Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note.

When I was nine, I had a robot, and it represented my whole world.

It was Christmas at Wammy's and all I wanted from Santa Claus was for it to snow. I was not young nor gullible nor idiotic, but was an atheist and disappointed and wishing for the one time of the year when everything outside matched me perfectly, driven snow and inky rocks and drab clouds making up my white hair and black eyes and grey brain, wintry gusts and sluggish streams and slippery icicles making up my aloof demeanor and weak legs and sharp intellect.

So I sat on the window seat in my room, pressed my hand against the frosty pane until I could no longer feel my palm, closed my eyes, and quietly wondered whether one could contact Santa Claus directly through telepathy, or rather if the entire list mailing procedure really was necessary.

An hour later, snow hadn't come, but Roger certainly had, huffing about how disappointing it was that I was late to my only chance at having a discussion with L when I was doing so much better at being punctual lately.

I apologized listlessly and followed him away from the window, noting that he didn't seem to have made the obvious link between my former attendance related rebellion and this one; once I'd stopped attending class at all, an old man met me in his office, Quillish Wammy himself, talked with me for no more than seven minutes, and finally changed my classes so that they weren't so dreadfully boring and a waste of my time.

I was brought to the playroom, where a group of my peers were mobbing a blank laptop, shoving each other's heads down to get a proper view and pushing over the weaker ones. It didn't even take me a second to decide that I was going to retreat to the back and start a puzzle.

Mello had been standing next to Matt at the front of the horde, chattering excitedly in his ear, but once he caught a glimpse of me being a loner, he scowled, reached into Matt's pocket, and retreated to a side wall to chomp on his chocolate bar moodily; the imitation would have been funny if it hadn't been so terribly predictable and annoying. I made a point of not looking up from the floor, even when chaos erupted as a black L appeared on a white screen.

"This is L."

I supposed that a rock concert was something like this, albeit with people over five feet tall and far more profanity.

"Please quiet down."

It couldn't have been any quieter if everyone had dropped dead on the spot.

It turned out that L was not the perfect deity everyone had made him out to be. He was, in his own words, "a dishonest, cheating human being who hates losing." He also sounded like one of the saddest people on Earth. I went through two puzzles and three Rubik's cubes that afternoon, and did not speak once; neither did Mello, which was shocking and rather impressive.

As was L, albeit in a far different way and more confusing way. I didn't quite know what to think about whom I was living up to yet, so I retreated into the deepest corner of the library and worked on expanding my marble white Lego city.

I was only marginally surprised to hear slouching footsteps scraping against the rough carpeting, but I was a great deal more startled when the sound became louder and louder, rather than fading away. I froze, holding two Legos tightly together, along with my breath. A shadow slouched between the shelves and spoke.

"Hello, Nate."

The Legos clutched between my fingers snapped apart and scattered to the floor.

"I'm sorry." The man shuffled closer, paused, then plopped himself onto the floor, drawing his knees up to his chest and placing a thumb between his lips; the gears in my head whirled, recalculating his age. "I should address you as Near here, shouldn't I?"

He scooted closer to the light spilling through the window and illuminating my city. I was surprised at his appearance, not because he seemed to be a teenager who dressed like a toddler, but because he resembled me so closely. Untidy hair spilled into his face, albeit with onyx strands rather than ivory ones, and our slouching white shirts did nothing to offset our ashen complexions. Dark eyes, wide with innocence, with jet underscores and barely there eyebrows, met mine and I huddled closer to the bookcases.

"This is quite the little town you have here," he noted, pressing a long pale finger to the tallest building. "Skyscrapers," The fingertip flitted down to touch another edifice and as a sword, to knight it, "and schools," Down to a sprawling estate, "and orphanages," The delicate fingers picked up the two Legos I had dropped, pressed the longer one to a spire, then placed the smaller one on top and pronounced, "and churches."

I'm an atheist.

"All towns, of course, need people." He reached into the shadows and pulled out a toy robot. After examining it for a moment and adjusting the arm, he placed it next to the miniature orphanage, holding it by the shoulder with just his thumb and forefinger. It was too big for the city; the doors of most buildings only reached its knee.

That's not a person.

I turned my questioning gaze on him, and he stared back steadily with eyes as dark as a moonless night. The innocent fa├žade was gone, replaced with a look that expressed wisdom as old as humanity itself; he seemed to be carrying the weight of all sins since then on his gracefully curved back.

Who are you?

"You are very good with puzzles," he noted casually, and smiled.


He stood up and melted back into the darkness.

This is what I am to become.

I shivered and it began to snow.

It was December 24th and there hadn't been a whisper from Cheap-Kira in months; I wondered if he died. So it goes.

A robot and its five closest friends were having a picnic in a garden. Everywhere they looked in the garden, they saw their future and it wasn't pretty. Their demise was written in every sidewalk crack, every velvety rose petal, every drop of tea sipped. But they were together and that was all that mattered, even if they were all going to die.

I was constructing a tarot card library behind the garden, but a robot and its five closest friends were calling my name. My eyes glazed over, just for a moment, and saw plastic armor and uncontrollable black bangs and beaten up goggles and leather holding on for dear life and a quill dipped in ink and my own bottomless eyes; my fingers slipped.

The library went crashing down around me, and so did the garden and the surrounding skyscrapers and schools and orphanages and churches. I held up my palms, feeling the patter of my future kissing my skin, wished for snow.

The cascade didn't stop; had I really used this many cards? A robot and its five closest friends were completely covered by the deluge; they didn't try to stop it, so neither did I. I lowered my palms, buried my face in my knees and waited for it to end.

Finally, it did. I didn't move under the weight of ten thousand tarot cards, and everything was silent around me.

The first snowflake of winter fell outside my window. I shivered.

When I was nineteen, I lost a robot, and it represented my whole world.

Author's Note: Happy 18th Birthday, Near!

If you caught the Slaughterhouse Five reference, you get to give Near a birthday hug.

I'm going to be putting up a big DN story starting in October. There will be a new chapter every day (yes, every single day! O.O) until the 31st (Halloween, but more importantly, L's birthday!), so keep your eyes open for that!