A/N: And now, what we've all been waiting for… the happy ending! The fangirl inside is appeased, and In the Library, at a whopping 28,797 words (A/N's excluded), is done.
I want to thank everyone again who favorited, alerted, - and especially – reviewed this story. To those repeat reviewers out there, you guys absolutely rock! I'm glad you all enjoyed, and hope you enjoy any future fics you happen to read… even if they're not mine. ;) Thanks, you guys.
On a more technical note: this ending is taken and meant to be a part of the original 'Part Four'. I didn't rewrite the entire chapter, ('cause I'm lazy like that), but rewrote the last two thirds or so of the third 'chunk'. Remember the "-------"'s that separate out my chapters? The chunk after the second one of those is where the rewrite takes place. (Don't worry, it's not as confusing as I'm making it sound.)
So, I've just reposted the entire third chunk, and dropped off the first two. There's really no point, since they're exactly the same, it would just be redundant. As you'll see, this will look really familiar for awhile… but wait! We go in an entirely different direction! As a bonus there's also a little tack-on for the epilogue. Just chop off a bit of the original and add this on and the ending is complete.
Disclaimer: Me no own Death Note… (sigh)
In the Library
Alternate Ending, "You, Too"
Like everything else, the small vegetable patch Mello had come to had a fresh covering of snow. There were no vegetables left, they had all been harvested when the nighttime frosts had begun. So there were no shapes outlined in the pure white, only vague impressions of empty rows, their depths softened where the flakes gathered.
It didn't look much like a garden, but Mello could imagine what it looked like alive and growing.
Back in the days before Wammy's, before Mello had become Mello, his family's garden had always been the one place he could go to feel at peace. There had been no judgment, no jealousy, and no punishments, only the quietness of growing things and the wind. Those old memories, long ago set aside to make room for a new life, were all that gave Mello's tired mind any sort of rest.
Mello focused just on the peaceful times in the garden, when he had hid among the beans and cabbage, playing with stones… before the fire had taken everything…
A soft sound made Mello look up. Any tranquility he may have found was swept aside at the sight of Near, bundled in slightly overlarge winter clothing and holding a pair of sunglasses in ungloved fingers. His exposed eyes squinted in the light.
Mello felt something snap inside of him at the sight of the boy who haunted his thoughts. "Dammit, Near!" he shouted in the white stillness. "Why can't you leave me alone?"
Near ignored the angry exclamation and looked around with an air of mystification. He had thought perhaps there was some hidden nook beyond the gardens that Mello was headed for, or that he intended to leave the grounds altogether and walk to town. But he had stopped here.
"It seems strange that Mello would come to a vegetable garden," he said, still staring at the faint outlines of rows. "Why does he?"
Mello looked away, embarrassed. It was… well, not a rule, but a custom at Wammy's that when you stepped through the doors and took on a new name, your past was left completely behind. He'd just been reliving a piece of his past, leaving himself open to those old doubts and wounds. If he admitted it, it might come across as weakness. "Why do you care?" he snapped at the boy, hoping open hostility would make him back off. "It's just a place to go."
"And yet very out of character," Near looked up at Mello, eyes still straining a little in the unfamiliar brightness. "Mello hates vegetables, and is not known for enjoying quiet environments."
"You don't know everything about me, Near. I'm not some book to be picked up and read." It was bad enough Near was standing here with him, alone, but his line of questioning was making him feel defensive. There had to be a better topic than this.
Near carefully tucked the sunglasses into a pocket. "This is true," he agreed. "Mello is more complicated than a book. There is much that is unknown about him. For example," here Near took a breath. If Mello wasn't going to be straightforward, then he would have to be, he reminded himself. "Why did Mello watch me in the library?"
Not this topic. Mello fidgeted under the question, eyes still averted. "Does it matter anymore?"
Slowly, Near began to circle around the small plot towards Mello. He wasn't used to wearing shoes at all, much less bulky boots, slogging through snow, so progress had to be slow. "Since we both appear to be experiencing the aftereffects of that day," he said without inflection, "I think it is important."
Mello noted Near's advance, and kept himself from moving away in response. Instead he stared into the younger boy's watering eyes. Why didn't he put his glasses back on? "…I was interested in what you were doing."
"Playing with my toys?" There was a hint of disbelief in Near's voice. "Mello has seen me do that hundreds of times." The distance had already been cut by half.
"Yeah, well, that time was different." The blonde continued to fidget, both from the questions and from the growing proximity of the albino. Why was he getting so close?
Near finally stopped, a little less than arm's length away. Mello had tensed so much he looked ready to bolt at any moment. If Near hadn't been so nervous as well, he might have laughed. "In what way was it different?"
"God, Near, I don't know!" Mello finally lost a little of his cool. "I've been trying to figure that out!"
"And has Mello discovered anything revealing?"
Mello felt the telltale heat in his ears again, and hoped it could be blamed on the cold. "Nothing I care to share with you."
Near felt a little sick. He'd pushed Mello into this corner deliberately, and while it appeared he felt something for Near, it was also fair to say he appeared ashamed and embarrassed by the fact. Any hope Near had for… anything… was draining away.
If things couldn't progress the way he had hoped, then it was time to snap their lives back into place. The one reaction Near could always rely on from Mello, and the best chance for normality, should be very easy to get.
"Because Mello has not discovered anything," he said blandly.
The ice in Mello's eyes flashed dangerously. "That's not what I said!"
Near stared directly into those blues and spoke very slowly and deliberately, as though to a child. "Mello has no idea as to his own motives."
"Shut up, Near!" Mello drew back a hand to slap the smaller boy… and stopped, arm shaking with the effort of self-control.
Near stared at the appendage, giving no outward reaction. Internally, he was stunned. He had been expecting to be hit, had been deliberately goading Mello for that exact response in the hope that it would snap the boy back to normal. But he had held back.
The black clad arm came down slowly, back to Mello's side. Scowling fiercely, he looked away from Near as though he were ashamed. "Near," he said tightly, "you'd better leave, before I really lose my temper."
"Mello is capable of controlling himself." A touch of the surprise he felt colored the statement. Not only was Mello containing himself, he was telling Near to go before the control broke.
Mello refused to look at Near. "It'd be better not to test the limits of that," he said. Near's comment, more than his tone, was bothering him. He worked hard for his superior position in Wammy's hierarchy, and thought he had achieved it over everyone except for Near. He'd resorted to violence in the past to feel like he was dominate, but he had no control over himself, just like Near pointed out. It was an uncomfortable thought.
Instead of leaving, Near took another half-step forward, closer to the conflicting blonde. "Mello controls himself, when he wishes to strike me," he said slowly, working through the logic. "This suggests that Mello has a compelling reason to not hit me."
Mello didn't reply. What the hell was Near trying to do? Did he know how Mello felt about him; was he torturing him like this deliberately? After all he had put Near through over the years, he wouldn't blame him if he were. That didn't mean he had to like it, though.
Near waited for Mello to respond, or to look at him. He wanted Mello to look at him, wanted to see how the older boy was reacting to his words. A full minute passed, and Mello still refused to look away from a maple tree he seemed to find fascinating. Near took another step closer to Mello, who leaned away from him, but didn't step back. "There has never been a reason to hold back before," Near persisted. "Something has changed to reset Mello's priorities: he is more concerned for my safety than fulfilling his own impulses."
Mello swallowed. The boy was too close. "Near, leave."
Near ignored the order. He'd started this scenario; he couldn't step away from it now. He reached out and took hold of one of Mello's sleeves, the same one that had been prepared to hit him. Mello jumped at the contact, but Near held on tightly. Finally, Mello was looking at him directly, eye to eye. Near saw anger in his face, but confusion as well, and… fear?
"What could have changed so much for Mello?"
The grip Mello had on himself finally slipped. "Goddammit, Near, go away!" He put his free hand in the center of Near's chest and shoved.
Near gave away readily, falling backwards, boots tangling with each other. What Mello hadn't counted on was Near maintaining a grip on his sleeve. The blonde lost his balance as well, and toppled after the albino.
Mello managed to avoid landing directly on top of Near, but he was straddling the boy, knees on either side of his hips, elbows dug into the snow on either side of his head, their faces only a foot apart. Mello froze as Near looked up at him. Ah, Mary, he thought. Of all the… this was only supposed to happen in cheap romances!
Near looked up, slightly dazed from the knock on his head while landing. He cleared quickly once he realized the position he was in, lying underneath the older boy. Mello was definitely looking at him now, but now Near found the azure stare too penetrating, it went right through him. The albino felt an unfamiliar warmth on his cheeks, realized belatedly that he was blushing. He shifted, hoping Mello didn't notice his coloring. "Why does Mello hold himself back?" he asked, as deadpan as ever.
It was a good try. Near almost managed to appear unaffected by their awkward positioning, but Mello wasn't fooled. He saw the blush, felt the little nervous motion underneath him. Near was… responding. Given, he was responding to something that anyone would be hard pressed not to, but this was Near. Like his expressions, reactions had to be magnified several times to be read properly. Mello took a breath. If he was going to assume that blush meant what he hoped it did, then he was going for broke. "Because," he said quietly, "I love you, you idiot."
Near's eyes widened at the confession. Mello was blushing now as well, but his eyes never left Near's. "Mello… loves me…" he said, dazed once again. How could Mello say that word so easily? It was hard for him to say it even when he wasn't returning it.
Still focusing entirely on the boy pinned under him, Mello replied with a simple, "Yes."
Near was at a loss. Mello was obviously waiting for a response of some kind. Near felt the same way for Mello, but could he bring himself to say it? He shifted in the snow again, trying to hold the icy gaze leveled on him, but slid away from it. "Mello, I…"
Mello smiled. At least this was expected: Near was having trouble expressing himself. As long as he was trying, that was what mattered. He tapped the struggling boy on the shoulder to regain his attention. "I know."
Near blushed a deeper red, lips pulling up into a shy smile.
Mello's smile, on the other hand, faded. "But it'll never work, Near."
Near's stomach, which had been fluttering, sank. Had they made it to this point only to go back to where they had been in the first place?
"How can Mello know for sure?"
The blonde let his eyes drift away from the agate marbles that seemed to be staring him down, now. "I won't always be able to hold back, Near. You'll get hurt." Mello seemed to shrink into himself. "There's too much rage, too much I still hate about you."
If Mello expected his last statement to sting, then he would have been disappointed. Near knew that there would be conflict, between the two of them and within themselves as well. "Mello's ambivalence is not entirely one-sided," he pointed out softly. "There would be adjustments for both of us."
Mello didn't respond.
Near frowned. This wouldn't do. Mello would avoid this out of discomfort if he let him. Near wouldn't let him, not after the last month they had gone through figuring it all out. This new method he was using of being nice obviously wasn't working, it was time to go back to the old tried and true ways. Be antagonistic. "Mello should share his concerns if he wishes them solved," he said, instilling as much acid into the statement as possible.
Mello took the bait, snapped his glare back onto the albino below him. Through a scowl that wasn't quite being held in check, he growled, "I hate how you're always better than me."
Near held the stare firmly. "As I am weary of Mello's continuous assertion to be the best in everything."
Frosty blue eyes narrowed. "Your obsession with toys is infantile and irritating."
"Mello's chocolate addiction is quite distracting."
The older boy leaned in even closer. "Your speech pattern is fucking unbearable."
Near let an eyebrow raise and lifted his head up out of the snow, bringing their faces within inches of each other. "Yours' too."
Mello jerked back. That was the second time he'd heard Near use pronouns. He didn't think he would ever get used to it, but Near had made his point. Mello wasn't the only one who would have problems with creating a relationship with his rival. He sighed. "Why you?" he said, not really expecting a reply.
"They say that opposites attract," Near said, taking Mello's mutter literally.
"That's magnets, genius."
"Why not people, too?"
"It's not—" Mello stopped in mid-sentence as Near reached up to him. For a second he thought that the albino was going to touch his face, but the pale hand dipped back down again. Somehow, Mello's rosary had come loose from under his clothing, and was pressed now at the hollow of Near's throat. The boy carefully plucked up the crucifix, removing the cold metal from sensitive skin and studying it carefully. It was a classic depiction of Christ on the cross, worked in silver and very detailed. Near could see tiny thorns on the savior's crown, delicate folds in the loincloth, and even small punctures where his captors had stabbed him.
Mello watched as Near began rubbing the beads of his rosary absently. It was almost the same way Mello stroked them during prayer, but it also reminded him of how Near would twirl his hair. Apparently they shared a similar nervous habit. Slowly, so he didn't startle the younger boy, Mello brought up his hand to Near's face and caught a lock of his silvery hair.
Near's fingers paused. He looked up at Mello curiously, but didn't object to the further invasion of personal space. When Mello began winding the lock carefully around his fingers, the same way Near did everyday, Near closed his eyes and sighed, tilting his head into Mello's hand. Eventually, his own hand picked up its rhythm again, caressing the beads.
Near's hair was amazingly soft. With his eyes closed, nestled in snow as pale as he was, the boy looked angelic. Not at all like the unfeeling robot Mello had known for years. The feel of the silky hair in his hand, Near's even breaths, and the subtle sensation of his rosary moving with Near's fingers calmed the blonde, making him drowsy.
This was a taste of what they might share, if they could just make it work. Was there a chance? "Near," he said softly.
Dark eyes opened at once, wondering if there would still be rejection, or if Mello would give them a chance.
Mello never ceased winding Near's hair, his eyes focused there as he said, "Give me numbers. What do you make our chances to be?"
Near paused, using the excuse of thinking to cover his surprise. Mello deliberately handing Near an opportunity to be in control? Maybe there was hope. "If both Mello and I were to give a concerted effort to a relationship… then I estimate the probability of success at about 19%."
Mello winced. Near's numbers were nigh infallible. The only one he knew who was better at them was L. "That's pretty low."
Near nodded, "Yes."
A thought occurred to Mello suddenly, and he swallowed a chuckle. "Higher than I'd thought it'd be, though," he said instead.
The albino looked up at Mello's lightened tone. "It won't be easy, Mello," he warned.
A smirk played Mello's lips, making his angular features appear wickedly mischievous. "Did you happen to factor in how stubborn I can be when facing improbable odds?"
Near blinked. "No, I did not." He thought again, quickly reconfiguring all the known data around Mello's personality. "Considering Mello's intractable nature, the number rises to 40%."
Mello's smirk widened. "With that high a percentage, then my determination drops."
Near frowned, not understanding the impish grin. "Then the probability percentage also drops."
"And my 'intractable nature' rises again."
Pause. "This is paradoxical."
Mello lowered himself, coming in so close their noses were almost touching, grin once again widening to see the agate eyes widen at the proximity. "Tell me about it," he whispered against a pair of pale lips. He leaned down further, closing the space between them until there was no more room for words.
Matt walked out the front door of Wammy's, dressed in his heavy vest and boots, goggles firmly in place. Forty-five minutes had gone by since he had watched Near wander out after Mello, which should have been more than enough time to work through what they needed to. Any more time would be tempting fate.
He trotted through the snow, following the two sets of tracks. He only made it a dozen yards before he saw his quarry coming back the other way. Of course. Just as he goes out to look for them, they come back. Matt sighed with relief. They were both standing and walking, and… Matt grinned. They were walking together.
Finding a convenient tree to lean against – and which made him look cool – he waited for them.
The unlikely pair were deep in conversation as they approached. Matt caught some of it, and realized that he didn't understand it at all. That might take some getting used to. If the top two were on speaking terms, then no one would be able to keep up with them. As they came close they finally noticed the redhead leaning on the tree, smirking at them. Near just looked back expressionlessly, while Mello scowled at his friend.
Matt beamed back at them, unconcerned. He looked pointedly at their hands, which were clasped together. He looked back up at Near, then at Mello, grin widening.
"Well, it's about fuckin' time!"
Then the gamer sprinted away through the snow, laughing hysterically, Mello hot on his heels, Near staring blankly after them.
A/N2: Domo arigato gozaimasu!