Nana: Why hello there! This is an extremely unseasonable fanfic about Christmas at Wammy's House. This was written prior to reading the final chapter of DN, so it does technically qualify as an AU—in this story, L actually spends some time with the orphans. I wrote this as part of an LJ gift-exchange, and my prompt was mistletoe. The pairing I was given was L/Near. So that's what this is, in an odd, roundabout way. Enjoy, and please leave me a review!

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Taking Down The Mistletoe

by Nana

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In L's opinion, mistletoe has no place hanging in any of doorways at Wammy's House. Clearly, it's being used in the spirit of Christmas, a day that the orphanage celebrates with such enthusiasm that it's almost depressing. The cheeriness is enforced, and painfully false. You can always hear crying over the Christmas carols. The children miss their families on Christmas, or they miss the idea of them. Those who never celebrated Christmas with their families feel it all the same. It's the happy atmosphere that does them in. L himself is not overly affected. His Christmas memories are vague at best, so this reminder is like salt being thrown on whole skin. It's nothing.

The pain of the orphans is more than he can handle, however. He does not want to be here watching Mello trash the Christmas tree while Matt stands by, playing Pokemon and smoking. He does not want to listen outside the door while Linda cries her eyes out, miserable with the loss of her mother. The whole thing makes L very uncomfortable, he does not know what to say or how to comfort anybody. And he should, because they all look up to him, expect everything from him. Christmas makes L feel like a failure.

The only one who expects nothing of him is Near. Near is standing on a stepladder under the mistletoe, stone-faced as usual. He is taking it down, and L wonders if perhaps he objects to the misery that Christmas causes everyone as well. L shoves his hands in his pockets and stares up at Near, asks, "why are you taking that down?"

"Oh," he says, "Mello asked me to. Well, he ordered it. I didn't have anything better to do."

"Why's that?" L asks, glancing over at Mello, who has by now shattered most or the ornaments, and is being loudly chastised by Roger. "He does seem to have some sort of vendetta against Christmas."

"It's not that," Near says, stretching upwards to remove the plant. The ladder is wobbling, so L holds it tight. If he can do nothing else, he can at least save Near from minor injury. "He believes that the mistletoe serves no purpose except to encourage perverted behavior. One of the girls tried to kiss him under it earlier, so I think that must be what prompted it. He also said something about Matt being allergic, but I don't think that that's actually true."

L nods. "I see." He stands there, holding the ladder until Near steps down. Neither one speaks, it seems at first that neither one knows how to speak. Near's shirt has ridden up, and he spends several minutes readjusting it, avoiding conversation. All the words dry up in L's mouth, and he finds himself staring blankly at Near. This child is unnerving. L has never felt more awkward in his life. Finally, he comes up with something to say.

"Near," he says flatly, taking the mistletoe from his hands. "Do you know what the scientific name for mistletoe is?"

"There are multiple types of mistletoe, but the kind in question is viscum album." He whips this out in a minute flat, but L does not praise him. It's a small accomplishment for Near, and besides, Mello is within hearing range. "Do you know what any of its historical uses are?"

Near sits down, stares up at L and asks, "what is the point of this interrogation? I already know these things, so if you're trying to teach me then you're wasting your time."

He should smile at him, but he cannot bring himself to do so. His lips feel heavy, twitchy, and all he can do is tell Near that actually, he doesn't know, and he would like to be enlightened. This is not the case, but it doesn't matter, really. He just wants to get Near talking. Pretend that this pointless interaction makes up for all the crying children that he has failed to fix anything for. "Well," Near says, "it's sometimes used to treat circulatory and respiratory illnesses, as well as cancer. The Norse god Baldur was apparently killed be a weapon made of mistletoe. It's the state flower of Oklahoma. Christians believe it was once a tree, which was used to make the cross that Christ was hung on. Some people hang it up year round, to ward off lightening and house fires. Is that enough, or must I keep going?"

L shakes his head, says, "no, that's quite enough. That's impressive, Near, you're able to retain facts quite well. That's very important for detective work, if your memory works like a sieve then you'll never get anywhere. Congratulations." And he's about to turn to go, then. He almost does, but then Mello comes barreling up them, grabbing Near by the shoulders and shoving him in L's direction.

"Didn't I tell you to take the stupid plant down!" Mello shouts, fists balled and panting hard. "There's still some hanging up there, Near, why aren't you doing what I fucking told you to do? I gave you good reasons, didn't I!"

Near recovers himself, sits back down. "Given that L and I are the only ones standing here, and that no one would dare approach L in the manner you're concerned about, and given that you were obviously lying about Matt, no, Mello, you actually did not give me a good reasons," he says, with a vague smugness that L hopes will fade in time. Mello is obviously enraged by this, shaking and screaming and insisting that no, he did not lie, and what the hell makes him think that these morons have respect for L?

"They don't!" he snaps, dragging Near back into standing position, mumbling something about Near being a lazy fuck as he does. L wonders if he ought to chastise him for his swearing, since he's one of the few people Mello has any respect for, and kids really shouldn't be saying those words. But he says nothing, just stands there wishing he had something to eat right now, a distraction. Mello keeps shrieking, says, "nobody here respects L properly! You certainly don't! I bet you'd make out with him just because there was mistletoe here, wouldn't you, you sick freak?"

"No, I wouldn't," Near says, and when he does Mello proves him wrong, grabs both their heads and rams them together, pushes them until their lips collide. L tastes chap stick and pulls back instantly, thinking that he absolutely won't allow this to be his or Near's first kiss. Near has actually puckered his lips—instinctually, L is sure. Mello stomps up the ladder and tears down the remainder of the mistletoe, runs towards Matt in a fury. Presumably, he wants to prove his previous claim about Matt being allergic true, but L does not much feel like watching. He should care, but all he can do is stare down at Near and try not to feel like a pedophile. He would never have done that if not for Mello's intervention, would he? No, no of course not. L shakes his head.

"I'm sorry about that," he says, turning away and shuffling off to the kitchen. He can smell cookies baking, and he needs to make sure he gets his share before the orphans devour them all. Near trails behind him, and L sighs, wishing he would just go play with his robots or something. "Mello…is probably not in a very good mood today. Since it's Christmas, and he used to celebrate it with his family…he probably misses them, and he's channeling his feelings into misbehavior. Don't think anything of it, Near."

Near stands staring at him for a moment or so, and then he nods, slowly. "Alright," he says. "Yes, I suppose that is his motivation. I…I'll see you later, L. Happy Christmas."

"Happy Christmas to you too," L says. The two of them part ways, and L goes off to stuff his face with cookies.

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