Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note. Still. And good thing, too. Can you imagine? You guys would still be waiting for it to be updated. AMIRITE. Lyricslines is Tegan and Sara with 'Hell'

Note: I am a despicable person who cannot update stories properly even when the chapter only needs her to bloody well follow the manga and add some sex. I am useless, I know. So here is an update. Hopefully I will get some Passages up soon. Honestly i love this story quite a lot and really hope I don't leave it YET AGAIN. If you are still reading, thank you. And Happy New Year.

Chapter title has nothing to do with the chapter, it's just the only food that was mentioned. Bad language increases through the chapter. More vague smut towards the end. A note on the dialogue here: some of it follows actual scenes from the manga/anime. I don't have my copies with me. I'm using an internet version and paraphrasing some bits. I apologise for that. Usually I'm a stickler for canon, but I just modified some stuff to make it fit better. It's nothing major, literally just phrasing. Just wanted to apologise. Anyway...enjoy.

By the way, I don't think I've done justice to the HQ scene. I love that scene more than words can express. It might even be my favourite scene overall. Yellowbox doesn't count.

x

no, i'm not ready for a big bad step in that direction...

...no, we're not ready for hell, hell no, for hell, hell no

-

Halle does not remember falling asleep. In fact, she does not remember much of the last day at all, beyond smoky skin, the ice of blue eyes and the fire of tongues and teeth.

Mello, predictably, is not there when she wakes up. Nothing of him remains, nothing to indicate he was there except for a tear in her dressing gown and an unpleasant, jumpy feeling deep in her stomach.

A part of her brain is working. This part looks at the clock, notes the time, runs through the list of things she must do before leaving for work, the process of getting ready. This part wonders if Matt got back alright, and has decided on skipping breakfast and bringing a granola bar to headquarters. The rest of her brain thinks nothing, feels nothing, except the dirty stickiness of sweat and sex, and the overwhelming desire to crawl into a bath and not get out until the water has gone cold.

She gets up. Because after everything, after all the confusion and flurries and heat and uncertainty, the day is not waiting for her to collect herself. She cradles her head in her hand, sitting on the edge of her bed. There is a soft knock on the door.

"Halle?" Matt's voice is muffled behind the wood.

"Come in," she says, reaching for her dressing gown. She pulls it around herself, and notices the tear anew. Where Mello tore it off, she thinks, absently, and shifts the folds round until it is all but out of sight, reduced to a trick of the light.

The door opens, and light spills in. "I just wanted...well, I know you normally get up a little earlier than this, so I just wanted to make sure you were alright." The way he finishes his sentence makes it sound almost like a question.

"I'm fine," she says, a little curtly. She can feel Matt flinch, and rebukes herself silently. He has done nothing, she reminds herself. If you are distressed by the fact that you had sexual intercourse with Mello, you have no one to blame but yourself. "I'm fine," she repeats, more quietly, more gently, tempering her voice with every ounce of restraint she can muster. The rest of her brain is starting to wake up, and she is beginning to feel as if she wants to scream.

"What did Mello want last night?"

She opens her mouth to reply, and realises she has no lie prepared. She gets to her feet, still clutching her dressing gown around her, as if shielding her body from Matt will undo what has been done.

It doesn't work. She can feel each beat of her heart very keenly under her clenched fists, can feel the rush of each breath of air into and out of her lungs.

"Halle?"

"I don't know," she says, her brain rushing to fill the silence with something, anything, any lie, anything in the world except the truth. "He never came."

"Oh. You must have been asleep when he was here then."

There is something curious in Matt's voice that makes her turn around to face him. Then, she catches her breath.

His lip is split, and there is a bruise blossoming underneath one of his eyes. He seems to be otherwise unharmed, but the evidence of an altercation is scrawled all over him, written into the angle of his shoulders, the flutter of his eyes as he drops his gaze to avoid her searching look, the shame on his face.

"What happened?" she asks, half breathless.

He shrugs. "Mello." He doesn't even bother lying to her.

"Oh."

"I met him outside. As soon as he saw me, he just..." he mimed throwing a punch. "I fought back," he added, and grinned a little. "Ow!" He winced, and brought a hand to his lip.

"Try not to smile," Halle advised him. "Or have an expression of any kind."

He smiled again. "Sonofabitch!"

She watched him, her brow creased. "Why did he hit you?"

Matt shrugged again. "Dunno. It's just what Mello does."

"Hit you?"

"Hit everyone." Matt scuffs his foot against the ground. "That's how Mello interacts with the world. I hack it, Near decodes it, Mello hits things until they give him what they want."

"That's a little..." She frowns again. "That doesn't sound very much like the way L did things."

"Oh, it is." Matt raises his head, and brings his eyes to meet Halle's. "Because Mello knows exactly what to hit to get the answer. And he'll keep hitting it and hitting it until it gives in."

Halle shudders. She listens to Matt's words, and remembers a tongue on her neck and rough, burnt hands around her breasts.

"I've got to shower," she says, excusing herself.

"Halle." Matt catches her on the way out of the room. "Look, I just wanted to say...thank you. So much. For everything. For looking after me, for feeding me, and...well, most of all, for Mello. Without you...without you he'd be dead. And then – then I dunno what I'd do. Without him..." He looks away, and Halle thinks he is finished, until he draws a breath, and says, "Mello's always been the reason for me. He's stronger, he's got more ideas, he's got definition, purpose – I follow him. That's what I do. Without him I would just come to a stop and never be able to keep going. So...thank you. For everything."

Halle stares at him with a mixture of heart-break and compassion. She lays a hand on his cheek. "Matt," she murmurs, pulling him into a hug. Awkwardly, he puts his arms around her, and it strikes her how much bigger than her he really is, despite his youth and gangliness.

They hug in silence. For some indefinable reason, this feels like goodbye.

Something wells up in her throat. "I have to shower," she says again,excusing herself. And forbids herself from thinking until she is under the steady, hot jets of water, secure and alone in her bathroom.

Then, she leans against the wall, and exhales.

What the fuck had she been thinking?

Mello was – no, is – the enemy. Mello killed her co-workers. Mello killed Soichiro Yagami. Mello robbed the Japanese taskforce of a Death Note, and cost the lives of countless Mafioso's. Mello beat up his best friend, the one who dragged him from the rubble of the base he blew up, dragged him to somewhere he could get help, dragged him across the country bleeding and unconscious –

- And Mello is shredded diamonds and a boy on the cusp of manhood, all intertwined insecurity and overconfidence, ice cold fire and skin like a map of tragedy. Mello is a half-destroyed wreck, a cascade of brilliance, blazing so brightly that he is undoubtedly going to burn himself up and tear himself to pieces. Mello is strong and Mello is weak and Mello is a terrible, terrible anger, the type you can't control, the type that curls up inside you and festers and waits for years – years of being second, of being the Not Quite Good Enough boy with the broken past and thorn-crusted soul. Mello is the enemy and Mello is the only one who can solve this thing, because Mello is the only one with any actual guts, the only brave one, the only strong one, the only wild one, the only –

Halle draws a breath, long and shuddering. Water flecks her lips, and she closes her eyes as it runs over her face. She slept with Mello.

And she would do it again.

-

She barely registers what goes on for most of that day. Near issues instructions and she obeys. That is her duty now. She is not here to think, to calculate, to set up intricate ambushes or spend long nights on stakeouts because she just knows that this is their guy. Her duty is to listen to this slight, half-invisible boy and obey him.

Some days, she resents it. Today, her mind is elsewhere.

It occurs to her, just after lunch, when she is reading an update from a file to Near, how very different he and Mello are. In her mind, they both flash up, next to each other. Everything vibrant, everything bright, is lacking in Near. He moves like a ghost, or the child of a ghost, translucent and white and quiet and unfaltering. Mello is all mistakes and all half-assed plans that end up in explosions and scars, all colour and emotion and wildness.

Near, she thinks, is like the faded shadow of Mello, of what he might have been if he had chosen another path. Between the two of them, they might make a whole. Each has what the other lacks. Between the two of them, they might be unstoppable. They might be terrifying.

Was this, she wonders, what L was like?

For the first time in her life, she wishes she had met him. She pictures him in her mind, from the descriptions she has garnered – a slender man, hunched and tired, a shock of black hair. Did he have Mello's fire? Did he have Near's calculative eyes?

Vaguely, distantly, she thinks she is beginning to understand. There is much, much more to the Kira case than Kira now. At the base of it, behind it all, like the wizard behind the curtain, is L. Since the moment he entered the case, his presence – his existence – has governed the actions of every single person involved.

This is not the Kira case. This is the L case.

And then Near is talking again. It is long, and convoluted, and Halle is struggling to follow it. Rester has come up behind her, and seems to be doing better than she is.

"...are you serious?!"

"Yes. I believe the second L is Kira."

This much, Halle can understand. She comes thudding back to earth, her eyes wide.

"What?"

"The second L is Kira. Whoever he is."

Halle stares. The second L? The man (she assumes) they've been working with all this time? The one leading the Japanese taskforce?

...the taskforce. Who saw Mello's face.

There is every chance that Kira has seen Mello's face.

She tries to ignore the way her heart has contracted at this realisation. Something seems to be making her head spin, and she fights for control. Near is talking again.

Rester is protesting. He is saying something about this being conjecture, about Near not being sure. And then Near turns around, and the look he gives him and the ice in his tone make it clear that this point is not open for negotiation.

Halle can feel her heart thudding in her chest. Possibly..quite possibly...after all this time, they have found their target.

And he is so close they can touch him.

For a moment, a brief moment, she forgets about Mello. Her mind has focused itself, like sunlight through a magnifying glass, the way it has been trained to. The second L. Obviously, he was a member of the Japanese taskforce, or someone close to them. It is probable he knew L. That would mean that he –

The realisation hits Halle, and she feels sick.

It would mean that Kira and L had, in all probability, been working side by side on the Kira investigation when Kira took L's life.

The viper they have been looking for is sleeker and craftier than she had ever imagined.

There is a heavy banging on the door, and Near keys in the code to open it. Gevanni is standing there, looking frantic, his eyes wide.

"Near! Everyone! Switch over to satellite, you have to see this. Right now."

The screens change and the Vice President's image fills the screen. President, now, Halle reminds herself. His voice echoes out from the console.

"What's this?" Rester says from behind her. "A broadcast? Why didn't we –"

"Shh!" Near holds up a finger. He is watching the screen.

"And that is why we, the USA, have acknowledged Kira," says the Vice President. He looks old and weak and tired and afraid, and Halle can feel the floor underneath her crumbling away.

Everything they have built, everything they have been working for –

Everything in the world that stands against Kira has been cut away in a single breath.

They're being disbanded.

Kira has won.

-

After the dust has settled, and Rester has stopped loudly and obscenely decrying America, politicians and everything else vaguely attached to the broadcast they witnessed, Near speaks.

"This is not the end."

"You heard that bastard!" Rester points at the now dead screen. "We're illegal!"

Near inclined his head. "Nevertheless, we will perservere."

Halle stops listening. Her mind is filled to the brim with everything that has happened, with Kira, with their being disbanded, with America's acceptance of Kira, with Mello –

She settles on something and clings to it. Matt.

Matt is young and he is honest and he is alive. She can focus on that, for now. She can narrow in on that. Think of Matt, nothing else, think of Matt sitting in your apartment, fixing himself something to eat, watching some cable –

And then, Near's words catch her again. "...wouldn't you let them live?"

He is talking about the SPK deaths, she realises. He is talking about Mello.

"Mello is alone. He needs help from someone. We cannot get in contact with him, that much is clear...we must let him come to us."

She is astonished. Near...Near intends on sharing information with Mello. All of it, by the sounds of it. Why? Why now? Why only when -?

But she stops herself. The way Near's mind works is not for her to divine. Trying...trying to do that is like trying to catch smoke in your hands, to weave yourself a necklace out of the strands of the breeze.

"How do you know he's alive?" she manages, her voice kept level only by conscious effort. "His base exploded."

Near does not move. He simply says, "He's alive." He says it with such conviction, and as if it were so very obvious, that for a moment, a chilling moment, a thrill of fear turns Halle's blood cold. He knows, she thinks. He knows he knows he knows he –

"You will all have to wear bugging devices. In particular, Halle Lidner. The possibility of him contacting you is significantly higher than for Gevanni or Mr Rester."

Halle is startled. Guilt, she thinks, colours everything. She cannot shake from the back of her mind the feeling that Near knows.

"What? Why me?"

"You are female," he says, very simply. "In a confrontation, he will be able to overpower you more easily. He will also perceive you as weaker."

Maybe, Halle thinks, that should insult her. But she knows them both – Near and Mello – far, far too well by now.

"I'll do it," Gevanni says, adding his support to Rester's. Near's eyes fall on Halle.

She looks down, momentarily, fractionally, instinctively. She is sure it was enough for him to guess, and hates her body for betraying her mind.

"I'm in too," she says, quietly.

Her blood is pounding in her ears. This day...this day – she would give anything for it not to have happened. When she returns home, she is going to have to be wearing a wire. If Matt is there, Near will know. If Mello comes, Near will know. If she so much as lets slip one hint of what she has been involved in –

She is walking a very slender and very dangerous line – balancing on the edge of a knife, with all of oblivion gaping below her. There is no way she is not going to be found out. And when she is, when Near gains proof for what she is sure he already knows, there will be nowhere on earth she can hide.

Near is talking still. Talking and talking and talking – does he never stop?! Halle swallows. She is feeling sick. Her heart is pumping faster than it should, and she offers a silent prayer to nothingness that she has long ago learnt to school her expressions, to keep herself firm, and static, and quiet, in the face of all adversity.

And still, for a moment, she wavers, and feels the incredible weight of everything pressing in around her, the sensation of things clawing at her skin. She feels a prickle run over her as she remembers Mello's fire, his hands all over her skin, his breath mixing with hers, the feel of his weight on top of her and his groans as they moved together. In front of her, Near is still crouched, still dictating how they will cope with these new changes of events.

In her mind, she is fucking Mello again, and try as she might she cannot drive the images away.

She feels cheap and dirty and low and scared and all she wants, in the entire world, is for all of this to be over.

-

The drive home is completed in silence. She does not turn on the radio. She does not even try to tune out her own thoughts. Her mind has shut off, and is working on automatic – changing gears, checking traffic lights, everything except confronting the reality of what awaits her at home.

When she reaches her apartment, she freezes.

There is a mark on the handle of the door. It is small, barely noticeable, but it is there.

It is blood. Not blood from a new wound, she realises, with relief, but from an old one, the kind mingled with pus and skin and plasma.

And it was not there this morning.

Her breath comes to a standstill.

Mello is inside her apartment.

He is there, right now, and she is wearing a wire with the sole purpose of trapping him in the moment he does something like this, something so foolish, so reckless, as to approach a member of Near's team.

As if he didn't cross that line long ago.

She enters her apartment, and as soon as she does, before she even reaches for the lights, she has her finger to her lips.

There is a gun pointed to her head and the low click of it being cocked. Shit. Would Near have heard that?

She turns her head, fractionally, no sudden movements, and repeats the motion of placing her finger to her mouth. Mello narrows his eyes mistrustfully. Shutting the door, she speaks clearly, for his benefit more than anyone else's.

"Near," she says, and Mello starts at the name. He looks around, just in case, before returning his gaze to her. He nudges the gun closer. "I'm going to remove the bugging device while I take a shower."

Mello's eyes widen, and then narrow. "Trying to trap me?!" he mouths. She shakes her head, fractionally.

She slips off the wire and lays it on the table. Mello follows her to the bathroom.

He watches her undress. He does not drop his eyes, or show any sign that this is inappropriate or unusual at all. His face does not change. He simply watches her, like stone.

The moment she is naked, she faces him. She is unashamed. He keeps the gun trained on her, and she wonders why, now, after everything, he still does not trust her.

"Where is Matt?" she asks.

"Out," Mello tells her, and there is a darkness in his eyes that makes her shudder.

"Where?" she says, and she is scared by the demanding tone she has allowed to creep into her voice. "What did you do to him?"

"Nothing," Mello says, with a snarl.

"When's he coming back?" she persists, folding her arms against her naked chest.

Mello meets her gaze. "He's not," he tells her.

There is nothing else to say. Like Matt said, when Mello hits something, he knows exactly where to hit, and does not stop until he has won.

Matt will not be coming back.

She lowers her head, momentarily, and closes her eyes. There is very little chance at all that she will ever see him again. Everything is spinning out of her control, and she detests it.

"You'd better hurry up," Mello says, and his voice is unpleasant. "Near will wonder what's taking so long."

A retort hangs on the end of her tongue, but in the midst of everything, she cannot even bring herself to utter it. She turns the shower on, and steps behind the curtain.

Then, she tells Mello everything.

-

The gun is hard against her back as the march up to the doors of the headquarters, stopping in plain view of the security cameras. Near will see them. Near will let them in.

The doors open, and Halle can swear she can feel the cold of the gun even through the coat and her clothes. There is a type of coldness that comes with things that kill, and it is the same coldness that lingers behind Mello's eyes, that clings to her lips after they kiss.

Mello's gun moves to her head. Halle is unafraid. After all, the worst he can do is kill her. And honestly, after today, the peace accompanying death is not entirely unappealing.

She hates herself for the thought. And still, she cannot muster up anything more than a vague trepidation. She put her trust in Mello, completely, too long ago. Now, it doesn't matter what he does. It's her fault. She has given him this power over her, this opportunity. Whatever Near might say about women and their strength, Halle knows her own capabilities. She is here because she was foolish and because she has fallen –

No. Stop it.

Because she has –

No.

"Everyone lower your guns. Bloodshed is pointless."

Vaguely, she becomes aware that Gevanni and Rester are aiming behind at Mello. Obscenely, she feels her anger bristle towards them. They are protecting her, and yet – how stupid can they be? Mello is not the enemy. Not really.

The gun leaves her head. She does not move. Somehow, standing here, next to Mello, on his side of the floor, seems much more right than standing beside Near.

It almost feels something like home.

She is starkly aware of the difference in the two now. Her comparisons from earlier seem to be understatements, now that the two of them are together, face to face. These old enemies, childhood rivals, this pair of light and dark, shadow and colour, emotion and reason, are encountering one another in almost the basest form.

Except, it isn't. Near would never resort to violence, and Mello is outmatched in numbers. Suddenly, rushing through her, she feels a burst of frustration. Everything is so tightly wrapped, so planned, so very, very neat in Near's world – everything has been predicted and accounted for and everything is in its precious little box, and nothing can come out of place.

And there is never any point to guns, and there is never any reason for a fight, never any space for anything like a bar room brawl or a bomb or running or life –

What must it be like to be him? Living in this world that does not exist, surrounded by tokens of a misremembered childhood, games and toys that would have been replaced with puzzles and problems. What must it be like to think that way, to have your mind operate along tracks and trails, to have no space for spontaneity or feeling? What life was that? What was the point?

And what must it be like, it occurs to her, to be fighting against that? What must it be like to be in competition with someone for whom competition is a dry and unimportant diversion, someone for whom competition is irrelevant because he has never been less than perfect? And what do you do when all you have is your rage, and your raw power, and none of that counts for anything because the world you are in allows for reason, only reason, simply reason -

She suddenly understands everything Mello has been feeling his whole life.

There is a click and the gun is turned on Near.

"I'm not your tool!" Mello growls, and she can feel his anger emanating from him, bristling in the air.

The others have their guns on him in an instant, and before she realises what he has done, he has pushed her behind him.

It was almost unnoticeable. It was almost just him pushing past her. It almost didn't happen.

But it did.

He...protected her. Because he doesn't trust himself. Because unlike when he had his gun on Halle, this time, he isn't sure he's not going to shoot.

She turns on him, steps in the path of the bullet, her hand of his arm. He looks at her, incredulous.

"Mello...if you shoot Near, we will shoot you," she says, softly, so that the others will have to strain to hear. "Neither of you is any good dead."

He studies her face, and she can feel his eyes searching her, though she is not sure for what. She holds his gaze, determined, certain. Don't, she pleads with him silently. Have some sense.

He lowers his gun.

"I just want the photograph," he says, gruffly. She stays facing him. She keeps her eyes locked on him. She is taking in every aspect of his face, every facet of his scars, every contour of his skin.

If he leaves today, if she never sees him again –

There is a flick from behind her, and Near is holding up the photograph. In it, Mello is fourteen. In it, L is alive and Mello is nothing more than a precocious, cruel little boy with haystack hair and electricity in his veins. He is not the scarred and bloodies man in front of her with darkness staining his soul. He is just a boy.

Just a kid.

Suddenly, as he looks at the photograph, she sees that kid behind his eyes. For a second – no, a split second, so fast she is not even sure she really saw it – he is young and he is alone and he is afraid. He is a boy who does not know why his face is hurting so much or how he ended up in this terrifyingly high tech building or what any of this is for. His eyes flicker to hers. I want to go home, she reads there, and her heart breaks, because she knows as well as anyone that Mello has no home to go to.

Nowhere to run, and all of the world and hell's demons on his heels.

-

She drives home alone, for the second time that day.

Shinigami. Mello said that shinigami...Death Gods...that they were the things behind the Death Notes.

And Near said that he believed they were real.

Halle shakes her head, trying to clear some space in her mind. She's never believed in ghosts. She's always thought psychics were bullshit. And now – this?

It was too much to swallow. Too much for one day.

Everything getting back to her apartment is a blur. The wire is gone, at least, and she is grateful that now she doesn't have to scramble around installing cameras in her house. Her privacy is the last thing she has managed to keep sacred, keep hidden away from Near. He is not going to claim that, not now.

She is no sooner in the door when someone has seized her, thrown her against the wall, and pressed their face close to hers.

The door clicks shut.

"He's been playing me this entire time," Mello says. His voice is low. It is a growl, a murmur, a heady blend of hatred and resentment and a pressing sense of futility. "This whole fucking time. The picture said 'dear Mello'. 'Dear' fucking 'Mello'. That little shit. He knew this was happening. Knew I would come to you. He's probably been feeding you information to give to you and we were both to fucking stupid to realise it. That little shit."

Halle does not answer. Mello is very close.

He presses on. "I asked you earlier, in the shower, whose side you were on. You gave me that bullshit generic sitting-on-the-fence crap. I don't give a fuck about that. Give me the truth, Halle. Tell me straight up, honestly, to my fucked up face, whose side you are on." He presses still closer, his lips less than an inch from hers, his breath hot on her cheek. One hand is curled up near her neck, and the other pushes the barrel of his gun into her ribs.

She still stays silent.

He jerks her forward and pushes her back against the wall. "Don't give me shit. I saw that look in your eye when you told me not to shoot Near. I saw your face when your pals had their guns on me. I saw you, Halle Lidner, when you came last night, when I was –"

"Alright," she says, quietly. Her words feel foreign, like there is no space for speaking any more. After Near, after today, words seem inadequate, and false, and tricksy and hard and awful. She wants to speak in actions, in guns and in fists and in things that were raw and feral and real.

"Alright what?"

"Alright, you win. I will admit it." She fixes him with a cold stare that says very clearly that she is not proud of what she is about to admit. "I am on your side. I have been on your side from the moment I met you. I work for Near and I work with Near but when you were brought to my doorstep bleeding and burnt and dying I risked everything to get you treated in secret. If Near found out the extent of what I've done for you – that I've harboured you – if he knew that I've fucked you – for God's sake, Mello. How can you not even know that the moment you first came into my life the only side I can even comprehend as existing is yours?"

There is a clatter as his gun is dropped to the floor. He throws her against another wall, rough, hard, violent, and when he kisses her there are entirely too many teeth in it, and she feels pain throb through her lower lip. He grabs at her, rips down her shirt, and she hears the buttons fly off, pinging against the lamp. It is hard and brutal and it is everything she wants right now – no, more than that, it is what she needs.

All the frustration from Near, from the fuckwit Vice President's announcement, from the cloying structure of her job, from the realisation that they've been duped by the second L, has been building up inside her, and inside him, and as he throws her down onto her bed, she knows that this is the best way – the only way – for them to end up.

Their lovemaking is hard and rough and Halle knows she will be left with bruises in the morning. She doesn't care. This, with Mello, has been as much a fight as it has been a fuck. This is what neither of them can express in front of Near, the violence that sings through them both, the craving for something emotional and instinctive and carnal.

"Fuck this day entirely," Mello gasps into her ear, just before he climaxes, and Halle is inclined to agree.