Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note, and I'm not participating in the LJ 20 Loves community, I'm just borrowing their theme lines. Idea of using lyrics for the title of a chapter is from keem, and the line her is from Los Angeles by Patent Pending.

Note: This is the first of my ten-chapter pairing fics. Details about that on my profile, to stop me ranting on in author notes as usual. They'll probably be created/updated erratically based on inspiration, but I'm hoping this will be the first one I get through. It's a favourite pairing of mine and I'm happy to explore it some more. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

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The Day The Soldiers Died

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Theme line:I can't see you, but I know you're there. I can feel you.

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Say this quick before it loses feeling

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He watches her.

At first, he only uses the monitors. Her day is obscenely routine – his doing, he knows – and he watches as she wakes, her head snapping up and she looks blindly around, startled, uncertain, and forgetting, in those brief moments between sleep and waking, exactly where she is. And then the dirty navy blue cloth obscuring her vision will come into dim and blurry vision, and she'll remember, and fear will overtake her, and she'll start to cry.

Mello watches her intently. There's not much else to do, not for now. They've barely placed the call, and the NPA's little taskforce will still have to make up their mind.

Not that it'll be much of a decision, he thinks, watching one of his less dangerous goons spoon feed the blindfolded Sayu some mashed up vegetables. The only thing Soichiro Yagami will be deciding, if the taskforce doesn't choose to come after Sayu, is whether or not he tells his son he's going alone.

Mello keeps watching Sayu. She drifts off into sleep a few times, and a little while later someone goes into the room to switch the blindfold for a gag. One of his tricks, that – not total sensory deprivation, not for hostages he intends to return. He's found that alternating it, messing with their minds, is a much more satisfactory short run measure.

He takes her the next meal. The gag is still on, and her eyes follow him as he moves across the room. He thinks it's strange, even at the time, but she doesn't seem afraid of him. There's not of the fearful apprehension he sees when she watches the other guards, none of the trembling terror as they loom over her. No, this is different...this is slow suspicion, careful calculation, and there, somewhere, hidden at the back of her steady gaze, the decision to reserve judgement.

He doesn't even know why this makes him angry, but it does. Resentment and fury bubble up inside him, pulling his lips back into a snarl. She's judging him? This skinny little girl who's at his mercy, whose life is in his hands - she's sitting there, and just – just –

But it's not even that, is it? Because he expects her to hate him, expects her to be afraid of him, expects her to judge him a monster. No, no. It's the reservation that gets to him. The fact that she hasn't judged him. Like she thinks he's going to change. Like she thinks he's different. Like she thinks he's good.

Sayu cries out into the gag as his hand whips across her cheek. Without thinking, he tips the soup he's carrying over her, and throws the bowl against her chest. It's hot, and she cries out again, and somewhere deep inside him, Mello feels a sick satisfaction. He turns and strides out of the room. No one stops him. No one questions him.

No one dares.

As soon as he's out of the room, he orders one of the guards to blindfold her again, and keep it that way this time. The man does as he's told.

For an hour or so he doesn't watch the monitors.

When he turns back to them – calm again, focused, removed – he doesn't see the broken, sobbing, defeated little girl he'd expected. If anything, Sayu looks stronger than before, and defiant. He can't see her eyes but her chin is raised, her lips are drawn tight, and not a single sob is shaking her body. He stares at the monitor, half admiring and half aghast, before putting his fist through the glass.

When he returns from having the wound bandaged, a new leather glove obscuring the evidence, the monitor has been replaced, and Sayu is sitting as silently and proudly as before. He issues the order for her to be cleaned up, and tells someone to get her some more food.

Late that night, when almost everyone on the base is asleep and he thinks Sayu will be, too, the guard on duty nods Mello into the room. Her head is bent forward, and she's wearing different clothes – faded black pants, an oversized stained shirt. Replacements for the ones he soiled.

He doesn't make a sound as he enters the room. Despite the cavernous ceiling, despite the wet stone floor, despite his heavy boots, he's learnt to walk quietly, to walk silently. He hovers back in the shadows, out of sight of the monitors. He watches her.

Her head doesn't move. Her chest rises and falls rhythmically, and he assumes she's asleep. He thinks about how strange this girl is to him, and how he didn't expect this at all. He thinks about being fifteen and running away and wonders if she's ever done anything like that. If she's even thought about it.

And then she speaks.

"I can't see you, but I know you're there. I can feel you."

Her voice is hoarse and a little cracked. He's not surprised. After the initial screaming he's come to expect from female hostages, Sayu had resorted to howling obscenities at anyone who came near her, screaming death threats and declaring her intent to castrate every one of them. She's quieted down eventually, but now, Mello finds the silence more unnerving.

He doesn't answer her.

"I know you're there," she says again, and her head still doesn't move. She doesn't care, he thinks. It's like she's just bored. "I don't think it's time for me to eat, and I know you are the one who decided not to feed me earlier."

Her English is good, even though she takes her time selecting some words. Mello stays silent, decides he'll let her have her little speech.

"It must be very lonely for you here."

He hadn't expected that.

He crosses the room, loudly now, boots slapping against the floor and the sound echoing off the walls. He grabs her hair – more tightly than he normally would, he can't help but notice – and pulls her head back. Sayu makes one, small, sudden gasp of pain, and then pulls back her composure.

"What do you mean?" he says, and his voice is low, feral, growling.

He is surprised that she answers him as readily as she does. "You are not like the others. You must not feel at home here."

He pulls her hair again. She winces, but doesn't make a sound. It's a power struggle, he thinks. And right now they're level pegging.

"Don't be stupid. I run this place."

"But you don't belong here."

"Ha."

"You don't belong anywhere, do you?"

And it's her tone that does it. Her tone that makes him unwind his fingers from her hair, step backwards, lose his tongue.

She isn't mocking him. She isn't taunting him. She isn't trying to insult him or emasculate him. She's trying to...

She's trying to reach him. Like she sympathises, like she pities him. But this time there's not fury, no swell of hatred. There's just coldness, shock, and a slow, dawning, horrific realisation that that's exactly the thing he's been afraid to put into words since he was six years old.

"You watch your tongue," he threatens, but his voice shakes, and he can't focus properly.

Sayu hangs her head. "I'm sorry," she says, and to Mello, she really sounds like she means it. But what exactly she's sorry about, he can't tell. Without another word, he turns, and leaves.

But he takes her the next meal. And this time, he doesn't throw it over her.