Here's the thing: Matt woke up.
He was not expected to. Mello thought he'd died, the ambulance crew were only cursorily doing their jobs, the doctors thought for sure that he was a goner. But they rigged him up to the right machines, despite the fact that he'd almost killed the Voice of Kira. Someone from some government organization or other (SPK, though the doctors didn't know this) paid for a guard to stand at the door at all times and make sure none of the nurses decided to slip him a little too much morphine for some of their own Dispensing Justice.
Anyways, despite the gravity of his wounds, and despite all the odds being stacked against him, Matt woke up.
Because really, a three percent chance is right sometimes, isn't it?
He woke up to excruciating pain and a drug fogged pseudo-awareness and a general 'ow ow ow' that let him know that everything was not okay. More importantly, Mello is not in the room with him, and if Mello had survived he would have been in the room with him.
So Mello's either dead or in worse condition than he is, and from the amount of drugs and stitches and the fact that it isn't the same season as when they shot him, given the tree outside the window, then Mello's probably dead.
Matt whimpers, and someone rushes to his side and starts asking him questions; are you awake? Do you know who you are? Do you remember what happened?
He shouldn't have woken up.
The next time he opens his eyes, it's very late, or very early. The room is dark, but there's someone in it with him. He can hear them breathing. For a second he hopes it's Mello.
"Matt," Near whispers, curled up in his chair with his fingers in his hair. "Well then."
Matt closes his eyes tightly. He can't deal with this right now. Mello is dead. Near can't want anything from him, can he?
"We did it. Kira is dead." Near's voice holds about as much triumph as Matt feels at the news; a small swell of it, but largely hollow. Soap bubble emotions, so very easy to pop. Mello is dead. L is dead. Mr Wammy is dead. Is one misguided man's funeral enough to make up for that?
"Peachy keen," Matt rasps, and craves a cigarette desperately but he's on oxygen and also in a hospital, where they frown on that sort of thing. This is the first thing he's said since he woke up, he realizes, which makes it sound kind of silly in retrospect. He should have said something that would count. 'Cogito ergo sum.'
At least Near looks happy. Matt has to close his eyes again, feeling Mello's absence like a knife between the ribs. Or maybe that's just an actual bullet hole, he has a few of those.
"All the politicians are settling back into something approaching normal. Everyone is blaming everyone else for letting Kira become so powerful. There is an inappropriate amount of mudslinging." A small, dissatisfied pause, "Which is a metaphor. There is no real mud."
"Near," Matt wheezes, exasperated. Mello is dead.
"We'll talk when you're feeling better," Near says, quickly, and sets something on the bed at Matt's side. Matt waits until he leaves the room, shutting the door quietly behind him, before he looks down to make out what the thing might be.
It's a stuffed bear.
"Good morning," Matt glances up at the soft voice. It's Near again. He isn't sure why he's surprised, no one else has visited and the nurses all refer to him as 'Mr Garrison.' He can only assume Near has him here under a pseudonym.
Fucker was always sharp as tacks. Near was the knife, where Mello was the fire.
Matt, Matt was just third best.
"Morning," he replies, pulling himself up to sitting. It wouldn't do to look too interested but if he has to watch one more funeral special for Misa or Takeda or Kira he is going to fucking kill someone, or himself.
No, he isn't seriously a suicide risk. They're all way too trained to be survivors for that.
He tries not to look desperately interested in Near's company, because that wouldn't be suave in the slightest and it's not like he needs any more to boost his ego right now. Then he gives up, because it's not like he's ever been good enough to fool Near anyways and if he's honest, he might stay.
"Well, you look marginally less like a five year old than the last time I saw you," Matt cracks, voice still a croak, and Near cocks his head to one side, managing to look sort of like an inquisitive kitten.
"I'm nineteen," Near replies, and settles down onto a chair, curling protectively around his knees. If Matt didn't know this, he'd have placed him as perhaps thirteen. In fact, he expected him to be younger. He must have been recovering for a long time.
"You and Mello planned to die, didn't you?"
Near still has about as much tact as he ever did, Matt is learning, very quickly.
"The best laid plans of mice and men," he replies airily, and goes back to looking out the window and pretending to be unimpressed with his surroundings. It's certainly better than looking at Near right now, who got to survive this when Mello didn't. Whose plan it really was to begin with, no matter that he and Mello were the crucial pieces.
"We surpassed L," Near marvels, and Matt shakes his head, because he doesn't believe that. They pulled a Hail Mary and got lucky. Or rather, Near did. It's all too much to think about.
"I'm tired," Matt says, surprised to realize it's even true. Recovery is a painfully slow procedure, "God, Near, I'm tired."
"The logical response would be to sleep," Near suggests, winding his hair around his fingers again, watching the doorway instead of Matt. It's a little disconcerting, but he's drowsy enough that he falls asleep almost immediately.
He hasn't slept with someone else in the room who wasn't Mello in years. Amazing what being shot will do for you.
His favourite nurse is the one with the freckles and the cute as a button look to her. She's pretty, but not standardly enough to not look surprised when he hits on her furiously. It makes her giggle, which makes him grin, even if with all the painkillers he's on there's not a chance of anything.
Even by himself.
His second favourite nurse holds the bucket while he's sick, which is good, because it's kind of embarrassing. She bathes him too, and changes the bandages with a practised, grandmotherly air that Matt bets most of her patients recognize and are comforted by.
It only serves to unsettle him, but he's too polite to say, since she is cleaning up his filth and all.
He should never have woken up.
He's chilled to the bone all of the time, and his hair is lank and his skin is grey. He knows he must look like death warmed over. It's a little embarrassing to open his eyes, and see a bombshell blonde there. She has red lipstick and a 'take me seriously' business suit on. Her posture screams 'FBI.'
"You're Hal," he clears his throat, and doesn't bother to try to sit up, just watches her. She's obviously been working with Near long enough, she doesn't even look remotely surprised at his guess.
"He..." Her voice is thin, and shocky. Matt looks at the defensive angle of her shoulder and the tremble at the corner of her jaw, and knows exactly what it is she wants to hear from him. Problem is, she's too smart to believe it, so he settles on just telling her the truth.
"He couldn't have done it without you. He thought you were... he had a lot of respect, for you. I mean, in his own way." His fingers itch for something to do. A game controller, a cigarette lighter. "I mean, as much as he respected anyone. In a kind of 'I'm going to blow you up if you get in my way but I'd rather not' sort of deal, you know?"
Hal nods, and says, quietly, "you really cared about him, didn't you?" Matt ignores her. It should be obvious.
"He was a seize the day kind of guy. Kind of kid." None of them are old enough for any of this. "So I don't think he'd want you to, you know, be sorry. I know I'm not really following my own advice here or anything, but I always piss him off so that's to be expected."
Her face is kind of crumpling, and he pulls himself up in bed.
"Hey now, don't do that, come on, you're fine." Mello would never forgive him for making a pretty girl cry. He can see what Mello saw in her. She's his type. Insofar as Mello had types. She was fierce (behind the grief) and had a gun.
"I'm fine," she eventually manages, composing herself with remarkable poise. Matt grins, wearily, and feels his age again. None of this is really very fair.
"Can I get anything for you, Matt?" Everyone has been asking him this, the pretty nurse and the motherly nurse, and for the first time Matt answers honestly.
"I'd do anything for a gameboy, actually. I mean, you'd have to sneak it past Nurse Ratchett out there, but..."
"I'll bring it next time I visit," she assures him, and he nods, not trusting his voice. The relief is overwhelming.
He'd wondered if he could even get lonely any more, but apparently, he's only human.
As though the metal lodged near his spine weren't hint enough.
He wakes up to an Italian looking man, the next afternoon, sitting in the chair next to his bed, reading a newspaper rather than obviously watching him sleep.
"Hal had personal matters to deal with," he says gravely, when he sees Matt's eyes open, "so I brought what you asked for instead. Gevanni." He either trusts that Matt will know that he's part of SPK, or will be able to guess.
"Thanks," Matt replies, wincing at how dry his mouth is and reaching for the water on his bedside table. Near looks like he wants to help him with it, but doesn't, for which Matt is very grateful. It'd be far too depressing to need someone's help to drink.
"So it was Yagami, then?" he asks, even though he knew it was, of course it was, "how did you get him?"
"Takeda's kidnapping forced Kira's hand," Gevanni explains, "he revealed to us the location of the Death Note. I replaced it shortly after you were hospitalized, and then N confronted him." It wasn't a safe plan, by any means, but it wasn't blatantly suicidal, and Matt couldn't really object to it, since it had worked and everything.
Except for Mello getting killed, and Matt almost dying.
"What will you do now?" Gevanni asks, and Matt closes his eyes and clenches his jaw. It's a good question, and one he hasn't given any thought to.
"I'm not ready to be discharged quite yet." This is an unfortunate truth. He's beginning to get antsy being trapped here. "But when I am... I'm not sure, yet. What about Near? No competition left, huh? He's the new L." That came out a little more like an accusation than he meant it to. Matt knows, obviously, that Near didn't kill Mello in order to secure his position.
Gevanni gives him a dirty look, and Matt knows he probably deserved it.
At least he brought the gameboy.
"Hello?" Matt asks the receiver, after fumbling gracelessly with the phone at the edge of his bed. It's his first phone call ever in hospital.
"Have you been making prank phone calls?" Near asks, bluntly, and Matt grimaces a little.
"Because the number of outgoing calls is enormous and the hospital is getting complaints."
"I'll quit it," Matt answers, a little chagrined. It might not have been the most mature way to spend his time, but there were only three games and he's beaten all of them already, even despite the fact that he spends three quarters of his time fast asleep. "Sorry."
"You don't have to," Near just sounds curious, "I merely wondered if you really were."
"Yeah." Near must use the same voice masking device L did when he addresses politicians. No way anyone would ever listen to someone who sounds this quiet, and young, no matter how purposeful. "It's kind of mind numbingly boring up here." Oh shit. "Not that I'm not really grateful and everything, but..."
"I'll come visit tomorrow. If you like?"
Matt blinks. He doesn't think he's ever heard Near sound uncertain before.
"That'd be... cool." It actually would be. It might give him a chance to make up for being a dick earlier, even if Near wasn't there to overhear it.
"Well then." And the line goes dead. Good to see Near's social skills are as well developed as ever.
His favourite nurse brings him chocolate pudding with lunch, and then has to hold him while he dissolves into hysterics for the first time since everything. Maybe, just maybe, he's been delaying the grieving process, just a little.
"There are rallies," Near explains, as he slips into the room, cautiously, "Pro-Kira rallies, still occurring. SPK is leaving Japan within the week until the turmoil is past and we are no longer the target."
"Oh," replies Matt, "Well, um." Nervousness explodes in his chest, like hot acid, and he's absolutely in a state of panic because if there's any way they trace it back to him- how could they not? He was recorded on public television...
"You're coming with us." Near's proclamation cuts that off, and draws him up short. "That's why we've waited this long. You will be discharged, probably this Friday, and then we will board a plane to Germany."
Matt probably should have known. He presses a hand absently to the stuffed animal Near left him, fingers tracing the smooth fur, and takes a deep breath in through his nose and out through his mouth. He focuses on the texture, and on the heat of the blankets, like he was taught. Near observes, silently, seeing everything, Matt imagines.
"You need to name a successor as quickly as possible from the other children, Near, because I'm not doing it. So as you know. There's no point in keeping me around to groom or train me, I'm out of here as soon as I can walk again."
God knows how long that will take.
"Alright," agrees Near, readily, "but can I stay in the mean time?"
Matt blinks at him.
So he stays until Matt falls asleep again.
The plane ride to Germany is excruciating. Matt is jumpy and upset, and pretty sure Near is laughing at him from behind his report.
"The stewardess, oh, pardon me, hostess, is bringing lunch around," he grits through his teeth, and Near glances up at him, and then away. So he tries again. "You should eat something."
"It isn't the right time," says his companion, cryptically, although Matt can appreciate that. It's quite the time difference, after all.
"Time is an illusion," Matt replies, airily, "lunchtime, doubly so."
Near blinks at him, then looks down at his papers, then up at Matt again. He waits a second longer, as though turning what Matt has said over and over in his head.
"No it isn't."
"It shouldn't surprise me that you're the only person on the planet that hasn't read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," he feels his anxiety easing with the banter, bit by bit, "and yet somehow it does."
Near ignores him.
He wants a cigarette.
Before he knows it, they're working together. He had sworn to himself that he wouldn't, that he'd never be tricked into being the right hand man ever again, because it just hurts too much. Because the doctors weren't even sure if he'd ever be able to walk again, and he sure as heck isn't running any time soon.
Maybe it was just meant to be. Maybe Matt has, written in his stars, 'sidekick.' He pictures himself in a Robin suit, and by extension Near in bat ears, and laughs out loud while he's reading an autopsy report. Gevanni gives him a filthy look, but Gevanni has never really liked him.
Near doesn't care what he laughs at, so long as he gets into the systems and bugs the rooms for him. Near is a very functionalist little bastard.
Every decision he makes is calm and cool and unbiased, and so very un-Mello-like that Matt finally starts feeling like he can breathe again. The year-mark passes since he should have died, and he finds he doesn't regret it all that much any more.
Just at night.
And whenever he tastes chocolate.