Author's Note: Yeaaaah, it's CLEARLY a good idea to start jotting down fic ideas during the middle of a history lecture… (Sigh) Can I blame anime if I fail the class? X3
In any case, this fic plays with an idea that the illustrator of the Death Note series suggested: that Near does not like L. (Of course, this suggestion was later knocked down by the writer of Death Note in the epilogue/bonus chapter... but either way, this story resulted. :3)
Warnings: In my mind, this is meant to portray a more parental relationship between the two, but if you want to imagine it as a reference to LxNear, go right ahead. :D (Oh. And Near's real name makes an appearance in this. Just FYI.)
"You're going to die soon, aren't you?"
The words were more statement than question, and the light tone in which they were uttered had been saturated in the boy's usual indifference. Within the sheltering walls of his shadowed playroom, the child's mask-like face remained as expressionless as his voice did toneless.
Clack, click. Another piece of the puzzle found its proper place.
And outside the closed double doors, bare feet paused.
"…yes. I am."
"Liar," Near immediately countered. Quickly, but without inflection. Another two pieces of the puzzle connected to form one whole; the unseen speaker made a soft sound in the back of his throat, something akin to a chuckle.
"You doubt my mortality?" L returned—almost airily—, and with a hint of veiled amusement in his flat response. From somewhere beyond the protection of the room, a delicate groaning reverberated; the detective was now leaning against the wooden doors, allowing the whimpering entrance to support his slight weight.
This time, the small boy was the one to snort. "No," he then drawled, "I simply overheard you promise Mello that you wouldn't. Both can't be true; therefore, you are a liar."
A faint sigh, a ruffle of worn denim. L had apparently fallen into his infamous crouch.
"Spoken like a true child, Near," he murmured in reply, though his words had retained an undertone of unspoken laughter. "How did you expect me to answer?"
"With the truth, of course." Three more pieces found their mates.
"And how was I supposed to know it?" L countered. His impassive voice carried disturbingly well through the empty play space, echoing quietly off of the white-washed walls; there was no way that Near could not have heard him. Even still, he did not respond. Ironically, that was all the answer L needed: "I am a detective, little one. Not a psychic. I do not know the future."
"Then you should not have answered at all." There was a note of finality in the boy's retort: I am right and you are wrong.
He was still so much a child…
"But you wanted an answer," L pointed out unnecessarily. The truth of this fact hung between them like a gentle goad; two white fingers pinched together, short nails biting into white cardboard. Yet the face and voice remained as nonchalant as ever.
"Are you implying that you simply told me what I wanted to hear?" Near whispered.
There was no hesitation. "Yes."
"…you believe that I want you to die?"
He did pause then, but only for politeness's sake. "Perhaps."
And then there was silence.
"…you do not deny it?" L asked after a long, noiseless minute. He did not sound offended, or angry, or even curious. Instead, he continued to give off that same air of amusement…
"Unlike you, I refuse to lie." Five more pieces; the boarder was complete, but the rest of the puzzle was empty, lacking its insides.
"I see." There was another soft clacking— not of puzzle pieces connecting, but of a nail being bitten. "A noble policy in theory, but you will find that it will not get you far in life. Sometimes it is better to 'tell the people what they want to hear,' if you will forgive my quoting such a trite expression."
Dull black eyes swept over the pale carpet; Near allowed a hand to dart out and swiftly collect a number of necessary pieces. "And what is it, exactly, that you think I want to hear? Besides that you will soon die."
"How do you mean?"
"Suppose I told you that I hate you," Near clarified coldly, never once looking away from his puzzle. "That the sight of your face makes me sick, that to hear your voice makes my skin crawl, that I would rather entire worlds separate us than a flimsy door made of cherry wood. What would you say I wanted to hear in return?"
"Hmm…" There was a musing sort of tapping sound: that of a thumbnail on teeth. "That I feel the same way about you, I suppose? Everyone prefers that such sentiments be shared; they believe the reciprocity justifies their own feelings, and therefore relieves them of guilt."
"You think so?" Bland apathy. Only one large gap of his puzzle remained.
"With 93 percent certainty."
"You would be wrong." Click, clack. Eight pieces to go.
"Really?" For the first time—the first time in all the years he'd known the man—Near could actually hear the laughter in his voice, rather than feel it in subtext. In response, his pallid brow furrowed. "In that case, I would choose to say 'I love you.'"
To this, Near said nothing. Before him, the whiteness grew.
"Is that what you wanted to hear, little one?"
Four pieces left. He refused to acknowledged the sudden, nuanced affection leaking into the monotonous drone.
"I do, you know. I love you dearly, Nate River."
The double doors groaned again, as if someone had rewound their previous creaking and played it backwards; rather than sit, L had stood. There was a pause—whether it be for a breath, or a thought, or a response, Near wasn't sure—and then the detective shuffled away, his bare feet scuffling through the ivory carpet.
He was gone.
Near stared blankly at his finished puzzle, the glossy 'L' logo reflecting in his glassed ebony eyes.
I love you.
A fist connected with the whiteness: pieces flew, scattered, and rained down upon the playroom floor.
And he pretended that his tears did not do the same.