A/N: Yes, this one's short, too. All for you, dear readers. Though the disclaimer will probably add another page to it. See, this one has an actual plot – aren't you impressed? On to the disclaimer …

Disclaimer: (Mello sits bolt upright in bed, chocolate-colored quilted thermal pajamas flushed with sweat.

Mello (Rolls over to shake him): "Matt, wake the fucking hell up. I just had the weirdest dream!"

Matt (Sits up groggily, gropes for his goggles on the bedside table – they increase his reasoning ability by 45%): "What, Mello? I mean, uh .." (Tries to ward off force of Mello's Murderous Glare) "What happened? If you want to tell me."

Mello (Cuffs Matt affectionately on the head, relaxes): "Of course I want to tell you, asshole! Why would I have woken you up otherwise? But it was fucking weird, man. There was this weird author-person, right? And she was scribbling down my life like she owned me! Can I tell you how fucking creepy that is?"

Matt (Rolls eyes): "No one could own you, Mello. I'd like to see them try."

Mello (Gets up on bed; staggers, rights himself and strikes defiant pose): "Damn straight!" (Collapses on top of Matt)

Ryuk (Circling over head with an apple from the kitchen in hand above the bed of the two boys): "Hyuk, hyuk! Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi do! Before I go back to N I should see if there are any more apples!"

Yes, I have stolen Ryuk from Light with apples. Which brings me to the question … just why exactly did I want him, anyway?

Ryuk: "Come on, I have to carry your messages and stuff! That's not nice! Why do I put up with you anyway –"

Let's shut Ryuk up and get on with the chapter!

--

"And we are ready to go!" Mello announced, zipping shut his duffel bag. He'd borrowed it from Matt, really, because Mello was not one to own a duffel bag, but Mello was a firm believer in the 'MGE' rule of ownership: basically, Mello gets everything. Staring at it makes it his, except for that brat Near and his toy collection. And the title of L, which went back to Near. Grr, stupid Near –

"Cool," Matt drawled, sprawled on his bed, few bits of clothes and nearly every type of gaming thing he possessed already shoved in his bag. "I already hacked Roger's bank account and got his credentials for Wammy's. That should be enough to get us started, at least until we start our illustrious career in stealing. You sure you can carry your bag?"

"Of course!"

"Cool it, Mells. I saw you pack those three cases of chocolate and the leather-studded boots. At least my games are lightweight."

"The chocolate's just for energy!"

"Whatever you say. Hey …" Matt looked up seriously at Mello, orange goggles making him look like some sort of otherwordly insect in the dark room, and asked, "why are we running away like this, anyway? I mean … there's no way L isn't gonna find us. And why did you pick Japan for us to go to? What are we looking for there? Come on, Mells, I'm running away too, ya know. I deserve some of the answers."

"You're right. Well …" Mello hesitated. "I know we're gonna get brought back. But, come on, don't you want to see some of the world before we're just cast out of here and told, 'Oh, you're smart but not smart enough to be L, you'll be fine?' People like Near can't even function in the real world. Plus, I think with the pressure and all, we need a vacation. So let's screw the system and make them come chase us. You in, Matt?"

Matt managed a grin, sliding off the bed and tucking his DS into a pocket of the bag. He peered anxiously down at the only pair of black clothes he possessed, then looking back up at Mello in all his small, defiant, blonde-and-black glory complete with a rosary. "When haven't I been? C'mon, let's ditch this place. The food sucks anyway."

Mello grinned at that. "Damn straight," he said. "They don't even serve chocolate at the meals."

They were halfway down the corridor on the next floor, passing right in front of Roger's door in fact, when a quiet voice from behind startled them. "What do you intend to accomplish by this?"

Matt and Mello whirled, Mello starting to exclaim, "What the FU –" before a hand was hurriedly clamped over his mouth by an irate Matt.

"If Roger hears we're screwed, Mells!" Matt hissed, taking the hand off once he was sure Mello would only blow up at Near quietly. "He's a heavy sleeper, but not that heavy! And the man runs like a freaking bull moose in heat!"

Near blinked in surprise. "Wouldn't that be female moose that had heat?"

Mello scowled. "Never mind that, Near, what the hell are you doing here? Don't you have, like, a toy to cuddle with if you wake up in the middle of the night or something? We're kinda busy here."

Near's face remained impassive as he slouched in his white pajamas, twirling a curl of his pale hair. "I asked you a question, Mello. I wanted to know why you were so obviously and unskillfully running away."

Matt, seeing Mello's dangerous eye twitch, stepped forward to intercede hastily. "Look, Near, it's just … we need a change. Don't you ever get bored in here? I mean, if you don't become L … what are you going to do? Live here forever? Run an online translating service? Come on. There's nothing more we can learn here anyway." Matt began to grow disconcerted as Near continued to stare at him.

Finally Near said, "And that's an excuse for a childish stunt such as this?"

Mello growled and stepped forward. "It isn't childish! And it's pretty damn hypocritical for you to call someone else childish, Near, for someone who only wears white pajamas and sleeps with his toys! Just go back to bed and let the big boys play!"

"Maybe you could be a little louder, Mells. I don't thin Roger quite heard you," Matt muttered sarcastically out of the corner of his mouth, looking anxiously at Near as the small boy's pale face tightened.

"It would only take a few words in a raised voice to alert Roger and stop your obviously harebrained plan," Near announced matter-of-factly, hugging the transformer he had brought more tightly to his thin chest. "I suggest you go back to your room before I do so and you get in further trouble."

"Why you –" Mello started to say, advancing threateningly, no doubt to manhandle Near, give him a piece of his mind, and most likely get them caught of his own accord, before Matt grabbed on to him from behind and peeked out ot look at Near.

"Err … do you want to come with us?"

Mello whirled on him immediately, his face having taken a direct line from 'Near-pissed' to 'It-is-the-end-of-the-world-and-I-am-causing-it' pissed, as he screeched, if one can do that at a whispering volume: "You can't just invite him along! He's a kid! And I the him! He has absolutely no real life experience, and he doesn't even own any other clothes other than those stupid white pajamas! He'd disable us before we even got out of the orphanage!"

"Mello," Matt managed, not even daring to look at Near's frozen expression as he tried to make the irate whirlwind see sense, "don't you remember what you said to me? You wanted to see the world so we wouldn't be stuck here all our lives. Well, Near's stuck here too, isn't he? C'mon, Mell, show a bit of decency – can't you bear with him for a few weeks, show some kindness for once? Maybe you'll discover a real person underneath those white pajamas. We can make him wear jeans, anyway. And he's got the whole teddy-bear-factor cute thing going on. Who wouldn't give him money?"

"Me," Mello grumped, but more in resignation than any sign of further antagonism. He turned on Near. "Well, Near? You hear us. Do you wanna come or not? If you do, you're gonna have to change your clothes. And you can't pack five hundred toys, either."

Near offered a tiny smile. "What Matt said … I believe he may be correct. I would like to see some of the world. But as to the packing, I hardly believe you did not bring the same amount of chocolate, Mello. Though I understand the conspicuity of my clothing."

"But I'm gonna eat my chocolate, and I hardly think you'll eat your toys," Mello retorted, and then his eyes widened. "Unless … do you eat your toys?"

"I would hardly survive on a diet of plastic and fabric, Mello," Near retorted, having the grace to look mildly annoyed by this outrageous statement. "I suppose I should go back to my room and pack, and use the jeans that are still left in my wardrobe from when I first arrived that I have never had removed. I'm sure I have not grown significantly."

Matt chuckled at that. "Damn straight," Mello muttered, looking about them to make sure their conversation was still a secret before rapidly making adjustments to his plans. "Right. Near, you go pack and meet us at the front gate in proper clothing in a half hour with one bag – that you can carry without tiring, mind you – that has the proper essentials. No, that doesn't mean toys."

"I think I would know what that means, Mello," Near interjected, offended.

"Yeah, sure," Mello said, too busy to pick a fight or think about arguing. "Matt, you need to go purchase Near an online ticket. Make it out to the eight-year-old Nathan Ridge, our foster brother. I'll, um, go call a taxi. Later."

Matt nodded. "On it." Near silently disappeared, the tiniest of frowns creasing his face. what had eh gotten himself into, making a split decision like that and running away with Mello and Matt? Having to wear jeans and restrict his toy intake, no less. Most likely even stealing, much less being runaways and identity fraud. Not to mention the trouble he would put sensible adults into because of him. Really, what was he thinking?

Really, he was thinking like Mello or Matt. And he liked it.

Mello was marginally less happy.

--

They met in a half-hour, tiny Near lugging his duffel bag – which was white, Mello hadn't known they even came in that color – and actually wearing, very self-consciously, a pair of dark, rumpled blue jeans and his same pajama shirt. Mello decided to fight that battle later, already calculating that they were a half hour behind schedule and better get moving quickly or they wouldn't make it to the airport in time.

Matt, who'd been playing on his DS while they waited for Near and the taxi – though Mello grumbled that if Near wasn't here before the taxi came, they'd go without him – closed it as the white-haired boy came shuffling out of the darkness, the taxi screeching up a few short seconds later, to Mello's relief. He threw his bag in the trunk and ordered the driver to the airport, looking at the other two impatiently while he bounced on the leather seat. "Well, come on!" he demanded irritably. "Don't tell me you're going to back out now?"

"Mello," Matt said, with an anxious glance at the now staring taxi cab driver, "you don't always have to be on full throttle. If Near doesn't want to go it's perfectly okay."

"What?!" Mello yelled, eyes nearly bugging out in shocked anger "Of course he's coming now, after you stood up for him and shit! I didn't do all this just so he could back out and go crying to Roger like a baby!"

"Mello," Matt said, not so gently, "shut up. Seriously, Near, no one but Mello's gonna blame you if you don't want to go, and everyone knows that Mello isn't exactly the most rational. It's fine if you want to turn back. You haven't been out of Wammy;s since you were brought here at first, have you?"

"NO," Near said, face serious as he gingerly placed his bag in the trunk, "but I can't put it off forever. If Mello can do this than I can as well."

"Well, if you're sure," Matt said doubtfully, slinging his own bag in o top and shutting the trunk with a crash on the shiny new paint that made the driver wince. "Let our vacation commence!"

And the car sped away from the darkened house of Wammy's in the night, heading toward the airport. Three genii had a flight to catch.

--

L was interrupted in his morning sweet-taking, a custom that lasted no matter where he was (he was currently in Russia, working on a case involving a mysterious string of murders connected to the Mafia) by the phone ringing, the cell phone that's number was known by so few that he could deduce only one person that might possibly calling. And that meant bad news.

He picked up the phone in his delicate, examining grip, flipping I open as he droned, "What is it, Roger?"

A scratchy hiss came through on the other side, the speaker not even trying to conceal his emotions. "L, it's … it's your successors. They're …"

"What?"

And then came the words that would prove a further haunt to his dreams. "They're … they're gone. When I sent a child to wake them for breakfast, there was no one in their rooms and we've searched the orphanage since. Some of their clothes, Matt's games, Mello's chocolate, and Near's toys are missing, so it's likely they've run away."

"Tell me everything you have been able to discover so far," L noted, other hand reaching for the button to call Watari. He needed a plane for England, and he needed one immediately.

His successors were more important than Mafia rings.

But one question caused his heart to sink in fear that something more severe had happened to them. He could see Matt and Mello running away, but why … why would Near go with them?

--

I wrote. You review. Let's notice who got the short end of the stick here …

Ryuk: "Me! I don't get to do anything except hide in your disclaimers …"

N: "Which are filled with apples, Ryuk. Lovely, juicy, delicious, mouth-watering earthly apples that will vanish if you complain again."

Yes, well, end chapter indeed. No crack until I get a review.

-N