A/N: Okay. Two things should be said before I continue with this chapter. The first one being: I apologize for the delay. Really. You've all been so kind; you deserve more diligence on my part. I will try to make my next chapter come out sooner, but I am afraid I can't promise anything, as the next chapter might be even harder for me than this one! Secondly, I must admit that I am not being very funny here (and this was labeled a humor fic). The only thing I can say to defend myself is that I have an odd sense of humor and am known to laugh at little or insignificant things. But let's see if I can make this funnier, shall we?
That being said, thank you all SO much for all your kind reviews. You rock. I'm grateful.
Chapter Two: The First Two Letters
Mello stared at the sheet of paper and its contents stared back. Smiling, of all things. Smiling.
"What… The… Fuck."
The smiling face said nothing; it merely stared back.
"What the fuck, it can't be—God damn it!" Mello began again angrily, speaking faster this time as he quickly changed from his pajamas to his black baggy clothes and made his way to the door. "MATT!" He shouted, as soon as he got to the hallway. But he knew it was of no use: Matt, lazy as he was, probably was still sleeping. Mello also knew, conveniently enough, that the gamer never left the door to his room locked, precisely for situations like this one. So when the infuriated blond reached Matt's room at the end of the hallway, he didn't even bother to knock on the door. He just slammed it right open.
"Matt, damn it, wake up!" Mello shouted. The low groan that came from under the mess of green and white bed sheets told him that Matt had heard him. He tried again. "Wake UP, Matt!"
"'m wakin' up, 'm wakin' up…" Matt began, but only held the sheets closer to himself and curled his body into a comfortable ball. "…time is't?"
Mello rolled his eyes. "Time for you to wake up! Honestly, Matt! This is important! Matt—You haven't seen your letter yet, have you?" Mello looked around the floor, and found Matt's letter under his foot. He picked it up. "You haven't seen your letter,"—he repeated—"but you have to, Matt, it's important. Open it! Open it, because I think—oh, no…" Matt didn't so much as move as Mello hurriedly tore the envelope of Matt's letter without bothering to ask for permission. Mello had to know; he couldn't just wait for Matt to wake up. "Your pen pal's Calais," he informed Matt. "Holy fuck, Matt, your pen pal's name is Calais!"
Matt groaned again. "I heard you the first time, Mello." And then Matt groaned for a third time when Mello punched him awake.
"What is it!?" Matt yelled. Mello ignored him.
"Calais, Matt! You know, a normal name! Your pen pal has a normal name, you have a normal name, I have a normal name—"
"Excuse me," Matt interrupted. "But I think that 'Awesome-Man' is anything but just a normal—"
Mello wasn't listening. "Everyone, everyone who's even slightly normal has a normal name…"
Matt raised an eyebrow. "Since when are you normal?"
"…so who would actually be insane enough to put… to put that as a pseudonym!? That… that thing!? You know what I'm saying, Matt!? Think! You know what I'm saying!?"
"Not really, Mello. No."
"I'm saying," Mello continued, taking his crumpled letter out of his pocket and shoving it to Matt's face. "That I got a fucking smiling face for a pen pal, and just who is deranged enough to do that? Just who, Matt!?"
Matt, the sleepy number three student of Wammy's House, finally began to catch on. "Oh, hell no, Mello. You can't possibly be paranoid enough to—"
"I'll tell you who! It's Near," Mello said, causing Matt to wish he was five years old again so he could cry out of exasperation. There was just no way… "This is all a set up, Matt! Roger planned this! You know how he's always against me, he just had to pair me with Near!"
"Mello… Oh, come on," Matt began. He had risen himself to a sitting position and was now slowly rubbing his temples, trying to think of a way to persuade his best friend from being so overly paranoid. There was no way it could be good for him. "You know that can't be right. You're just being paranoid. That face could be from anyone. You know Near's not the only nut job around here…"
"He might not be the only one, but he's the biggest freak," Mello insisted. "Matt, think about it. Three out of four pseudonyms in this… This mad house were just average names. Names with words.Wammy's House has twenty students; that means the owner of that stupid smiling face must be one of the top five students at Wammy's—one of the top twenty-five percent. Considering you and I are the third and second best respectively, and we both chose relatively normal pseudonyms…"
"I chose your pseudonym, remember? And I don't give a damn like the rest of you do," Matt reminded his best friend. "I don't know, Mello, I think you're jumping to conclusions again. You're too paranoid for your own good. I know Linda likes to draw… Why can't you suspect Linda?"
Mello stopped, trying to reflect for a moment at Matt's words, but it was useless. "Because… Linda just doesn't… Linda doesn't feel right. It just doesn't feel like the answer. Near feels like the answer. Don't you see?"
"Yeah, you're a fairly intuitive person," Matt agreed with a yawn. He then proceeded to stretch himself. "But just remember that it's your being so reliant on your hunches what's gotten you into trouble in classes before. If you just show up at Roger's door and tell him you think Near's your pen pal because it 'feels right', I don't think it's likely he'll take you seriously."
There was a moment of silence in which Mello seemed to have realized the craziness of his suspicions and Matt had gotten up to go to his bathroom. That moment didn't last long, however, because as soon as Matt got inside the bathroom and dropped his pants, the redhead heard Mello through the open door.
"If I don't hurry up, it'll be Near who'll tell Roger and win. I'm might as well do it before he does, if he hasn't already. I'm going to tell Roger."
"Oh, fuck, no!" Matt whispered to himself and tried to readjust his pants as quickly as possible, trying to run out of his bathroom and catch Mello before he did something stupid, and tripping in the process. "Mello!" he shouted. "Get back here!" But it was too late. Mello had gone out the door and Matt hadn't so much as washed his face yet. There was a moment of indecision before he decided that the priority right now was to stop Mello from doing something he'd regret. Cursing under his morning breath, he went out the door as well.
"Good morning, Near! Did you sleep well?" asked Stefan, official chef at Wammy's House and also professor of the Culinary Arts elective course. With him was Linda, helpful as always. (It was not only Near who suspected the girl might be having a childish crush on the older man). The nine-year old girl smiled at Near and waved shyly.
"Good morning. Yes, I slept well," Near replied, sitting himself in his odd yet comfortable position, one knee close to his face. In his hand, there was Optimus Prime. They would be having breakfast together. "Could I maybe have some cereal with milk?"
Stefan let out a fake sigh. "Cereal again? Sometimes, I think this child believes that I became a chef to serve cereal," he said to no one in particular, then turned around to get the milk and hide the amused smile on his face. 'Kids and their simple pleasures', he thought. They were all the same despite their level of intelligence.
"Have you been awake long, Near?" Linda asked while Stefan looked for the brand he knew was Near's favorite cereal. "I woke up at around nine in the morning, and I'm already regretting it. Ha ha…"
"They did keep us awake later than usual," Near agreed. He was looking at Optimus without any interest. "I woke up less than an hour ago."
"Ooh, so have you read your letter?"
"No," Near said simply. Truly, he hadn't. The boy had noticed his letter on the floor as he was changing to a new set of white pajamas, and had decided to leave it there for the time being. He already knew who his 'pen pal' was; clearly, he would be paired against Mello in order to make this little project useful for both L and Roger. But Near had decided to allow himself a bit of more time to think of any possible pseudonyms Mello might have chosen. It could prove to be an amusing thing to think over while he was doing his puzzles. Near knew that Mello was not stupid, so anything related to chocolate was obviously out of the question. Perhaps he would choose the name of a pagan god, or a Judeo-Christian mythological being instead. Or maybe he would choose something more obscure, like a random name of a minor character in a book…?
"Here you go, child," Stefan said with a smile, forcing Near out of his quiet contemplation. He handed Near his breakfast, and the child was not surprised to find slices of fresh strawberries artistically decorating his bowl of Cheerios.
"Thank you," the boy said, and proceeded to take his spoon and hopefully finish his meal in silence. This being Wammy's House, of course he had no chance. The spoon did not so much as reach Near's lips when they all heard Mello's yelling.
"Goddamn it, Matt! Let go!"
"No! You can't!"
"Fuck! You want him to win!?"
"I'm doing this for you, you idiot!"
Stefan and Linda both looked at each other in surprise. What could those two be fighting about now? Near was less confused: he already had a pretty decent idea of what Matt and Mello could be arguing about.
"Professor, should we intervene…?" Linda asked, looking quite concerned. Stefan wasn't sure how to answer. What were those two crazy kids doing?
Roger's office was just in the next hallway, so it wasn't long before they reached the front of the open kitchen doors. "Let—go!" Mello yelled with frustration. As they passed through the corridor in front of the kitchen, Stefan and Linda could see that Matt had somehow attached himself to Mello's leg, forcing the blond to slowly drag him along the floor as he tried to move forward with all his strength.
"No!" Matt shouted back. "Damn it, Mello, let's go back! I gotta pee!"
"Leave me alone, then!"
"Oh, dear…" Stefan whispered before gathering his courage and running out of the kitchen in order to face the two fiends. "Hey! Hey! You two, what do you think you're doing over there!? Matt! What are you doing still in your pajamas!?"
"He started it!" One of them argued.
"Well, end it! The both of you! Honestly! Do you want me to get Roger!?"
To Stefan's surprise, Mello answered. "Yes! That is exactly what I want!"
"Ah!! Don't listen to him, Stefan, he hasn't had his chocolate yet!"
Back in the kitchen, Linda sighed. "I guess those two will never stay out of trouble, huh, Near?"
Near did not answer. He was too busy trying to ignore the noise so he could eat his breakfast in peace.
Along passed seven hours, forty seven minutes, and what he estimated to be around thirty seconds, and Mello had still not spoken to Matt since the last incident.
He had waited anxiously through most of the day for Near to send him a letter. This had resulted in him not being able to fully concentrate in any of his classes, which in turn ended with having Mello in a bad mood and blaming Near yet again for his consistent failure. He was also angry at Matt, of course; because, in the end, he had succeeded in convincing him not to tell Roger of his suspicions. Not like it was a bad idea: the old man had it against him, anyway. It was likely that he wouldn't have listened to him without 'real proof', no matter how right Mello was. And Mello knew he was right. So basically, to summarize, Mello was right and he was angry at Matt, at Near and at Roger because, well, they each knew what they did.
It was now almost 8:00 PM, and Mello had finally given in to his impatience. If the fucking smiling face wouldn't send him a letter, he would just have to send one instead. But what would he write about without making it obvious that it was him and, more importantly, without having Near realize that Mello knew who he was? That was the problem, and Mello didn't like problems. He was locked inside his room, sitting on his desk and determined to fix it.
He decided it would be best to write two letters.
The first letter would be a completely fake one. Just to himself, a way to take out most of his feelings without actually screwing up. In it, Mello would write to the smiling face and let him know that he knew he was Near. He drew the face, then a comma, and then...
Or should I say Near? You fuckface, you complete weirdo. Ha! I, Blue, know who you are! You didn't even have to write to me. I just knew. So who's number two now, fuckface!? HA HA!
#1 MELLO (Yeah, that's right!)
The rest of the first fake letter ended up consisting of badly drawn images of Mello as L's number one successor and a crying stick figure that slightly resembled Near.
Then came the second, this time real letter. This one would actually be more difficult, because Mello would have to actually hide his emotions and maybe even—oh, fuck—be polite to Near. And just what would he say in a letter like that? 'Hello, smiling face, nice to meet you…?' That was very unlikely. Yet he had to try.
The blond boy mentally cursed at his luck once he realized that he couldn't get Matt to write the letter for him, seeing as how he was angry at him. This made his first plan completely useless. He couldn't have Matt writing for him, and he couldn't just act like he didn't know it was Near, and fuck, would Near be able to tell that it was Mello writing to him just by noticing his inability to wait for another day to write to him.
"No, that's nonsense," Mello told himself. Of course he would be expected to write to him. There were other Wammy children as diligent as he was.
Time slowly passed by, and Mello started to get impatient. "It's almost nine already," he grunted. "This is so annoying, why won't the words just write themselves!? I can't take this!" Mello angrily threw his sheet of paper and his pencil against the wall. "That's it. I'm getting some chocolate."
It had been Mello's original plan to save the piece of cake María had offered him for celebrating after he had defeated Near in their upcoming World History test. But Mello was impatient. Consequently, (like so many of his well thought-out plans) his decision was changed at the last minute because of his continuous frustration. The blond boy made his way to the kitchen, sulking angrily as he went. There should be no one on kitchen duty tonight; dinner had been almost two hours ago and most students went to sleep early at night. Matt was usually the last one to fall asleep at around 2:00 A.M. each night. Mello refused to stay up with him past midnight, since it was important for him to be awake for all classes.
He passed the library as he walked through the solitary hallways, and involuntarily winced at the sight of the three boys studying in the room. Mello recognized Olson, Preston and Dennis from the Advanced Calculus course. He remembered Matt say they had a test tomorrow morning, and wondered just how much the redhead had studied before he quickly remembered he was mad at the boy anyway. And besides, Mello hated math. He might be good at it, but he found it boring as hell.
Mello continued his walk until he reached the kitchen, and was horrified to find that it was not empty. A very white, very unwelcome figure was currently sitting on a chair and drinking a glass of equally white milk. Mello mentally cursed as Near sipped his milk quietly, paying no attention to the new arrival as he was currently busy staring at some invisible spot in the air. There was a sheet of paper loosely held in his hand.
Mello hesitated; but then decided to enter the kitchen, anyway, as he really needed that cake. He made no eye contact with Near as he marched towards the kitchen, both uncomfortable and angry. If the stupid brat refused to acknowledge him, he could not be at fault for acting the same way.
Near didn't ignore Mello for long, to the older boy's dismay. As soon as the blond had found his piece of cake in the industrial-sized refrigerator, the other opened his mouth to speak. "I heard you almost got sent to Roger's again, Mello," the white boy said, shifting his hand to reach a lock of his hair as he spoke. He had still not looked at Mello, but it was not like Mello would know: he was not looking at Near, either. "Did something happen today that bothered you?"
The older boy froze, hand still grabbing the refrigerator door he had been about to close. It took him half a second to remember what he was up against, and then he closed the door as casually as he could and tried his best not to tighten his fists. "Not like it's any business of yours, Near"—he spat out the name with hatred—"but if you must know, I had a problem with Matt's lack of dedication to his classes. Nothing concerning me or my studies, unfortunately enough for you."
"That makes sense," Near said. The grasp on his letter tightened, and he had to lower his face to conceal a faint mischievous smile. He should not have bothered, however, for Mello was too busy raiding the cupboard for more chocolate. "You should tell Matt to make extra effort, since he is your friend. He spends too much time on his Game Boy…"
"You spend too much time with your toys."
"…And that can't be helping his concentration. Playing with those Pokemon. I have no idea why Roger let him have both the Red and the… Purple version, was it? the Christmas before last. He's supposed to help us learn, not to give us distractions."
There was a triumphant grin on Mello's face when he found an entire box full of Hershey bars. It was a grin that widened even more when he realized that Near had made a mistake, and Mello even laughed a little. "It's the Red and Blue version, not Purple. Geez, there is no such thing as a Purple version. And he's playing Pokemon Crystal now. Shows how much youknow!"
Securing the box full of chocolate bars with one arm and holding his cake with his other free hand, Mello walked out of the kitchen triumphantly and resisted the impulse to look at Near. It was a good thing he didn't look, for Nears own smile had broadened slightly; he was quietly laughing at some sort of secret joke.
The three Calculus students were still studying in the library when Mello got back and Mello quietly thanked his luck that he had decided not to take that class this trimester. He had taken Pre-Calculus with Matt not a few months ago, and was currently taking a well-deserved break. It was not that the course would be something he could fail at—but mathematics, to Mello, was just such a boring subject that did not seem to have anything to do with elective work and could simply be avoided altogether. Perhaps Mello would do just that. There were no required courses at Wammy's. Strongly encouraged courses, perhaps; but in the end, what the student chose to study was entirely up to him or her. This was one of the few things Mello actually loved about the place. The never-ending supply of chocolate made the list as well.
"Stupid Matt probably hasn't studied a thing yet," Mello muttered, and that was as good excuse as any to go visit the gaming addict. Mello would just have to forgive him until he found a new best friend. At least, that is what he kept telling himself; but somehow, he never was able to find a better friend than Matt.
He walked back to the hallway where both his and Matt's rooms were located and stopped on the door in front of Matt's, making his footsteps louder as he grew nearer. Then he shook the doorknob noisily for a few seconds before entering. He was Mello, he wasn't about to knock on the door—but he still didn't want to repeat last month's incident, when he had suddenly gone through the door only to find Matt touching himself.
"Geez, Mello, you'll never let me live it down, will you?" Matt—who was obviously getting tired of Mello's special precautions whenever he entered Matt's bedroom at night—was glued to his Game Boy like always; but this time, Mello noticed that there were also some Calculus books scattered around the floor. The redhead was obviously taking one of his three-hour breaks. "I said I lock the door now."
Mello rolled his eyes, throwing the box he was carrying on the floor and sitting on the edge of Matt's bed so he could eat his cake. Matt was sitting on the floor, his back against the bed for comfort. The sounds that came from his best friend's handheld gaming console told Mello that he was currently playing The Legend of Zelda. "Yeah, yeah, Matt. Whatever. I only came here to make sure that you were studying, and you are not."
Matt didn't look a bit ashamed as he shrugged his shoulders. "I was studying a few minutes ago. You just missed it."
"I don't give a fuck! Do you have any idea how hard those other guys are studying in the library!? They're going to beat your score! Don't you care? Your rank will go down!"
"Relaaax, Mello," Matt said, and he actually paused his game to give him a smile and a wink. "I work best under pressure."
Mello was exasperated. "You can't just cram! You'll forget half the things you learned! Then what will happen if you ever get a chance of being L? What if I die? You'll disappoint everyone!"
"Then I'll just have to spend the rest of my life trying to make sure that you don't die. Don't worry so much, mate. I have no intentions of being L version three or four or whatever."
There was a silence in which Mello viciously ate his chocolate cake, savoring the taste as he tried to force himself not to grow anxious over a test that wasn't even his. He had more important things to think about. He had to consider what he would write to Near. "Hey, Matt," Mello began, causing the gamer to pause his game again. "What have you written to that Calais guy? I'm in a serious need for inspiration."
Matt looked at him. "I, uh… Haven't really gotten down to writing anything. But I got a letter this afternoon. You can read it, it's on my desk. I don't mind." Then he un-paused the game in a silent gesture that Mello interpreted as permission to make himself at home.
It was one of Mello's pet peeves that Matt had a cluttered desk. The blond was not exactly a patient with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—but damn did Matt have a cluttered desk. It was obvious enough that he hardly studied; and that, if he ever had to, he could just use the floor. Mello, on the other hand, had everything in his room unorganized except for his desk. His desk was sacred, his studying sanctuary. Matt's desk was more like his studying dump.
"God, Matt, you left your half-eaten Pop-Tarts here," the blond complained, looking over Matt's trash so he could find his letter. He eventually found it half buried underneath a pair of dirty underwear.
"Don't throw them away. Maybe they're still good," was Matt's reply. Mello ignored him. He read the letter.
Calais's letter was… generic. A 'Hello, Awesome-Man. My name is Calais, nice to meet you.' kind of thing. It was clear that the writer was not very sure about what he was doing. They probably feared overdoing it, just like Mello did. Only this time, it was obvious. There was no way Near could be Calais.
"You know what would be funny? If I copied this word for word," Mello said. He was half-joking, but he did have a point. As he realized this, his face lit up. "Hey, Matt! Let me borrow a pen and a sheet of paper!"
Matt answered through what sounded like a sword slicing something. "Uh, sure. Look around."
Mello did look around, gave up, went to his bedroom and then came back with what he needed. Then he used one of Matt's discarded textbooks for a desk and began to write, word for word, what the insecure Calais had written. He only changed the names. "Well, this will confuse him," Mello muttered under his breath, a grin on his face. "Be right back, Matt. I gotta find María. I've got to have her send this to Near first thing in the morning."
"'S not Near," Matt reminded his friend, too absorbed in his game to get even slightly frustrated.
"Of course it is," Mello replied. And this time, he was more confident to be running against him. This time, he could win.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Death Note fan who has to write Near for the first time must feel intimidated and afraid. Or maybe that is just me. This chapter had a bit more Near than the last one—and, although it wasn't too much, I'm just not sure how I did it. Thoughts…? Any and all reviews will be greatly appreciated. :D