Characters & Pairing: Matt/Mello, a smidge of Matt/Near, Kira, plus a few quick cameos.

Spoilers: Up to chapter 99 / episode 35.

Disclaimer: I don't own DN (or Matt, no matter how much I wish), I just love it too much.

Warnings: As always, Mattie has a potty-mouth.

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THE HERMIT

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Matt had never been the sociable type. He'd never understood why people craved the company of others, not even when he was small and surrounded by other small, sweet and smiling individuals, back when mischief and games mattered most. Back when that kind, odd, beloved shadow still watched over him with a smile when it wasn't off saving the world like the very greatest heroes in the very best of his mystery games. Back when murderers couldn't kill without contact.

It never really bothered him. As far as he was concerned, his computer games, imagination and the few friends he had managed to make despite his introverted nature were more than enough to fill his days.

Even as he got older, he was ok. If anything, he was even more comfortable on his own – Mello (Mello whom he liked most, who made him smile and laugh, who made him crave attention and contact like no one else ever had) left him without a word, and that protective shadow crumbled to dust (no more strawberry shortcake hidden in the back of the fridge, no more surprise visits with smiles and souvenirs, no more awkward hugs or phone calls when nightmares plagued him for nights on end), proving to him "once and for all" that it was best not to let them get that close, best not to care so much, because life wasn't so much like his games after all.

When he finally turned his back on the stuffy (treasured) old house with its smiling children and grumbling caretaker (and a sweet-tasting, pyjama-clad friend who had still never thrown Matt's weakness in seeking his company when he felt too alone back in his face, no, not even after that sloppy, slightly drunken kiss two weeks after That-Yellow-Haired-Demon abandoned him) he holed himself up in a cramped little council flat, had Tesco deliver his groceries for free, and went with what he knew best.

In less than four hours, he'd hacked both the City Council's and the Metropolitan Police's mainframes.

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Mello would never know that Matt had tracked him for almost two years before he even joined the Mafia. Even more secret from him was the role Matt had played in him being accepted. That was fine. He was quite happy to let the blonde maniac believe that it was his "imposing presence" and obvious intelligence that got him in. It wouldn't do to wreck the poor bastard's self-confidence with a cheap shot like that.

It wasn't as though he'd ever met them face-to-face, anyway. Although, that had probably helped – they only knew him as a top information broker and hacker, an online presence that had rescued them from ruin more than once, not the agoraphobic seventeen year old behind the online handle. They probably wouldn't have trusted him so much if they had (wouldn't have listened when he sent the email about a beautiful blond bombshell, wouldn't have trusted his word or his judgement when he told them to just accept the cocky little bastard because he'd make them great).

It was pretty certain that Near wasn't aware of just how far into the SPK's systems Matt had hacked, either. Oh, the little guy knew he was there, going back every few days (no set timetable of course, that'd be an amateur mistake, and Matt was sure as hell no amateur anymore), but he didn't know that Matt could peer through the cameras in the main control room (could keep an eye on that "sweet-tasting, pyjama clad friend," the way that he had done years before for the broken, post-Mello Matt) and use the speakers like his very own ears – he knew Near wouldn't have stood for that much if he'd realised. As it was, the occasional links that randomly appeared within unrelated files were sometimes – just sometimes – quite helpful, and once the connection had even been something Near himself hadn't thought of, so his systems weren't fried and he was allowed to continue his little visits.

Kira, however, was very, very aware of MATT. MATT kept him out of protected police files and hid the identities of mercenaries and Mafioso and murdering scum, because (even though they were bastards and deserved to fucking well die, mostly) they didn't deserve to just be wiped out of existence without trial. MATT falsified data, uploaded viruses with demented little graphics when he tried to access or fix it, and generally drove him around the fucking bend.

MATT told Matt that Near was right when he suggested that Kira was with the Japanese police, no matter how the mass murdering little shit tried to hide it.

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When Mello was done playing the badass Mafioso and getting half his face melted, he took three steps into Matt's brand-spanking-new studio apartment and gave such a long-suffering sigh that Matt was sorely tempted to kick him straight back out on his (still gorgeous) arse.

He settled for lighting another cigarette, and picking his way past a variety of gaming and computing paraphernalia to make sure he kept the better bed.

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Two weeks of stony silence and ambiguous comments in, Mello snapped.

"How long did you live here before?"

"Nearly two months – got it as soon as I realised he had to be with the Task Force."

"And do you know anyone around here other than Miyuki?"

Ahh, Miyuki, the sweet, slightly elderly landlady who brought him leftovers and thought the flat-chested (though admittedly pretty) blond girl who'd moved in looked a bit beneath the sweet young gentleman on the first floor.

"Nope."

"Fucking shit."

"… Well, I say no, but I guess I might know someone online who's also in the area, and I mean, the range on some of these network games isn't quite as 'worldwide' as they say it is, but it's not one of those things you ask, y'know? But –"

"Shut up, Matt."

There was a triumphant bleep from the DS. Matt grinned. It wasn't fixed, but it was close.

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He often wondered just who Mello thought he was dealing with, when he ordered Matt to just keep watching the monitors and let him get on with things. Mello was Wammy's number 2, sure, and Matt was number 3, and out of L's three successors he had to admit that he was the weakest. Out of everyone who could have been successors, however, he was pretty fucking amazing, and could do way more than just watch an unchanging fucking screen, thank-you-very-much.

Besides which, watching the screen all day for Mello meant that he was increasingly strapped for time when it came to his own work. He needed to concentrate to hack efficiently, and he couldn't hack three systems at once to get through security undetected as well as keeping one eye on the diva and the big guy (for whom he had major respect – no matter how cute the chick was he would've strangled her by now, but Mogi was totally fucking unflappable). Instead, he played games to keep himself awake during the day, and worked through alternate nights – hacking, checking up on Near (because despite what Mello said about her, he'd rather trust his own eyes and ears than Halle, kthnxbai), keeping Kira on his toes in the realm of information warfare, and earning enough cash to keep them equipped (and enough favours to keep them safe).

The misery of it all was worth it though, when Mello finally noticed the dark rings behind the orange lenses and apologised with a kiss on his cheek (his heart hammered madly for a second, but then he remembered that this was new, tough, flirty Mello, not Wammy's Mello, and it meant nothing to him) and warm, strong fingers digging rhythmically into his tensed and sore shoulders.

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Mello's plan was totally batshit insane.

Completely.

Absolutely.

Utterly.

In fact, it was almost as bad as NAMCO's plan of not spending the extra time and cash equipping Soul Calibur III with a network play feature, even though every other game in a similar bracket had one.

Matt had researched Takada and her bodyguards when the rumours had first started, even before Mello hauled his (gorgeous, just fucking gorgeous) arse over the Pacific and invaded his new home, taking away his privacy and space (and quite honestly he'd been happy back in his little council flat in Soho, working the internet and the world from the comfort of his bright orange sofa that he'd had to sell to get this place, thanks). At this point? He knew what routes she took, what her weak points were, exactly what they'd need to pull this off. He knew how to get Mello out alive.

He also knew that there was no way in hell he was keeping his kneecaps.

Huh, hopefully the first shot would take out his brain, and he wouldn't feel it.

Matt turned to Mello, smiled, and told him it sounded like their best shot.

"I trust you."

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For the very first time, Mello watched him work. Matt wasn't sure why (a dirty lie - of course he bloody well was, he was well aware that Mello thought he'd make mistakes or slack off if he didn't keep watch), but he sat quietly and watched nimble fingers dance across and between keyboards, watched Matt's sharp eyes pick codes apart in seconds. Matt knew he was showing off a little, pushing himself a little, but (he wouldn't say it, not ever, not even under fucking torture would he admit it out loud) the man's lack of faith and underestimation had damn well hurt, and he was almost desperate to prove himself, to prove Mello wrong (to prove himself worthy of him).

He finished in record time, and for the first time since they were (Lord, was it really so long?) eleven, Matt could see just a little hint of admiration in Mello's azure eyes.

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The day was tense and strained, the only conversation to confirm plan details. Mello's chocolate sat untouched, and Matt had furiously worked to complete Persona 4 before dawn. No games were to be left unfinished – it was the one thing he really cared about getting 100% on.

The fifteen-minute warning rolled around, and they strapped on their armour. Guns and knives were checked and hidden; vehicles were warmed up; mental blocks were put into place; confident, arrogant expressions were pasted on.

They weren't going to say goodbye.

Matt waited until Mello was half way to the bike, before almost too calmly (but he was sure that Mello could hear his heart beating a rapid tattoo against his ribs, sure he could see the tremors in his hands) stating, "I love you, you gorgeous bastard."

And then Mello was whipping around, and for a second as he smashed the accelerator down Matt could see the heartbroken (heartbreaking) joy and astonishment and god-fucking-damn-it-all LOVE there before the tyres screamed and he was off and away, off and away and leaving his heart behind.

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Of course, it wasn't enough that he had to die anyway; he had to do it surrounded by crowds. Mello's (Mello, Mello, oh, Lord, keep the reckless git safe) God couldn't have had pity on him just this once, and had him killed down a side street or something, with just three or four of the bastards in front of him. It's not like he'd be any less dead.

Instead, after living most of his life indoors and (physically) alone, he was going to die as an agoraphobic hermit (whom Mello loves, he had on repeat in his head, and somehow he was still smiling at the bastards; whom Mello loves, don't forget it, don't forget that) in the middle of a freaking crowd.

He felt the bullets hit his kneecaps, but not for long.

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