Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note, or any of its characters.

A/N: Hi peeps!

Wow, I had SO many problems with the ending, it's not even funny… v.v But please, tell me what you think! I've never written a fic this long without having much happening... XD It almost killed me, but I managed!

Take care!

Dedication: This one's for Cam, because he's the ingenious freaky guy who guess EXACTLY, without almost no prompt, what this story was going to be about…

Brilliant First or Second Best?

The dark car silently glided through the night, its headlights turned off dangerously. The driver, quite experienced with making his way through the darkened streets, didn't seem nervous at all. He could make his way to his destination with his eyes closed no problem.

The car made its way through the silent streets bordering the town, slithering lazily in the shadows at a slow speed. Eventually, they came across a large, haunting building. It seemed to have been built about ten to twenty years ago, a Victorian-style home with a protective iron fence.

The massive man standing at the gate shone his flashlight, an annoyed look on his face. The security guard's eyes then widened drastically as he began muttering apologies, recognizing the vehicle in front of him. Lowering his flashlight, he hurriedly unlocked the fence and pushed it open, still stuttering nervously as the limousine slowly rolled past him and up the driveway. The chauffeur parked, then climbed out of the vehicle, keeping it running, and slowly walked to the back of the limousine.

He carefully opened the door and a figure stepped out, a tall gray-haired man with a small mustache. He tipped his hat over his eyes as he peered at the building in front of him, a small grin lighting up his drawn features. This was his home, the one place in the world where he felt truly at ease, where he could relax and be himself. Away from all the troubles of the world.

"Watari… Could you move, please?" came another voice in the limousine. A middle-aged boy's voice.

Watari's warm grin turned in a sarcastic smile, as he moved sideways and looked down at the car. From the darkness came a pair of barefooted long legs, covered in washed-out blue jeans. Then came a long-sleeved, slightly dirty white sweater, then a mop of unwashed black hair. Through the darkness, Watari could distinguish the boy's eyes softening slightly as he peered at the Wammy's House, the place where he had spent most of his childhood.

The outside clock, perched high on the wall close to a lamp, indicated 11:47. As though he was reading in his companion's mind, the boy stated simply, "Thirteen minutes to midnight. The children should all be in bed."

"Should be," Watari smiled, "but some have probably sneaked past Roger's glare."

The pair entered the home, and both unconsciously stopped in the middle of the entryway, taking in the dark brown carpet and beige walls, the antique-looking furniture. It had been months they hadn't stepped in this place.

Simply so he wouldn't drown himself in nostalgia, Watari turned to the younger male. "L," he started softly, "I think I'll go to my apartment and get some sleep tonight. We'll leave early tomorrow, so I suggest you do the same." As he spoke, a sudden flash of memory overtook him. A souvenir of them, over seven years ago, having the exact same conversation at the exact same spot. That time, though, it had been for L's very first case. The elder couldn't believe that this boy- no, this man of twenty-three, was the same little boy he had brought to the orphanage over fifteen years ago. The shy, drawn little face had now grown in dull, yet intelligent features.

Still looking around himself, his tired eyes scanning the familiar entryway, L nodded distractedly. "I shall take a break," he assured the older man, "but I won't go to sleep."

'So typical. He hasn't changed all that much since he was young,' Watari told himself, forcing back a grin. But he chose not to voice his fatherly thoughts; instead, he simply murmured a question, "What will you do, then?"

L turned his gaze to meet Watari's as he spoke. "Talk to the kids who will still be awake."

"Good idea," the old man nodded, as he reached up to take his dark hat off. "I also have to remind you, Ryuzaki, that you should consider the identity of your future successor. In your line of business, no matter how secretive we may operate, there's always the possibility..."

L smiled lightly, though in the darkness Watari couldn't quite see it. "It's already narrowed down to a few. I have my idea which one I'll choose, though."

Watari simply nodded, as the corners of his lips turned up, making his mustache move. Deciding that answering would be somehow improper, he turned around and made his way down the darkened corridor, presumably towards the bedroom he claimed as his own.

Turning his back on Watari's retreating figure, L made his way down the halls. It seemed to him they were much smaller, more constricted, than the last time they came. It had been such a long time…

Soon, a sound made its way to L's ears, making him stop his haunting walk. Placing his hands in his pockets, he soon began following the sound, which clarified into a humming of some sort. He eventually halted in front of a shut door, and took one hand out of his pocket to grasp the doorknob.

He'd never been in this room much. It was the living room, the place where usually the older people stopped to discuss 'matters' with Roger about their children. Usually, the kids in the orphanage had bad memories of the place, which is why they steered clear of it.

It was strange that a child would be inside, especially at this hour. Gently, he twisted the doorknob and pushed it open before stepping inside.

He left the door propped open behind him, squinting slightly to see the source of the humming. A small child, kneeling in the exact middle of the room, was holding an airplane. He was waving it slowly around himself, adding the noise of its motor for effect, his eyes following the place.

L approached him, soon recognizing the child. Or rather, the pre-teenager, since the boy in front of him was exactly ten years old, despite his 4'4 stature. His hair was as white as snow, as was his baggy clothing. Even though his skin was paler than the normal human being, his eyes were jet black like L's. All around him were different models of planes, surrounding the small kneeling boy.

As soon as L had entered, Near turned his head lightly to look him in the eyes. The humming stopped as L stalked through the semi-darkness to sit six feet in front of the boy. The plane was lowered slightly, yet Near kept clutching it in his right hand, staring at L intently.

After a long, intense silence, L decided to speak first. "How are you doing, Near?"

"Fine," was the boy's reply in a soft, almost feminine voice. He offered no more indication of his present situation, which L deemed as shyness. The children around the orphanage all knew about the famous detective L, though they knew of L as Ryuzaki only. The strange boy with bahgy clothing and a knack for deserts couldn't hold the famous title of L they all fought for. Near, though, was one of the few whom he had revealed himself as L.

Near's arrival, only six months ago, had been the last time Watari and L had been in Wammy's House. The pair had been readying themselves to leave when Roger had come in, holding the hand of a little boy whose white head was cast low.

As soon as L had seen him, he had known. He had known that this boy would be greatly intelligent, would be something that all the others wouldn't be.

It didn't hurt that as soon as Near spotted L, he raised his obsidian eyes and had coolly stated, "Good luck with your future case, L", even though the latter hadn't even introduced himself.

'Whether it had been sheer chance or intuition, this boy will be one of the greatest detectives in the world one day,' L told himself as Near shifted lightly in front of him.

Curiously, L asked the burning question upon his mind. "How are you fitting in, Near?"

The boy stiffened lightly and the plane went down. Instantly, he began twirling a small bit of hair around his finger, lowering his eyes. "People at the orphanage aren't worth my time. I'm not here for them." When his eyes were raised again, they held a touch of admiration and hope. "I don't have any challenges here, L. Everything's too easy, I'd like to work alongside you."

'That much initiative at such a young age… Interesting…' The thoughts meddled in L's mind as he looked around them. He then noticed that some airplanes were made out of paper, which he reached over to pick up. He had known the boy as dreading simple toys, preferring the best models and the hardest puzzles.

He flipped the paper airplane over and noticed something that drew his attention. There was writing, a fine spidery scrawl all over the back of the five airplanes. L vaguely noticed that Near had begun playing with his plastic airplane once more and smiled. 'Working with Near, training him, would be quite interesting. Too bad he's so young.

"What are these, Near?" he finally questioned once he had gathered all the paper airplanes. It was too dark to notice exactly what was written, hence why he'd asked.

"Oh, that?" the young boy carelessly looked. "That's an essay I have to give in."

Just as he spoke, the glow of a lamp flooded through the room and another old man stepped in. This one was much thinner than Watari, yet still held the same solid compassion as him.

"Near, I told you hours ago to get to bed, it's way past bedtime and—" the man stopped, his eyes widening and his face breaking in a toothy smile. "Ryuzaki! What a surprise!"

L turned to stare at Roger, as did Near. The younger boy kept whirring his airplane in the air, yet L soon reached over to grab it. Both hands remained on the small plane, eyes directed upon Roger, as the raven-haired boy said, "Listen to Roger, Near. You should go to bed."

Near nodded and tore his gaze from Roger's, as he gathered all the toys and papers. "I'm not sleepy, Roger," he simply stated, yet the older man only grinned at L and leaded Near out of the room.

L took a few moments to digest the idea of Near officially becoming his successor. It was almost crystallized that he would be the one to follow in his footsteps- such talent and smarts had to be used somehow.

Slowly, he stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. There wasn't a single sound around him, which clearly told L that there wasn't any child still awake anymore. He, without even realizing it, began to make his way to the library. He was in a second state of wonder, his mind reeling with possibilities about Near, until he reached the heavy double doors that lead to the one place he had always felt secure during his childhood.

The library.

Entering, he took a deep breath, taking in the musty smell of old books that he had grown to love. He glanced around himself at the row upon row of books, all stacked against each other. Each section was composed of eight tablets, which made the bookcases about seven and a half feet high. They were placed quite hazardously; turning the library in a maze of knowledge that only the smartest children dared venture into. Children like those who resided in the Wammy's house.

As L stopped in front of a bookshelf, he reached up to touch a book lovingly. The book that had started it all, the one who had turned him from a child into an impending detective. As he picked out the thick volume that depicted the life of a famous man, L suddenly noticed that he could read the words. In fact, it was much too light for his night vision to do the trick.

Leaning down in the opening that he had created upon grabbing his book, he peered forward and noticed a lamp shining.

'The children here can't even remember to turn off lights,' L groaned to himself, 'and they expect me to find a successor here?'

Placing the book lovingly back on the shelf, L contoured the maze of books until he came across the table where the lamp was lit.

He stopped in mid-step, raising his eyebrows curiously at the sight in front of him. It was at the back of the library, on a desk close to the last bookshelf with the side propped against a wall. The window besides him offered a great view of the majestic trees during the day, yet at night, the only thing visible was the gloomy darkness outside.

At the desk was a writing boy.

The pen that rapidly etched upon the paper stopped abruptly. The boy's head remained dipped low, his bangs hiding his gaze as a slight growl of frustration ebbed from his lips. He had obviously noticed the movement in front of him, yet refused to raise his head.

"I'm not done yet," the blond stated angrily, gripping the pen angrily in his hand, soon balling his first around it.

Slowly, L made his way to the front of the desk, stopping directly a foot in front of the edge. Gently, he called out the boy's name. "Mello."

The boy peered up and met L's gaze for a penetrating second. Then he lowered his head, not saying a single word, and began scribbling on the paper again.

L also dipped his eyes, this time to study Mello's surroundings, just like he had done with Near earlier that night. Instead of airplanes, though, the ground was littered was balls of paper, pens, and stacks of books. Many were half opened to a certain page, or had strips of loose paper hanging from them. There were titles such as "Physics", "Astronomy", "Religion", "Evolution"; complicated volumes that had obviously all been read by the thirteen-year-old in front of him. All that research for a single essay. The same essay that Near had so easily discarded.

"When is it due?" L questioned the working boy.

"Tomorrow." The answer had been rapid, no-nonsense. Mello offered no more explanation about the essay, focusing on his writings instead.

Suddenly, though, Mello's hands shot forward, throwing the pen at the other end of the room. He then angrily grabbed the papers he had been working on, ripping them apart and shoving them on the ground recklessly. His face was contorted with anger, yet his eyes shone with despair as the papers finished their course on the ground besides him.

"This is not worth it," the younger boy snapped as he furiously grabbed his hair and slammed his elbows upon the desk. "No matter how hard I work on it, I'll never beat Near's score anyways!"

L frowned lightly at the sheer frustration in the boy's eyes. He never would've guessed that such animosity had been created between the two teenagers. He had figured that as soon as he had introduced himself as L to Mello, long before Near had even shown up at the orphanage, the boy would've gained in maturity. Mello wasn't one to need confidence; he only needed direction. Steer him in the right spot and let him go.

Yet when Near had arrived, L had to admit that the spotlight had been robbed from Mello's position. Children had gathered around the boy with the highest grade, and Mello had lost most of people's respect as he came up second time and time again.

Shaking his head, L noticed that Mello had started writing again, with a pencil this time. Deciding to do a bit of prodding, L placed his palms on the desk and said coolly, "If Near is always excelling, Mello, then why keep trying?"

That set off the boy. He slammed his pen down and shot a glare at L. Almost growling with animosity, Mello snapped, "What, so you place me in second too? Going to make Near your successor when I work my ass off all the time for you? For his position? When he just writes whatever and the teachers give him an excellent mark? Is that what you want for a successor?"

"What if I do?" L answered, not the least phased by the outburst.

"Then you suck," Mello continued, tearing the paper he had started working on once more. "And even if you don't pick me as a successor, then I'll learn on my own." Raising his eyes, he glared at L, hated visible in his features. "I will be number one no matter what, L."

'He has a point about Near…' L told himself, as the boy picked up a book and began to leaf through it aimlessly. "Well Mello, I am not fully looking for a boy like Near. He has amazing qualities, but there's something I see in you that he lacks."

Mello's face softened just the slightest. "And that is?"

"Fire," L complimented lightly, smiling slightly. "The passion for this line of work. You're brash and headstrong, I'm sure you'd make quite an unpredictable detective, whereas Near would take his time to consider and his opponent might see through his plans. You'd simply put everything into action without delay."

L then tapped the blank sheet of paper awaiting Mello's pen. "And you'll never give up, no matter how hard things get."

A sudden confident smirk lit up Mello's lips as he picked up his writing device. He didn't acknowledge L's compliments, only accepted them with a slight nod of his head.

Sensing that it would be quite a long night for the boy, L reached in his pocket and pulled out a small tablet. Gently, he lowered it on the top of a stack of book, before turning his back and walking towards the door.

"L?" Mello suddenly questioned. "Why did you place something on top of my books?"

L stopped and smirked lightly. "Near has my obsession of being a quiet weirdo. I would like you to share an obsession with me as well. Anyways, you'll need it tonight." Without saying another word, L turned around a bookshelf. He heard the boy incredulously say the word, "Chocolate?"

"Caffeine," L called out with a small smile as he finally crossed the threshold of the exit doors. "It's bound to keep you awake for the night."

As L finally chose to listen to Watari's advice and to head to his own bedroom, he realized that the smile still hadn't left his face. Those two had managed to figure out exactly how to make him adore them as though they were his own brothers.

Yet they weren't. They were his potential successor. One he'd raise above, and the other he'd shatter the dreams. They were both so alike, yet so different at the same time.

'They don't need my title. Seems like the two of them were designed to be just like me,' L told himself with a shake of his head. 'Both will succeed quite finely when the time will come. I have no worries of it.'