Author's Note: This time, it's actually Near's birthday. /I FAIL :D

Everybody and their mother has written a fic like this. It was only a matter of time…

(By the way, I ship Gevanni/Near extra-fragile overnight FedEx; I just haven't finished editing the one I wrote in June. Go find "Then Again" on Tierfallen if you want more.)


"I hear dead people," Near says.

Dr. Reichart folds his hands on the desk blotter, looks at Near over his glasses, and smiles.

"Clever," he says.

"I do," Near informs the man on the other side of the desk. "I wouldn't make a pop culture reference unless I had a very good reason."

A flicker of doubt crosses Reichart's face—the man is remarkably transparent for a licensed psychiatrist—but he holds his ground.

"You and I both know that's not possible, Near," he replies. "You don't strike me as the superstitious type."

"I'm not," Near says, turning a finger slowly in his hair. "That's why I thought there was a chance that a self-proclaimed expert on the caprices of the human brain might be of some assistance." He slips off of the chair. "That's all right; I'll work on it."

Reichart leans back in his chair again, crossing one leg over the other, with a knowing smile. "Near," he sighs, idly settling his hands on his stomach, "I know you're accustomed to getting a lot of attention, and I know that that's really important to someone who's so intelligent that he always feels alone. But you don't have to make up wild stories to get people to notice you."

Near pauses, shifting his weight onto his right foot.

"Your late wife appreciates that you waited a whole hour after the funeral to hook up with its organizer," he remarks.

Reichart's mouth drops open.

Near shuffles over to the door, pauses, and looks over his shoulder.

"I believe that's meant to be sarcasm," he adds.

Reichart shuts his mouth.

Near collects Rester in the waiting room, and the man obligingly opens the back door of the Mercedes. Near fastens his seatbelt and curls up, sliding his heel around on the leather seat as Rester gets behind the wheel.

"Damn." Mello's voice comes from Near's right, vaguely centered in the open seat. "When did you get to be such an asshole?"

"Hmm," Near murmurs.

Rester glances at him in the rearview mirror, but he's much too accustomed to Near to find the outburst strange.

There is silence for a moment, and then Mello's voice sighs contentedly.

"You have no idea how proud I am right now," it says.

Near smiles.

Near settles on his bed with his triceratops and his ichthyosaur and waits.

There's no rush of wind, change in temperature, or dimpling of the sheets beside him. There is, in fact, no warning at all, but somehow Near isn't startled when he hears Mello's voice.

"You need a T. Rex."

"I have two in the box," Near informs him. "Why can I hear you?"

"Because I'm talking," Mello replies.

Near glares in the direction of the voice, aiming for where Mello's face should be.

He earns a laugh for his pains.

"I dunno," Mello manages. "The rules are different here. Maybe you look so much like a ghost that you're bound to be—" He puts on a spooky voice. "—haaaunteeeed."

Something twinges in Near's chest, and he curls a little smaller, clutching his dinosaurs.

"That's not funny," he says. "Where's L?"

Mello snorts. "Figures you don't want to talk to me. I don't know where L is—he was here when I got here. It takes a little while, for them to weigh all the things you've done—you have to wait."

"Is there a crocodilian beast waiting to eat your heart if you fail?" Near inquires sardonically.

Mello laughs again. Near had not been under the impression that ghosts were so happy with their lot.

"It's not something you're… fully conscious for, I guess. It's all really blurry at the start, and I don't think it's really… I don't think that if you're bad, you're fucked. I think everybody makes it through—it just takes more time if they have to catalogue all the bad shit." The pause seems thoughtful. "Matt went like a speeding bullet."

"Whereas they had to sort through your 'street cred' for hours?" Near mutters towards his knees. "Where's Saint Matthew, then?"

"Saint Matthew was an apostle," Mello corrects, knowing very well what Near meant. "Matt is…" Another pause. "Where the hell is Matt?"

Near tilts his head, squinting in Mello's direction as if he'll see a flicker of leather and blond. "Are you looking for him? How can you be talking to me and looking for him at once?"

"It sort of—" Mello sounds like he's frowning as he tries to find the words. "The—realms—overlap. A lot, in some places, and less in others. It's hazy even in the good patches, which is probably why you can't see me, more's the pity. Most people probably can't even hear, but you—I dunno, somehow you've got a field around you that's really strong. I wasn't completely making fun of you; there is something weird about how it interacts with you, and I can't figure out why."

"Ask what L thinks," Near tells him. "He's been there longer than you have anyway, hasn't he?"

Mello pauses again.

"This is why I still totally hate you," he concludes.

"Because I'm right?"


As the room goes quiet, Near smiles to himself and makes the ichthyosaur swim through the air.

Ten minutes have passed before he hears another voice.

"Do you always play with dinosaurs that, like, actually could've met? Late Cretaceous, right?"

Near smiles again. "Hello, Matt."

Near sits down at the table and draws his left knee up to his chest. He takes the tall glass of milk in both hands and sips at it, looking at the stack of warm chocolate-chip cookies on the plate. He knows that they'll be good, because Agent Gevanni—who sits down across from him and hesitates, waiting for him to take one—has the equivalent of a green thumb for baking.

A white thumb, perhaps? To convey that it's dusted with flour?

Near thinks he should abandon this train of thought and leave it on a disused siding until it rusts.

"I miss food," a familiar voice murmurs softly by his right shoulder. "Which I suppose makes sense; it was a highlight of living."

Near manages a weak smile

"I miss chocolate," Mello reports from the other side. "Fuck, those look good."

"Speaking of 'fuck,'" Matt pipes up cheerfully, "I miss getting laid."

"I miss breathing," a quiet voice replies, and it takes Near a moment to realize that this voice belongs to Light.

"I'm surprised you don't miss writing," Mello fires back, "you fucking bastard."

"I'm surprised you don't miss prostitution," Light snarls. "Have you seen yourself?"

"As if you have any right to speak, you piece of shit—"

"Mello, please." L's voice is as soft as it's ever been, but he makes himself heard.

Near puts his milk glass down.

"Agent Gevanni," he says, "have you ever—do you put any stock in the supernatural?"

Gevanni stares at him.

"He's kind of hot," Mello decides.

Gevanni's eyes forsake incredulity for concern, and he searches Near's face in a way Near almost… likes.

That train of thought is also headed for the scrapyard.

"What do you mean?" he asks uncertainly. "What's wrong?"

"He wants you," Mello announces, triumphantly.

"If Near gets lucky," Matt cuts in, "I'm totally going to watch."

"You're sick," Light mutters, and poignant silence descends.

Calling it a godsend is a bit too much.

"I mean—things," Near musters, fumbling for the glass. "Things you can't explain."

Gevanni smiles gently. "That doesn't give me much to work with, Near."

"He wants you bad," Mello says.

"For instance," Gevanni continues, "I can't explain astrophysics, eighties fashion, or how you can resist fresh chocolate-chip cookies sitting three inches away."

"He also can't explain why he's so hot for your pasty little ass," Mello takes up brightly, "but there you go."

Matt giggles. "Near has a cute ass," he replies.

"You are not getting existential sex again. Ever."

"Bitch. You were perving on the other guy."

As they start to squabble, Near tries to think of a way to get them to shut up that doesn't involve speaking to thin air. He can't concentrate with them bickering in his ear.

"I don't know," he mumbles in answer to Gevanni's original question. It's not something he has to say often, and Gevanni knows it—all the well-intentioned mirth flees the agent's face, and his shoulders tighten. "It's just—I don't know why—why me, why it's even possible; I don't know—"

"Your mother—" he hears.

"Real mature."

"So's picking a fight you started, Mel."

Near grinds the heels of his hands against his eyes. "If I don't know why they're there, and I don't know how…"

"Will you both can it?" Light interjects. "The kid's trying to talk—"

"Shut the fuck up, Kira," Mello sneers.

"Fuck you," Light snaps back.

"You'd like that," Mello hisses.

"Leave him alone," Matt warns Light. "Some of us don't need a pen to fuck you up."

"Leave me alone!" Light retorts. "All I said is that Near's in the middle of a fucking conversation, and here you are—"

Near presses his hands over his ears, but he can still hear better than he'd like.

"There you go again," Mello fires back. "Martyr complex, megalomania. Textbook shit."

"Will you shut up?" Light demands.

"No, I won't."

"I'm serious—"

"Light-kun is right," L says quietly. "Look."

Silence descends, and Near hears his heartbeat, too fast and too loud.

Slowly he lowers his hands.

It is at this moment that Gevanni wraps both arms around him and hugs him, warmly and very close. Near discovers that he's shaking—or that they both are.

"Tell me what to do," Gevanni whispers.

"I don't know," Near mumbles into the silk shirt against his cheek. "I don't know; I don't know; I don't know."

Near has assumed the fetal position in his bed, clutching the comforter in one hand, the other twisting at his hair.

"Maybe you should sing him a lullaby, Kira," Mello mutters. "Which ones end with murder?"

"Will you let it go?" Light grits out. "It's not import—"

"No, it's not important at all," Mello interrupts blithely. "I'll bet everybody's already forgotten about the thousands of people who are dead because of you."

"The part that I don't get," Matt says quietly, "is that you had an amazing family, and you tore it to pieces."

More silence, and then—

"Avalanches start out small," Light says.

"And they're almost beautiful from a distance," L murmurs. "Hush; he's back."

Near lifts his head just enough to see the door as Gevanni backs into the room, bearing warm food and more milk.

"You've already got him whipped, and you haven't even started dating," Mello comments, awed.

Near ignores him.

Clearly, that strategy has worked very well so far.

Gevanni sets the tray down on the nightstand and hesitates.

Near has left this man stranded so many times.

He sits up and takes the glass, which is better than nothing. Nothing is the compensation he usually gives.

"Near's milkshake brings all the boys to the yard," Matt concludes sagely.

Near chokes on his first sip and begins coughing uncontrollably. Hastily Gevanni perches beside him and pats his back.

"What is it?" he asks again.

"Tell him," L suggests softly. "He cares about you."

"Plus it's not like he could think you're any weirder."



Near pulls on another curl and gazes into his milk, which unsurprisingly fails to reveal the answers.

"I can hear ghosts," he announces after a few attempts at interpreting the wallpaper.

Gevanni's hand stops in the circle it has been rubbing gently on Near's back, and then it carefully resumes. "What does that mean, exactly?"

"L, and Matt, and Mello, and Light," Near specifies. "I can hear them, and they talk to me, and I can talk back."

"No respect for the dead," Mello mutters in assent.

Gevanni tilts his head, watching Near's face, and smiles a bit.

"You know," he says, "after death gods, false gods, and notebooks that kill people, I don't think there's anything I won't believe."

"I have six toes on my right foot," Near declares.

Gevanni grins. "I don't believe you."

Near makes a point of pouting. "You said…"

Gevanni shakes his head smugly. "You couldn't fit six toes onto that little foot."

"Holy shit," Mello breathes. "Near's flirting."

"He's flirting well!" Matt exclaims.

Near tries to hide his scowl by taking another sip of milk.

"Are they talking to you now?" Gevanni asks.

Near nods. "Mello doesn't understand the nuances of the phrase 'rest in peace.'"

"Fuck you, whitey," Mello replies.

"Is it just the four of them that you can hear?" Gevanni wants to know. "Or is it all ghosts?"

"From what I can tell," Near explains, "I'm acting as some sort of conduit—or perhaps more like a magnet. My connection to the other side, which I take to be 'Mu,' is abnormally strong, which makes communication easier. Since Matt, Mello, L, and Light know me personally—"

"Why do you always put Matt first?" Mello whines.

"—they have cause to stay in the region of Mu that corresponds to my location. Other people—other dead people—have sensed my capacity for bridging the gap and have spoken to me as well. Some of them have had messages they want me to convey to people that I'll be interacting with, but for many of them, I think it's mostly about finding someone who's willing to listen."

Gevanni chews on his lip as he considers. Near rather wishes that he didn't take such specific notice of the habit. He would also prefer not to be quite so conscious of the warmth of Gevanni's palm resting on his shoulder-blade.

"What do you mean, messages to convey?" the man inquires.

Near shifts and consults his milk glass. "Your grandmother hopes you know that whatever your mother may have said, they're both very proud of you, and they always have been."

Gevanni stares at him, twice as alert and a little bit alarmed, and then he runs a hand through his hair and smiles.

"I'd be lying if I said that wasn't good to hear," he admits.

Tentatively, Near smiles back, and Gevanni squeezes his shoulder.

"Why don't you eat something," he proposes, "and I'll be right back?"

Near is not entirely sure what this has to do with anything, but once Gevanni has slipped out the door, he makes a distinct effort to poke at the plain, allergen-free lunch that occupies the nightstand.

He has a lively argument—figuratively speaking—with Mello about whether or not he is hitting on an employee almost a decade his senior, and for once, everyone takes Mello's side.

The unwitting source of conflict returns ten minutes later, down his suit jacket and tie, up an iPod and a set of speakers. The latter pair he arranges, and then he winks at Near and turns on a song that commences with an ominous synthesizer riff.

It's the "Ghostbusters" theme.

Near's laughing before he can control himself, but Gevanni doesn't stop there. He grabs Near's hands, draping white sleeves and all, and hauls him out into a space of open carpet, where he pulls gently on Near's right arm, then the left, and essentially forces Near to shift his shoulders in time to the music.

Gevanni himself is also employing hips and feet, and he looks so pleased with Near's participation that it's hard to deny him a bit more enthusiasm still.

As he begins—cautiously—to loosen up and swing himself around, Near wonders what has gotten into him.

He recalls that he hasn't done much other than drink milk and talk to ghosts for the last few days, so he can probably cut himself some slack.

Maybe he'll cut a rug while he's at it.

…or maybe he's definitely not cut out for this.

When the song fades out, Near stops twirling—an awkward process indeed—and retreats to the bed, struggling to figure out whether he's embarrassed or amused.

Gevanni flops down onto the mattress beside him, dark hair fluttering about his face, and grins.

"I hope they had a dance party, too," he says.

"An existential dance party," Mello confirms.

"L and Light were existentially grinding," Matt confides.

"You—we did no such thing!" Light sputters.

"Please define 'grinding,'" is the rather telling verdict from L.

Near swallows another smile and lowers himself onto the comforter next to Gevanni, who has folded his hands behind his head.

"I guess what you're going to have to figure out," he remarks, "is whether you can handle having dead people talking to you all the time, giving a running commentary and asking you to do things—whether that's fair to you. And if it's not, we'll have to figure out how to put things back." He glances sideways with a faint smile. "I'm assuming that this is a relatively new phenomenon."

Near nods, and then he looks at Gevanni for a long moment—long enough for the other man to prop himself up on an elbow and look back.

"Agent Gevanni," he says.

"Near?" Gevanni returns, breathing softly.

"Thank you," Near whispers.

Gevanni leans towards him, searching his eyes, and lifts a tremulous hand to his cheek.

Near surprises himself by not pulling away.

It is a day for surprises.

"Near, the police…" Rester starts to preface from the doorway, trailing off into an extraordinarily meaningful silence.

"Oh, hell," Gevanni manages. What his ensuing exit lacks in grace, it makes up for in haste and horror.

Rester does not seem to know what to think of all this.

He settles on clearing his throat, muttering, "New case," and setting a manila folder on the dresser by the door before he flees.

Near has time to wind an unsteady finger deeply into his hair before the peanut gallery chimes in.

"Oh, dear," L says.

"This is like a soap opera," is Mello's enthusiastic response.

"Yeah!" Matt eagerly agrees. "'Days of Our Afterlives'!"

Near rolls over to bury his face in the bedsheets.

Near spends the rest of the afternoon reviewing the case file, consulting L at intervals, Matt and Mello having wandered off to do something that makes "existential" sound dubious. In one of many lulls in which Near sits on the floor, pushing a matchbox car back and forth, L speaks first.

"I've been attempting to determine why your connection to our world is so strong," he remarks. "I've been observing, and it appears to vary from one person to another—Agent Gevanni's is better-established than most people's, and the older man's is even stronger, but yours is more powerful than anyone else's that I've seen thus far." He pauses, and Near turns the car's front wheels slowly. "It's strange how things look from this side—it's very subdued. Everything is dark gray, and where this terrain overlays the living world, it's all in lighter shades, brighter towards white where the link is strongest."

Near imagines L thumbing at his lip, and the thought is so comforting that he chooses not to ask what kind of form or essence the dead retain, for fear that L's current incarnation will not have thumbs at all.

"You glow," L informs him. "There's something that you have more of than the average person does. The average person isn't very bright at all, whereas your Gevanni is quite clear—but you're like a torch."

Near isn't entirely sure he likes the sound of that.

"What do Gevanni, Rester, and I have in common that the average person lacks?" he asks the air where L would be.

"In particular," L says quietly, "which ties you to the realm of Mu."

Near rolls his car onto a plastic mat of a two-dimensional city, complete with sidewalks, streets, labeled buildings, and fields of simplistic yellow flowers. The car trundles up to the railroad crossing.

Near stops and withdraws his hand as if he's been burned.

"Oh," he says softly.

"What?" Light asks uncertainly.

"It's the people that I've seen die," Near explains quietly. "I saw—when I was four, I was on the train with my family, and something malfunctioned, and we were diverted onto the wrong track. We collided with another train head-on, and ours just… crumpled." His recollections are hazy—with black smoke as well as intervening time. "My family was in the front car. We were—I don't remember where we were going; it doesn't matter. I looked back, too, through the doors to the next car. I believe there were two dozen fatalities, the majority in our compartment, and I witnessed most of them. I was bundled up, because I was cold and sitting in the back, so I didn't really get hurt. The paramedics almost didn't find me, because I didn't cry." He pauses, both arms wrapped around his raised knee, and looks at the crisscrossing lines that delineate the playmat's track. "I had a sister," he says. "She was older than I was, and she had brown hair."

Another silence swells.

"I'm sorry," Light manages.

Near picks up his toy and sets it down on the floor again. "Thank you," he says, because he's relatively sure that's the polite response. "It would explain the current circumstances—I was present when Mello killed a tremendous fraction of my original SPK, and so were Agents Rester and Gevanni. We were all at Yellowbox." Somehow, it would be a bit too strange even now to say We watched you die, Light. "Rester is an ex-Marine, so perhaps he lost some fellow soldiers in combat, which could be why his connection is stronger than Gevanni's."

"Well-done, Near," L tells him, and Near can't help but wonder whether L understood it all along.

Either way, he nods, starting to push his car beneath the bed and crawling after it.

"L," Light says, "can I talk to Near alone for a minute?"

There is a pause.

"Certainly," L replies.

Presumably, he drifts off to analyze something else, because Light takes a deep breath—or goes through the motions of taking one, since he himself has revealed that he no longer breathes at all—and releases it as a sigh.

Near doesn't ask him what he wants.

He's halfway under the bed by now anyway, and given all the ambient dust, conversation has dropped a few positions on his list of priorities.

"It's kind of frightening," Light decides.

Near lies down on his stomach and guides the car around in what he hopes is an interested-looking figure eight.

"Listening to you two work together," Light fills in, as Near had hoped would be the case. "It's—well, I don't think I would've had a chance if you'd done it from the start."

Near coughs as dust rises around him. "You were very clever, Light."

"Yeah," Light scoffs. "Clever. Not brilliant. I was holding cards you couldn't see."

"I made mistakes," Near replies.

"I guess," Light permits. "Well… water under the bridge." He pauses again, and Near wonders if essences have shoes to admire when silences strike. "It's just uncanny, though—this. I mean… I had a lot of reasons for doing what I did, and most people won't find any of them sufficient, but—I got good things done. I'm not the Antichrist. You know that—you're the one who's cleaning it all up. Crime's on the rise for the first time in years. And what's so damn ironic is… Yes, new world, purge the evil—I did believe that, and, to some extent, I still do—but so much of it was about playing God, not about being Him. I killed the vermin to free the virtuous, yes, but I also did it because if I had power over death—if I could control it—then maybe I wouldn't be susceptible. I was so damn scared of dying. I used to lie awake at night wondering what would happen at the end—what the undiscovered country would be. How did I know it wouldn't be oblivion? How did I know I wouldn't be erased?"

"You couldn't have known," Near answers obediently, and then he sneezes.

"Bless you," Light says.

There is a very awkward silence, and Near is glad that he's hidden under the bed.

Ex-Kira, not to be confused with X-Kira, finds words again after a moment has passed.

"I've been thinking about how you might be able to sever the connection," he says.

Near bangs his head on the underside of the bedframe in the process of instinctively looking up.

Wincing and rubbing at the spot, he mutters, "What did you come up with?"

"The connection is based on the fact that you've seen so many people die," Light recaps. "Maybe it's too obvious, but… shouldn't you be able to break it by watching someone's birth?"

Near crawls out from under the bed to frown in the direction of Light's voice. "Waiting around the hospital trying to infiltrate thirty different women's hospital rooms at the crucial moment is not my idea of a good time."

Light laughs, which is insulting on many levels.

"You would have to be a ninja," he decides. He's quiet for a few more seconds, and his voice is solemner when it returns. "I don't think you'd need to compensate one-for-one," he says. "The creation of human life is immeasurably greater than its destruction. Look at what I did—all that grandeur, all that fanfare, but I didn't create a thing. That's why it was always going to fail; why someone like L or you would always be able to tear it down—as soon as I stopped policing it, my whole world would fall apart. But making something… bringing a human being into the world… that's a line without an endpoint. It's about potential, and there's incredible energy in potentialities."

Near tugs on his hair until it hurts. He wishes he could see Light's face.

"If I close the connection," he says slowly, "all of you will disappear."

"Yes," Light responds. "But maybe that's natural. Maybe that's how it should be."

Near steps over the threshold. "Agent Gevanni?" he prompts.

Gevanni doesn't even jump anymore—just glances over his shoulder, smiles, and whips his swivel chair around.

"What can I do for you?" he asks.

"Can you take me to the hospital?" Near inquires.

Gevanni stands bolt upright. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Near promises. He brings his agent up to speed, and Gevanni gives him a look but doesn't argue.

"Come on," he offers, pocketing his things and moving for the door. "My car's in the lot."

Gevanni drives a clean, well-kept sedan, which Near already knew from the surveillance feeds he used to view and review on a thousand mornings and nights. Gevanni plugs his iPod into a jack, and, richly, music floods through the car as he pulls onto the street.

Near decides that he does not enjoy receiving messages from compositions recorded before he was even born.

Who's gonna hold you down when you shake?
Who's gonna come around when you break?

You can't go on
Thinkin' nothing's wrong
Who's gonna drive you home tonight?

Gevanni notices him glaring at the stereo and gives a slightly sheepish smile.

"'Ghostbusters' got me listening to stuff from '84," he explains. "I've also got… 'I Would Die 4 U,' 'Thriller'…"

"No," Near says.

Near has always hated hospitals, and now he remembers why.

He's convinced that he can feel the bacteria coalescing in his throat, and he picks at his collar to distract himself. The bland halls feel sterilized but so unclean—washed with Lysol and ammonia to cover the stench of infirmity.

Another thing he has always hated is wearing shoes, which he's doing now. He supposes it's better than getting this place on his socks.

Gevanni keeps a warm hand on his shoulder, guiding him through the halls, seeming to know where he's headed. Odds are he's actually reading the signs, which Near is ignoring in favor of focusing on not contracting a staph infection.

A few flashes of the good old FBI badge get them to the heart of the place—and in front of a doorway through which Near sees a pregnant woman in a hospital gown.

He fumbles for Gevanni's hand on his arm, twining their fingers instead and holding tight.

"Maybe I should let them stay," he whispers.

Gently Gevanni squeezes his hand. "It's your choice." He watches the doctors swarm around the woman, who is pale-faced and panting. "Are they here?"

"Most likely," Near replies. "I imagine L has forbidden them to say anything that might affect my decision."

He distinctly hears a quiet chuckle.

Gevanni's grip on his hand tightens as the commotion in the room builds towards a crescendo. Through the storm of white coats and teal scrubs, Near watches the man at the bedside—the man with the helpless smile, who strokes the woman's hair.

Near hears his own voice murmur, "I don't remember my mother's face."

"That's not your fault," Gevanni tells him softly.

"I don't remember her voice," he says. "I'll forget them, too, with time. I'll lose them. And then no one will know that they ever were."

The woman screams.

Near does remember the screaming—the shriek of steel twisting into curls and shreds; the sickening crack of so many bones; the roar of impact; the sobbing; the whimpers; the catching of his own ragged breath. He remembers the smoke and the flames, the smell of singed metal and charred flesh. He remembers watching strangers' eyes glaze over as they stopped writhing. He remembers calling his sister's name, but he doesn't remember what it was.

He remembers being gathered into a firefighter's arms. He remembers the promise that everything would be all right.

I don't think I would've had a chance if you'd worked together from the start.

It's not fair to the world if he wastes this, and maybe he's strong enough to hold it all together.

Maybe he's strong enough if he has help.

He clutches at Gevanni's hand until his knuckles ache, and then he looks up into his agent's face.

"Will you drive me home?" he asks.

Somewhere in a hospital, a child wails the first of many breaths.

All that Nate River hears is eighties music, a car engine, and the jubilation of a quartet of ghosts.

Gevanni seems a bit surprised when Near follows him back up to his room, but he musters a smile.

"What can I get you?" he wants to know.

"Do you have more music?" Near asks. "To dance to, I mean."

Gevanni grins.

Near's lightheaded, and his feet hurt, but he's doesn't know if he's ever been as happy as he is now.

Gevanni twirls him again, singing along, twisting a pair of hips that Near's fingers long to touch.

"In our dance… hall… days."

"I think that's the cutest thing I've ever seen," Matt declares.

"If I had a gastrointestinal tract," Mello responds, "I'd be throwing up."

Near grins despite himself, and Gevanni leans down to kiss him.

This is a different sort of breathlessness, bright and self-imposed, and after, Near stares up at Stephen Gevanni as the saxophones swell around them.

"I hope they weren't watching that," Gevanni manages through a cringe.

"You bet your pansy ass we were," Mello answers, wolfishly at best.

"Gentlemen," Near says, "please let me have personal moments to myself."

"No way in hell," Mello tells him, "and certainly no way in Mu."

"Mello—" L begins.

"Good," Near cuts in. "Thank you; I'm glad you understand."

Gevanni looks relieved. What he doesn't know won't hurt him.

Near will remind them later to keep the commentary to a minimum except when he specifically asks for Mello's advice.

"Holy fuck." Speak of the spirit, Mello has figured it out. "Jesus, Near, who put the awesome pills in your milk today?"

Near smiles as the song fades out, and Gevanni spins him one more time.