A/N: Somewhat AU. L died, Mello got involved in the Mafia, but he used his Mafia sources to consult Near, who became involved in the Mafia as well somewhat and then they kicked Kira's ass, whose last actions were killing off the Mafia, the SPK, and after that Ryuk had a thing for Mello and he asked Ryuk to kill of Kira, which he did.

It's complicated, but the thing is: Mello never meets Matt until later, Mello doesn't have a scar, Near and Mello do not like each other that way, Mello and Near are close friends now, and Near's "hiding" because he really missed Wammy's, but no way in HELL was he going to admit that.

Now…enjoy.

This little fucker beat me up and nibbled my brain during PE.

-:-

1. Established.

A regular day at Wammy's wouldn't have been considered normal anywhere else in the country. Or the world.

For one, kids getting caught for making explosives from potatoes were perfectly normal. Ten year olds learning calculus. The next da Vincis being cultivated in the art room. Geniuses discussing various topics.

Everything encased in a perfect mix of quaint and modern. The huge building, a beige-brown color with the primary wood being oak and mahogany, promoted neutral colors and then vibrant colors to encourage brain movement. There were at least five floors—seven if you counted the basement and the attic—and some of the brightest and the most talented minds had been cultivated here. Raised here.

And, in the middle of it all, a taxi pulled to a stop before the gates that led to what seemed like an epic land of grass, trees, and flowers; a vibrant—to say the least—blonde was quietly slipping out of the taxi, and after paying the driver, into the gates after muttering something into the Intercom at the gate before it buzzed open, making various high-tech locks to unlock.

Mello pushed the white metal open, and it caught the attention of the kids.

Once he stepped in…well, that was when the explosive reaction occurred.

He more or less chose to come at the free time, when the majority of Wammy kids were outside.

"Mello, you finally came!"

"Hey, Mello!"

"Hi, Mels, how you doing?"

He grinned at the lot of them reluctantly—God, he loved these freaks, no matter how much he acted like he didn't—and looked around the orphanage, the one that he hadn't stepped foot in after what seemed like forever.

Kira was gone. He had to team up with Near to get the deed done, he had been alone for a long time, but he was gone.

He just needed to talk to his former co-HBDC (head bitch detective in charge), who he knew was hiding here after all of the SPK members except them two were murdered.

Really, behind the cuteness, was an evil mind.

Behind the evil mind stood a little kid with abandonment issues.

The orphanage was almost just like he remembered, except for the few new members to the intelligent collection, and there was excited chatter circulating around the orphanage, explaining to the newbies exactly who he was and why he was favored over Near.

One: he was more social.

Two: he wasn't half as creepy.

And three: he had motivation. A dream. A goal. Something very much admired in the Wammy environment.

(Four: pretty much every. Single. Wammy kid—boy or girl, it didn't matter what their usual preference was—secretly or openly lusted after him, giving him a lot of practice for dodging hormone-induced stalkerish behavior he had to deal with in the real world, where it was worse. And even though he was a lot stronger than he looked, he wasn't that strong, but that didn't really count, since the members of the Mafia were just plain scary.)

That and the fact that he was a translator for various children who couldn't speak English yet, because, well, he was fluent in practically everything.

Language and words: that was his forte.

Also cursing, but that didn't matter in an orphanage full of little kids.

Not to mention that it was widely known that he and Near had solved the Kira case.

The hallways were a cream shade, and there was oak paneling. They replaced the carpet with oak as well, and the harder floor was victim to the sock-skating for kids who missed ice skating in the winter. The teachers gave him a small smile when he passed them, and Mello found major dejavu rather…comforting.

This was his home, not a basement-esque place that stank of sweat, booze, lust (for him, bleh), and vomit.

Because things after Kira really did go back to the way it used to be. Right?

Eventually, he reached the door to Near's old room, the one where Near was hiding in. The door was white, and a gold Near was embedded into it.

Mello tried to think between knocking (manners) and kicking open the door.

Mello kicked open the door, making Near look up briefly before going back to his book. That was when Mello scoffed, and he walked deeper into the medium-sized room, equipped with a small wardrobe (Near's clothes were thin, it didn't take up so much room), a bedside table, and a bed that was right besides the window.

The rest of the room was occupied by toys, and Mello attempted ignoring his fans, who had followed.

"You're hiding," Mello observed, picking the foil off of the chocolate bar.

Near looked up. "Hello, Mello."

"That rhymed."

But right now, instead of irritation, Mello was blissed out. Kira had been shown the door, and he and Near had taken turns beating the shit out of him before finally throwing him out with hard evidence.

Then that shinigami had killed him.

A little bit of mourn, then he decided that the little fucker didn't deserve anything more than a slap in the face.

And maybe looking so goddamn androgynous was helpful. Even though he hated to admit it, he did look more like a girl.

Mello plopped down on Near's bed, content and fine now with the shy faces peering at him through Near's doorframe, staring at the white ceiling, noticing Near was ignoring the same faces and continuing their conversation.

"People have missed you," Near pointed out. The faces disappeared.

Mello shrugged and placed the chocolate bar on the bedside table. "People just like me."

Near opened his mouth to reply to that, but Mello interrupted him with, "Don't comment on that."

Near smirked a bit, and began stacking the Popsicle sticks he produced from under the bed. When the fuck did he procure those? The mental image of Near sucking on Popsicles was just…bizarre. "Did you miss Wammy's?"

Mello hesitated, then said, "Yeah. The…the constant feeling of safety, the constant feeling that someone—or some people—are there for me, that I'm not a freak for being fluent in eight languages when I was five…"

"That's why everyone loves this place," Near said.

"Is it the same reasons for you?" Mello asked, curiosity grabbing hold of his tongue.

"No," Near said. "I appreciate this place, but I didn't miss it or anything."

Mello nodded. "Yeah, the idea of you being homesick is kind of funny."

Near made a little noise of what seemed to be irritation and thankfulness. "Is this the reason why you hunted me down all by yourself?"

"Naw. I just missed your freakish ways to match my freakish ways."

"Touching," Near said, a bit of sarcasm in his tone.

"You're welcome." Mello closed his eyes to enjoy the breeze entering the room from the open window. "You know, I never realized how great this place was until I left."

"Safety is a strange thing."

"Yes it is. You don't like it until you leave it."

Near stayed silent, then said, "I like safety."

"I didn't. I kind of still don't. But knowing I'm not going to die suddenly here…Well, I could, but somehow I think I won't. Maybe being reckless helped."

Near snorted. "Stupid, you mean."

Mello sat up and glared at the white-haired boy. "Reckless and stupid are not synonyms."

"Obvious idiocy is, however."

"My 'stupid' ways led to me stumbling into a locked bathroom while the lightsaber was scribbling down names watching portable TV news broadcasts pretending to be taking a dump from that public library when I was tailing him. I knew he was in there, and you told me barging in would be stupid."

"It was," Near confirmed. "Stupid but effective."

Mello shook his mess of cornsilk blonde hair out of his eyes. Then when that didn't work, used his hands to shove it back.

"You always made fun of my looking 'girl-like.'"

"Take the air quotes off of girl-like and you'd be onto something."

"Anyhow, how would you know what reckless is? You're so cautious that it's annoying.

"It saves my life," Near said, "and I am cautious. But while you are reckless, you aren't that brave."

Mello laughed. "Yeah? Prove it. One dare. I'll do it." He was pacing now, idly looking out the window.

Near didn't say anything for a long time, and turned on the TV as he thought. Mello finished his fifth chocolate bar before Near finally said, "I have it."

Mello's eyes brightened up, making the few admirers who stayed despite the "creepy semi-albino germs" that could infect them was in the room squeal. He loved challenges, and he knew that Near's dare wouldn't be an easy one.

"Hit me," he demanded.

Near sighed. "You'll shoot me in the knee, though."

Mello tossed his gun to Near, who caught it. "There. So what is it?"

He was aware of his enthusiasm, and it made one of the girls at the doorway squeal again, who was made silent by her friend. Near and Mello ignored them.

Near chewed his lip, twirling his hair. "I dare you…"

Mello waited out the dramatic pause impatiently.

"…to enter as one of the contestants of Miss Winchester."

Mello stared, then laughed for a long time. "You have to be fu…"—Mello became aware of quick-learning minds by the doorframe—"—er, freaking—kidding me. I'm not a girl. Get that into your thick skull and stop joking around."

"But you could pass for one," Neat stated flatly. "And I'm also not joking. I'm serious. That's your dare."

"Alright, fine." An expectant, mischievous grin was conquering Mello's facial features. "I think it's going to be pretty fun. And funny."

Near's lip twitched for a second. "Is the dare on?"

"Oh, you bet the dare's on," Mello cackled. "Let's add a bet to it as well. If I win, you have to melt your robots. If I lose, then I have to be your bit—um, maid—or something for a week."

The audience at the door gasped. A collective gasp. How cliché.

"Two weeks."

"Week and a half."

"Done."

Because they were close friends now didn't mean they didn't enjoy trying to outdo the other. One of them succeeded? Great. One of them outstripped the other? You had to get even.

Like siblings. Loved them to death, but…

…you had a bone to pick with them. Constantly.

The audience had quadrupled and more were coming. They were all holding their breath.

With a handshake, the dare and the bet were established.

This would turn out to be the greatest and worst mistake the two geniuses would make in their life.

But they didn't know that yet.

SO…

I was originally going to make it Miss America until I realized that Mello is not, in fact, American.

Shortish chapters; most will be five to six pages long. Suggestions for this will be appreciated.

Reviews are love.

And love makes the world go round.