A/N: You know I love you all but there shall be no lemon! XD I can't believe you asked for that. This is rated T, people. Buuuuut. I do LOVE lemons so wait around for one of my M-stories. Yeah?

-

Songs For a Kingdom Now Lost.

twenty-one.

In the next few days, Near was able to convince Hal, Gevanni and Lester that he would be completing his college years at Irai. It didn't take much as each of them were, in their own way, very cowed by not only Near's past outbursts but his friends' as well. Gevanni had been very quiet in the days following the fundraiser and rarely ever met Near's eyes. The pale boy sometimes told himself that he didn't care and almost looked on Gevanni with a satisfied feeling when he saw the redness from where L had hurt him. But then he would always hear…

"I don't understand you, Near!"

… and suddenly he wished to be understood and had an achy feeling in his stomach. But then he would see Matt and Mello and be okay, if only for a little while.

Irai Academy had, in a way, quieted down and, in the same way, had gotten even more rowdy since classes had ended. The first day or so every student and even most of the teachers had been partying, celebrating being another year closer to the real world and those who had graduated left on clouds of happiness and sailed away, never to be seen again. Raito and L were at the graduation ceremony, obligated to be there as professors of some of the Seniors and Raito, as always, pretended to be sad and heartfelt at their leaving but was really thinking about Matt. L, as always, was completely indifferent and was thinking about cake.

Mello, in the meantime, found himself with quite a lot of time on his hands. Even though his and Near's relationship had reached new heights, it wasn't as time-consuming as their portrait had been and so sometimes when he wasn't arguing with Matt or trying to get something started with Near, he would stare at his easel in the corner of his and Matt's apartment and think how he hadn't tried to paint in over a month.

He didn't feel as if he'd found something he'd lost. He never knowingly had a muse and hadn't reached an exact moment of euphoria as far as he could remember - except for those times with Near when he would feel like fireworks were going off somewhere deep inside him - and everything after the painting had gone back to semi-normal. He would walk by the easel on the way out of the apartment or as he ran in quickly to grab something and out of the corner of his eye, he would see it and feel gravitated towards it. But he only ever looked and never touched because what would happen if he touched and it didn't work? What would happen if he was still in that god-awful rut?

He didn't want to answer those questions so he didn't touch it.

On the Monday after the fundraiser, the sunrays were blinding in their brightness and shone down through the open blinds of Near's dorm room. The light crawled over the covers and up the length of the bed until they found a pale face and intensified on it. Near made a soft groaning noise and his eyelids fluttered open, immediately squinting at the harsh light. He half-consciously rolled over and hit something familiar and soft in the middle of the bed and relaxed a little at the feeling of another heart beating.

"Mello," he slurred, snuggling in to the warmth closer, "what time is it…"

Mello arched his back in a stretch and unintentionally laid an arm over Near's chest. "Dunno… why's it matter?"

Near's eyes were still shut. "We have to get up to see them off at eight…"

"The fuck is them…?"

"Hal, Lester…" He yawned. "And Gevanni…"

"Pft." Mello opened one eye and looked over Near's body to see the younger teen's alarm clock. It was blinking red numbers. Mello shut his eyes again and pulled Near closer. "It's like eight o' nine or something… I dunno…"

Near shot up in bed. "Eight o' nine? Mello, get up! Come on, this is horrible!" Near climbed out of the bed after first disrupting Mello with his cries of agitation at the time. He went into his bathroom and came out lightning-fast with his clothes on and a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth with toothpaste all over his lips. Mello would have laughed had Near not been so insistent on him getting out of the bed.

"Alright, alright," he grumbled, reluctantly getting from in between the sheets. He stood on the floor, stark-naked with his hands held up. "I'm up."

"Clothes!" Near insisted through the toothpaste. He scampered back into the small bathroom to spit. When he came back out, Mello was hopping around the room with one leg inside his leather pants that were underneath Near's bed.

Mello noticed the disapproving stares. "I'm coming, I'm coming! Jesus!"

Near sighed and went to the door. "I'll see if Matt wants to come."

As Near was walking out, leaving his door half way opened, Mello called after him, "Matt better come! I don't know why he has a choice and I don't!"

Near ignored this and knocked on the door across the hall, not really waiting for an answer as he was in a hurry. He tried the knob and it was open. Upon sticking his head inside, he saw both Matt and Raito sitting on the couch, both with Wii controllers in hand.

Matt looked over, surprised to see Near there. "Hey, kiddo! Wanna join?"

Raito fiddled with his controller and grumbled, "The A button is not working…"

Near shook his head. "No thank you, Matt. Mello and I were just going to the parking lot to bid farewell to my guardians; they are leaving for the airport. Would you like to come along?"

His green eyes lit up behind his goggles. "Sure! Hey, Rai, you comin'?"

He threw down the controller in childish-malice. "I suppose I might as well."

Near nodded and turned on his heel to go fetch Mello but stopped when Mello was standing right behind him, arms crossed over his leather-clad chest and an eyebrow raised at Near. Near blinked. "Oh. Right. Well, let's go then."

-

Lester looked up from the trunk of their car after putting one of the suitcases inside at hearing a noise coming from the archway. He saw Near coming through first, shuffling in front of Mello and Matt with Raito tagging along behind them. Lester had been telling Gevanni all morning not to worry and that Near would come to see them one last time. But Gevanni hadn't really believed it until he saw Near stepping off of the curb and coming over to their car.

"Near," he breathed, smiling at the boy. His bruises were still decorating his face.

Hal looked over her shoulder when she heard Gevanni's murmur. "Near!"

Near nodded to the three of them. "I'm sorry we're late… I suppose I should have set my alarm clock."

Mello rolled his eyes.

Hal nodded to the rest of them. "Hello, Mello. Matt, Raito. I'm sorry we've caused you so much trouble." Her eyes flickered to Gevanni when she said that and she gave him a little pout.

"Think nothing of it," Raito said.

"S'yeah, nothing of it. When you get to wherever you're going, I expect to be sent an apology basket full of chocolate. And not the shitty corner-store kind either!" Mello frowned, shaking a fist at them.

Gevanni looked at the blond mildly and then turned to Near. "Speaking of London, we heard that L is having another showing there this summer."

Near's gray eyes lightened. "Yes, I heard."

Lester smiled a little. "We'll send you pictures."

"And what will you do with yourself this summer, Near?" Hal asked.

Near blinked, looking down after a moment. "I'm not sure, actually." He looked up at Matt and Mello. "What do you two do besides stay at the dorms? Everyone else has gone off the visit family now, so it's quiet…"

"Oh, we go off too," Matt said, smiling and pointing to himself and Mello.

Mello nodded off-handedly. "Yeah."

Near seemed surprised. "Where do you go?"

"Oh, anywhere… we travel all over," Mello said. "We talked about it before the fundraiser actually and wanted you to come with us. We never got around to asking though, so when the time came, we were just gonna throw you in the trunk."

Gevanni and Hal didn't find this very funny but the rest of them laughed.

"So," Gevanni sighed. "I supposed you'll be going with them then."

"Yes, I suppose so."

Hal looked over the shorter boy to see Raito Yagami standing there looking mildly bored. She smiled at him, her hands clasped in front of her. "Yagami, I heard that you have left Irai. Where will you be staying from now on?"

Matt sighed lightly, looking towards the cement.

"Oh," Raito said, "on campus."

Everyone looked at him.

"On campus?" Near asked.

"Oh yes," he answered, smirking at Matt's confused look. "I am a student here after all."

Matt gaped. "A… a student?"

"Yes, I applied for admission with Wammy the day I gave him my decision to quit teaching. Undoubtedly, I was accepted."

Mello laughed. "You sap, you couldn't stand to go away from Matt!"

Near smiled at him. "I'm glad you'll be staying, Yagami."

"Hey, hey," Mello said, elbowing Near. "Call him Raito. After all, he's a student now, we're equals!"

Raito groaned.

"And," Mello continued, "this also means you'll be classmates with Matsuda."

As Matt glomped on Raito, the smirk that the brunet once wore was wiped away with an expression of anguish. Good Lord… Matsuda… a classmate?

Hal was smiling even though she would rather he live off campus, more specifically in London. Lester threw in the last of the suitcases and shut down the trunk with Gevanni's help.

"We don't want to miss our flight," the blond man said to his partners.

"Right," Hal said and gave Near a hug.

Gevanni nodded and patted Near on the head, stopping in mid-pat at the far-off look in the boy's eyes and came down on one knee to embrace him. "Sorry," he whispered in Near's ear and pressed a small kiss to his temple. When he pulled away, he ignored Mello's glare and went to his seat in the car, unable to look at Near any longer. Lester gave Near a pat on the head and he and Hal got into the car after saying their goodbyes to the others. They drove off, stopping at the light down the road and kept going until even the exhaust from the car could no longer be seen.

Near stood there for a moment, staring.

"Yeah, well…" Mello kicked at the curb. "We better go in and pack. I feel like leaving early this year, Matt."

He nodded. "Yeah, I hear ya."

Near continued to stare.

-

When they were back up in the dorms, Raito had explained to Matt that he had some family to visit in America for the summer and would not be joining him, Mello and Near on their vacation. Matt would have been upset had he not been so happy about Raito being a student for the next year and Mello wasn't upset at all, claiming that bringing a Freshman along would cramp their style. He received a sound whack for that.

They had agreed to get everything packed up then so they could load up the car and leave the next morning.

"I was not aware you had a car, Matt," Near said as he sat down on Matt and Mello's bed.

"Oh sure," he said, going to the closet. "How do you think we get groceries?"

"But you never get groceries."

"Yeah, well… I'm kinda lazy."

Mello rolled his eyes. He was pulling chocolate bars out of the cupboards and heard Matt wrestling around in the closet. "What're you doing?"

"Trying to find the PS2!"

"Oh, hell no, you're not cramping us up in that car with a shit load of games, Matt! Not like last year!"

"Well, you always bring chocolate!"

"It's edible - it disappears after a while!"

"Yeah, yeah."

Near looked around the room and then tilted his head towards the door. "What should I pack?" he wondered aloud.

"Not much," Mello said, emerging from the fridge with another armload of chocolate. "Hell, all you really need is clothes and you can get those from Matt."

Matt rolled his eyes, coming out of the closet. "Sure, leave me naked."

Near shook his head and smiled.

"Hey, Near, grab those clothes beside you." Matt nodded to the couple of pairs of pants on the bed. Near picked them up and Matt nodded towards the door. "Let's take these down first."

"You better not be bringing games, Matt," Mello called from the kitchenette.

"Wouldn't dream of it, Mel," he said, putting the game systems and wires in Near's arms. He nudged the boy out of the door and as he turned back to make sure Mello wasn't looking, he saw the lone easel and canvases over in the corner. "Hey, you taking your painting stuff, Mel?"

"Nah," he responded, not needing any deliberation. He still didn't want to know if he had it or if it was really gone forever. Not really.

"'Kay, come down when you're ready." The door closed.

Mello came out of the kitchenette with a bag full of chocolate in his arms. He looked at the empty spot in front of the TV where the Wii used to be and growled to himself. Then his eyes flickered to the canvas in the corner. Did he really want to know?

… Really?

Mello set the bag down and grabbed the canvas in one hand and the paints in the other. He headed towards the door and called, half to himself and half to whoever was listening, "Wait… I changed my mind."

-

end.

-

A/N: That's all, folks. These boys have grown up quite a lot from the beginning of the story, yeah? Well, it's been great fun to write this for you and I hope none of you are too sad it's over. After all, you start something knowing there's going to be an end. XD Of course, there will be a sequel. Don't know WHEN, but it'll be there because I love this too much.

Is that vain? XD Oh well. Please, any ending thoughts would make me so happy. Also, if you'd like to hang around my profile for a while… I'm going to be doing a few oneshots but after that I have another chapter-fic coming out. I already know what it's about! But I'll never tell you! XD

Goodbye and good luck, everyone.