Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note.

Please note that Matt and Mello and Near are kids. Small ones. Who are innocent. And aren't romantically interested in each other. At all. Thank you!

Doom is approaching.

I can feel it in my gut, an immobilizing chill that penetrates the very marrow of my bones and seeps under my skin like a thin layer of fog. I can practically feel the Grim Reaper passing over me, casting a dusky, ominous shadow over the battlefield. Corpses litter the edges of the clearing, and enough of them match the color of my uniform that I realize with mounting terror that I, too, will soon fall.

This epiphany pierces the iciness plaguing my body, igniting a wildfire of raw hatred. I will not go down without a fight, not after having sacrificed so much to get here. My focus sharpens, my hands clenching and releasing at my side as I take in the positions of my troops and enemies, calculating the best move.

Then I spot it.

A wicked grin of triumph spreading across my face, I spot a hole in my opponent's meticulously crafted defenses. I lock eyes with my rival and slowly reach forward to deliver the crippling blow.


My voice rings out in the still room, confident, strong, and victorious. A small audience has gathered to watch our battle with morbid fascination and murmurs explode among the group, small mouths working frantically beside their neighbor's ear. I lean back, crossing my arms over my chest and staring down the boy on the opposite side of the chess board.

"Well, Near," I address him tauntingly, "what now?"

But his large grey eyes are not filled with an inkling of fear or worry or anything that would be remotely enjoyable. It is hard to tell whether he has even heard me. A small pale finger emerges from his baggy white pajama sleeve as it rises to entangle itself in a lock of equally colorless hair. He casually observes where I have moved my dark knight, appearing no more anxious than he has at any point in the match thus far.

The time after my move stretches on for an abnormal period of time and I swear that I see Near spinning his curls more and more frantically. My smile widens; I'm actually going to win!

Hesitant, unsure, reckless, he reaches out slowly, his hand hovering over several pieces. This doesn't faze me, as I am already confident that I will win no matter which he chooses. The only thing that could possibly make this sweeter would be for Matt to be here—stupid, usually dependable Matt, who has probably abandoned me for one of his equally stupid video games—to share in my success.

"Mello!" a voice yells, barging into the playroom. I whip around to see who has come to steal my spotlight and find that it is Matt, sliding into the room in his painfully ridiculous, oversized goggles, as if called telepathically. "I heard about the game," he announces cheerfully, as if we are the only two in the room rather than surrounded by fifteen other less intelligent children. It bothers me vaguely that he has called this a game when it is clearly a full out, life-or-death war. "Are you winning?" he asks, peering over the shoulders of the spectators, who are unwilling to part for him to get a better look.

I reach for his wrist and yank him through, letting him tumble to a seat next to me. A kid with a dripping nose mutters something about having his fingers stepped on, but I don't really care; I just want my best friend at my side.

"I sure am," I announce, turning to give Near a triumphant smile, but am startled to see that Near, who never shows emotion, not even when they serve triple chocolate brownies for one of the orphans' birthdays, is simpering.

"Checkmate," he announces quietly, but with the finality and strength of a guillotine, twiddling with his hair in what I can only describe as a devilish manner. My mouth, previously curled into a confident smirk, falls open and releases a gust of disbelieving air.

"What?" I practically shriek, shoving my palms against my knees and leaning forward to get a better look at the various chess pieces. Sure enough, my black king is pinned by Near's knight and bishop, as well as one of my own pawns. Near beat me. I was defeated. Near won. I lost. Again.

My teeth snap together in frustration, and I swear that I start seeing red. How could this have happened? I'd moved so swiftly, yet so carefully, rearing in my usually frenzied emotions and wild offensive moves. I'd done everything perfectly, making sacrifices where need be, pulling back when it was too dangerous to progress with that strategy. How could I have lost?

And in front of everyone? I can practically feel the pity rippling in the audience, the smugness radiating from Near, the disappointment rolling off of Matt. My face bursts into flame, as if it can self-destruct before the mortification really sets in.

That's when I see it. I've been staring at the chess board in an attempt at pretending that there is nobody here to see me fail, and I suddenly notice that Near's knight did not move two spaces forward and one to the right, but three spaces forward and one to the right. He cheated.

"Near!" I scream, flinging the chess board and all its contents at him. "You dirty, rotten cheater!" The pieces bounce off him, seemingly as harmlessly as my shouts. The barest hint of shame flashes across his ashen, stony face, but then the evidence of his guilt is gone. All the evidence, I quickly realize with exponentially growing fury. The placement of the chess pieces and proof that he cheated are gone forever.

With a howl of rage, I heave myself off the ground, crashing through the gasping sea of children with furious abandon. Cries erupt behind me as I leave the playroom and make a mad dash for my bedroom. Passersby clear a path for me in the hallway and I don't even have to hear their whispers to know what they're saying.

"Look out. Mello's on a rampage." "Ow! He's so mean." A knowing sigh. "Near probably did something better than him again."

I throw open my door and begin my destruction of the room, starting with the pillows on my side and working my way across to the lamp on Matt's side. Stupid Near and his stupid tricks and his stupid hair and his stupid brilliance! I hate him! I hate him more than anything!

My roommate joins me halfway into my tantrum, but he only slides the door shut and takes a seat, wincing in silence whenever anything more fragile than a pillow goes soaring from my hand and makes a loud collision with anything harder than a mattress.

Eventually, everything but Matt's video games and my stash of chocolate has been violently misplaced—I'm not that upset—and I flop onto the floor with my face pressed into a pillow.

Socked feet inch closer to my sprawled out form. "Are you done?" Matt asks softly. I nod and the fabric scratches at my face.

He approaches me more quickly now and takes a seat at my side. He is silent for nearly a full minute before he speaks again. "I thought you did a good job," he informs me.

"Near cheated," I grumble.


"He's a stupid cheater."

"I know."

I don't know if Matt really believes me, or if he's lying, or if he just believes that I believe that Near cheated, but whichever way, his easy acquiescence is both satisfying and aggravating. We continue resting on the floor in silence, but Matt gets restless and fidgety quickly, which is one of the reasons I don't think the teachers at Wammy's realize how smart he actually is, and he starts poking at my side to relieve his boredom.

He accidentally finds one of my ticklish spots after a while, which sends me spinning across the floor with a rather humiliating, immature squeal. Matt grins and I barely have time to process that this is one of the rare times that he's taken off his goggles to reveal devious blue eyes before he leaps at me again, and we are suddenly rolling across the floor like puppy or lion cub siblings or something equally ridiculous, trying to make each other laugh hard enough to cry.

Several minutes later, Matt's goggles are backwards and upside down and we look like we've been through a windstorm, but I realize that no matter how much I hate Near, I'd happily lose a hundred chess battles to him—well, maybe not that many—to see Matt grinning so utterly happily.

Review and Mello will share his chocolate with you.