Hey! For those of you not previously acquainted with my august personage, I am Severe Cabbage, the (relatively) acclaimed author of that ridiculous fluffy fic, "It's a Wonderful Life." For those of you that do know me, this is my next big project. I hope for this fic to be pretty long, and it's going to have a slightly more serious tone than any of my previous stuff. However, I think it's going to be pretty damn fun nonetheless.
I present to you the first chapter of "Inviting Trouble," in which you will learn some backstory and be exposed to cereal you didn't know you wanted. Enjoy!
Oh, and don't forget to REVIEW. I love them very much, and I really want to know if you all think that this is a good start, or if I should just rewrite the hell outta this.
Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note, but I do own these lobster-patterned socks.
Near looked up as a cup of hot tea was placed onto the counter across the room. Detaching himself from the queue of customers huddling near the register, he carefully navigated through the overcrowded café. Eyes trained upon the floor, he did not bother to acknowledge the stares and suspicious whispers that floated towards his sensitive ears.
At twenty-one, Near looked as though he could easily pass for sixteen. Always shorter than average throughout his youth, he was still dimunitive, at an unimpressive five feet, two inches. His face had lost some of the roundness of his teenage years, but its features would always remain soft and rounded. Far too skinny for someone of his age, he concealed his bony frame with the same baggy white clothing he had worn customarily for years.
Today, this traditional ensemble was accompanied by a white canvas jacket and a pair of worn but still-white sneakers, dangling precariously from small feet. The sneakers were necessary for public outings, and the chilly autumn weather was responsible for the jacket. However, Near's clothing was still far too thin for such a day, and his ears and nose had reddened slightly from the cold.
Much to the irritation of the busy customers in the café, Near's slow path across the room was halted when a trailing lace from his left shoe freed itself. Crouching down carefully, the young man looped the threadbare lace and pulled, straightening the ends of the bow until they hung evenly down the sides of the shoe.
This task accomplished, he stood and finally completed the journey to the counter. Displaying his numbered receipt to the server, he picked up the foam container of tea with careful hands.
"Do you have milk?" he asked quietly, shifting his fingers in sudden pain as the warmth from the cup awakened chilled nerve endings.
A lazily pointing finger was his response, and he looked in the indicated direction. A small table littered with sweeteners and small containers of cream stood against the wall. Not bothering to thank the server, he crept over to the little condiment station and pried the lid off of the tea with neatly-trimmed fingernails. His other hand delicately rifled through the tiny containers of creamer and half-and-half, finally resting upon a seemingly random choice.
This moment of mindless but comforting banality was interrupted by a harsh, low voice.
"Near!" It was not a happy exclamation. Those who recongnized the reclusive young boy were rarely delighted at the chance encounter.
Turning, Near regarded the newcomer with the same dull gaze he had given the low-fat creamer.
"Good afternoon, Mello."
"Why the hell are you here?" Mello demanded bluntly, burying clenched fists in the pockets of his gleaming leather jacket. From behind a curtain of smooth blond hair, hateful green eyes stared at Near with a look that seemd perfectly capable of frying the other where he stood.
"Is there a reason that I should not be here?" Near inquired, the curiousity in his words not matching the monotone of his voice. Raising the styromfoam cup of tea to pale lips, he sipped gently at the steaming liquid and swallowed audibly. A grimace passed across the thin face, and another little pot of creamer was added to the brew.
Mello watched these small motions with poorly-concealed anger. Meeting Near's eyes again, he said lowly, "You're supposed to be living in New York City."
"Indeed. Have you been checking up on me, Mello?" Near asked innocently. Mello scowled.
"I hear things from the other Wammy kids. Don't flatter yourself," he said shortly. "Anyway, how did you end up in London?"
"Business," Near stated simply. "And you, of course, have been residing here for six years, correct?"
"Yes," the blonde supplied, a dangerous look still in his eyes. "What's your business, then, Near?"
The shorter man appeared to consider this for one long moment. "Accounting," he contributed finally, the small smirk on his face showing that he didn't expect Mello to believe this for one moment. "And yourself?"
"I'm sure you know," Mello stated, smiling humorlessly. "Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to leave."
"Of course," Near said, dark blue eyes still trained on Mello. "However…"
Near tilted his head a bit, studying the tall blonde with a disconcertingly intent look. "I hope to see you again while I am here, Mello. I do not encounter many Wammy children these days."
Mello snorted. "Bullshit. Look, I'm leaving, alright? Can't say it was nice to see you again, but if you come here again I probably will anyway. If you're going to talk to me, you better be damn well ready to buy me a drink." Quick fingers zipped up the leather jacket. "Now, goodbye."
"Goodbye, Mello." As the older man's darkly gleaming back receded from view, Near took a pensive sip of tea, and followed the blonde out of the café.
Keys rattled as Near twisted them in the old bronze lock affixed to the doorknob. That obstacle passed, he then proceeded to open the other six locks.
In the opinion of the apartment's occupants, there was never such a thing as too much paranoia.
As soon as he passed through the threshold of the apartment, Near shed his shoes and jacket, folding the latter item and placing it carefully on top of the rickety hall table. He paused in the hall for a moment, listening carefully to the apparent silence that filled the four rooms.
Eventually, a clicking sound threaded its way out of the low beeps and crashes that signified a London afternoon. It was unmistakably the sound of a keyboard.
Satisfied, Near walked into what was, according to the landlord, a combination kitchen and dining room. This was apparently real estate-speak for "a table in the middle of the kitchen."
"Hello, L," Near said, nodding at the room's other occupant.
"Near." A pair of eyes rose above the edge of a sleek silver laptop, gazing at the younger man imploringly. "My cookies? The chocolate ones?"
"Right here," Near assured the man, holding out the packet of generic café cookies he had purchased on his excursion.
L's spidery body unfolded as he clambered down from his perch on the table to seize the cheap dessert. "Thank you, Near," he muttered through a delicate mouthful of cookie. "My supplies were at a dangerous low, as I am sure you observed."
Near nodded in a rather ambiguous fashion, and walked over to the three cupboards that housed most of the pair's sustenance. Opening the creaking cabinet in the center, he drew out a box of unflavored cereal and a white china bowl. These were set upon the chipped countertop while the young man opened the nearby fridge. After a brief period of rummaging (during which one donut, three half-consumed smoothies, and a melting pint of dulce de leche ice cream were dislodged from their resting places) a carton of skim milk was set next to the cereal.
With his customary robotic precision, Near made—nay, assembled—a bowl of cereal and placed the milk back in the fridge.
The bowl was carried over to the table, where Near hopped onto one of the insubstantial chairs and drew a knee up to his thin chest. Pulling the cereal closer, he began to eat in quiet, hurried motions.
Pausing between bites, he inquired, "Have you made very much progress today?"
"A considerable amount," L replied, smiling slightly at the man across the table. "I apologize for not allowing you more control over this particular case, but I didn't believe that you would draw any useful experience from it…"
"I understand," Near said, returning the smile with an awkward one of his own. The two sat in pleasant silence for several minutes, the sharp clacking of the keys on L's laptop and the click of the spoon against Near's cereal bowl providing a quiet and irregular rhythm.
Near finished his insufficient meal, and stood up to deposit the dishes in the sink. "I encountered Mello at the café this afternoon," he ventured, back to L.
"That is unsurprising. He lives several blocks from this building, after all," L said distractedly.
"A fact you neglected to mention," Near quietly accused, running water over the remains of cereal and milk in the sink.
"Oh," L said, finally looking up fully. "Again, I apologize…I did not realize you placed very much importance upon him."
"Importance? I hardly…" Near trailed off. "It was merely surprising to see him today. It has been seven years, after all."
"He dresses rather interestingly nowadays, don't you think?" L asked, chuckling slightly to himself.
"You've seen him, as well?" Near asked, startled.
"He was of great help in the last case, although I of course hired him indirectly."
"Surveillance videos," L explained, causing Near to nod.
"Is he a detective, then?" the young man asked, looking thoughtful.
"He certainly is. It was always a bit of an inevitability, don't you agree?" With a last click, L folded the lid of the laptop down. "I am going to go contact our current employer and inform him that the case has been solved. If you wish, you may sort through those files upon the table and look for something intriguing." With another subtle smile, L left the room, retreating to the makeshift office the two had set up in a particularly spacious closet.
Feeling slightly thwarted by the lack of insight L had provided, Near nevertheless picked up the files scattered in a chaotic pattern near the edge of the table. Seating himself once again, he shuffled them until the edges aligned and began to flip.
One after the other, blue file folders landed upon the table, contents deemed too commonplace for a proper investigation.
Finally, Near's hands halted, and one file remained while the others were gently set down. Looking solemnly at the papers inside, Near's face assumed a thoughtful look.
"The Kira case?…how peculiar…"
L's head poked through the door to the "office."
"You've found one?"
"Yes," Near said, his right hand slowly coming up to pull at his hair. "I believe I have."
A/N: Well, there we have it! Forgive the length of this chapter, but I wanted to start out with something short and informative, to set the scene a bit. I hope you have questions, now! Why is L living with Near? Why haven't Near and Mello seen each other in nearly a decade? Why is the apartment of the world's best detective such a crappy little hellhole, anyway?
All these and more will be answered next time! (expect an update sometime soon, but not too soon. I am man, not machine!)