This has been a story about people waking up in hospitals.
Near opens his eyes and immediately wishes he hadn't. His shoulder hurts. His head hurts. He thinks he was shot. The inside of his mouth tastes like cotton and the room is too bright.
"Near?" He thinks he recognizes the voice. "Are you alright? How do you feel?"
"Fuck," he says, even though he doesn't swear all that often. If there was ever a time for it, it would appear to be now. He thinks he hears someone laugh, but he just closes his eyes again. It's far easier not thinking right now.
Someone puts a pill in his mouth, and he swallows it, and although the world starts to swim a little, around the edges, his shoulder stops hurting and he finds himself enveloped in a gentle, easy warmth.
When he wakes up the next morning, Matt is passed out in the chair next to his bed. Near peers closer and notices that he might be drooling a little. He's sleeping awkwardly, with his head to one side and his fingers clenched tight. It doesn't look particularly restful.
However, Near feels it would be worse to wake him, so he reaches for the glass of water someone had the foresight to put on his side table. He has the foresight to reach with his un-bandaged arm, but even so, the movement sends a little stab of pain through his shoulder and he gasps.
Matt sits bolt upright, and almost falls out of the chair. Near tries to fight the urge to laugh at him.
He fails, dismally. It's probably the drugs.
Matt looks offended, and then relieved, and then happy. He's laughing too, and Near's shoulder is positively burning every time his shoulder hitches. Matt scrambles over and rescues the glass from his slackening fingers, and sets it to the side with a worried little murmur disguised in a grin.
He calls for a nurse, and Near closes his eyes and puts 'never being shot again' on his list of things to do.
"Matt?" Hospital television and daytime talk shows so vile he can practically feel his soul disintegrating later, Near turns to the boy-man-person in the room with him.
"I never said it, but I'm very sorry Mello died."
Matt looks like he wants to say, 'yeah, me too,' or 'thanks,' or something. They sit for a moment, and Near flicks the channel, because he has no patience for pop psychology right now.
"I'm quitting smoking," is what Matt eventually comes up with, and Near smiles a little and nods and wishes once in a while he might be able to carry on a conversation with Matt that went the way he expected it to and didn't twist and turn without rhyme or reason along the way.
But if Matt were predictable, he wouldn't be interesting.
By virtue of his position, Near only has to spend one day in the hospital. They wanted to keep him more, but he simply wasn't having that in the slightest. There was only so much work you could get done reading files; his arm hurt too much to really bother with typing on a laptop.
And Matt was probably going bond molecularly with the bedside chair if Near didn't get him out of it sometime soon.
So the next morning, he's being herded by a fiercely protective Lester into a car that he swears looks armoured, and Matt is being similarly dragged by Gevanni, who seems to have forgiven his existence at some point in the last few days.
The door slams uncompromisingly behind them. Lester climbs in the driver's seat, Gevanni rides shotgun.
Matt looks at Near and rolls his eyes, and Near shrugs back and then winces abruptly. Shrugging might not be a great idea right now. This restriction of movement will take some getting used to.
Matt, the conniving bastard that he is, steals a quick, needy, 'touch me' little kiss while Lester and Gevanni have their backs turned. Near wants to kill him and yell at him and beg him to do it again, but he can't because an instant later they've turned back around and are back to discussing travel arrangements.
He isn't alone with Matt at all for the next twenty seven hours, which is how long it takes to get from Ottawa to Bangkok. Once they're finally at the hotel Matt plead jetlag and goes straight to sleep, and Near's mouth is still tingling, he swears.
Working to dismantle illegal child sex trade rings isn't sexy work in the slightest, and Near feels too grimy every night to even consider tracking down Matt and making good on the promise the kiss implied.
Which is for the best, really, because he has a history of being over hasty when it comes to decisions concerning his friend Matt.
Matt pushes him into the washroom on the airplane and cops a feel, and they make out with sticky, awkward, adamant excitement.
Matt slides a hand down Near's cotton pants and then presses a hand over his mouth when he whimpers, and leans over to give him a hickey because he just has to.
The stewardess knocks on the door and ushers them back to their seats. Matt, looks flushed and embarrassed, much to Near's delight. He knows that he looks calm as ever. Inside, though, his heart is pounding, but he's had years of practise not admitting nervousness.
Matt and Near are asked never to fly Air Bangkok again. Even Near has to blush a little when Gevanni asks them why.
Lester just looks faintly smug about the whole thing.
They don't talk about it, much less do it, again once they get to England. They're visiting Mello and L's graves, side by side in the little plot by the orphanage. Near imagines that Matt probably wouldn't feel like it was right, so he doesn't push.
He waits by the gate into the cemetery while Matt says what he needs to, to people they both logically know can't hear them, and wonders what he might have believed in if he'd grown up in a normal family. Could he ever have been indoctrinated into some religion or another?
"His rosary was burned, huh?" Matt asks, eventually, rejoining him at the gate. Near nods, because it was, and he'd looked into getting it for Matt, but been unable.
"Let's get inside."
Gevanni looks extremely uncomfortable about the new tension between Matt and Near for the first few days, but Near thinks that's no more so than he would if Matt or Near were a woman. So it can be borne.
Rester's attitude is far more troublesome. He takes on a very quiet, smug, 'I told you so' kind of aura that makes Matt burst out snickering at random moments and Near can't quite understand, because if he couldn't predict this as an outcome, then how could Rester?
He thinks he has a lot to learn about human interactions.
He also has to one-up his chief of staff in some way, because the aura- Rester would never go so far as to actually smirk- is just the tiniest bit troublesome.
Eventually, he puts 'water based lubricant' on the shopping list that the agents are in charge of procuring, and makes sure Rester is the one to see it. (It will probably be good to have on hand. Eventually. A very long eventually from now, but better prepared than not, at least.) The blush that stains the man's cheeks more than makes up for the attitude.
He feels like Mello might have been proud of him.
He'd had to fight with Roger, to get Mello buried in the plot usually reserved for L's. He'd also never imagined having to (or really being able to) pull rank on the man, but it had nearly come to that.
"But he killed-" Roger had started, sounding frustrated and a little angry, and of course he would be. In his eyes, his student betrayed him.
"Without him, I would have failed," Near says, point blank. "If you do not do this, then there will be no point in putting me there when I die."
He's actually fairly sure that L- Lawliet-L's grave is empty. Yagami must have had him buried in Japan, and when they got news of his death they put up a marker. He knows that all they can get for Mello's grave are a few ashes, given how badly that fire went.
It doesn't matter. It's the acknowledgement that's important.
After a few more moments of a grim head to head, Roger caves to Near's will. Mello will have his place next to his hero.
They leave Wammy's, and get back to work. Their travels take them to Bogota, which is warm and suits Matt's temperament perfectly. He speaks the language and makes Rester find them a hotel with a pool, and spends the whole time wearing next to nothing and trailing little electric touches down the back of Near's neck with his pool-water-damp fingers.
Near will forever consider the scent of chlorine faintly erotic, and will be unsure as to why.
"We should probably..." says Matt, later that night, knocking on Near's door. Near nods, without looking up from his puzzle.
"Woah, can I help? We should probably talk, I was going to say."
"By all means," Near replies, letting Matt choose which question it answers; both of them, really, he hopes he's quick enough to figure that much out.
"Hey," says Matt, out of twenty minutes of puzzle solving.
"Yes?" replies Near, placidly.
"So I really like you."
It's juvenile, and teasing, and so obviously meant to be that even Near can figure out he's supposed to laugh at it.
"Who are you," Matt teases, "and what have you done with Near?"
"I have read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," he says. Matt gives him an odd look.
"Near. That was almost a year ago."
"Well," he shrugs, and connects another two puzzle pieces, ignoring Matt when he starts snickering.
"If you've been wanting to tell me anything else for that long, get it off your chest now. I knew you weren't talkative, but Christ on a cracker."
Near connects another puzzle piece, and tries to think about anything else he's been wanting to tell Matt.
Another piece, and a slightly pensive frown crosses his face. There are hundreds of things he could say.
I'm so sorry Mello died, I left you behind, L died.
I'm glad you've stopped smoking, you're alright, you're back
I wish you hadn't been shot, I hadn't been shot, you would mute your gameboy while you play it, you wouldn't pick fights with Gevanni, we could have been friends when we were younger,
I like you too, your goggles, your hair, your hands
I want you to kiss me again.
He feels his frown deepen. There are hundreds of things he could say, and while they sit, he rattles through possible and probable outcomes, and weighs percentages and tries to decipher which he thinks would be best.
Matt makes to sit up and Near glances up sharply. He looks nervous, like he's waiting for some kind of axe to fall, and all Near's calculations and probably outcomes go flying out the window. He lurches forwards, destroying what he's solved of his puzzle so far.
There's some things more important than puzzles, is one thing Mello taught him.
He grabs Matt by the collar of his fleece vest and jerks him forwards too, and the kiss is abrupt and completely unbalanced and over in less than a second because Matt falls over and Near with him, because he wasn't in a stable position to begin with. They land on the puzzle pieces and Near yelps when he hits his shoulder.
"Ow, careful," Matt murmurs, soothing and kind, "we're not in a hurry. And that kind of thing can hurt like a bitch."
"Yours came out of internal organs," Near chides, struggling to sit up or prop himself on his good elbow or something, because he's not precisely comfortable with being sprawled out on the floor in the ruin of his toys. Matt stretches languidly, like a cat, and snakes an arm around him, drawing him back down when he succeeds in sitting up.
It's surprisingly comfortable, settling down against Matt's shoulder.
"I've been thinking about that." Near gives up to Matt's insistent pull and just rests, for a moment. "I never said thanks."
"For what?" He could see himself being lulled into carelessness by the rhythm of Matt's breathing. He doesn't think it's a good idea, though. The ground he's treading is still far too sensitive.
"For saving my life," replies Matt, "I know I would have died if you hadn't..."
"Have you ever read The Double?" Near cuts in. He can't bear to hear what Matt has to say, all of a sudden. He isn't even precisely sure why.
"What? By ETA Hoffman?"
"No." He shakes his head, which Matt probably feels more than sees. "By Dostoevsky."
Near doesn't have a reason, so he lets a hand roam up Matt's side. Even with the rehabilitation from his injuries, Near can feel the wiry muscles there. Curiously, he slips a hand under Matt's sweater to feel for the scars. He has their locations memorized, even though he's never seen them once.
Matt groans softly, and Near feels a surge of nervous triumph rise in his chest.
"I'll lend it to you."
"Near." His breath hitches, while Near's hand drags his sweater slowly up. "Is this really the time and the place to be talking about books?"
"Perhaps not," admits Near. "Perhaps later would be better. But we're ruining my puzzle."
Matt demonstrates in the most direct way possible that he doesn't give a damn about Near's puzzle.
Life isn't story-shaped. Which is to say, it goes on. It has ups and downs, it doesn't always go according to plan or end well, and we don't always feel resolution when a chapter comes to a close.
It's a lot easier to parcel into packages in retrospect. So while Matt and Near go on bickering and struggling, and occasionally waking up in hospitals (far more often than Gevanni would like, and giving Rester gray hairs more early than he appreciates) this story shaped part of their existence comes to a close.
Because it is a story, and for these meagre few pages they are just the same as Arthur Dent, Bernard Mickey Wrangle, Billy Pilgrim, Gregor Samsa, Major Kovalyov and Mr Golyadkin, they do get a storybook ending.
Are you ready? Here it comes:
And they both lived happily ever after.
AN: It's been a slice, ladies and gentlemen, but the curtain has come down. Thank you again to all of you who have reviewed, and to all those of you who will (subliminalmessagingreviewreviewsubliminal) and to everyone reading. The bitch is WRAPPED.