To the children of Wammy's, L was their hero. An idol. Everyone looked up to him, admired him, and held nothing but the utmost respect for the detective.

For a certain three boys it went much deeper than that. As the orphanage's top students, each one had the chance to take L's place should he die. They were his successors, his personal pupils. And so, when the detective visited, the three boys could expect more than a small 'hello'.

Near, Mello, and Matt; the first, second, and third in line, looked to L almost as a father figure. He knew all the answers, he was trustworthy, and seemed to know just what each of his students needed. Many who met and spoke with L would think the detective had a social disorder; a genius mind, but no communicative skills. Lack of friends most likely encouraged that theory. But the three boys knew different.

For Near, L was a calming presence; perhaps more like a brother than anything else. The resemblances in their actions were so similar it was uncanny. Hell, the two made structures with cubes (whether they be sugar or dice), sat in strange positions, carried the same expressions... they could pass as brothers.

Mello thought of L as a goal; a meaning in life, something to strive for. Like a child working his hardest to make his parents proud. Which, who knows, may be the true reason he hated Near; the first in line had all the spotlight leaving none for Mello. That never -never- sat well with the loud mouth blond, especially when he gave his all just for L to look his way. It was as if Mello was afraid that, should L not choose him, he would disappear. Having no meaning to exist anymore.

However, the third in line for the title of the greatest detective the world had ever seen, was a little different. As the last choice, Matt knew his being there wasn't important. Near and Mello were the true competition and while Matt wasn't far behind the two, he knew that he'd never catch up. Besides, if anything, the red head was more socially dyslexic than all the others put together. He holed himself in dark rooms playing games and making software. Mello was the only friend Matt had made and found himself dependent on the blond; following him around, doing whatever was asked. More like a dog than anything, but Matt didn't mind. Mello paid attention to him, and that's all that mattered.

Nobody noticed the red haired boy, and even though his grades were of the top three, it didn't change. People still bumped into him down the halls. Not seeing him, not remembering him, despite him living at the place for more than six years. And even though he brought it upon himself, it hurt to know that nobody would remember him. He was virtually invisible.

Which was why it was such a shock to find that L had declared Matt the runner up. Sure, it was third and the last option, but to be almost hand picked by the well known detective himself, to be acknowledged for his talent... That was more than Matt could hope for. But while he was eternally grateful to have those dark eyes watch him with approval as his scores climbed, the gamer was a little skeptical. After all, why give him such hope? Why taunt him with the chance to gain celebrity? Especially when everyone knew the boy could never handle such a responsible job.

Those kind of questions were answered on a stormy night in July.

L was coming to visit in the morning. So it came to no surprise that Roger had trouble putting the children to bed. With all the anticipation, it took a while for sleep to come to many but for some reason Matt wasn't able to. Mello, across the room, snored quietly and the house was filled with a silence only accompanied by breathing from the many rooms full of orphans.

Rain and thunder shook the old stone structure of the orphanage, resulting in a barely noticeable sway as Matt lay on his bed on the third floor. Usually, the beat of the rain would lull the red head to sleep, and he was exceptionally tired seeing as the night before was spent playing Halo 3 until four in the morning.

He turned to the left, then to the right, rolled onto his stomach, but nothing seemed comfortable and the gamer grew frustrated. Giving up on trying to sleep, the red head was about to reach for his Nintendo DS on the night stand when a slight clicking sound resonated from the hallway and Matt paused, listening hard.

The second time the sound reached his ears it seemed closer than before. Footsteps, he realized. Too quiet, which meant the person wasn't wearing shoes and there were only two people Matt knew who refused to wear shoes.

Curious, Matt straightened from bed, throwing the navy blue comforter and sheets to the side as he slipped his feet into a pair of black and white striped slippers. Patting across the room normally, he wasn't worried about making noise as he opened the dorm room door. Mello was a heavy sleeper and Matt found it easy to sneak out to the kitchens when he wanted to during restless nights like these.

The hallway was too dark to see any kind of figure but the footsteps were still there, a faint shuffling to the right, heading toward the stairs. With nothing else to do, Matt followed, not caring whether the person knew he was there or not. In the dark, Matt and the figure in front made it to the ground floor and into the kitchens.

The person Matt was following suddenly flipped the light switch, flooding light across the room and revealing the figure to be L, the great detective himself. Matt started for a second, a little shocked a first seeing his idol sneaking in the kitchen (for cake he realized) like a regular kid would.

"L," He asked tentatively, though he didn't know why, the man was certainly there, placing a generous slice of strawberry cake on a plain white plate. "Roger told us you were coming tomorrow."

Finally looking away from his midnight snack, L's dark eyes stared into ones of dark blue, the orange goggles for once not obscuring the beautiful pools of amethyst. Slowly, L's indifferent face softened into a small smile, "We got here early, or late rather, considering it is one-forty-two in the morning."

That was all the older man offered as he turned back to the treat on the counter, bringing it to the small table only the cooks used. The detective sat in a wooden chair, legs pulled up against his chest in the customary position, stabbing a strawberry with his fork. Matt nodded, a little embarrassed that he had been caught so off guard. Of course, it was perfectly reasonable for their arrival to be earlier than planned and it wasn't as if L had to wake all the children up when he walked through the door of Wammy's. "Would you like to join me, Matt?"

The gamer was startled at the invitation and when the found L looking at him, face a mix between curiosity and amusement, he wouldn't help but blush. The attention was uncomfortable but not unwanted and Matt realized that this would be the first time he had any alone time with the detective seeing as Mello and Near were asleep. Nodding Matt traveled to the stainless steel counter tops, opening a ceramic jar in the corner and putting a few chocolate chip cookies within onto a plate from the cabinets above. The gamer quickly made a glass of milk for himself before sitting at the table, taking one of the cookies and dipping it into the dairy to let it seep.

L looked pleased and Matt wondered if it was from the cake or the company. "You are doing very well in your Network class," The detective stated, striking up an easy conversation.

Matt nodded, taking a bite of the cookie and swallowing before he answered, "It's pretty easy, actually. I think I know more about it than the teacher. Had to correct her in wiring the other day."

"That is not good. How is a person to teach another if one doesn't know the concept?" When Matt nodded in agreement, L changed topics, "What brought you here, Matt? Could you not sleep?"

Cheeks tinting pink, feeling embarrassed for some reason, Matt shook his head, "It must be the storm or something." There was a minute of silence between the two as they ate until Matt had to ask, "Why can't you sleep, L?"

A smile was sent his way, "I suppose my mind is just on the newest case, it's quite different than the others I've come across."

"Not hard I hope."

"No, not too difficult, I believe it will come to a close soon. But no matter, how are you, Matt? You are serving detention again, Roger tells me. Along with Mello."

The blush grew. "We were caught hiding away all of Near's toys."

"Not your idea, I hope."

"N-no, Mello said it was revenge for Near telling Roger not to give him anymore chocolate."

The smile on L's lips fell and the detective brought a thumb to his mouth, "Why do you follow Mello if it gets you into trouble, Matt?"

Dark blue eyes looked into black and Matt smiled slightly, "Because he's everything to me. I'd do anything for him."

"Why?"

A sigh. "I'm not sure how to explain. There's just something there. I love him, I guess. In a strange, masochistic way. It may harm me to be around him; he's violent sometimes, hard to talk to, and so competitive I'm afraid to play games with him. But I know I'd never leave him, I suppose I really am just his dog. I'm okay with that though; as long as he sees me."

"Sees you?"

The small amount of courage Matt had gathered to talk about his friend washed away and the blush returned to his cheeks as he looked away to the two cookies left on his plate. "Yeah," His voice was quiet, far away. "He's the only one who does. The others kids here have no idea who I am, you know? If I just disappeared, people would just ask, 'where's that nerdy kid that hangs around Mello?'."

"Do you truly think that, Matt?"

The reply was just as quiet and Matt looked back up, knowing the question was a serious one. "Yes."

"Well, I would like to inform you that Mello, Near, and I would search for you, always. And with three genius minds working together, I'm sure we would find you, wherever you disappear to."

Matt let out an undignified snort, "Thanks, L, that means a lot. But Mello and Near would never work together."

Tilting his head to the side, L took another bite of frosted colored sweet, and for a split second the dark eyes glazed over; the only evidence that L was (for lack of better metaphor) in heaven. Matt could have laughed at the sight had L not swallowed and started to speak, "You would be surprised how two rivals can find it in themselves to work together for a common good."

Shaking his head slowly, Matt took another cookie and seeped it in the milk, "I'll believe that when I see it. But even if they did, I can't see them doing it for me, of all things. Besides, Mello may be my friend, and I'm sure the feelings mutual, but Near merely acknowledges my presence. He has no real reason to look for me if I go missing." Matt paused, taking a breath before saying, "And neither do you."

The fork in L's hand was placed on the plate, next to the half eaten cake, and those wide, observing eyes stared hard into Matt's. "That is the most preposterous thing I have ever heard from you, Mail," The sound of his birth name hit hard and the red head across the table flinched. "You believe Near and I do not care for you?"

"No," He was quick to defend. "I know you do, it's just- why would you? I've never done anything for Near besides assist Mello by picking on him. And You- well, you're L. You have better things to do than take care of some kid. I mean, I'm not any competition, we all know you're not going to pick me to succeed you and I'm fine with that!" As soon as the words were out, the gamer knew he was in trouble; he broke the silent promise to never admit what he felt about the situation.

Matt stood from the table, ready to run. He could not break down here, not in front of L. But the words were already coming, he couldn't stop them if he tried (and he did), "So why am I here? Why are you giving me hope to become something I'll never be no matter how hard I try?! I'm unimportant, useless, and have no reason to be here, so why do you take me in and treat me like I matter?!" He was yelling now, and he knew that the other orphans would hear, but his mind was on shut down.

His emotions took over his body, possessed him. Anger. At L, at the orphanage, at everything that made him who he was, because it gave him hope. Hope that he knew was going to be crushed mercilessly in the future and yet he still craved it. There was a hint of depression, because he knew they were playing with him; a game of 'lets see how long we can torture the geek before he breaks down'. They weren't his friends; L was looking for potential successors, Mello was looking for a dog to do his biding and Near... didn't care at all either way.

He was alone, and that fact hit him hard.

The feelings burned in his chest, like a fire. Cheeks were damp with the tears he tried his hardest to hold back, but now they fell in rivers. His whole body shook with the unexpected break down. And his mouth was a completely separate entity; screaming his fears, going on and on about the thoughts he had bottled up for so long. He couldn't look at the detective sitting at the table. He didn't want to see the disappointed look he must be wearing.

God he was pathetic, Matt was falling apart at one-forty-five in the morning, in the kitchen, because he wasn't good enough. And in front of his idol no less. "It's like a sick and twisted torture," He admitted, voice strained. "Taking someone that means nothing and giving them the chance to become something. I can't! I could never be like Near; getting things right the first try, cold and calculating, winning at everything. And I'll never be like Mello; getting things done by sher determination, fierce and demanding, able to withstand anything.

No, I'm the geeky kid in the corner, watching everyone else carry on with their lives while I play my stupid games! I have no friends, no skills other than making software and pushing buttons. Anybody could do that! I'm not special like you seem to think I am, L! Nobody needs me here, nobody needs me anywhere! So stop pretending like it matters whether I disappear or not cause nothing would change!"

The swinging door to the kitchen flew open, a surprised, almost scared looking Roger standing in the doorway, "What's going on?"

Violently, Matt shook his head and passed the old man by, running out of the kitchen and into the foyer, taking the stairs two at a time. He heard his name being called but he could tell if it was Roger's voice or L's. The red head didn't stop. The halls were dark but he could see a few doors open; heads poking out to see what the disturbance was.

Getting to his room, Matt threw open his door, slamming and locking it behind him; placing the desk chair underneath the handle. After he was sure nobody could get in, Matt took long strides to his bed and crawled in, bringing the blankets up and over his head.

Tears instantly soaked the pillow and a sob escaped his tightly clenched throat. He hated himself for losing his calm; he had screamed at L, insulted him, and completely ruined anything that might have been going for him. It was the first time L and Matt had spoken one on one and he royally fucked it up.

"Matt," A voice croaked from the other side of the room and the gamer shut his eyes tightly. He had forgotten about Mello; he was not alone, and he couldn't let out his frustration with the other in the room. "What's going on?"

Matt didn't answer. He couldn't answer, the tears spilling from his eyes and the sobs catching in his chest didn't give him the chance. But he didn't have to, for a second later a knocking was heard on the door, Roger's rough, old voice traveling through the wood, "Matt, please open the door so you can explain yourself."

"No," He yelled out from under the blankets, the short answer easy to let out in his rage. "Leave!"

"That is no way to speak to me, nor was it right for you to speak to L in such a way. Open this door now."

The fresh reminder of his confession to the detective only pained him more; the pressure in his chest expanding like it was ready to explode. Matt wouldn't answer, burrowing into the covers like a child trying to escape the world. Another sob came out, and then another, short hiccuping inhales let out with small whimpers. The knocking on the door grew more urgent and Matt could imagine the crowd that must be in the hall. Children come to see who was being a big baby; crying and throwing a fit because of something stupid and silly.

Well, screw them, Matt thought. He was being a baby. He was crying and throwing a fit, and he guaranteed, had anybody else been in his shoes, they'd have done the same thing.

Another sob; they were uncontrollable now.

Roger was saying something through the door but Matt stopped listening. He shivered, adrenalin and lung wrenching sobs shaking his frail body none too gently. Mello was trying to talk to him, but Matt refused to answer any and all questions.

He wanted to be alone. He wanted to cry, scream, and cower to his heart's content in some place far away from the world and it's occupants. Nobody needed to see him break down. Calm, lonely, do-what-everyone-says Matt, didn't want pity; he wanted everything to go back to what he considered normal. Where he would sit down for the day in a nice fluffy chair, x-box game controller in hand.

In the game, he was the hero, he was the savior everyone knew and loved. That was all he needed. It didn't matter if it wasn't reality, so what if in real life he was just a loser with no friends. It made him happy to defeat the boss and save the world because that meant he accomplished something, which was more than he had ever done in life.

Suddenly, the bed shifted as more weight was added and a hand landed on his blanket covered shoulder. "Matt," And the red head flinched, because it was L's voice. L was sitting on his bed, talking to him in a kind but firm tone. Matt shuddered, his sobs becoming quieter as he forced them down to his chest where the emotions throbbed. Holding onto the comforter and sheets tighter, Matt closed his eyes, waiting for some kind of punishment for what he had said. "I understand."

Matt never knew how the tears could run down his cheeks so fast. L continued, "I understand how you feel now, and I thank you for telling me." Another pause. "But you misunderstand. You are not just the last option should something happen to Mello or Near. You are special, Matt." Hands lightly pulled at the covers and Matt let them go, turning his head into the damp pillow, hiding his tear stained face with shame. "Do you know why I truly chose you, Matt?" The boy shook his head. "It is because you are the median. With you, I believe Mello and Near can work together. A three man team."

Sniffing, trying to keep his face hidden, breathe through the sobs that still wanted out, and answer at the same time was difficult and the result was a wavering reply that was barely heard through the hiccups. "How could I do that? Only one person can be L."

"Who said that? L is just a title, and the responsibility of the greatest detective in the world is heavy. I could never get by without Watari's help. All three of you could take the name, Matt. You could make that happen." A hand went through Matt's red hair, smoothing it out and untangling the strands. It helped him breathe easier and his tears slowed. "Matt, we all care for you; Mello, Near, and I. We would never let something happen to you. Isn't that enough? The rest of the world's opinion should not matter."

Taking a shuddering breath, Matt whimpered and sat up, wrapping his arms around the torso in front of him, burrowing his face in the white shirt of his idol. L sat normal for once to allow room for Matt's body and his arms returned the embrace, one of the hands continuing to thread through the red tendrils, further calming his fears.

More arms were around him, and on his left, a head of blond hair laid against his shoulder; Mello. A hand was set on his other shoulder, a tensive touch at first but seeing as the person giving the attention was Near, the action spoke louder than words. With the three surrounding him in kind warmth, it didn't take long for the tears to dry up and the sharp pains in his chest to ebb away, leaving a slight soreness behind to remind him that they were even there.

Slowly, Matt pulled away, hesitant that L would leave should he let go, but the smile given to him soothed his worries and the red head used the white and black stripped sleeve of his pajamas to wipe his face. "Thanks," He whispered, loud enough for the three of them to hear. "I'm sorry."

L shook his head softly, took his own sleeve and helped at removing the tear stains from the boy's cheeks. "It is alright, Matt. You are an important person in this competition, and while you are not running for first place, you are just as good as Near and Mello," He replied. Then the smile on his face became more original. "Do you know why I believe you can bring these two stubborn pupils of mine together?"

Silent, Matt shook his head and glanced at Mello and Near for a second or two. Both boys looked concerned for him as neither boy had seen the gamer in such a state. They were closer to the red head than they usually were. Near sat on the bed, one leg pulled up to his chest and looking at Matt with an indifferent face. However, knowing the kid long enough, Matt knew to look into the eyes and sure enough, the normally cold and calculating pools were soft and searching. Looking for the reason to his distress and running through scenarios in his mind of how to correct it.

Mello was standing beside Matt to the left, arms crossed now that he was no longer hugging his friend as if he didn't know what to do with them. Hard eyes, usually full of fury, were looking him over observingly. If it had been any other situation besides Matt having a mental breakdown, the blond probably would have yelled at Near the moment the albino stepped into the room. And for the boy to still hold his tongue now that it seemed the worst was over, only proved to Matt how worried his friend was.

In place of the pains Matt experienced in his chest earlier, a kind of warmth enveloped him. A tingle of happiness from his sternum to the tips of his fingers and toes. They cared. And Matt was so relieved and proud to have been there at that moment that he almost started to laugh. Albeit a kind of eerie, it's-not-funny-but-I'm-just-so-glad laugh that would probably freak them out. Luckily, L started talking before he had the chance, "You're clothes."

It took a few strange, silent seconds for that answer to sink in, and really, they were geniuses, it was kind of sad. When it finally clicked, the three in line for L's name let out a very dignified and justifiable, "What?"

The black haired man just smiled. "You're clothes give it all away. Do you know how?"At the shakes of his student's heads L laughed lightly. "Well, Near, you wear nothing but white all the time. White symbolizes purity, a wholeness, a sense of clear thinking. Near's strong points are observations and predictability. He can almost easily tell who the perpetrator is and how they committed the crime.

Mello, you typically wear nothing but black. This tells us that you are mysterious, surprising, and carry a sense of potential and possibility. In olden countries it was considered the encourager of death. Mello is exceptionally good at physical ordeals; hand to hand, guns. He is able to get into the minds of the criminals themselves and figure out why the crime was committed in the first place.

While white is the manifestation of all colors, black is the absence of all colors. In a way, Mello and Near are completely separate and opposite entities." Shifting on the bed, the detective brought his legs up in his normal way, thumb in front of his mouth. "And Matt, what do you normally wear?"

Slightly sniffling, Matt answered in a small voice, his genius mind turning the gears, wondering how all this made any difference, "Black and white stripped shirt, jeans, black boo-"

"The shirt is black and white, yes. You wear both the colors Near and Mello represent. Why? Did you do it subconsciously, perhaps? Either way, Near lacks skills Mello may gain, and Mello lack skills Near may gain, you however, are able to gather all information and represent both colors. Mello and Near's methods are good. And they work. You, however, bring something to the table the other two do not have.

Take an investigation for example. Near has the ability to correctly decide who the criminal is. Mello can predict how the criminal will react. In doing so, the two could join together; share their observations, and find a way to bring the man or woman to justice. Matt, with your uncanny skills at computers and technical development, you have the ability to get inside the action. You gain the evidence needed to arrest the suspect. That is something Near and Mello can not do. With this, you could be the link that holds you as a team. It is quite easy, and I can see it happening."

The three boys in question were quiet, unsure how to comment on the long speech that, unsurprisingly, made a lot of sense. Near was the first to interrupt the silence, "You wish for us to work together, as one. Three people masquerading as L. Is that possible?"

Smiling once again, the man everyone looked up to nodded. "You could do it, I am positive. So you see, Matt, you are very important. Not merely third in line to be my successor. And for that I am more than thankful." A hand came up and patted Matt's hair, the smile directed to the gamer and making him blush with the attention.

"Well, he's stupid anyway for thinking he's not," Came an irritable voice. Mello's arms uncrossed themselves from his chest and curled into fists, the right one coming down on Matt's left arm firmly. It wasn't enough to hurt but the message was clear 'Never think something like that again'. It made Matt smile, knowing Mello cared.

"Why must you be so violent? Is that how you treat friends of yours," Near responded from Matt's right. "Especially since he's had a very trying night." He was standing up for him, Matt realized, and the happiness he felt just continued to grow. The smile on his face never faltered, even when Mello picked up his pillow, sailing it over his head to his the white haired boy. Even when insults were yelled out next to his ear and Near calmly hinted at things that only offended him further, Matt smiled.

Looking up to their idol, he found the man was doing the same.

"Are we quite done, sirs," Roger asked, still in the doorway. "I must remind you the time is three o'clock, children should be asleep now."

"Yes, of course, Roger. My apologies," L replied and turned around to start shooing the three boys to bed. He helped Matt get comfortable, pulling the covers up to his chin before ruffling his red hair slightly. Then did the same to Mello across the room, drawing the 'grand Near and Mello fight' to a close. Afterwards, Near and L said their good-nights before leaving, door closing softly behind them.

For a few moments, nothing was heard but the sound of the two boys breathing and Matt found that the storm had stopped. Then, Mello asked, "Did you really think that you're unimportant, Matty?"

The nickname surprised the red head, and for some reason the question made him feel ashamed. "I did. I guess it was kind of stupid now, huh?"

"It was," The blond agreed and Matt wished he could see his face, it was too dark. "You're important to me. You're my best friend, Matt, and I would give anything for you, you know? So stop thinking like that. Putting people down is my job and I can't do that with you beating me to it. If I want you to feel inferior... I'll tell you. Until then, shut your damn trap."

He couldn't help it, the way Mello shows affection was just too funny. Ordering him not to feel sad and expecting him to follow it like the good dog he was. Matt laughed; short soft chuckles that lightened up tension he never knew was there. With an idea in mind, Matt sat up for the second time that night, and slid out of bed. Feet patting across the room, Matt soon stood next to Mello's bed and pushed the blond in the shoulder to gain his attention. "My pillow is wet and it's cold," He said.

Mello rolled his eyes and scooted next to the wall of the small twin bed watching as his best friend joined him under the covers. "Aren't you a little old for this?"

"No, besides, you're like a mini heater."

"It's not even winter."

"So?"

"So, get your foot off me."

"It's not my fault you have such a small bed."

"If you don't like it, go back to your own."

Laying on his side, facing the blond, Matt let out a sigh and pressed his forehead against Mello's arm. "I didn't say I don't like it." Mello just snorted. "Mello," Matt called, voice getting softer with exhaustion. "Thank you."

It took a while for Mello to answer, and Matt was starting to fall asleep, thinking there was none. "You don't have to thank me. You do enough for me every day. It's only right to return the favor."

With that, Matt snuggled closer to the blond and got comfortable, eyelids suddenly too heavy to keep open. With a last sigh, Matt let the result of his emotional roller coaster ride take fold and he fell into a dreamless sleep, deep and rejuvenating. And in the back of his mind, Matt knew that from now on, nothing would be the same. Because he knew Mello, Near, and L cared for him; he knew he was important. That his life had meaning, and he could become somebody with respect, and authority.

He could be the glue that holds everything together.

The thought itself was enough to make him smile. And it was all thanks to L; the man he considered to be his confidence; the one he would give anything to. Because L was the person to open his eyes and show him the black and white.

And the stripes of both he wore proudly.

...Author's Note...

Wow, this idea came out better than expected. Hope you liked it! I had fun writing it. Matt is awesome!

Ha ha, anyway, please review, I love feedback.

Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note.