AN: Okay, some of you out there know that I was originally planning on having this chapter out by mid-October… yeah, epic fail on that one, guys, I'm sorry. My only excuses are writer's block and an increasing workload on the creative front, (see the Bulletin Board on my profile for some details.) I'm really sorry it's so late, everyone. T^T

To top it off, I'm not 100% happy with this chapter. I'm hoping that while I have missed 'funny' for this chapter - in my own opinion - that I've achieved the level of 'cute' at least. Enjoy, everybody!

Disclaimer: I own nothing of Death Note or PlayStation2, nor do I make any money from what I do with it… think I'm getting gypped, here, considering. ;D

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Playtime

Part Two, "Videogames"

Raven Ehtar

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A pure white puzzle piece slid across the faces of its interlocked brothers, then clicked as it found the space where it fit perfectly. Almost half of the puzzle was complete, and the remaining pieces were all arranged in such a way that it suggested that the one putting it all together already knew exactly where each one was destined. Near paused in his play to consider which lone piece would join the others next, then began pushing the chosen one along its path with a single finger.

It had been four days since he had spent the day with Matt in the attic playing games, and he hadn't seen much of the other boy since then, save in passing. Near wasn't terribly surprised. Matt had only been bored that day, with neither his usual hobby nor his friend to preoccupy him, so he had sought out what entertainment he could, and found it in the form of Near. Now that Mello was back, and Matt's ban on videogames had been lifted, it was unlikely that Matt would initiate any interaction with him again.

Another piece clicked into place. To say that Near was disappointed would not be quite accurate, as that would suggest that he hadn't expected such a turn. He had expected it, but he still felt a little… dull, thinking about it.

The puzzle was completed in short order and promptly turned over, dumping it all onto the floor and breaking it apart. With the same sense of quiet detachment, Near began snapping it all back together again, row after row.

The room he was in was calm and out of the way, so unlikely that anyone would chance upon it in wandering through the halls. Most of the children of Wammy's were outside, in any case, enjoying a bout of fine weather. The chances of anyone finding him unless they were actively searching for him were remote. So when he heard the door open behind him and a set of feet step inside, Near assumed that he was the reason for their arrival. The door clunked shut, and the feet - unshod, from the sound - approached until whomever it was stood directly behind him.

Near didn't turn to look who it was. He already knew it was Mello. This was a game he liked to play with him, to try and rattle his nerves. Finding him in a secluded part of the house when there were very few other people around, and be quietly threatening… it was a fairly new tactic of Mello's, but one that he seemed to enjoy. It never seemed to bother him that it didn't work.

Near ignored him. Mello was patient, but Near was more so. All he had to do was wait until Mello became too frustrated or bored to stay and watch him solve his blank puzzle over and over.

On a particularly long pause between pieces, Near heard Mello shift behind him, and thought perhaps the other boy was giving up already.

There was suddenly a lot of weight added to Near's hunched frame, making him rock forward hard onto his toes almost losing his balance on one foot. His back and shoulders were abruptly warm, and there was the sound of breathing right beside his ear. Before Near could recover and turn to ask Mello what he was doing, an arm came past him from behind and picked up a puzzle piece. An arm in a black and red striped sleeve.

Near looked over, and discovered a face right beside his own, a crown of ragged red hair falling forward into his face, green eyes aimed forward and down and a pair of orange goggles across his forehead.

Matt.

There was a click, and Near blinked, looking down. Another piece of the puzzle was in place, the same piece that Near was intending to grab next. When he looked back over at Matt, older boy was smiling broadly at him.

"There you go," he said cheerfully. "Little stuck, huh?"

Near blinked again. He attempted to shift into a more comfortable position, but was hindered by Matt being draped across his shoulders like a highly contented cat. The gamer took no notice of Near's movements, and didn't remove his weight. "Matt is mistaken," Near said, masking his irritation. "I was not stuck, merely deciding which piece I should add next."

One of Matt's eyebrows came up slowly. "Oh yeah?" He looked down at the puzzle. "Looks like you follow a pretty strict pattern, so there's really only one option." Green eyes sparkled at him. "In that case, 'deciding' on a piece would mean that you couldn't remember which one went there, right?"

The younger boy stared at Matt for a minute, silent, before deciding to ignore his insinuation and continue on his puzzle. To his surprise, Matt also continued to 'help' him, reaching over his shoulder and starting on the opposite side of the board, working his way closer to Near. He wasn't nearly as quick as the albino, but considerably faster than Near would have thought. He wouldn't have thought a game with such low stimulus would interest him at all.

"Why does Matt help me?" he asked when Matt had completed one row and was halfway through his second.

Near felt the other boy shrug. "Dunno. Already here, so why not? Besides, the quicker you finish, the quicker we can go and play some videogames."

A piece veered ever so slightly before making it to its place. "Matt still intends to share his games?" he asked, he voice at least not betraying how startled he was.

"Yeah… why? You change your mind?"

Near shook his head. "I had not changed my mind; I simply thought that Matt would have more entertaining occupations."

Matt chuckled, ruffling Near's hair with his free hand. "More entertaining than introducing a newbie to the world of gaming? Not a chance. Or at least, not for a long while."

That sounded less than amusing from Near's perspective, but he didn't voice his opinion, nor did he complain of the treatment of his hair.

When the puzzle was complete Matt stood, and Near felt he could breathe a little easier without the other boy's weight on him. He straightened and stretched his back, working out the kinks developed by an odd position being made into a support beam. Matt was stretching as well, lanky frame going in all directions. "You ready to dive into virtual world?"

Near picked up the completed puzzle and stood, taking it back to its little storage cupboard and stacking it with the other items inside. "Matt realizes, of course," he said over his shoulder, "that should Mello become aware that his best friend is being friendly with his rival, he will be… less than pleased."

Matt shrugged, careless. "So what? He'll deal. It's not like he can tell me who to be friends with or anything."

Near raised an eyebrow at that, but Matt ignored it completely.

"C'mon. Let's head upstairs."

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While it was true that at the Wammy House there were several game systems meant for all of the children to share, Matt also had a few of his own stashed away in his room. Exactly how he had managed to gain that perk, no one was quite sure. Matt held that it was because he was third in line, and therefore due some special treatment. The other children thought it was because he had Mello as a friend, who could bully anyone into giving him what he wanted. And Roger just shook his head and said it was easier to supply one child with a few luxuries than deal with the drama that resulted when Matt butted heads with someone already using the consoles.

Regardless of the reason, Matt had a fairly impressive supply of systems and games. The redhead had to suppress a chuckle when Near walked in and looked at his wall of shelves stacked top to bottom with games. Near wasn't terribly expressive, and Matt was far from an expert on the boy, but there was a definite look of surprise as the shelves were surveyed. It was Matt's pride and joy, his games, and he enjoyed watching people when they were first exposed to the full brunt of his addiction.

Now was the problem of which game to play first, that was fun but not too much of a challenge to Near, who had never played before, so far as he knew. He'd thought at first that he'd just pull out a simple classic, like Tetris or something similar, but now that Near was here and looking through his collection, it seemed like that would be a bit of an insult.

Still pondering the problem, Matt wandered over to look at the titles with Near. Anything that required a great deal of accuracy in 3-D rendering would probably be too much for a beginner, so the newest releases were out. Something that was slower paced or that was a 2-D format would be better. Maybe a side-scroller…

"Matt?"

Not taking his attention away from the games, Matt responded with a quiet, "Hmm?"

"These games do not seem to have any kind of organization at all. How does Matt find what he wants?"

"They're organized, just not alphabetically." Matt looked at him out of the corner of his eye, "Can you figure out what my system is?"

Near gave Matt a look that he was tempted to call provoked… but it was Near, so it was more likely to be a trick of the light. The albino turned back to the games, this time looking them over in a broad, all encompassing way rather than title by title. Matt smirked and let him work on the new puzzle, and tried to think of what to introduce Near to first.

It was always an interesting challenge picking out someone's first game. It was important to make sure that it was fun, slightly addictive, and a good match to the newbie's personality, so they were caught with the gaming bug and came back for more. All of Matt's games were fun, in their own ways, and a good portion of them were addictive, the question was: which one was a match to Near's personality? Matt immediately struck off all of the first person shooters and the gorier third person games, they just didn't seem like a good fit to the boy. Things like car racing or sports simulation didn't seem like something he would like, either. The only thing Matt could think that Near might like were puzzle games, or maybe strategy, where you built an army and maneuvered it about. So, puzzle, strategy… and maybe role-playing games. After all, he'd picked out and seemed to enjoy that psychotic game Fairy Meat; he might enjoy an old-fashioned dungeon crawler, as well.

Matt's planning was interrupted by an unfamiliar sound: Near huffing.

He looked over to find the smaller boy counting the cartridges and cases quickly, one hand running back and forth through the air as a guide. Once he completed the count, Matt watched as his fingers twitched back and forth, apparently working out some sort of mathematical theory in his head. Rather than try to figure out what Near was thinking, Matt chose to take no notice of him until he asked for help, (unlikely), or had a theory completed, (more likely).

So he had three likely types of games, now which one would capture and hold Near's interest? It couldn't be too simple, but at the same time it couldn't just be a challenge of his nonexistent gaming skills, or there would no point. Games were meant to be fun, not an exercise.

… Matt began to wonder why it was he hadn't picked out the games before fetching the albino boy away from his private play.

The sound of a case opening had Matt look over again. Near was now opening the games in Matt's collection, studying the inside for a moment, and then re-shelving them before repeating with the next in line. Curiosity got the better of the redhead as it became obvious that Near was prepared to go through every single one of his titles this way. "What are you doing, Near?"

The younger boy didn't so much as glance over at the question. "I am ascertaining as to whether or not some kind of serial number might be Matt's method of organization."

Matt tried to stifle a smirk, but failed. He should have guessed Near would exhaust all the logical choices first. Next he would probably try to apply their release dates to spot the pattern. "Any luck?"

Near slid the game he held back into place with a definite little thump, the only sign he was frustrated, and didn't move to pick out another. "No," he said. "Matt's system, if indeed he actually utilizes one, is obscure at best. These games are not organized according to alphabet, to publishers or creators, to date of release-"

(Huh, he'd already thought of that one.)

"-to series, to user ratings found on the boxes… Matt has not even gone so far as to separate them out according to their platforms. To all appearances, Matt's collection is a chaotic mess, and it is a wonder he can find anything he wants."

Matt laughed. "It is organized, no it really is," he insisted at Near's incredulous stare. "It's just that you're thinking about it the wrong way. You're going by logic and patterns and standard ways of ordering, when I've used something completely different."

"Then what system is Matt using?"

The redhead paused for a second, and considered not telling Near, making him figure it out himself. The look in the younger boy's eye told him he might regret that later, though. In a subtle way, of course, since it was Near, but that just made it worse, to his mind. "From top to bottom," he said, "and left to right, they're in order according to how much I enjoy playing them."

The dead-eyed stare seemed to become even flatter, and drug on for quite some time. When it became obvious that no more explanation was forthcoming, Near spoke with a tone that said a lot for what he thought of Matt's answer. "That seems unnecessarily arbitrary."

Matt shrugged. "Maybe, but who ever said that it couldn't be? Besides, the idea of organizing anything alphabetically around here is kinda overkill."

Near nodded a little. That, at least, was easier to understand.

Making an off-the-cuff - and slightly arbitrary - decision, Matt stopped trying to fish out the perfect game and just grabbed a couple of random titles, only paying enough attention to note the genre. Handing them to Near, he went to fire up the altar that was his entertainment system.

As the machines began warming up, he heard a box pop open and the gentle rustle of pages. Near must have gotten curious about the games he'd picked out. That was a good sign, at least.

Or so he thought.

"Matt?'

"Hmm?"

"Was Matt aware that these games are extremely hazardous to our health?"

"What? What are you talking about?"

Another slight ruffle of pages. "'Warning,'" he read. "'Read before using your PlayStation2 computer entertainment system. A very small percentage if individuals may experience epileptic seizures when exposed to certain light patterns or flashing lights. Exposure to certain patterns or backgrounds on a television screen or while playing videogames, including games played on the PlayStation2 console, may induce an epileptic seizure in these individuals. Certain conditions may induce previously undetected epileptic symptoms even in persons who have no history of prior seizures or epilepsy. If you, or anyone in your family, has an epileptic condition, consult your physician prior to playing. If you experience any of the following symptoms while playing a videogame - dizziness, altered vision, eye or muscle twitches, loss of awareness, disorientation, any involuntary movement, or convulsions - IMMEDIATELY discontinue use and consult your physician before resuming play.'"

Matt was silent for a long moment. Was Near being serious? If it were anyone else then it wouldn't even be a question, but… "What are you trying to say, Near? Did you want to call the doctor to check if it's safe to play Mario Brothers?"

"… No," Near replied, sounding as though his answer had taken some serious thought. "I don't believe that it is necessary. Although I will keep the list of symptoms in mind, and ask that Matt does the same. Matt has had enough experience playing games to know if he would have a negative reaction, whereas I have not."

"True enough," Matt said, deciding to just go along with it. Easier than trying to argue with him. "Don't want you having a fit on my floor." The machines were done warming up and the game was in, Matt got up and handed a controller to Near. "Here."

The smaller boy took the offering and held it delicately with his fingers, as though he were afraid it would bite him. The look in his eye as he took in the arrangement of buttons, analog sticks and D-pad bordered on disbelief. He turned it over in his flimsy grip, studying it from all sides. "How exactly does one hold this… contraption?"

Matt pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. Maybe he'd been right the first time he'd tried to introduce Near to games. Maybe this was just a crack idea.

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AN2: Again, I'm not terribly pleased with this one, but for the very, very vague outline I have for it, it takes us forward a little.

Just as a side note, all of the games that I mention in any of the chapters - including chapter one - are in fact real, and I have either played them, watched others play them, or done a fair amount of research on them. (FairyMeat is one I own, and it's… interesting.) Congrats to anyone who was able to spot the sideways BB reference in chapter one!

Given the number of projects I have at the moment, and the fact that Playtime was originally meant as a one-shot only, updates for this fic will be sporadic at best. I have other projects that are a higher priority for me, so this one is delegated to, quite literally, play. ^^

Thanks again for reading, I hope to see everyone again before too long!