"I'm not even IN this fandom anymore," i whisper to myself. "What is wrong with me oh god"
In other words: I wrote another chapter! at the very least, you can regard this as a living document re: the evolution of my writing style, i guess?
Cheers to you if you're still reading this after all this time. :')
disclaimer: death note isn't mine (and i'm obviously insane)
Mello heaved a grim sigh as he dropped the final box from the van square onto the living room carpet. Straightening up, he clutched at the small of his back with a wince. The apartment was a second-story walk-up, and though that wasn't much of a bother on a day-to-day basis, moving all of L and Near's surprisingly heavy shit in had made every joint in his body scream like an old man's. "There's not much to take care of," L had said. "We travel light." What a lie. Someone needed to remind L of the benefits of living in the internet age: namely, the ability to digitize case files instead of wasting untold-of amounts of paper on the things and hoarding them to boot. Grumbling, Mello walked over to the couch and flung himself onto the soft leather with a moan of relief.
He wasn't quite sure how he had ended up carrying the lion's share of boxes up to his apartment. Admittedly, Near's first attempt had ended in disaster when a stray shoelace had caused the boy to plummet down a good half a flight of stairs (Mello smiled in fond remembrance). He was out for the count after that, sure, but what the hell was L's excuse?
The man himself appeared at that instant, nudging open the apartment door with one poorly shod foot. He slouched his way into the living room and stood in the center of the room, presumably surveying his new living space.
Mello followed his gaze and screamed internally at the sight of his beloved apartment, his sanctum sanctorum, now sullied by haphazard piles of boxes and overflowing suitcases. It was messy, ugly, and he knew that Near's inevitable takeover of the floorspace would only make it uglier.
"You have a lovely apartment," L remarked. Mello groaned.
"The floor plan is excellent. Nice and open. It should suit our needs admirably," the detective continued, peering into the hallway and the kitchen beyond. He nodded once, cheerful, and came to sit beside Mello on the couch.
"No shoes on the couch!" Mello barked. Obediently, L toed off his ratty sneakers and tucked his feet back onto the seat. Mello scowled. "Are you just going to leave those there?"
L gave him a look of surprise. "What else would I do with them?"
"Shoe rack. By the door." Mello jabbed a rather aggressive finger in the appropriate direction.
Suitably chastened, L reclaimed his shoes and stood up. "I see that you keep a very neat home, Mello," he said. There was a distinct sullen note in his voice.
As L walked over to the shoe rack, there was a knock on the door. As the door was already hanging open, this served only to push it into the room, revealing the somewhat wan figure of Near. There was a large, swollen bruise on his forehead and he appeared rather shaken, inasmuch as Near could ever look shaken.
"Near," L said, dropping his sneakers somewhere in the vicinity of the shoe rack with a soft thump. "Do you feel recovered?"
"I suppose so," Near replied. He moved into the room, closing the door behind him. "Mello."
"I locked up the moving van as you asked. Would you like the keys back?"
"Mmf," Mello grunted, tone vaguely affirmative. He had sunk so far back into the couch by now that it appeared to be eating him. He had tried shutting his eyes in an effort to deny reality, but it didn't seem to be working.
Soft footsteps approached the couch and Mello heard the faint jingle of his key chain being dropped onto the couch. "Hnn," he said.
"You're quite welcome."
There was then quite a long pause, so long that Mello reluctantly pried open his eyes to take stock of the situation. Both of his new roommates were staring at him expectantly, Near from the floor and L still standing by the shoe rack. Mello suppressed a shudder and hoisted himself upwards.
"Right. L. You're living in the office, more or less. Second left down the hallway." L nodded amiably and continued to stand completely still. Mello sighed. "Feel free to move your things in there."
"Of course," L said, smiling blandly, still not moving.
Mello ground his teeth. "Now. Uh, please…do that now. If you would."
It was amazing how his hero worship of L had turned into maddening frustration in such a short amount of time. The man had more social graces than Near, surely, even if he wasn't willing to own up to them. Mello couldn't help but suspect that the older detective was quite deliberately messing with him.
All in all, he had much preferred the hero worship.
But here-wonder of wonders!-L was shuffling off towards his stack of boxes, apparently intent on carrying them into the office. Mello wondered how likely it was that they would ever be properly unpacked. Estimation: not bloody likely.
He turned to Near, who stared at him placidly. "You're on the couch," he said.
"I've got sheets. And things. Do you need them?" Mello ground out.
"Just a pillow and a blanket," Near replied, barely sparing him a glance. Mello grit his teeth again (at this rate, he'd have to dig that mouth guard out of the bedside cabinet) and stalked off to his bedroom. He rooted through the pillows at the head of the bed, seized the one he deemed to be the lumpiest, and walked back out into the living room, tossing the pillow onto the couch. "I'll get the blanket."
The blanket was scratchy and woolen and buried at the bottom of a trunk full of much nicer blankets. Mello draped it over the back of the couch with a certain vindictive glee. "There you go," he said. "All set up."
Near glanced at the couch with a distinct lack of interest. "That will do nicely, Mello," he said. "Thank you."
"Hn. Well." Mello stood aimlessly behind the couch, not quite ready to leave Near in sole possession of his precious (and now defiled) living room. "Do you want anything?"
"Want?" Near asked blankly.
"Water? Tea?…" No response. "Coffee?…Schnapps?"
Near widened his eyes, implying that his invisible eyebrows were raised in some fashion.
"That's all I've got," Mello said defensively. "If you don't want anything, though, I'm lea-"
"What kind of schnapps?"
Mello blinked, trailing off. "Are you serious?"
"Uh…peppermint," Mello replied, somewhere between irritated and bewildered.
"Sounds lovely," Near said serenely. He pushed himself up off the floor and came to stand beside Mello. "Thank you."
Mello scowled, still somewhat bemused, and strode off towards the kitchen.
"This is quite nice."
Mello grunted, staring into a rapidly cooling cup of coffee. Near sat across the kitchen table, perched precariously on one of the lavishly engraved chairs Mello had picked up for a song from an old client. L had reluctantly wandered off to go return the moving van some ten minutes ago; Mello had been quite surprised to learn he could drive in the first place.
The white-haired boy took another sip of the mixture of milk and peppermint schnapps Mello had grudgingly prepared for him, brow slightly furrowed against the kick of the schnapps. "I've never had alcohol before," Near commented, and tipped the glass back again.
Mello looked up from his coffee. "Are you serious?" he asked incredulously.
"Is it so hard to believe?"
Mello scowled. "It's easy to believe that you don't drink, but why are you starting now?"
"Well," Near said, swirling his glass around with every semblance of interest, "this is the first time anyone's offered it to me."
"Great." Mello tossed back a good third of his coffee in one gulp. "I expect you'll turn out to have an allergy, or something."
"That's quite unlikely. Besides, I feel fine." Near took yet another sip of his drink, and Mello noted with some surprise that the glass was nearly empty. He looked up. The tip of Near's nose had gone slightly pink; it was rather charmingly terrible, he supposed.
"I expect you do," Mello said drily. "Now, should I stop you from drinking the rest of my schnapps, or do the immoral thing and get you drunk?"
"Is Mello threatening my virtue?"
Mello choked. "No! Christ. What the hell?"
"I don't understand how allowing me to become inebriated would be immoral in any other context," Near said pleasantly. His glass was, by now, quite empty.
"It would be immoral because…because…" Mello paused, not entirely sure of his answer. It had seemed a natural thing to say-but why? "I suppose," he said slowly, "it'd be immoral because I dislike you, and if I let you get drunk, it'd be solely to see you make a fool of yourself."
"How refreshingly honest," Near said. "Why are you so sure that I'd make a fool of myself?"
"Alcohol lowers boundaries." Mello scowled across the table. "And you...you're all boundaries."
"How can you know that?" Near smirked. "Perhaps I simply don't feel all the ridiculous things that propel Mello to such a dramatic extent."
Mello snarled silently, fingers clenching tight around his coffee mug. "Or perhaps you're just a smug, repressed little shite."
"Perhaps," Near said, voice still pleasant.
"All right, then," Mello growled, standing up from the table abruptly and seizing the bottle of schnapps from the counter. He grabbed Near's glass off the table and tipped a generous amount of the clear liquor into it. "There you go. I guess we're going to find out."
Near wrinkled his reddened nose in distaste. "No milk?"
Near reached for the glass and took a rather dainty sip. Although he attempted to disguise his small shudder, Mello spotted it immediately.
"Or is it too much to handle after all?" he asked, voice oozing false sweetness.
"I expected better of Mello than this sort of cheap macho posturing," Near replied. Nonetheless, he took another sip. And another.
"I engage in only the finest macho posturing, thank you very much," Mello said, voice wry. "Are you enjoying your schnapps?"
"Certainly," Near replied. "Tell me, is one intended to refer to schnapps in a singular or a plural fashion?"
"It's either-or," Mello said. "Like 'sheep.' You must be horrified to discover such a gap in your omniscience."
"I make an effort to only remember things I consider important." Near shrugged. "Minty alcohol is not, in my estimation, particularly important whatsoever."
Mello smirked in reply. "You did ask."
"I did. The answer was as dull as I had expected. I'll try to forget it at the first possible opportunity."
Mello's eyes narrowed, and he gave a snort of disgust. "Of course you will."
He was answered by the clink of Near's empty class onto the tabletop. "I seem to be done with this glass. If you're still dedicated to my ultimate disgrace, you may want to refill it."
Mello stared hard at him. The alcohol was obviously starting to take effect in a more than superficial manner. The bulk of Near's face had gone rather paler than usual, clashing horribly with the purpled bruise on his forehead; his nose and cheeks, however, were quite red, and his eyes had taken on an odd cast. For a moment, Mello felt a fleeting sensation of what might have been guilt. Near looked more diseased than drunk, all told.
The feeling soon passed, however, and he poured out another glass. "This is your last one," he said tonelessly. "I don't know how many will kill you, after all."
"I'm flattered by your caring," Near said. Mello glared at him.
"I'm sure you realize this by now, Near, but I couldn't care less about you. I do, however, care about my bathroom, and I don't want you puking all over it."
Mello could have sworn he saw a flash of emotion in the younger man's eyes at the words, but it was buried so quickly that he couldn't begin to identify it.
"My mistake. Mello is positively defined by his disregard for me. I had forgotten."
"You think you're awfully important, don't you?" Mello leveled a glare across the table. "I'm not defined by anything to do with you, either. Maybe back at Wammy's I was, but right now, you're nothing more than an obstacle I have to navigate to solve the Kira case. If that means you sleeping on my couch and drinking all my liquor, alright. I'll deal with it. But don't go thinking that you're anything more to me than a minor annoyance, because you aren't. Got it?"
Near looked at him and blinked once, slowly, before lowering his eyes back to his glass. "Of course," he murmured. "My mistake." There was a rather odd harmonic in his voice, something Mello couldn't quite grasp. He pursed his lips and stared at the boy, distaste mingled with confusion.
"Are you feeling alright?" he finally said, voice grudging. Near was no longer drinking, simply looking down into his half-full glass, shoulders hunched as if to defend against some imaginary enemy.
"I am perfectly fine," Near replied, and raised his glass to his mouth. Mello glanced at Near's hands, saw the slightly unsteady tremble in his fingers, and all of a sudden, Near lost his grip and the glass became no more than an assortment of wet, glittering shards spread across the table.
Near glanced down at the wreckage in mute surprise. "Oh," he said. There was a rather large wet patch spread across the chest of his shirt, and the air smelled very strongly of peppermint.
Mello, momentarily dumbfounded, soon snapped into action. "Goddamnit, Near," he griped, pushing his chair back from the table. "I didn't know you could be more of a pain in the ass. Wait, no, stop that-"
Near, with apparent disregard for his still-shaky hands, was attempting to place the broken glass into a pile on the table. Even as Mello barked out a warning, the younger boy let out a surprised "Ah!" and snaked his left hand back from the table with lightning speed.
"You see?!" Mello said. Near stared back mutely, the fingers of his wounded hand clenched tight. Mello let out a long, hissing sigh. "Alright, great. You bleeding?"
Near nodded and unfurled his fingers, holding out his palm for inspection. Mello recoiled; Near had opened up his index finger a good half-inch, and his entire hand was sticky with blood. "Great," Mello groaned, "just great. Alright, hold on a second, I'll go get...something..."
He darted out of the room and came back a moment later, toting a small plastic box emblazoned with a red cross. Near hadn't budged, and as Mello entered the room, he was pinned by a rather mournful gaze from dark eyes. Mello fought back a snort; that expression was pure L.
"Congratulations on sustaining your second gruesome injury of the day," Mello drawled, setting the box on the table and snapping open the lid with a practiced click. "And, you know, it's only two o' clock, there's still time to fit in another if you hurry." He withdrew a packaged antibacterial wipe and several band-aids, arraying them neatly along the dry side of the table. "Go wash your hands."
Near staggered obediently to his feet and complied, smearing the faucet handle with a bloody handprint in the process.
"Good. Okay, give me your hand," Mello said, yanking Near's palm towards him whilst carefully avoiding the other's boy gaze. Near didn't flinch during the bandaging process, not even when the peroxide on the wipe made contact with his cut. Mello idly wondered if alcohol was dulling Near's senses, or if the boy's unfeeling persona just extended to physical pain as well.
"Right. There you go." Mello pushed Near's hand in the vague direction of the rest of his body and snapped the first-aid kit shut. Near glanced briefly at his hand and turned toward Mello. "Thank you."
It was the first time he had spoken since the glass had shattered, Mello was surprised to note. Maybe the cut had affected the other boy more than he had thought. "Hmmph," Mello sniffed, standing up from the table again. "Next time, try not to bleed all over my kitchen."
Near nodded quietly. His shirt was still soaked, and he had made no move to relocate from his sticky, glass-strewn side of the table.
"What is wrong with you?" Mello snapped, exasperated. "Are you just going to keep sitting there?"
Near didn't meet his gaze. "Perhaps."
"Fine," Mello retorted, and made as if to leave. His resolve lasted right up to the doorway, at which point he turned back around and aimed a glare at Near's unmoving figure. "Get up, will you? I'm going to need to clean, and you'll just be in the way."
Near clambered down from his chair and shuffled out into the hall, brushing past Mello in the doorway. Mello huffed out an irritated sigh and went to return the first aid kit to the bathroom cabinet.
When he emerged, he found Near sitting on the couch in the living room, damp shirt still plastered stickily to his body. Mello stopped at the edge of the room and stood silently, a scowl on his face as he surveyed this rather pitiful sight.
"Is...is there something wrong?" he ground out at last. "Have you decided to stop talking for good? Because that would certainly make my life easier."
Near let out a sound so foreign that Mello couldn't, at first, identify it. It was a sigh. "I'm quite fine," Near murmured, staring fixedly at the floorboards. "I think I will get some rest. Intoxication has proved...underwhelming."
Mello scoffed. "For once, I agree with you," he said, and raised an eyebrow as Near lay back onto the couch. "Are you serious?"
"Pardon?" Near turned a blank gaze onto him.
"Are you really not even going to change your shirt? That's disgusting, you know."
Near stared at him for several strange moments, and then sat back up on the couch. With slow, somewhat shaky hands, he unbuttoned the offending shirt and let it drop to the floor. Mello was suddenly, horribly uncomfortable at the sight of the boy's bare torso. Near was far too thin. His collar bones jutted out from his shoulders in stark relief, and Mello could see the faint tracery of ribs beneath pale skin. What was perhaps most shocking was the scattering of pale hair across Near's chest and stomach; despite the plain fact of Near's age, this evidence of his adulthood was oddly jarring.
Perhaps it was Near's averted gaze, or the slumped posture, but Mello suddenly felt as though his observation of the other boy was somehow obscene, an intrusion into something foreign and forbidden. He dragged his eyes away, down to the floor, gnawing at a corner of his bottom lip in sudden shame.
Near looked up at him and quirked his mouth into something brief and unreadable before turning away, sinking back down to the couch with his pale, narrow back faced outwards.
"I apologize," the younger boy said, voice muffled by the couch. "For breaking your glass."
Mello stared at him, revulsion and confusion mingled on his face. "It's...it's fine," he said, voice uncertain. He stood for a moment longer, watching the silent boy, before turning abruptly to return to the kitchen. To his own surprise, he found himself hitting the light switch on the way out.
L reappeared an hour later, armed with some elaborate story of unreliable lot locations and unfair deadlines. He took one glance at Near's sleeping figure and the shirt lying crumpled on the ground and turned inquiring eyes to Mello.
"He wanted to drink," Mello said, cursing the defensiveness in his voice. "It didn't turn out well. I expect he won't do it again."
"Yes," L said, biting his thumb. "I expect he won't."
As the older detective shuffled away, Mello was once again struck by the suspicion that L knew a lot more than he let on.
ed: so that happened! i seem to have deviated from my skipping-around chapter formula. maybe we'll check in with light and the gang next time ("next time" is not guaranteed to be sooner than three years from now, obviously). i'm very tempted to go back and change some silly continuity/plot issues in previous chapters, so be on the lookout for that, i guess? i'm sorry for everything. if you're still reading, let me know c: