Mello's past the point of saying that he's leaving, and Near's past the point where he panics each time the blonde does (leave, that is). But it still hurts when he wakes up one morning every couple of months to find drawers open in the room. He doesn't say anything about it, just gets up slowly and closes them all, ignoring the fact that they're only half-full. Then, dressed in his usual pajamas, he begins his day slowly.

------

This time, it's different. Near wakes up (because there is so much racket in the kitchen and he just wants to know what's going on) and he gets out of bed to find Mello throwing pots and pans around. He's thankful that they live at the top of the apartment with no neighbors, because it's 2:30 in the morning and the noise Mello is making would wake even L up (and L is dead, buried, in Wammy's).

"Mello...?" Near says softly, reaching a hand out to Mello, a confused, sleepy expression on his face. Mello turns to him and glares so viciously that Near pulls his hand back, fearing his hand's safety (it's ridiculous, he knows, but the look on Mello's face suggests otherwise).

"Go fuck yourself." Is all Mello snarls at him, and Near suddenly realizes that Mello's bags are packed. He sighs lightly and reaches up to twirl his fingers in his silver hair, schooling his features into a blank expression which makes Mello snarl even more.

"Try not to get in too much trouble, Mello." He says quietly, his bangs hiding his onyx eyes from view. Mello watches as Near moves towards the puzzle he's completed over two hundred times, the blank one with the letter 'L' in the corner, the one he was doing when Roger told them that L died. Scowling, Mello starts yelling at Near, and Near takes the time to watch the blonde from under his bangs, because if Mello's going to do this, then this would be the last time in a few weeks that he would see Mello. Mello doesn't notice, and flips Near off as he grabs his bags. Near stops him with a whisper. "When will Mello be coming back?" Mello throws a glare over his shoulder.

"I'm not." He said venomously. He doesn't notice Near stiffen as he pulls the door open, doesn't see the tears that began to gather in his eyes (not only because of Near's bangs, but because he no longer cares enough to turn back and look at him) and when he slams the door shut (because he can't hear anything through the door), he assumes Near doesn't care that he's left once again. So he stomps down the hall.

Completely unaware of the dark spots that have begun to stain the pure white puzzle in front of Near as tears fall steadily down his face.

It's 5:23 in the morning when Near finally gets up from the floor to begin his day.

------

Halle worries about him as he monotonously talks to 'Watari' (really, he can't call the guy Watari very well, when he's been calling him Roger his entire life). She notices the dark circles under his eyes that are beginning to rival L's, and a few days later actually beat his. Even Rester and Gevanni (all of whom have stayed with Near despite him telling them that they were free to leave) have begun to worry, especially when Near stumbles and Gevanni reaches out to catch him, managing to feel how light the younger boy had become.

Near simply waved their concerns, stating he was fine and there was no need to worry.

It was hard for them to believe, because he had stopped twirling his hair, stopped playing with the toys in their base (stopped even asking for toys), simply sat and stared at five to six different cases at once. Halle sighes one day, about two weeks after Mello left, and follows Near home. She lets herself inside after Near, and is instantly surprised by the lack of blonde on the kitchen counter, munching on a chocolate bar. Assuming Mello is in the room, she is next surprised when Near doesn't say anything, no "I'm home!" or anything. Watching him, she realizes that Mello wasn't there.

"How long is he going to be gone this time?" She asks him softly, because she's furious that Mello always leaves, and she's worried about Near, because Near isn't doing a lot to care for himself without Mello. Near sighs softly as he shuffles to the room.

"He's not coming back, he said." Was all that Halle was able to hear before Near disappears into the bathroom (because despite the fact that he's not eating, and not playing, he still believes he should be clean no matter what). Scowling, Halle flips her phone open.

"Gevanni, Rester, it's me." She looks in the direction of Near's bathroom, where the albino is scrubbing himself off, and sighs. "I figured out what Near-san's problem was."

------

It takes Halle a while, but she finally manages to get the number she's looking for, and she dials it into a disposable phone angrily, almost breaking the buttons (it doesn't matter, it's a disposable phone). It rings a few times before some one picks it up.

"Yo." Halle scowls when she recognizes the voice (he's come over a few times to the apartment while she was there).

"Matt, is Mello with you?" She hears a sharp intake of breath, and then a slow exhalation. Assuming Matt is smoking (as usual), Halle wrinkles her nose in disgust.

"Who is this, again?" Matt drawls, and Halle wishes he was right in front of her so she can punch him across the face.

"It's Halle. Is Mello with you?" She asks again. Matt doesn't answer this time. "Hello?"

"What?" And then she sighs in anger and relief at the voice.

"Mello, what the hell do you think you're doing?" She snarls.

"I'm losing to Matt on Mario Kart Racing." Mello replies and Halle wants to beat the crap out of Mello but she won't.

"Turn on your damn phone, Mello."

"Why should I?" Mello drawls out, sounding almost like Matt, and she can hear Matt saying something but she can't decipher what. Mello laughs.

"I'm sending you a picture." She hears Mello sigh heavily, but there's a rustling movement and then, a few seconds later, a couple beeps. There's a deep intake of breath as she realizes her message has both been sent and now read.

"What the hell is this?" Mello asks quietly.

"Isn't it obvious?" Halle snaps at Mello. She can't help it---he's being so stupid, and he's supposed to be almost as smart as Near.

"When?"

"I took it yesterday. Near-san didn't say anything."

"What the hell is wrong with him?"

"Mels? What is---holy shit!" Halle looks down at her own phone and looks over the picture she sent Mello. It's Near, but it's merely a shadow of Near. The boy is sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest, hands on his knees as he pressed his face into them. It's barely noticeable sometimes, because his white pajamas are always so big on him, but the sleeve of one arm has fallen to his elbow and anyone can see how skinny he's gotten. His eyes, which are staring at six different cases (the robbery of a bank in Florida, a murder of a six-year-old girl in Taiwan, a rape of a sixteen-year-old in Lithuania, a serial killer in Berlin, and two others that she can't remember at the time), are empty of anything. There's no sadness, but there's no interest in the cases, no amusement at Mello's antics, just... nothing.

"He's never done this before." Mello said quietly. There's a *beep* and Halle isn't sure what it is, but since she can still hear them she knows they haven't hung up.

"Well, you always came back before." She retorts.

"You're not going back?" Halle blinks at Matt's shocked voice. She hears Mello sigh.

"No, Matt. I'm not." There's another sigh, but one of disgust, and Halle realizes it's Matt.

"Halle, I'm sorry." She hears an angry cry and Matt hissing something (that sounds similar to 'shut up, Mels.') before Matt speaks again. "I thought Mello would go back, I didn't realize he wouldn't. I had nothing to do with this, I swear." She sighs. "He'll go back right now if you want."

"WHAT???" When Halle hears Mello's enraged cry, she knows it's hopeless---perhaps she knew from the start it was hopeless.

"No, don't send him back." Matt squeaked in shock.

"What????" He said.

"Don't send him to Near-san." Halle repeated. "We don't need to go through this again. I just wanted Mello to know what he's done to Near-san."

"Well, how will Near get better?" Matt asked softly.

"If Mello comes back, Near-san will get better."

"So why the hell won't you let him go back?"

"Because, Near-san will be able to get over this." Halle said firmly. "It won't do to have Mello come back, and Near-san accept him back with open arms, only for Mello to do this to him again and again." She sighed. "Any more and Near-san will break. He can't keep having Mello leave him."

"You keep leaving him, Mels?" Matt's voice whispered, angrily. Halle blinked.

"You didn't know, Matt?"

"This is he first time he came by my place." Matt said angrily. There was silence for a few seconds as Matt thought. Then, "All right, Halle, you're right."

"WHAT????"

"Dude, first you're pissed 'cause I say I'm gonna send you back, and now you're pissed 'cause I say Halle's right. Make up your fucking mind, Mello." Matt sounds beyond pissed, and Halle shakes her head as she imagines the look Matt's giving Mello.

"That's all I wanted to say." She interrupts before the argument escalates in her ear. Before they could say anything else, though, she hangs up.

------

Near sighs as he stares blankly at the cases before him. 'I'm becoming useless...' He thinks quietly. He can't seem to solve the cases before him, and before he even knows what to do, he feels faint. Gasps are going around the room.

"Mello?" Halle cries out, and Near blinks. 'Mello? What is she talking about?' He feels himself swaying slightly. 'Mello isn't here---Mello's not coming back.' Suddenly, the room tilts and he feels himself falling backwards. Arms catch him, and he looks up into blue eyes and blonde hair, a burn scar on his face. Near attempts to smile---now he's hallucinating, oh, God, what next?---but it feels weird and foreign on his face (how long since Mello left again?)

"I want Mello back..." He says softly before he faints completely.

He's not sure, but he thinks he heard someone say, "Don't worry, I'm here."

------

When Near wakes up again, the sun is in his eyes and he squints and looks away, covering his eyes with one hand. While he looks away, he realizes that there are drawers open in his room and he sighs, thinking he forgot to close them again that morning. He stands up silently and sways, then takes an unsteady step towards the drawers. He falls, and hits the bedside table next to him, knocking over the lamp and various other things. It's the crashing noises that alerts the person in the other room.

"What the hell?" Near looks up and sees Mello standing in the doorway to his room. "Near?" Near doesn't say anything, just pulls himself up by table and standing again. The room spins as he does, but he ignores it (as he's done the past... four? Six? days) and when he manages to stand again, Mello's at his side.

"Go away..." Near muttered, waving his hand at the 'hallucination' Mello. Mello takes a step back instantly, confirming Near's suspicions. "Just leave me alone already, Mello."

"Why the hell are you doing this to yourself?" 'Hallucination' Mello asks.

"It doesn't concern Mello." Near said softly, finally making it to the drawers. He shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath.

"Like hell it doesn't. What is your fucking problem, Near?" 'Hallucination' Mello crosses his arms, and Near's eyes fly open to yell at him when he sees the drawers filled with clothes in the usual way---black leather clothes on the right, white cloth clothes on the left. Near whirls around, loses his balance, and begins to fall. 'Hallucination' Mello (which, really, isn't 'Hallucination' Mello anymore) moves fast and catches Near before he hits the floor. Near turns and buries his face in Mello's chest and begins to cry silently.

"W-Why is Mello here?" He whispers softly. Mello starts threading his fingers through Near's hair, but Near grabs his hands and forces it to stop, looking up at blue eyes with tear-filled onyx. While Mello was gone, Near became more fragile, and he knew it. They both knew it. "W-When is Mello leaving again?"

"Near---"

"Because I would prefer Mello leave now, while I'm still 96% sure that he is a hallucination."

"Shut up, Near." Mello sighed softly, pulling Near towards him again. "I---I'm gonna try not to leave this time around." Near shook his head.

"That could work for a few weeks, but then Mello is going to leave again." Near mumbled. "I... I'm not sure how many more times Mello can leave before he stops coming back. How many more times he can leave until he finally breaks me."

"I don't mean to break you, Near." Mello says, his arms tightening around Near's waist. He internally winces when he feels how skinny Near is. "When was the last time you've eaten, Near?"

"I'm not sure." Near's voice is muffled from being pressed into Mello, but Mello shakes his head.

"That's not healthy, Near."

"Neither is eating chocolate 24-7." Near retorts.

------

Two months later, and Mello hasn't left once. Near is at a normal weight (for him---he's a whopping 91 pounds) and is waiting for the day that Mello gets bored and leaves, furious over who-knows-what.

It's about 2:45 am and Near is woken by crashing noises in the kitchen. Silently, he sighs and stands up. In the kitchen, feeling an odd sense of deja vu, is Mello, throwing around pots and pans. Near is, once again, thankful that they have no neighbors because Mello is, once again, making enough noise to wake L up.

"Mello?" He asks quietly, a sleepy, resigned look on his face this time. He doesn't reach out to him, just in case. Mello looks up at him and tilts his head to the side.

"I can't find where I hid my chocolate." Mello says. Near blinks at him, then shakes his head. "What?"

"Mello hid it in the toy closet, with my puzzle." Near tells him. Mello makes an 'ah, I see' face and goes instantly to the closet. A white puzzle falls out and Mello, cursing lightly, bends down and picks it up.

"Eh? What happened to your puzzle, Near?" He asks, holding out the toy. Near takes it---it's the puzzle he's completed over 200 times, the one he was doing when Roger told them L died, the one he did when Mello last left... the white puzzle with the 'L' in the corner, the one he cried over.

"I was crying when Mello left." Mello looked at Near, shock in his eyes. Near continued. "Mello didn't notice, because he was too mad to see anything else. But I was crying, and my tears fell on my puzzle."

"I'm sorry, Near." He says, for the millionth time, and Near shrugs.

"It doesn't matter anymore." He replies, placing the puzzle back in the closet and reaching up, grabbing Mello's hidden chocolate bars. "Mello is staying this time, he says, and that is enough for me."

As he comes down, Mello wraps his arms around Near's waist and kisses the albino softly. The kiss turns heated when Near wraps his arms around Mello's neck and kisses back.

Near feels happy again, completely at peace with Mello.