Authors' Notes:

Yes, I know I usually do oneshots, and people have been perstering me to write longer things. Well, here you go. Though, technically, it is not written entirely by me. This is an ongoing RP with my very good friend and respected fellow-writer penname Hitoshi-chan and thus I'd like to apologize in advance for any confusing shifts in point of view. Hopefully, it all flows well enough, but if POV seems to switch oddly, you'll at least know why. Also, both my friend and I are very averse to swearing, but Matt and Mello obviously aren't. If you can't interpret what a word means if a letter is replaced with an asterisk, I'm afraid you're out of luck.

That being said, some quick background on the story (end of DN spoilers):

It's set after a slightly AU ending in which Matt was shot but not killed and Mello in effect quit the Kira case after Matt's severe injury. Concerning other events, Takada did not have a piece of the Death Note, but all else happened in the same way, including her death and Light's, etc. I.e. the only thing changed is that Mello and Matt did not needlessly die (and just for the record, according to DN Volume 13: How to Read, Mello was NOT originally intended by the author to die; in fact, he was scheduled to win out against Near and Kira... Yes, I know, I was pissed too.)

Another note: Later chapters become much darker and more violent, so it is likely the rating will rise. It will only rise for use of strong language and violent content, however.

This is not intended to be specifically Matt/Mello, but it may or may not be implied. I leave that up to the reader to decide. As of now, there will be no shounenai.

Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note, even if Mello and Matt are always in my heart. The antagonist and other people with him are originally created by myself and Hitoshi-chan.


The door to the apartment slammed open with quite a ruckus as a thoroughly wet and bedraggled young man burst in, trailing mud and reeking of wet leather. His usually pristine golden hair hung in wet and forlorn-looking strands, steadily dripping dirty rainwater onto his pale, slightly effeminate features, countless muddy drops sliding down the black leather which enveloped his thin but well-muscled body from head to foot. The boy's face was contorted in an immensely irritated grimace and his left fist was clenched around what appeared to be some foil candy wrappers.

He kicked the door shut with about as much care as he had opened it, shoving his booted heel into the well-worn dent in the door where the peeling paint confirmed this time was not his first shutting the door in such a manner.

With a bit of a whining growl, the leather-clad disheveled young man stormed farther into the apartment, almost miraculously remembering to haphazardly kick his muddy boots into the corner where they sat hunched like odd little neglected wet animals.

He slunk into the living room in a sort of sulky silence, steadily dripping onto the carpet, and stared in what could only be called utter exasperation at the tall young man sprawled capriciously on the couch with a pack of cigarettes in one hand and some sort of blinking and beeping device in the other, his full concentration directed to the latter as he attempted to pull a cigarette from the former with his teeth. Around him was almost visible a thin cloud of smoke and the whole room smelled strongly of it.

The blond boy's grimace deepened and he made a retching noise, tossing his candy wrappers into a corner where a steady mountain of half-eaten bags of chips, empty soda cans, pizza boxes and more of that silver foil were escalating precariously. He then proceeded to snatch both the blinking device and the package of smokes from the other in one quick motion that also sprayed rainwater onto both the other occupant of the room and several of the pieces of furniture.

"Dammit, Matt!" the bedraggled blonde growled. "How many damn times to I have to tell you to stop smoking that shit in the house? Goddam rain," he continued in an almost manic rant, tossing the video game device back at his friend but chucking the cigarettes onto the pile of trash, then stripping off his coat and hurling into the foyer where it joined his boots in an odd-smelling pile of wet cowhide. His blue eyes flitted toward the couch Matt was still thoroughly occupying. "Move your ass. I'm exhausted."

Matt, who had previously been using a sleeve to dry himself from the rainwater that had been flung everywhere, was careful to catch the special edition Twilight Princess DS that his aggravated companion has so carelessly thrown at him. The brunette couldn't help but grumble in annoyance as he realized the brief interruption has cost him not only a whole pack of cigarettes, but also his only two remaining lives, and that he must now face the level 36 boss all over again. It annoyed him to the point that for a second he seriously considered pulling the pack from the trash heap where it lay discarded, and lighting up again. He quickly dismissed the thought though, knowing it would only lead to an argument and a headache, and he really wasn't in the mood to deal with Mello's bitching today. Besides, that trash pile had been growing for quite some time now, and he was a little afraid of what diseases he might catch if he took something from the pile and put it in his mouth.

It wasn't like he wasn't used to his temperamental friend's behavior anyway. He languidly pulled his legs from the other half of the worn down couch, and reached his arms haphazardly into the air to stretch. He gave a half-hearted, "welcome back" mid-stretch, before relaxing into the couch once again. He heard a spring pop somewhere in the beaten down sofa, and mentally added 'buy new couch' to a long list of things to do.

The gamer stared dejectedly at the 'Game Over' flashing brightly across his screen in bold red letters, and opted to continue later, closing the small silver contraption with a quiet snap.

Glancing at Mello, he finally noticed that it was indeed raining, and pretty hard from the looks of it. The normal shade of yellow of Mello's hair was a few shades darker then usual, and as he watched, Matt could see the drops gathering at its tips and falling. There were dark spots of wetness on the couch, floor, and everything else the blonde had been in close proximity to. He hadn't even known it had been raining until Mello had dragged himself in looking like something that had been spat out of the gutter. The otherwise occupied boy hadn't really taken the time to look out the window today, and he definitely hadn't been outside, though--and he made a mental note causing a frown to come to his face--he would have to go out later tonight to go restock his cigarettes now that Mello had trashed his last pack.

"So how did your day go?" he inquired nonchalantly, only hoping he wasn't setting off a time bomb in doing so.

The blond threw himself onto the couch with a huge grumbling sigh, sinking into the old pillows as if melting. He threw his gloves, some guns, a grenade, and some other random accessories including some more of those silver wrappers on the small table in front of them and stuck out a hand demandingly. "Chocolate," he barked haughtily, not actually mistaking his friend for a servant yet at the moment unwilling to get up and get his own. As Mello waited, he continued roughly.

"So yeah... Day went about as smooth as sandpaper on a stucco wall," he spat in anger directed at the world in general. With a tired scowl, the blond turned his head slightly to watch Matt in the kitchen. "...can I get the kind with nuts?" he added to his previous demand in a tone that was startlingly mild compared to the one he had been using just a second ago. Complying second naturedly to his friend's command, Matt found himself with his head in the refrigerator before his mind had even registered leaving the comfort of the couch. He mentally shrugged off the instinctive behavior, reaching a hand past the molding substance that he was pretty sure had once been Chinese takeout, and into one of Mello's many stashes.

Hearing, the chocolate lover's specification, the brunette easily grabbed a chocolate bar of the nutty assortment. He didn't have to see the bar to know which ones were nutty, just had to reach into the back left corner. He was, after all, the one who had organized Mello's Chocolate in such an easily obtainable manner. It was always best, he had learned from experience, to get his best friend what he wanted in a timely manner.

He grabbed a soda for himself before he headed back to the living room equipped with both stimulants, kicking the fridge closed with his foot as he went.

"So what exactly," he began as he plopped himself down onto the cushions rather ungracefully, "did Near have you up to anyway?" He finished, genuine curiosity evident in his voice.

He held out the bar for his friend to take, while he placed his soda on the ground next to his feet, using his free hand to push his orange goggles up onto his head, and in doing so letting Mello know he had his full attention.

The blond managed a rather odd look of gratitude at the chocolate his friend tossed at him coupled with deepest resentment at the topic he had brought up. Overall it made for an interesting effect on his face that made him look like he had swallowed a bug.

Unwrapping and biting into his favorite snack with unwarranted violence, Mello growled around the mouthful, "So that ass Near called, practically begging me to help him on this case, y'know, wanting me to help him catch the mess he had let escape..." He scoffed, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, and glaring at nothing in particular as he was prone to do. "Had me chasing the stupid bastards right into the goddam gutter! Apparently they were some sort of wannabe bio-terrorists heading for New York..." He let out another sigh and bit off another bit of chocolate as if professing judgment on the criminals... or Near, more like.

"Dammit, why can't that white-haired freak do this himself?" he continued in a sort of muffled growl due to his mouth being full. "He's so weak, he can't do anything himself. At least I would've gotten to rub it in his smug little face, but... Well, at least he's paying us a crapload..." He made a face, resenting the fact that ever since he had left the mafia, he and Matt had been earning their livings doing occasional detective work with, and sometimes without, Near.

After falling silent in a brooding death glare for a few seconds, though, Mello gave a noncommittal shrug, dismissing the matter for now, and continued. "So anyway, long story short, Near didn't give me enough info, I was outnumbered and discovered, and then I had to high-tail it outta there via the sewer line...I'll get him back for this, stupid careless bastard...Right, Ma--huh?" He blinked, noticing the disgusted face Matt was making. "What?"

Matt couldn't help but scrunch his face up in repulsion as his friend recalled his escape story, and he felt his stomach grow queasy as Mello's words sank in. The rancid stench that had begun to slowly creep off of his friend's attire certainly didn't help to quell his rising nausea. He eyed the water spots adorning the carpet and furniture with a newfound abhorrence. Who knew what kind of germs and diseases were lurking in all of the putrid sludge Mello had dragged himself through?

"Ugh, take a shower man. I mean, come on, the Sewer?" he punctuated his claim with a pointed look at the blonde's soggy clothes and hair. His relaxed demeanor had gone, and he found himself being extra careful not to make any physical contact with his unhygienic friend. Repressing a shiver and trying not to imagine exactly what Mello had crawled through, he continued.

"I know we aren't exactly poster boys for Mr. Clean or anything, but that's just downright unsanitary."

He had to resist the urge snatch Mello's chocolate bar out of his hands and throw it into the garbage disposal. He settled instead for frowning at the candy, as though it's probable contamination was it's own fault.

Despite his sudden need for a cigarette, he was glad he had decided earlier to forego pulling his pack from the trash.

He also made a mental note to clean his DS with alcohol, and realizing he had come into contact with the DS after it had come in contact with Mello, he swiftly stood, making his way to the kitchen to wash his hands.

And while he didn't grab the bar out of Mello's hands, he did hold one hand out expectantly, counting on the blonde to get the picture.

Mello stared at Matt as if he were some odd and repulsive creature reaching for his snack, then shoved the rest of it in his mouth, taking care not to actually touch anything but the wrapper, then stood with an offended snort. "God, Matt, I was GOING to take a shower of course, you ass! I'm goddam exhausted and you won't even let me rest a second! Jesus!" Unzipping and stripping off his vest right there with unpleasant squelching protests from the wet leather, Mello threw it to join the rest of the rancid leather in the corner and stomped off toward the bath with a muttered string of curses, slamming the door behind him. A few seconds later, a skinny white arm protruded from the bathroom to dump the remainder of Mello's clothes outside the door then slammed it again, the blonde's barking voice drifting out from inside, "You can put 'em out on the balcony if your pretty little hands aren't too clean to touch them, ass."

There was some banging around, a few more curses, the sound of the shower sputtering for a second and starting, then a yelp from Mello at either the unexpected heat or cold of the water before there was finally peace once more with only the sounds of the soft splashing of the shower blending into the similar sound of the rain outside.

He sighed, blue eyes closing as the hot steam filled the tiny room, letting the pleasantly almost-scalding water run over his bruised skin, soothing tired muscles, letting it wash away the annoyance and frustration with the rest of the filth of the day. Breathing gently, he tried to clear his mind, a feat always very difficult for someone who tended to get carried away by overwhelming emotion, but the nagging, almost guilty feeling that had been gnawing at him for several hours now just wouldn't go away. He tried to dismiss it as hunger, but...

Mihael Kheel held his breath and tipped his face up toward the shower head, trying to stop thinking. If I do this, it's not like I'm giving into Near, it's more like I'm beating him at something he's too weak to come and do for himself. It's not as if I give a rat's ass about anybody else. It's all about beating Near...It's all about never letting myself lose to anyone, ever...

Memories of earlier in the afternoon flashed in his head unpleasantly. He'd been tracking them since a few days earlier, found their hideout, staked them out. It was going as planned; they were all but in his victorious grasp. After all, Near had said they were petty criminals, drug dealers of some sort, nothing special. But when Mello had infiltrated the lab, even he was horrified.

Children, covered in chemical burns, forced to manufacture what he later found out was some sort of gaseous substance. Plans to take down an entire city. Poison and death and screaming women and children... It was all mixed up, a whirlwind of sight and sound and rancid stench that still made him want to lose his last meal.

Mello was no naïve boy; he was no stranger to death and pain; his usual devil-may-care attitude coupled with a long-festering, bitter grudge toward the world in general had made him a hard and strong fighter. But even he had some sense of morality. Even he was sickened by such blatant evil.

And then he had acted foolishly, governed once more by emotions which in retrospect seemed so stupid, and his rashness had let them get away. No, he corrected himself, his rashness and his sudden inexplicable burst of goddam compassion when on some idiotic whim he had led the kids to escape and given the bastards time to run away, time to outnumber him, and time to chase him like a dog through the sewers of LA.

Mello was not one to forgive such humiliation easily. He was not one to let his prey get away so easily.

Yes, his prey, not Near's. It had never been Near, he knew who did the hunting. No, it was never that coward Near who stood looking down the barrel of a gun, grinning in the face of death. And it would never be Near who garnered the satisfaction of evading yet another bullet, living for another minute, feeling the adrenaline pump like rock music at full volume in his head.

Nate River was a pathetic little boy, manipulating people from the shadows, never appreciating life with that cold and calculating look in his eye. Even his alias suggested weakness. Near. Always staying close by those stronger than him, relying on their strength and pretending it was his own. Never acting. Always thinking. Always goddam pondering and analyzing.

Mello had always resented him for that, for his fing high-and-mighty attitude even though he was just a smart-ass little wimp secluded behind his Lego fortresses. A cold machine-like intellect, nothing more. Nothing fazed him, not human suffering, not death, nothing-- because he had faced nothing.

And that was precisely why, when Near had called an hour ago and said to drop the case, to just tip off the NYPD and let the Americans take care of it, that burning hatred had reared again in Mello's chest and prompted him to do a very foolish thing. After all, Mello did hate to admit defeat and giving up the chase now meant just that.

The shower groaned and sputtered to an eventual stop when he pulled the lever, reaching for a towel.

No, it wasn't the thought of those disfigured children or the deaths that would occur if he didn't catch those freaks now. Of course not. It was just the fact that he couldn't leave a job half-assed, not like Near. That was all. And besides, those jerks owed him a new set of clothes, or at least a huge cleaning bill...

The blonde boy reappeared again, letting out a puff of shower steam when he opened the bathroom door, with a towel around his rather scrawny hips and another in his left hand as he toweled off his golden hair.

"Hey, Matt," he called, seeming in much better spirits and almost calm, which was quite a rarity. "See if you can use those crazy computer skills of yours to hack into the LAX flight schedule or something and get us some tickets to New York for tomorrow morning," he instructed genially, wandering over to the fridge to fish out another chocolate bar.

Matt couldn't help but glance up with an expression of surprise etched across his face as Mello exited the bathroom, a torrent of warm steam trailing behind. The brunette had once again picked up his handheld game when Mello had entered the shower, but now he put it down once more upon hearing his friend's request for tickets. To New York. For tomorrow.

He had begun to open his mouth to ask what the hell for, but stopped. There was Something in Mello's tone of voice that made him rethink his argument. It wasn't just in his tone of voice though. It was in the way he moved, the way he didn't yell at Matt for wasting time on his DS. He was acting strangely... calm. Well, not "strangely", for anyone else, but anytime the word "calm" was used in conjunction with the name "Mello", it tended to be strange. It was a rare occurrence indeed, and Matt decided not to push his luck by starting a fight now.

Besides, Matt thought to himself as he ran a hand through disheveled tufts of auburn hair, the gamer could scream and yell and whine at Mello for hours and hours, about the inconvenience, and about how Mello expected him to procure tickets to New York without even telling him why. In the end it would be pointless anyway because Matt always gave in. Always. He knew he'd end up doing whatever Mello asked of him, and Mello knew it too. It was just the way they worked, Mello leading and Matt following blindly.

Might as well save himself the argument, when from every angle it was already a lost cause.

He sighed softly as he placed his game down on a small coffee table, and pulled one of his laptops onto his lap. Hacking into the restricted portions of the LAX web site would be relatively easy, if time consuming, so he didn't need to hardwire, his laptop would be sufficient.

He pulled up the LAX site and scrolled through the flight schedules. After a minute of searching he found a few flights heading to JFK that still had open seats left. There were coach seats open in seven different flights for tomorrow. Much as he'd like, it was too risky to cheat their way into first class. He went with the airline with the shortest traveling time, a stunning 5 hours and 8 minutes in comparison to the other airline's five hours and 43 minutes. He could care less about the difference, but knew he'd never hear the end of it if Mello somehow found out there had been a shorter flight. Besides, who knew if his blonde friend's good mood would hold out until tomorrow, and if it didn't as was probable, Matt definitely didn't want to be stuck sitting next to him on an airplane for any longer then what was necessary.

He read the flights to himself, mentally trying to figure when the best time of arrival would be. He frowned in thought. It would have been a lot easier if he had known why they were going to New York in the first place, but once again refrained from asking. Matt trusted Mello would tell him when it became necessary for the hacker to know. If it became necessary.

Running over the flight times in his mind, he decided that Mello would probably want to be there as soon as possible, evidenced by the fact that they were leaving tomorrow morning, so he focused on the earliest flights. One at 6:30, and one at 7:30. He chose the 7:30.

Screw soon as possible, he needed some sleep.

Flight now decided, Matt tapped his fingers against his thighs in thought. Now that he actually took the time to think about it, he realized it would be way too much trouble to actually hack into the site and steal tickets. A pretty simple job, but not worth the time it would take. Instead he chose to purchase the tickets the normal way, only he wired the money from someone else's account. Okay, So maybe it wasn't a completely normal transaction.
Finishing up with a few more clicks, he placed his laptop on the cushion and quickly hooked it up to the printer. He printed the confirmation of their tickets and gave it a quick look over before approaching Mello with the page.

"Flight leaves at 7:30." He announced to his friend, paper held out for Mello to see.

The blond glanced over, cocking his head to the side as if the paper was written in some sort of upside-down code even though it was perfectly straight. "Ok, thanks. Just make sure you wake me up on time, since you're usually quite the lazy-ass."

Ignoring the fact Matt looked about to have a heart attack at the fact Mello had actually uttered a certain word beginning with the letter T which almost certainly had been nonexistent in his vocabulary until now, he wandered over to the small bedroom opposite the kitchen, tugged on a faded black turtleneck and some sweatpants and wandered back over to the fridge... all without getting mad at anything.

It seemed a sure sign of the apocalypse.

The peace, however, didn't last long--which may have been a good thing because poor Matt seemed rather stunned at Mello's uncharacteristic silence.

Thankfully though, after searching in the fridge for a few minutes and pulling out several Styrofoam boxes--all of which were sniffed and quickly discarded--the familiar annoyed tones drifted in from the kitchen. "What the hell, Matt, there's nothing to eat!" the blond complained loudly. "And... I think this Chinese food is in the process of mutating into a man-eating monster of some sort..."

He stomped back in, holding a Styrofoam take-out box at arms' length and making the most disgusted face he could muster. "Someone needs to throw all this crap away," he announced, staring pointedly at the mountain of garbage in the corner by the door. "Because honestly, I swear it WILL mutate and eat us! I mean just look at that shit. It's disgusting. You're such a pig, Matt."

He tossed the rotting take-out and some other dubious-looking objects that had come out of the refrigerator onto the top of the pile, then went back into the bedroom to finish getting dressed. In another inexplicable act of rarity, he came back out wearing a sweater and some sneakers belonging to Matt, apparently not wishing to dig in the dark (the light bulb had burnt out a few days ago) for new clothes of his own.

Giving Matt, who hadn't even looked up from his game, a pointed stare, Mello declared in his usual haughty tone, "I'm borrowing these and I'm going out to get us some REAL food that won't turn my insides into radioactive goo if I try to eat it. You clean this place up a bit. If we leave it like this it may evolve into the next Godzilla." He gave a wild laugh, tearing open another chocolate bar as he headed for the door, the phrase "no dessert before dinner" being utterly alien to him. "That'd be kinda funny actually. But, no, really, clean up your shit, Matt. It IS your apartment."

Without even bothering to wait for the retort that was sure to accompany his accommodator's bewildered stare, the blond slammed the door shut again.

"What the Hell?"

Matt couldn't help but verbalize his thoughts, even though Mello had already closed the door and gone. It was…odd. Mello was acting far more passive then usual, and although the change was inarguably a good one, the gamer couldn't help but wonder if something was wrong. He shook his head, but decided not to think about it too much.

Remembering his friend's parting words, he looked up from his place on the couch and grimaced as he took in his surroundings.

Besides the steadily escalating pile of garbage in the corner, there were numerous other issues that desperately needed tending too. An assortment of plates, silverware, and cups were overflowing from one side of the sink, and even from the couch he could see dried splashes of tomato sauce, a hardened yellow substance that might once have been cheese, and various other colorful grimes and stains coating the dishware. The coffee table in front of the TV was sporting a thin layer of dust and crumbs, and he was sure the carpet wasn't doing too much better. There was a mixture of socks, shirts, and old jeans spread out throughout the room, in addition to Mello's recently deposited leather.

The blonde was right. This place desperately needed a cleaning. Reluctantly depositing his DS beside his PS2 and below the TV, the brunette retreated to the bedroom, using the glow of his cell phone to light the way to his dresser. He grabbed some old jeans and a faded red Mario T-shirt, and pulled off his usual beige vest and white and black striped long sleeve shirt. As he changed he mentally decided the order in which tasks would be carried out. The trash pile came first, but he would have to empty the fridge so that he could take care of all the garbage at once. Dressed in his cleaning clothes, he exited the bathroom and made his way to the kitchen. He opened the cabinet beneath the sink and pulled different dish soaps and cleaners out of the way before finding the garbage bags. He grabbed one of them, but kept the box out just in case he needed another.

After another ten minutes he had emptied the fridge of everything that was likely passed it's expiration date (which was everything but the chocolate and a few sodas) and added it to the garbage mound. Groaning inwardly, he wearily approached the sickening pile and after a few minutes of pondering, he realized that the most efficient way of transferring garbage to garbage bag would be by hand. Great. He swore to himself never ever to let the apartment get this bad again as he began the revolting process.

He let his mind wander, or rather forced it to think of something other then his current chore as he found it made the gagging less frequent and the rancid smell less pungent. Naturally his thoughts once again drifted to his blonde friend and their hasty upcoming expedition. It wasn't as though Matt was unused to Mello's sporadic behavior, but New York? And how long were they going to be staying there anyway? Mello hadn't said anything about a round trip, so was this move going to be permanent? He frowned at the thought. Surely his friend would have mentioned that little fact. Wouldn't he have?

"I mean," he spoke aloud to himself again, "he would know I'd have to take care of things here. I can't just leave my apartment without telling anyone, or breaking my lease or anything…" Even spoken aloud, he knew his words were only there to comfort himself, but knew even he didn't really believe them as a small knot began to tighten in his stomach.

He reached for another piece of trash only to discover he was groping at air. It seemed he hadn't noticed he was done. The brunette tied the black bag into a knot and grabbed his key to the apartment. He really didn't want to wait for trash pick up, and there was a dumpster in the apartment complex parking lot. Locking the door behind himself, he took the stairwell the two floors down, and made his way to the dumpster across the parking lot, all the while thoughts in chaos.

Mello was his best friend. Despite the blonde's unfriendly and often cruel nature, Matt believed that that particular sentiment was reciprocated. But even then, the ex mafia leader could sometimes treat Matt just as badly as he treated everyone else. Though Matt did notice it seemed Mello made a visible effort to restrain himself when it came to the gamer, there were times when he failed, and Matt was often at the receiving end of cruelty meant for someone else. It was convenient after all, as Matt was always there.

The pensive boy paused in his thoughts long enough to chuck the bag into the dumpster, and begin making his way back up to the room, before resuming his introspective worries once more.

Sometimes, Matt wondered if that's all he was to Mello. A convenience. Though for the most part he didn't believe it, it was events like this New York trip, times when Mello didn't ask for Matt's unquestioning loyalty, but simply demanded it, that made him rethink his situation. This kind of behavior that made him question what the current subject of his mind really thought of him. Was he a reliable friend, or someone who was just there, and on occasion happened to be useful?

He found himself nose to nose with his apartment door, unlocked it and entered. Wanting to distract himself from his current train of thought, he examined what would have to be done. Next he would have to clean the couple pieces of furniture, so he began mindlessly moving the objects that obstructed the task. Dishes to the sink. Game boxes underneath the TV. Electronics to the bedroom. Once he had finished he grabbed the Windex and some paper towels and began cleaning the empty surfaces. Inevitably, his thoughts drifted once again.

So why did he stay? Why was his loyalty so damn unfaltering? Sure, he'd never been closer to anyone else in his entire lifetime, but what was the point if he was only some kind of convenient pawn? As if answering his own thoughts, he was reminded of Mello's brief words, or word really, earlier that day.


So maybe he had only been thanking him for a menial task, but still. Matt shook his head and grinned slightly. Mello wasn't exactly the kind of guy to say thanks to just anyone.

And suddenly the world was back to being right.

It was ludicrous for Matt to doubt Mello. The more he thought about it, the more he realized just how stupid and over analytical he was being. God he was being such a drama queen! He smirked. Must have been around Mello too long, he silently thought to himself.

Regardless of how much of an inconsiderate jerk the blonde could be, he cared. Matt didn't care if he couldn't prove it with actions or words, he simply knew Mello cared. The way he acted, the things he said, that was just how Mello was.

And Damn it all if Matt didn't like him because of it.

Grinning like a maniac, and occasionally breaking out into full on snickering, Matt continued cleaning, his state of mind a complete one eighty from just a few minutes ago.

So they were going to New York. It's not like he really had anything here in LA that he would be leaving behind anyway. Hell, the only reason he stayed here in the first place, was, well, was because Mello was here. Cackling again at the complete idiocy on two legs that was Mail Jeeves, he decided he was going to like New York.
After all, it had everything and the only thing he'd ever really needed.

- - - - - -

The wind slapped against his chest and arms, echoing within his helmet like the hollow screeches of a banshee as Mihael Kheel sped down Sunset Blvd. on his black Kawasaki Ninja bike, scowling at the biting cold beneath the thick plastic covering his face. Well, at least it had stopped raining... But, damn, it was still hella cold, even for early spring. It was frikkin' Southern California, dammit, notorious for its year-round warm weather.

Yeah, warm weather, my ass, Mello thought bitterly, regretting the fact he hadn't bothered to put on more clothes. At least he had remembered to grab his extra pair of gloves, even though his hands were freezing enough as it was.

Cerulean eyes scanning the street for anything still open, he decided he wasn't in the mood for pizza, having eaten nothing but that for the last few days since neither he nor Matt had bothered to leave the apartment last week and thank God Domino's delivered or they'd have starved.

Looking around some more, he also decided he didn't want Mexican food; he couldn't stomach spicy things even though Matt loved them. He thought about Chinese, but decided against it for no other reason than that he would have to make a U-turn and wait at the stop light and he absolutely loathed stop lights. Also, the thought of that funky-smelling Styrofoam box that had once contained Panda Express was still too fresh in his mind.

Finally he settled on KFC. Matt liked it, Mello didn't really care either way, and it was also conveniently placed so that he wouldn't even have to change lanes.

Screeching to a halt in the parking lot, Mello tugged off his black helmet, smoothing his still-damp golden hair, and strolled into the building just as they were about to close. Some lady holding keys and a mop looked about to tell him to leave, but quickly seemed to rethink this notion when the blond shot her a withering glare and sauntered up to the counter.

The rather pimply boy behind the register gave him a disapproving glance, eyeing the dark helmet held loosely in his left hand, his gaze moving up to the scowling glare directed at him and lingering on the large scar covering the left half of his late-night customer's face.

Mello's breath hitched angrily in his throat and he barely prevented his hand from diving for his gun. How dare this scum look at him in such...revulsion?! He hated it when people looked at his scar. Frikkin' little teenage brat!

Finally he managed to squeeze words through his tightly clenched teeth, eyes blazing with icy blue fire. "Get me a 12-piece meal with lots of fries and make it snappy," he growled, darkly relishing the look of utter terror on the kid's face. With an angry grimace, Mello slammed a gloved hand on the counter, "Well, I haven't got all night, you little bastard, MOVE IT!"

He turned to give the cleaning lady a burning glare as well while he waited, daring her to reprimand him. For good measure, he made sure to glower pointedly at every camera in the place too, just to let whoever eventually watched those tapes know that he hated them too.

Dammit, this was taking longer than he'd thought. They'd probably already shut down the machines or whatever they made these chicken things with for the night so it was taking longer than usual. Bored with glaring silently at the middle-aged cleaning woman who stood cowering the corner, he turned to stare blankly at the menu above the counter, eyes immediately drifting to the dessert section.

"Hey," he barked into the kitchen, enjoying the sight of the boy flinching at his voice. "Get me a chocolate cake and a chocolate parfait too, brat... and some mini apple pie things, got it?"

Matt liked pie... he thought. Oh, well, may as well get his friend something he liked too, if he was getting a bunch of dessert for himself. Besides, it was Matt's credit card anyway.

Having paid and grabbed the bags of enticingly smelling food, Mello left the poor boy at the register nearly in tears and returned to his bike. He proceeded to stuff the food into the bags attached to the back of the motorcycle, pulling the sweatshirt closer around him to ward against the late-night cold. He pulled it up around his face, adjusting bags here and there with his other hand so they wouldn't bounce around too much. There was something... something in the familiar smell of smoke mixed with Matt's cologne radiating off the sweater that washed his mind of the recent annoyances in the restaurant, chased away the repulsed and terrified look that kid had given his scarred face. It had a sort of... calming... effect and Mello tugged his helmet back on somehow feeling much less angry and defensive, though of course that was something he would never admit.

Driving recklessly had always been his style, but tonight he didn't go too much over the speed limit, only half paying attention to the road, calculating and mulling over this and that, things they would need for the trip, things that needed to be taken care of here. First of all, he needed his bike and his guns...And goddam airplane security might be an issue... Damn, this was getting to be a bigger pain than he'd first expected. He immensely hated it, but he had to admit that the only sure way he could think of to secure everything he needed in the quickest way possible was...

Slamming on his break in front of the apartment building, Mello jumped off his bike with an angry growl, kicking the wall hard enough to make a large chip of stucco fall off. "DAMMIT!" he swore loudly, WHY? He LOATHED having to depend on Near and his stupid little force of men, but without fail that was the only way they could secure everything he would need, including money, living space, vehicles, everything. He hated to admit it, but he knew that he and Matt did not have the means and probably never would. God how he absolutely ABHORRED the very thought of having to rely on goddam Near for something else...but... It was either that or be tackled by airport security because without securing clearance from the international force Near commanded, it was impossible to travel with all his weapons, even for Mello. And it would certainly be foolish--not to mention hella expensive-- to suggest they buy everything from a new apartment to guns in New York.

Slamming into the wall with another side kick, Mello turned to begin tearing everything out of his bags with as much violence as he could muster without destroying their dinner too much, tearing off his helmet to hurl it at their front door. He absolutely hated, hated, HATED doing this with Near's help but it just had to f-ing be the most convenient, didn't it?

"MATT! Get your skinny ass out here!" he yelled, giving the side wall of their apartment another swift kick for good measure and tugging the sweatshirt closer to him again in an attempt to quell the odd angry heat rising in his chest, clashing with the freezing air, and making him shiver even more.

Placing the last washed and dried dish in its rightful place in the cupboard, Matt took a moment to admire his handiwork. He didn't think the apartment had been this clean since the day he had moved in. Clothes now hung in closets, the dishes were so polished that he could see his reflection, and every surface had been wiped free of all grime. Hell, he'd even vacuumed. He'd sprayed the apartment with some kind of pine scented air freshener in order to get rid of the lingering odor of rot, and he gratefully took a deep breath of air. His moment of satisfaction however, was interrupted by the sound of something slamming against the door, followed by an all too familiar angry voice demanding the gamer's presence.

So much for relaxing with a good game and then calling it a night.

Wearily but with haste he approached the door. From the sounds of it Mello's good mood from earlier seemed to have vanished only to be replaced by the usual air of irritation. At least the blonde wouldn't be able to complain about the state of chaos the apartment had been in before, or for that matter accuse Matt of lazing around playing games the entire time he'd been gone.

He opened the door only to be met with a very flustered, extremely upset looking blonde.

For all of his friend's ferocity though, Matt couldn't help but allow the corners of his mouth to curl slightly upwards.

Though he'd seen him leaving, and heard Mello shout something about borrowing the gamer's clothes, he hadn't taken the time to notice what the hell the blonde had been yelling about. Really, Mello yelled all of the time, half of the time Matt just tuned him out.

There was just something about seeing his best friend donning one of his own sweatshirts as opposed to the usual leather that made the former mafia boss a little less threatening. Comical even.

Though he knew if he ever admitted that aloud he'd probably end up with a few bullets embedded in his skull, so instead of commenting aloud he allowed himself to smirk very slightly as he moved aside to let Mello in from the cold.

With a glare that could probably kill kittens, Mello stepped forward aggressively, shoving the bags of take-out into the gamer's hands before he elbowed past him into the apartment, kicking his helmet inside where it bounced of the bedroom door and lay in the middle of the empty floor like a misshapen ball of some sort. Still breathing heavily and shivering, the blond tromped inside and collapsed onto the couch, left hand diving into the pocket of Matt's sweater to pull out a king-size Hershey's which he tore open for all the world as if the candy bar had done him some unspeakable wrong, then proceeded to shove it into his mouth as if it were the last Hershey's on Earth.

"Set the table, Matt," he barked around a mouthful. "And--" Mello stopped, blinking, eyes glued to his helmet on the floor by his feet. Moreover, he was slowly coming to realize it was the ONLY thing on the floor by his feet... actually, on the floor in general.

In a voice with absolutely no discernable emotion--a very rare feat for the blond--Mello just stated, "You cleaned."

He didn't sound quite skeptical, nor happy... Mostly it was probably just sheer bewilderment at being able to see the carpet once more. Something else registered suddenly.

"...and it doesn't smell like smoke and shit in here anymore." The blond turned slowly to look at Matt as if he'd grown a couple extra limbs.

The brunette gave a noncommittal shrug at Mello's words, though inside he was slightly glad that the blonde had noticed. Not like he needed to feel appreciated or anything, just glad to know it had at least helped to better his friend's mood, if the tone of Mello's voice was any indication. Complying with the demand, he made his way to the silverware drawer. (The thought that he now knew where it was made him just a little excited.) Pulling two forks from the drawer, and a few napkins from the take out bag just for good measure, he began to set the table quickly. He hadn't noticed before but he was actually pretty hungry. He figured it was probably the tempting aroma coming from whatever it was that Mello had bought that had brought this fact to his attention.

He glanced at the bag noting it was KFC. He was glad, he certainly wouldn't have been able to stomach any Chinese after dealing with the leftovers earlier. His stomach gave a loud growl, and he quickly pulled up a chair.

"Hey, table's set." He informed his reclining friend who still seemed to be inspecting the room.

The blond looked up a little blankly, still seeming a bit dazed from the cleanliness and perhaps, subconsciously, from his constant mood swings today. After all, he'd been roaming around underground all day, gotten the best of, his ego stomped on, and after that it had just been the usual emotional roller coaster between all the hectic thoughts of Near and catching those bastards who'd outsmarted him earlier and then having to deal with the idiot kid in the shop... He'd never admit it, even to himself, but with the evening dragging on past midnight now, he was exhausted.,

"Okay," he muttered, dragging himself off the coach and slumping into a kitchen chair, reaching for the boxes to pile a bunch of fries and ketchup onto his plate. He then proceeded to pick out only drumsticks from the chicken meal and added them to the small mountain of food in front of him. For a second, his left hand drifted near his chest as if searching for the silver rosary that usually hung there, but then remembered it was probably discarded somewhere on the bathroom counter at the moment and decided he could skip 'prayer' for today. Not that it was really prayer. More like a sort of quick and vague reminder that he had believed in a God once and now he wasn't sure. But he kept at it for reasons he couldn't even quite explain to himself and he wore the cross his mother had given him before he could even remember her. He had been told she was Catholic, so he had studied the religion devoutly as a child and tried asking God to bring his parents back, then later to help him with other things.

But of course, God has never shown He had heard and thus now He had been reduced to a mere short fingering of the holy cross before dinner whenever Mello happened to remember that there had been a time once when he had still observed the Ten Commandments.

Tossing such useless thoughts aside, the blond proceeded to tear into the chicken in a manner that suggested it was the root of all his moral dilemma and deserved his entire wrath at the moment. Thus, there was no occasion for conversation and dinner passed quickly, all traces of everything from the potato skins to the ketchup packets disappearing in a matter of minutes.

When he was finished, Mello slouched back in his chair, pushing to empty plates and boxes aside and lazily stretching his be-socked feet onto the table. "Matt, I'll be needed one or two of your computers. Set up a connection with Near for me, will ya? I need to settle some last minute things so we can have everything we need when we get there." Although he tried to sound as nonchalant as possible if only for the simple reason that he'd eaten so much he suspected he may be sick if he got himself too worked up, the words were still forced through gritted teeth and his eyes flashed in defiance as if Near were the one demanding he make this call and it wasn't of his own free choice. Reaching a little too aggressively into the last bag holding the desserts, he pulled out his chocolate parfait and cake, sort of dumped them together onto a plate to form one very chocolate concoction and began to systematically shovel his creation into his mouth with a plastic spoon.

Digging around in the bag a bit more, he pulled out some extra napkins and another little box, shoving it at Matt with the spoon still sticking rather comically out of a corner of his mouth.

"Here," he growled around the mouthful of whatever par-cake thing he was currently chewing. "I got you pie. Now get me a connection with that little white haired bastard before I change my mind and we end up having to steal some kid's tricycle for transportation around the goddam 'Big Apple.' Why the hell is it called an apple anyway? That sounds so...stupid. Helluva name, apple. Yeah, right." He continued mumbling to himself in this manner while deciding to try eating his mixture with his fingers instead, the spoon having broken in his little rant against Near and since, of course, he was too lazy and comfortable slouched back in his chair to get up for another one.

Matt finished his own meal off just as quickly, if not as viciously as his counterpart, and took the pie that Mello was offering, (okay well more like forcing on him, not that he minded) with a quick thanks, and a somewhat disappointed glance away from his friend.

He'd actually been getting a little used to Mello's rare good mood this evening, and wasn't exactly thrilled to hear his friend would be making contact with Near. Conversations between Mello and the pale boy they'd met way back at Wammy's NEVER ended well.

He ran a hand through his disheveled auburn hair, and a little reluctantly stood from the table making his way to the computer on the opposite side of the room. He took the small boxed pie with him, grabbing a fork as he left. All the while, his thoughts lingering on what the outcome of Mello's conversation would be.

It wasn't like Near went out of his way to piss Mello off, not most of the time anyway, but the white haired boy could have called to give Mello ten grand, and the blonde would still have come away from the conversation with murderous intent. Matt didn't think he'd ever understand Mello's hell bent obsession with out doing Near. As far as he could tell all it had done in the past was almost get the blonde killed. Hell, Mello had joined the mafia rather then work with the object of his hatred. As far as Matt was concerned, Mello was perfectly fine the way he was, minus this obsessive loathing for the other boy. It just seemed to take much too much time and effort for Matt's liking.
He pulled a wheeled chair up to the computers, and sat down, placing his pie on the edge of the desk. He began, using one hand to connect the wires that would allow them contact with Near, while the other diligently continued to allow him access to his surprisingly still hot apple pie. He shrugged off his uncertainty, knowing that whatever reason his friend had for contacting the younger boy must have been good, and he really didn't want to say anything at all that might set Mello off.

The blond watched his friend out of the corner of his eyes, pushing away the squished bits of what was left of his desert as if they had offended him, his expression once again entirely changed.

Ok, so Matt seemed to be in a pretty good mood. He was being very complacent... silently complacent, that is. And though Mello liked it when he didn't have to have (in his opinion) unnecessary arguments with Matt, there was just something that kept making him restless. However, he had nothing to say, really. Well, more like he was a bit unwilling to speak now as he knew it would probably lead to a fight with Matt. It always did, even when he didn't mean it. The words just came out, much harsher than he'd intended them and never directed at the source of whatever had made him angry at that moment.

He was well-fed and was supposed to be relaxing, but the impatience and annoyance that had returned tenfold shortly after he'd left after attempting to clear his mind were eating at him relentlessly.

It was that stupid boy's fault, he concluded sourly.

He didn't really realize what he was doing until he felt his own cool fingers running over the side of his face, pushing back golden strands to gently press his palm against his cheek, feeling the tender, uneven surface beneath.

Mello bit his lower lip in irritation, staring at the wall though his fingers.

Revulsion. Disgust.

It seemed almost every time he walked into a public area, everybody's eyes were glued to the damaged left side of the blonde's face.

His fist clenched on the table and he suddenly swung his long legs down, sliding off the chair with a feral growl.

He had sworn to himself to forget about it, but it was getting so goddam annoying to see all those people looking at him like that. And the airport...

Goddamit, he didn't even want to think about that. There were children at the airport. He loathed children.

They always stared the most

"Matt!" he barked, storming up behind the brunette like the bearer of the apocalypse, right hand still clasped firmly over his face. "Are you done yet?"

This, Matt decided, was precisely what he'd known would happen. They hadn't even reached Near yet and already Mello was getting into one of his moods.

And of course, as usual, Matt would be the one to take the brunt of Mello's anger.

It was funny, or maybe just ironic. Matt found himself hating Near just as much as his blonde haired friend, but for different reasons entirely. After all, if it weren't for the bothersome white haired boy, he and his best friend would probably get along a hell of a lot better. Though inside the gamer knew whom the fault truly lay with.

He didn't bother to turn around and face his friend, but rather continued keying,

"Just chill, it's almost done alright?" his voice was flat, concealing the pocket of anger slowly bubbling up inside of him.

It was one thing when Mello made demands of him as a friend. It was another altogether when he made demands of the gamer as though he were nothing but a convenient lackey.

Pressing a few choice keys, he finished up without giving Mello a second glance, knowing that if he did he would probably be met with nothing but the blonde's anger at having been given such a cold response from the brunette.

Unable to stop himself even though he hated it the moment he reacted to the unusually cold tone in his best friend's voice, Mello flinched a little. He stood for a second, frozen and just staring at Matt's striped back for a few seconds, a small twinge of guilt ebbing up into his chest.

Dammit, he'd known this would happen. He was always just so...frustrated.

Ironically, he was frustrated with everything and everyone but Matt. Yet Matt was the only one who was always around.

Azure eyes glanced down at the floor for a few moments, uncertain, but he blurted it out before he could stop himself, voice uncharacteristically quiet.

"Matt... do you think the children will stare?"

It took him a minute to figure out what Mello was talking about, but as soon as he did, the anger that had begun to swell inside of him was instantly extinguished.

He turned to look at his friend, and saw the raw insecurity plastered on his face, and something inside of Matt cringed. He would take Mello's anger over his uncertainty any day. To see his best friend in that state just made something inside of the gamer ache. It wasn't right.

He knew something must have set the blonde off, most likely something had happened on his outing. He had come in from the cold way more pissed off then when he had left. And while Matt would personally have liked to have a nice chat with whoever it was that had brought this on, the fact of the matter was that it wasn't an option.

Mello was here now, and though he knew the blonde would never admit to it, he needed Matt's reassurance, the gamer knew.

Dammit. How was he supposed to answer a question like that? It wouldn't due to lie, not with Mello, but he couldn't just say 'yes' and walk away.

For a second the gamer seriously considered simply hunting down every damn brat that dared to stare at Mello with so much as a crooked smile and 'explain to them' why staring was not polite. It would never work though, logistically that is, however satisfying the notion was to entertain.

"Maybe they will." He began honestly, hiding the hesitancy he felt, his voice low but somehow strong. He continued on,

"But Mello, maybe they wouldn't if they knew that part of the reason you have that scar in the first place is because you helped to take out the most accomplished serial murderer in the history of mankind."

He reached up and ruffled some of Mello's hair into his face, something he hadn't dared to do since they'd been children, but somehow it seemed the right thing to do at the moment.

"Besides," he added with a smug grin, "I think it makes you look Badass."

For once in his life, Mello seemed momentarily at a loss for words when he suddenly found himself with a mouthful of his own hair and Matt grinning in his face like a frikkin' idiot. Just the way he always had when they were little. Just the smile Mello inwardly waited for when he came home after a long day of constant irritations.

He stumbled backwards a bit, spluttering in mock-anger and doing his best to frown disapprovingly at the gamer's childishness. But instead he found himself smiling slightly, brushing his hair out of his face and instinctively smoothing it back into its perfect bob.

"Badass?" he repeated with a crooked little smirk. Actually, he realized, he was just about as 'badass' as they come, with all his black leather, ninja bike, thick chains and gothic jewelry. He was badass embodied and hell if it wasn't a crapload of a lot better than being a wimpy little kid wearing white pajamas.

"Yeah," he muttered musingly, tapping his nose in his usual 'thinking' habit. "That means the kids'll be scared too shitless to bother me, doesn't it?" He grinned at the thought of terrifying little children. "Yeah, that's fine. Besides, I don't care. Let them admire my badge for defeating Kira, damn ingrates that they are." He nodded in satisfaction, sitting on the couch near the computer, leaving a spot for Matt to show his gratitude, if only in the tiniest way possible.

Matt, whose presence had saved his conscience, his ego, even his life more times than he cared to count. Matt, who was always so reliably, so unfailingly always there. Matt, who never judged him no matter what kind of a bastard the blond was being.

Not that he really wanted Matt to know of all these sentimental thoughts, of course. After all, Mello wasn't the type of person to simply thank somebody outright, not that a simple word could ever say anything anyway.

But that's what the pie was for, and the spot beside him on the couch, and the sweater wrapped around him smelling like home.

Mello was sure he had never said the word "friend" to Matt but at that moment he knew he didn't have to.