This is a fanfanfiction for RobinRocks and Narroch's epic LxLight, Poison Apple. It features Mello and Near because they leave that pairing pretty damned open at the end, and I quite like it. xD

Warnings: Spoilers for the end of Poison Apple! Other than that, happy Near-centric angst and fluff.

Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me, and neither does the fic I based this one off... If that makes sense.


Near glanced up from the chessboard for a moment and saw Mello on the other side of the room, facing away towards the computer. He was likely researching a possible suspect for the case they'd been working on, but Near's mind was elsewhere.

A heavy rain played upon the roof and windows, a mixture of snare and timpani creating a lulling symphony which somehow managed to persuade Near to lie down. His eyes half-closed and strangely tempted towards sleep, he reached out and grazed the white king with his fingertips, an "L" still painted upon the hard plastic surface. It had been so long since that time...

Light cut himself with a sudden cry of pain as there came a deafening bang – definitely that of a gun – and a sudden spray of hot blood from his right side. He crumpled in L's arms, grasping at his wound as it slung burning bolts of pain through his entire limb, up to the joint. Clutching Light, L turned to face his heirs; he should have known better than to trust Mello to leave Light alone—

It was not Mello holding the smoking gun. It was Near.

He had clearly snatched it out of Mello's hand and fired it in the same motion; Mello, incidentally, looked thoroughly stunned and even a little impressed. It was obvious that Near knew nothing about either aiming or firing a gun, however. He was standing on the bottom step of the altar, deathly pale, his ebony mirror-mirror eyes glazed and wide, panting, and his whole slight form shaking, either with shock or fear or fury, perhaps all three…

L's suppressed shock at the action had not particularly surprised Near; he had behaved much unlike himself, after all. But what could anyone expect? It had been obvious all along, the reason for everyone doing what they had. L and Light Yagami were human. Mello was human. Near...

Wasn't Near also human?

"It is difficult to believe that even after all these years you would stay here with me," the white-haired boy murmured softly, not particularly expecting a response and therefore unfazed when Mello's only reaction was to pause typing for a moment before starting again. But, almost to keep himself awake (though also partly out of curiosity), he gazed at Mello and asked conversationally, "Why?"

This time, Mello did not continue typing, but seemed to stiffen in his chair, his fingers frozen above the keyboard. Several seconds passed until the blond finally slumped, his arms dropping to his sides and a resigned sigh escaping his lips. "How should I know?" he muttered, much more patiently than he ever would have been able to manage two years ago. "Same reason I didn't just leave you behind back then, I guess."

"We make a good team," Near finished quietly. There was silence for several seconds, and Near looked towards the dark window, any emotions he might have felt now void. Of course that was the only reason.

"Yes," Mello finally answered, his voice equally silent. Near's eyes trained themselves harder upon the raining sky. Of course… of course that was the only reason.

"But, well, you know…" Mello continued, and Near heard him leave his chair, heard his footsteps muffled on the carpet, coming steadily in Near's direction. "I mean, that wasn't all, you know?" Near did not turn around, so Mello sat on the floor in front of him, much more conversational than he had been a moment ago. "I was just going to leave, but after everything that happened with L and that Yagami bastard, well…" Near watched him scratch at his blond hair awkwardly. "I mean, I'm not heartless, you know? I knew I couldn't round up those Death Notes without you, and I couldn't just leave you by yourself when you were… well…"

Near's heart thumped against his ribcage and he thought again that he might be human. "When I was crying," he finished, since Mello was clearly too embarrassed to say it himself.

"Yeah." The blond shifted uncomfortably, and Near wondered if it was because his dark eyes were staring indifferently into Mello's cool blue ones. "I mean, I didn't think you had it in you to actually cry, so… It was surprising, I guess. Have you ever even cried besides that one time?"

"I am sure that at some point in my infancy I was bound to have cried," Near replied listlessly, and after a few moments, Mello laughed. Near felt his heartbeat accelerate.

"Somehow I'm not really surprised that you just said that," Mello said, and Near stopped breathing for a few seconds because Mello's knuckles nudged against his chin in a play punch, and it might've been familiar but they both knew otherwise because they both knew that Mello always avoided touching Near out of some supposition that Near didn't like to be touched. It was strange and Near wasn't sure what to think of it, because the only time he remembered being touched at all was by Mello back at Wammy's when Mello was uncontrollably rebellious and ill-tempered and enjoyed taking out his anger by really punching him when Roger wasn't watching.

Mello's knuckles lingered a few moments against Near's skin and Near wondered if Mello could tell that he was trying not to breathe. "Sorry," the blond finally murmured, his hand dropping to his side while his eyes dropped to the ground.

"Have you cried since childhood?" Near asked, the question abrupt and Near unsure why he asked in the first place. But, Mello lied down next to him and answered without much hesitation.

"Well, yeah. Not much, of course, except for when Matt died."

The following silence was stifling and Near wondered if Mello would start crying even then, since Matt hadn't come up in conversation in such a long time. But he looked over, and the closest Mello looked to tears was how his eyes were glazed and wistful, staring up at the ceiling but probably not seeing it; probably seeing Matt, the image of a long lost meant-to-be.

"You still love him," Near said, and hated for a moment the thought of being human; hated the feeling of bitterness welling in his chest and that being near Mello for so long was slowly ebbing away at his indifference.

He saw Mello glance at him for a moment, his reminiscence gone in order to more closely examine Near. "It's been more than two years since he died. I'll always care about him, and I'll definitely never forgive that Yagami bastard for what he did, but I don't think I can say I still am in love with him. It's not natural for feelings like that to last so long after the other person's died, don't you think?"

Near was silent for several moments before saying, "I suppose you are right."

All was still but for the pounding of the rain against the rooftop, and it took what felt like a long time before Mello spoke again.

"I guess I was just worried about you, you know?"

Near sat up, feeling what must have been his own mortality as his heart beat steadily and loudly, the blood rushing through his ears making him feel the slightest bit dizzy.

"Why would you be worried about me? You always hated me." Mello smiled, the action somewhat nostalgic.

"People change. After all the shit we went through, there's no way that I could hate you like I did back at Wammy's."

Near quirked a smile of his own, not a smirk, but that rare and unbefitting smile that is awkward and fairly innocent. "So you still hate me, just not as much?"

Mello also sat up and stared at him, and Near wasn't sure what to think about what it meant until the blond finally murmured, "I care about you," and everything that had ever happened between them suddenly paled in comparison to this moment that Near was sure would define the rest of his life.

No one had ever said that to Near before, which was just as well since Near had never wanted it to be said to him until now. Because now that he heard it, it was sweet and wonderful and frightening, and it encompassed every little emotion that he had always refused to believe existed in him, and his heart hammered away in his chest because not just anyone said they cared; Mello had said it. And Mello was leaning towards him and Near was pretty sure he knew what was going to happen before he felt lips faintly against his own, but he definitely didn't know that it would feel like this, and they were barely touching but Near fisted Mello's shirt and Mello pressed closer. Nothing else mattered now but for the fact that Near knew; he knew it with everything he had. He must have been human, because only mortals could feel this way. And he kissed back to the best of his ability in the hopes that it would continue; that Mello would always make him human.

All the fear has left me now
I'm not frightened anymore
It's my heart that pounds beneath my flesh
It's my mouth that pushes out this breath
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah McLachlan