressed up like zombies that looked like his dead parents and said we rose from the grave just to tell him how disappointed we were in him for being a stuck-up douche bag. I don't think he'd actually be scared or anything, but…" They repeat their trail-off/snort routine.

"Zombies," Mello says, trying hard to keep from cackling. "You want us to dress up like zombies. You know, I knew there was a reason I kept you around. Everything you say is ridiculous." And then, he does laugh. It breaks his skin and it hurts him, but it's the first expression of positive emotion that he's had since the explosion. Matt knows this, and Matt joins him in laughter, describes the zombies in greater detail. Says that they should play 'Zombie Jamboree' in the background, says that they should come sashaying in like a pair of undead drag queens. He laughs until it hurts too much to do so.

Part II

When the news sinks in, it's thick in his throat, like the dregs of a barium shake. He had not thought that Near was telling the truth about the water heater. He had thought that, if anything, he set it up to make those awful noises. To scare him. But Near would never have tampered with it himself, he lacks the drive to get up off the ground. He would have made one of his minions do it, and then they'd be dead, not him.

Near is dead. Crushed beneath the water heater. It came crashing down from the ceiling so fast he had no time to move away. Mello used to make jokes about how Near was so lazy he wouldn't stand up for a moving car, and at the time he'd thought it was hilarious. Anything that mocked Near was. Now, it isn't funny. He pretends that nothing's changed, cackles hideously at a pseudo-joke that was never amusing in the first place. He leans back, pounds the chair on which he sits because he has no idea how he should feel now, and maybe violence will help him. He wants to tear his mottled skin to shreds. Near is dead.

Joy would be a reasonable emotion. Ecstasy, even. He loathes Near. His death should change nothing. Near may not be alive to sit their smug and content with his unearned accomplishments, but that does not mean he never did so. His death does not eliminate everything that made Mello hate him from his memory. He will not be sentimental, or try to remember the good times. There were none. Anything that could possibly have been considered good was tainted by the voice in his head screaming 'you're not good enough! Near is better than you, and you will never, ever surpass him!'

If he doesn't hate Near, how can he even tolerate himself?

The fact remains though, Near is dead. There are practical things to consider. Mello leans forward now, gnaws a square of chocolate. Matt does not know the news yet, and he doesn't want to discuss it with him. He may have to face certain things he can't handle, like the fact that Matt might be visibly sad about Near's death. Mello wants it celebrated, unanimously. He can't summon the strength to be happy himself. All the same, there are things to consider, things that Matt will need to have a say in, soon.

If Near is gone, is there any point in chasing Kira?

The goal was to defeat Near. It makes little difference to Mello whether or not the world falls into Kira's hands. The only reason to stop him is to save his own life, and Mello finds it hard to care much about that. The pain of his burns makes him want to shut down and die, and besides, he has no way now to prove himself superior. L's been dead for years, and still he's seen as the one who fought Kira—even though he lost, he died! None of it matters. Near has surpassed Mello at everything, and in death he will be idolized, like L. You can't win against ghosts and corpses. Mello will always, always be inferior.

He wishes Near's death had been slower, more brutal. He hopes that he lived for a while, watched his intestines seeping out from under the water heater. He knows this isn't likely, and he knows he should not think this way. And most of all, he knows that L would be ashamed of him. That thought alone is enough to twist his insides.

Is L reason enough to go on chasing Kira?

Mello doesn't know. L is the only person Mello has ever been able to respect without despising, the only person who made him feel inspired rather than threatened. And L wanted badly to rid the world of Kira. Is that enough? Can he go on chasing Kira, go on risking his life for something that will never be validated? L is dead, he cannot commend him for his efforts, and Mello cannot tell himself that he's amazing. He won't believe himself.

Maybe L is not enough. But Mello can't think of what to do with himself besides this. The fact that his burns have not healed and he ought to be resting is, of course, irrelevant. He could crawl his way to the top of the mafia, be the boss of all bosses, but what would that get him besides better drugs and classier whores? He's gotten as much pride and satisfaction as he can out of that track, and it isn't much. Every time he does anything L would disapprove of, his body aches with guilt. He does not even know if L would disapprove, but he thinks he might, and so he's soaked in shame. He hates that. L is gone, Mello has no hope of becoming him now, and…

And maybe he does. Maybe he's expected to succeed Near. He doesn't know. He will call the orphanage later, ask if they still want him, if they've given him up for dead. Because even if he doesn't want to go back, he wants to know that they need him. That they've been waiting all this time. For now, he has to finish his melting chocolate bar, respond to Matt who's standing in the doorway, asking, "Mello, what's the plan for today?"

He orders him around incoherently for a few minutes, and gets the plans out, explains to Matt what must be accomplished. Same as he would do whether Near was in the world or not. Because if he stays stagnant, and doesn't try, he will wither, and he will die. Because right now, all he can do is move forward.