Author's Note: Hey, guys, it's Chip! I'm here, updating on this warm Saturday evening (or rather, Sunday morning) to give you this. "Triptych" was never meant for publication on but I gave in to a certain someone's advice and am posting it up anyway. It's not meant to be a full story or anything like that, though I admit I have started writing a second part to it. Mostly, it's supposed to be a particular event in the Deathnote timeline, with Mello, Near and Matt interacting all at once. Yes, it's got some slashy contextual shit going on, but there's nothing too explicit (in this part anyway). If I get some good feedback, I'll consider adding the "part two" as a second chapter, here. So, please read and let me know what you think, alright?
The mob of people was amassing outside the SPK Headquarters, the swirling black, hooded cloaks of Kira devotees intermixing with the common clothing of normal everyday people. The news was out and all of Kira's supporters were taking up the call to arms.
"Kill the blasphemers! Destroy them and earn Lord Kira's special favor!"
The morning started peaceful enough, but then the Sakura TV anchor came on and told everyone that there was some kind of movement against Kira; that there were terrorists organizations bent on the removal of Kira-sama.
"Destroy the unbelieving wretches!"
They gave out the locations then. A base in slums of Tokyo, where only the most dangerous of criminals would tread without fear. Another base, a warehouse, along the docks.
And the final space, the SPK Headquarters in downtown Tokyo. The tall glass skyscraper--an ominous sentinel on the horizon of Kira's favorite city. Mobs formed; they marched through the city--to the docks and the slum--with knives, bats, guns and any other weapons they could find.
"Kira-sama! Allow us to aid you in this! We will prove our devotion to you, by destroying the infidels who dare to doubt your divine grace! Kira-kami!"
The base on the docks was doused in gasoline pilfered from the shipyard and set ablaze. The slum's hideout was ransacked, looted and the men found there killed under the crush of the mob's power. That building, too, was on fire.
The firefighters were busy, said the dispatchers, and would be along to put out the fires at some time. Eventually.
It seemed that, in the midst of Kira-loving Tokyo, there was no place for two fugitive heirs to run. Except, perhaps, to the one person they would have rather died than admit to needing.
The one person they avoided.
But it was either their pride this time, or their lives.
Oh, this was going to be fun.
So, apparently, it was all a game to them. What started as a mission to retrieve Kira's weapon turned into a fucking power-play between two kids too dumb--or rather, too intelligent--to leave well enough alone. It would go on forever, this game of theirs. They'd been playing for as long as they'd been together. Childhood. Teenism. And even now, on the cusp of real adulthood.
It was, at once, both so funny and so irritating that Matt wanted to laugh until he choked. Both their missions were blown--retrieving the Deathnote and cornering the bastard Kira--and it was entirely the result of two squabbling brats.
"Just so you gentlemen know, I think this is, undoubtedly, the biggest fuck up either of you has ever gotten us mucked in." Taking a drag on his cigarette produced a single orange-red star, reflected in the double-lenses of his goggles. The burgundy-auburn bangs hanging down into his face didn't disguise the way his lips crooked at the corners with aggravated disdain. Or was it amusement?
Mello's gaze slid over his cousin and friend before rolling away exaggeratedly. "Oh shut up, Matt." His gloved fingers fiddled with the end of his rosary, rolling the cross between them, back and forth. The glass-jewel beads caught the dim light of the computer screens and refracted it; the glow flashed white-blue in the darkness. Like mirrors catching liquid ice.
Or rather, like Near's gaze as he watched them passively, his relaxed posture on the floor saying more than enough about his opinion on their current circumstance. To Matt's comment and Mello's response, he cocked his head, fingers twirling in his own bangs.
"Surely, you're not implying that either Mello or myself planned for this?"
Matt shrugged, exhaling a breath as he removed the cigarette from between his lips momentarily. He examined the ember idly. "What I'm saying--not implying Near--is that despite the severity, danger, insanity and general mayhem of the usual interactions between you and Mello, this is by far the most heinous. What the hell possesses you guys?" He glanced back and forth between them. From opposite sides of the room, Mello and Near watched each other.
The silence was heavy with the lack of an answer.
Finally, Mello was the first to break the gag. "Pfft. He's a little ghost prick. It's not my fault I have the compulsion to kill him. He incites it, with his mere presence."
One perfectly thin, white eyebrow rose in reaction. "Oh? Do I?" Near's gaze flickered downward, from Mello's blue-grey eyes, to the dangling, toyed-with rosary; from Mello's bared navel and exposed hips to that area just a view inches further. There was a certain way, a motion, in which Near twirled his hair then; how he paused, momentarily, then begin to curl it more slowly, sensually. Like he was savoring it. His eyes remained there a moment longer, then slowly--too slowly--slid upward again to meet the blonde's furious blue-grey gaze.
"Is that the only thing I incite with my presence?"
Matt threw his arm out casually, catching hold of Mello's vest before the other man could make it any further in what would have been, undoubtedly, a head-long charge to the death. Near's.
"Damnit, Mel, if you don't behave, I'm gonna kick your ass. He gets you every time with that damned shit and you fall for it. Fuck," Matt sighed in exasperation. "If you two would just get it on already, I'd be all-too-fucking-pleased--and the rest of the world with me."
Near's lips turned upward, mockingly.
"I have noticed, Matthew, that your use of expletives has increased significantly since your exodus from Home."
It was Matt's turn to raise a brow. "Well fuck Near--have you ever heard Mel when he's pissed? It would take a fucking saint to keep a clean mouth after four years with him." Behind his goggles, Matt's hazel-brown eyes gave Mello an appreciative once over, deliberately; then he smiled, casting the crook of his lips to Near.
"And I'm far from a saint, you know?"
Mello turned and slugged Matt on the shoulder, deadening the whole arm with his strength before turning away. The redhead switched his cigarette to his other hand and let the dead arm hang, knowing from experience that feeling would return in a minute or so.
There was silence as the many monitors around them continued to show a live feed of the chaos outside. Still, the mob had yet to breach the outer fortifications of the deceptively fragile-looking building. The sly curve of Near's lips said they wouldn't, ever.
Finally, just when the silence was getting to be oppressive, a monitor to Near's immediate right made a sound and the display changed to reveal the face of a man. Commander Rester made a disgruntled sound when the camera showed him who, exactly, Near was holding company with. "Well, I suppose there's no need to inform you what's going on in the city then. Apparently, you've been targeted by the Kira devotees." It was unclear whether he was speaking to Near or to the three boys in general, but it didn't particularly matter. It was true for all of them.
"Have you completed the preliminary details as I instructed?"
"Good," Near said, rising to his feet. Mello's eyes darted to him quickly, shocked by the rare sight of the ghostly boy-man standing upright; Matt, who had seen it more than his share in the past, didn't bat an eyelash.
"Is there anything else you'll be needing, Near?"
White-blue eyes flickered upward. "Ah, yes, thank you. If you'd be so kind as to send word ahead, discreetly of course, that I'll be dropping in? I wouldn't want to be a burden on our host."
The expression on Rester's face could have been described in no less than twenty words even if the room was playing facility to three of the most intelligent, learned minds in the world since their predecessor. It was an expression of resigned duty and of disgruntled pride; of disgust and exhilaration.
His words, when he spoke, weren't even vaguely neutral. "It's your house, Near. Why call ahead at all?"
Near's facial features were stark white and sharp in the light of the monitor; his eyes seemed almost like glass, staring out at Rester. "Please don't make me repeat myself, Rester. It is not your place to question my decision."
The big man's head bowed, though only in the slightest. "Yes, Near. Rester, out." The monitor flickered, returning to the video feed of the Kira-mob outside in the city streets. Somehow, it appeared that a pair of helicopters had joined the effort; television news-channel logos were stamped on their shiny hulls.
"Well, it appears it's time to go." Near turned slowly on his heel, pivoting to face both Matt and Mello, who stood together, unmoving in the darkness beyond the glow of the monitors. Near's shadow, cast by the light source behind him, stretched the distance to them. He reached out a hand, lazily--deliberately--and watched as his shadow reached out to touch the very toe of Matt's boots.
The redhead, not unaware of Near's simple trick, cocked his head. "Where is it, exactly, that you think we're going?" He took another drag of his cigarette. "Keep in mind that we haven't agreed to anything."
Near gave them a blank look. "My plan involves getting away from this place, before the television coverage becomes so frenzied as to make a quiet departure impossible. I have a safe house, outside of Japan. In England, actually."
Matt's brow went up. "England? You don't think that's a little...predictable? It's not all that hard to dig up information on the orphanage; surely, someone's going to check for us there."
"We wouldn't be returning to Wammy's. In fact, Winchester is a fair distance from where we'll be. I've already put Roger on alert. Wammy's will be protected and will remain so until such time as we've eliminated Kira."
Mello made a sound, planting his hands on his hips. "What's all this 'we' stuff? I never agreed to go along with you; neither did Matt! No way in hell I'd choose to work with you!" He sneered, "Fucking ghost-shrimp, can't see in the dark, queer-as-fuck munchkin."
Near smiled, easily taking the insult. "You've always been so creative with your commentary on my appearance, Mello; I think I might have been missing that." He turned a little, watching them from the corner of his eye. "Also, by way of explanation, let me just say that you really didn't choose to work with me--and you won't--because you have no choice. It is what L wanted and I will ensure that his will be done."
"What the hell, brat?!"
"Now, now," Near mothered, "settle down." He gestured abstractly into the air. "You gave me your implied consent when you came to me--to my headquarters and to my place, personally--and I take that very much to heart. You don't have another option, Mello, so please don't press me. I'm rather not in the mood to start a prolonged argument with you so early into our partnership."
"Partnership?" Mello sputtered, looking at a loss. Then, almost desperately, he glanced at his cousin. "Matty, tell him he's a fucking prick! Tell him we didn't agree!"
Matt's head was cocked at an angle, surveying the pale form across the way and the very fine way the monitors gave him a white halo. "Hm, I think we're going to be taking a trip, Mel. Near's got the right idea."
The punch caught him off guard, but it was such normal thing between them, the causal violence, that Matt hardly blinked. He stumbled a step to the right before catching his balance; in that instant, Mello was in his face, blue-grey eyes boring into his.
"What the fuck, Matt?" His whisper was a furious gust of wind between their lips, only inches apart. "You're taking Near's side?" His golden hair was disheveled from all the times he ran his hands through it on the way here; now, his bangs were falling into his eyes like angry thunderbolts.
"I'm not taking anyone's side, Mello." Matt kept his voice down, in an effort to reassure his cousin. "I've just considered all the facts and honestly, our best chance at making all this muck-up right is to go with Near. Besides," he said pragmatically, in a louder voice, "If you really think about it, this is all your two's fault anyway."
Near nodded, "I don't deny it."
Though his right eye twitched with irritation, Mello seemed to have a hold on his temper now. He shifted. "Tch. Whatever. We've got our good reasons."
"And some bad ones," Matt added for him.
Across the room, Near began to walk away. "Well come on then. I've arranged for our escape already. Below ground, there's a shuttle that will deliver us to the main utility tube of the Underground here. From there, we will take the tube to the Airport, where my private jet will take us overseas." He motioned toward the miniature models on the play-space in front of the monitors. Mello snorted.
"Still playing with planes and trains, huh?"
Near paused, mid-step. He didn't look over his shoulder, but stood, one delicate socked foot poised half-off the ground. "Yes, Mello, I very much enjoy my entertainments. I, however, do not make a habit of playing with dangerous toys." He let the pause drag, then finished. "Unlike you, of course."
"I don't play with anything I can't handle, brat."
"Really?" Near did glance over his shoulder this time, a small smirk playing about his lips. "I wonder what your basis for comparison is, then."
Fists clenched at the implication that he was less capable of handling himself than he seemed, Mello started after the younger boy; Matt didn't stop him. He loomed over Near in an instant, though the kid didn't give an inch. It didn't matter. Mello had always been taller than Near; now, he towered nearly a foot over him.
"Now listen here," he said, staring into Near's ice-cool eyes. "You've played this game with me for years brat and I want you to know right now that there's not a fucking force on this planet that's going to take Matt from me. Never." He growled the word, denying the power of the Fates over him. "And for you to think, even in the barest moment of your delusions, that I'm going to let you seduce him out from under me, then you're fucking insane."
That white-blue gaze honed onto his own and bored in. "Really, Mello, you overestimate my devious nature. I'm fairly sure I don't have one, actually."
Mello's eyes narrowed.
"However," Near continued, "I feel I must point out that the past is the past. What was once between us is, like you love to say, 'fucking forgotten'." A grimace flashed across the blonde's lips as he tasted those long-ago syllables once more.
"Furthermore, I feel the need to remind you that it was Matt who wooed me last time. Right out from under you." His lips were cruel. "See, for us, it was never about the sex."
The unspoken words hung in the air between them. They said "Like it was for you" and made Mello's throat burn.
Matt's lips twitched upward at one corner.
"Tch. Whatever. Dick." As abruptly as the summer sky changes from storm to shine, he's smirking with an easy grace and sauntering away, to stand beside Matt. He tried to look carefree, keeping his smirk in place, but both Matt and Near were unconvinced by this.
They knew Mello like no one else could dare to claim; and Mello hated that.
"Now then," Near smiled, "On we go." He walked forward, out into the little recessed area of the floor that was all very Asian despite the fact that Near himself was English-raised.
The shoes by the door way seemed oddly out of place, but like everything else Near was wearing, they appeared perfectly ordinary. Only now did the nature of Near's clothing become apparent to the other two. Light-blue jeans and a button down shirt in--what else?--white, though it was untucked. His hair was messy, but passable as sleep-and-wear; furthermore, there were no toys in hand.
Mello and Matt paused to put on their own shoes, while Near's--a pair of loosely laced sneakers so as to allow him to slide them on--were already on his feet. While he laced his boots tightly, Mello kept an eye to the toys on the peripheral of his vision.
Near had made no move to retrieve them, nor pack them.
It seemed that Matt noticed also.
"You're not bringing your toys." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes, I've decided to leave them behind." There was a sort of resignation in Near's voice. "They're too numerous to carry and it would seem very odd if we were to go trooping through the Underground carrying a jolly-big bag like St. Nicholas. That would only serve to delay us and attract unwanted attention."
"Understandable and correct," Matt said, "But what about...that toy?" All three knew which toy Matt was referring to; Near had never been without it at Wammy's. It was a part of him.
"Ah, yes, Mr. Justice. He's in a comfortably padded box, shipped under 'fragile' and 'express' to our destination. I didn't want to risk damaging him during the escape." He glanced at Matt, "I had not thought you would remember him."
Mello gave a dry half-laugh. "Who could forget him? That's the only time I'd ever seen you on your feet, that day. That fight." He shook his head, "Pietr was never the same."
A nod. "That was my intention. He should have respected the rule. No one touches what is mine." HIs gaze flickered over both Matt and Mello; his lips quirked. "Now, trusting that I have everything of irreplaceable value, would you please follow me?"
He didn't wait for their answer. He was already half-way through the door leading out to the steel-lined hall. Matt went first, watching as Near absent-mindedly entered a code into the wall's keypad; the monitors all throughout the room went dark and three times, a sharp beep peeped in the silence.
"A network crash," he guessed.
"Of course. I have already sent all prudent information elsewhere. I will retrieve it when we reach our destination."
"Yea, yea," Mello said, "Let's get going, before I change my mind."
The other two glanced at him, but said nothing. Let Mello believe he had a choice in the matter. Despite the circumstance. Despite Near's words.
Matt knew better.
"Of course," the white-haired boy said. They followed him out and the sliding doors shut behind them, the heavy-sounding locks slamming into place.
It was only as they walked further down the hall and took the elevator down that Mello finally realized that Near was standing quite normally; hands in his pockets, with a slight slouch of the shoulders. It was all too familiar, of course, but weren't they all like that? Little snapshots and aspects of their predecessor.
With just that little flaw, the one that forced them together. The same one that ripped them apart, six years ago.
That little flaw.
L worked alone, a solitary solution to the world's multitude of problems. He lived alone. Worked alone. Died alone.
They, the three copies, were imperfect impressions of the original.
They could work alone--but together, they were better than L ever could be.
And that was their sin.