A/N: Hello again, everybody, long time no see!
Alrighty, to those of you who have read my little humor fic starring Matt and Near under the title Playtime, this two-shot was originally going to be the very end of that fic, as it shall be continuing. … I'm not sure who it was that dropped the acid in my drink that made me think that this would be a good direction to take Playtime, but thankfully it wore off before any real damage was done. ^^ However, I liked the concept too much, and had put in too much work into the outline to just scrap it. Besides, there's so little Matt/Near out there, it seemed a shame to toss it out.
So, here we have my second favorite pairing for Death Note, Matt/Near. Do not fear, Playtime fans, we will not be progressing this way. There are definite similarities, but these two fics are separate. Enjoy, everybody!
Music: Video Kid by The Birthday Massacre
Warnings: True name reveals for Near and Matt and shonen-ai. Don't like, don't read. XP
Disclaimer: Death Note © to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata… but they is nice and let me borrow it. ;D
Part One, "Trust"
The detective took a breath as his name was called out and slowly released. It was something of a relief to finally hear, as he had been waiting for it in this room all day. He had heard the door as it had opened behind him, recognized the footfalls as they approached his back, but it wasn't until the voice that was almost as familiar as his own rang out that some tightness seeped out of his shoulders. There was only one person in the world that could be standing behind him, waiting to be acknowledged, and only one who would have any reason to meet with him now. It was why Near was waiting.
It was dim in this room, the hub of the SPK headquarters, where Near and his very recently reduced team spent the majority of their time. All around the room were dozens of monitors stacked from floor to ceiling, and they were the only real source of light to be had, their white glow only interrupted by Near's calligraphic 'N' set in each one. It was very late, so late that it bordered on early, but Near had not left this room since he had forced his team to leave, to sign off and return home. None of them had been quite willing to leave the albino on his own, considering the events that had taken place earlier that evening and his even more withdrawn behavior. Near had forced the issue, though, even threatened severance, and they had left him alone.
Since then, Near had spent his time setting out a domino mosaic. Hundreds of them were scattered throughout the room, threading in and out of each other in a complex, nearly symmetrical weave. The tiles took up almost the entire floor of the SPK's control room, some even finding their way up small staircases made of their fellows to the tops of the desks. Near sat in the center of the room, carefully nestled in a small circle clear of dominoes. It had taken some very cautious maneuvering to achieve his position and not set off the mosaic, but he had managed. Once there, he had waited patiently, if tensely, for the man who now stood behind him.
Without turning to look at his visitor, he returned the monosyllabic greeting: "Matt."
There was a pause, and Near heard the hacker shift slightly, uncomfortably. He could almost see the look on the older man's face, could visualize his movements. The eyes that shifted to the left and down, the brows that drew close over the bridge of his nose, the hands that twisted at the cuffs of his shirt… he had seen the expression and mannerisms before, under somewhat similar circumstances, and it wasn't an incident he was likely to forget.
Another series of soft footfalls as Matt came closer, right to the edge of Near's delicate mosaic. "I got a phone call," he said, sounding as though every word were forced. "From Mello."
Near did not respond, but picked up one of the dominoes and examined it closely. Half of his mosaic was composed of white dominoes and standard black pips, while the other half was made from black with white pips. Near held one of the latter.
Black dominoes, he decided, were beautiful, much more so than their white counterparts. Their sheen and glossiness, the sharp, exact lines and angles of them, the way the white pips just seemed to float within them, like tiny motes of innocence in a sea of sin… Dirt refused to show on the black rectangles, any smudges were simply absorbed by the dark coloring. Whereas on the white dominoes, any fault was instantly recognizable.
The black dominoes maintained their beauty, despite any taint.
"He's in bad shape," Matt was saying, voice strained.
Near replaced the domino, careful not to jostle its neighbors. Matt sounded almost desperate as he spoke for Near to respond to him, to react somehow to what he was saying. Still not turning in his place on the floor, Near finally replied to the redhead. "I assumed that after the blast Mello's damage would be considerable," he said, tone flat. "Soichiro Yagami has died as a result of injuries received during the explosion, and the two of them were in close proximity to each other."
Another long pause. Near could almost feel the anxiety humming through the other man as he struggled, for all their distance. Finally, "… He needs help, Near."
The albino detective almost laughed aloud. It was so ridiculous, really, this dance Matt was performing around him, carefully hedging around what it was he really wanted to say, what it was he had come to do. It was as though he were afraid of what Near's reaction might be to his departure, when all he should have been concerned with was how quickly he could get to Mello's side. It's not as though he had ever expected Matt to stay with him, not while Mello was still out there.
It had only been three days since Roger had called Near and Mello into his dusty office to tell them that L had been killed by Kira. Mello had left the orphanage that same night, while Near had spent the majority of his time going over what little information on the case that was available to them, fitting pieces together and planning out how to acquire more. There wasn't very much left at all. L and Mr. Wammy had both kept records electronically, and at some point near the end, every file had been wiped clean. All Near had to go on were the few sporadic times L or Mr. Wammy called the House and dropped hints, the tiny pieces of the case that were publicly seen or heard, and his own instinct. It would take a very long time to find his way back to the point L had been at before he died.
When Matt had come to see him, Near had been in his room, looking over newspaper clippings and piecing together a robot garage kit. The redhead was not his usual self. He had never been as energetic or boisterous as his blond companion, but as he entered Near's sanctuary - without knocking - he appeared withdrawn, holding himself contained so as to take up as little room as possible. His clothes were disheveled and wrinkled, as though he had slept in them, and the absence of his goggles showed his normally clear green eyes were red rimmed and swollen. He stood just inside Near's door, hands plucking distractedly at his sleeves, eyes swiveled to the left, brows drawn down.
Near stared at the intruder, curious. Matt's physical appearance was easily understood, if not his entrance into Near's room. He had heard on his occasional excursions out into the house that Matt had not left his room since Mello's departure. Obviously the boy was taking the loss of his friend hard, the evidence of his weeping only acted to confirm it. Why he might choose to see Near while he was in such a state Near was unsure, but not all of the possibilities were strictly benign. Matt had never been abusive before, but that had been before Mello had left, and in a way, Near could be blamed for Mello's leaving. If Matt felt the need to take his anguish out on anyone, Near was the logical choice.
Near watched him for any sudden moves, preparing himself in case he should need to retreat, and waited.
Still standing at the door, and eyes averted away from the pale boy in front of him, Matt spoke with a voice roughened by tears. "He left, Near," he said. "He left without a word. I was standing right by the door when he walked out, and he barely looked at me."
The younger boy did not reply, understanding that Matt needed to just speak for a minute and articulate how he felt. He wasn't convinced yet that this was a purely peaceful visit, so he continued to watch carefully, rather than turn his attention back to his projects.
"He was my best friend, and he didn't even say good-bye, just because…" Matt trailed off, and stared into a corner of Near's room for a full minute. Finally, he lifted his head and met Near's gray gaze with his own bloodshot one. "And now they're saying that I'm second in line, and that I should try working with you to recover all of the data that was lost when L died."
Near tilted his head, fingers of one hand caught loosely in his hair. He would have expected a measure of anger to accompany Matt's last statement, some kind of disgust that he was being made to take the place left by Mello and work with the one who had driven him away. Instead, it had very nearly been neutral. Near supposed it to be a result of Matt's sheltering over the past three days. Not an absence of feeling so much as exhaustion robbing him of the ability to express it.
"I can understand Matt's reluctance to work closely with me," Near said, speaking quietly and gently. "I will do my best to keep all personal interactions as brief as possible, if that would make Matt feel more comfortable."
Whatever it was that Near was meant to say, apparently that wasn't it, as Matt let his eyes drop away, and began fidgeting with his cuffs again, frown back in place.
Near began to relax. Matt's body language and attitude were slowly convincing him that he would not suddenly decide to attack and vent his mourning. In fact, Matt seemed almost as confused by his presence in Near's room as the albino was. He twirled a lock of white hair as a thought occurred to him. Matt was used to having someone close who could listen and offer advice, so perhaps that was why he had come. "It wouldn't be so hard," he said slowly, "to track Mello down, considering Matt's skills. There are a limited number of places a boy of fourteen could go on his own. The two of you could be reunited within weeks."
The despondent redhead just twisted his sleeves harder.
Near nodded to himself, satisfied he had discovered Matt's motivation. He wanted to leave the institution and search for Mello, but he didn't have quite the same drive that Mello possessed, sending him charging out to survive on his wits. He required some form of justification first. "When is Matt leaving?"
It was another minute before the older boy trained his gaze back on Near. His shifting and fidgeting quieted, and Near found himself suddenly apprehensive again under the intensity of Matt's stare. "I'm not going to track him down," he said, tone bitter but resolved. "The jerk left me behind, he doesn't want me with him…" the circles under Matt's eyes seemed to darken. "And I don't think I would care if I ever saw him again, either."
Near blinked at that. Since there had been a time when both boys had resided at the Wammy House, Mello and Matt had been close. It seemed impossible that their bond could be severed so easily. "I am sure Matt will feel differently once he has calmed, as I am sure of the same for Mello. However, Matt's skills and assistance would be greatly valued until that time comes."
Matt shook his head, and took his first step into the room since coming in and closing the door behind him. Near's room wasn't large, so it only took a few steps before he was standing over him, and then squatted down directly in front of him, alarmingly close. Near did not retreat from the intrusion of his personal space, but there was something unsettling in the way Matt was staring at him. "Near, I'm not going to track him down." He spoke every word with finality, determined to convince Near of his intention.
Then was when Matt leaned in even closer, malachite eyes boring into his own. A hand came up and rested gently on Near's cheek, feeling cool to the touch and trembling slightly. Near sat frozen, forcing himself to not flinch, and unable to look away. "I'm staying here," Matt said, "with you."
Matt leaned in again. Near realized what he was about to do a second before it happened, and Matt pressed his lips against his. Near was too surprised to react, too shocked to move or try to pull away, and by the time he felt his body would obey any order to do so, Matt broke off. Without another word or so much as a backwards glance, he left Near alone in his room with the taste of tears still lingering on his lips.
For five years, or very close, the two of them had worked together on the Kira case. Near could attribute much of the credit for retrieving the lost information to Matt and his ability to undo some of the damage done when Mr. Wammy had erased the data the original team in Japan had gathered. When Near had formed the SPK to begin his own investigation proper, Matt had become a kind of 'secret member.' Between the two of them, they had decided that he could work the most effectively if the rest of the team were unaware of his existence. To the entire team, save Near and Commander Rester, what was to be seen of the SPK was all that there was.
It was a good set-up they had this way, with the majority of the team working busily in the forefront and Matt acting quietly in the background. Going that route, Matt was able to uncover quite a bit that the rest of them could not, sometimes through less than legal channels, and sent his found information along. He was clever in the way he revealed his tidbits, letting them seep up in their systems as though they were already there, or deliberately causing certain screens to glitch and show something specific, leading to a 'spontaneous' inspiration. There had only been one time when his presence might have been detected, and that was during Mello's kidnap and ransom of Soichiro Yagami's daughter. However, everyone had been so busy at their own tasks that none took any notice of the adjustments made to the satellites. Only Near had taken any note of them.
Matt did his job very well, all from his small apartment on the thirteenth floor of the SPK headquarters. The vast majority of buildings in America were built 'without' a thirteenth floor, simply out of superstition. The SPK building was one of the few that did have such a floor, and it was deliberately roped off for the storage of things no one would have any desire to look through. Or so the team was told. If any had attempted to gain access to the thirteenth floor, the elevators would have taken them to the fourteenth, which was for storage, and the doors from any stairwells were locked securely. To get to the thirteenth floor required an access code known to only three individuals.
Near had made it a habit of his while they were still at Wammy's to visit with Matt on a daily basis, to exchange information and ideas with the redhead. The habit continued after the SPK had been formed in March, and for the first few years, that's all their visits had ever consisted of.
After that single kiss, Matt had attempted no further advance on Near, and the albino never made any mention of it. Any time they met it was always very cool between them, and any conversation was kept on subject, never straying into gray waters. Near even doubted that they would have worked together as closely as they did if it hadn't been for Wammy's pressuring them to do so. They had never been close, and with the new burden placed on Near to immediately take over L's place and Matt's grief over Mello, they might have been wedged even further apart. Certainly there was a kind of barrier between them that Near would never have tried surmounting otherwise.
It was only over the last year and a half that they had begun talking about things that did not directly pertain to the investigation or how they intended to proceed within it. Small things, but they helped to bring down the wall that stood between the boys, and slowly made it easier for them to work together. How the day had gone, how one was progressing in his latest game, the reasoning behind childish toys… They got to know each other little by little, and Near found that he enjoyed Matt's company, and enjoyed the time spent in the little apartment on the thirteenth floor.
Occasionally, and only recently had there been a tentative, halfway progression in their cautious partnership. It was a small and subtle change, and Near was unsure when it had begun, if what he remembered as the first example was truly the first or just the first he had noticed. Small, tiny touches made in passing that lingered an instant too long, glances that took the place of entire conversations, silences that generated and wound up unease until it was almost unbearable…
Near wasn't an idiot, far from it in point of fact. He knew what these things meant, and what they could lead to. What was off balancing was that he had never expected to be in a situation like this himself, or for it to be Matt that presented himself as the interested party. He didn't know how he felt about Matt's semi-advances and hints of interest. He wasn't appalled or disgusted, but neither was he impatient to see Matt attempt for a more direct approach. If he had to label how he felt, he would say that he was passively curious to see what would become of such an arrangement, but wouldn't have been upset if it never came to be. Or so he would have thought.
It was because he was not a fool, however, that he knew that any attentions paid to him were not actually meant for him. The sense of friendship and camaraderie that had sprung up between them, the tiny hints that it could be more… none of it was for Near. It was all for Mello. The only reason Matt had stayed with him for so long was because he was a connection, however tenuous, to Mello. It was why Matt looked at him the way he did, why he shared parts of his life, why he worked so hard by his side, because Near was simply a stand-in. It was also why Matt never pressed any further than he already had: because the real Mello was still out there somewhere.
Near had known that it had all been temporary, that someday Matt would leave him to find Mello. When he'd heard of the explosion in LA, he'd known that time had finally come, and he'd simply waited for the other shoe to drop.
Matt's kiss had tasted of salt… it had never been his.
With a sense of déjà vu, Near cut to the chase, tired of Matt's tiptoeing. "When is Matt leaving?"
"The part of the Mafia that Mello was affiliated with was been wiped out," Matt said, apparently determined to rationalize his reasons, though Near had given him the opportunity to just leave. "He's found some kind of family branch that he's holed up with for now, but they've got no allegiance to him, no reason to protect him or take care of his injuries." Matt paused in his speech, and Near heard him take in a long, tight breath, as though it were difficult for him to breathe. "He needs someone to get him out of there. He needs help."
Near nodded slightly, feeling a tightness developing in his own body, across his chest and shoulders, on down his arms. This farce of a conversation needed to end soon if he wanted to remain in control over his own emotions. "I understand the predicament quite well," he said, smoothing over his tone. "Matt is Mello's friend, and of course, Matt will rush to Mello's aid."
Near's attempt to remain neutral failed on Matt. He had spent too much time in the younger man's company, and knew how to read the signs. Enough of Near's attitude spoke of his exasperation for the redhead to pick up on. "Near, it's not the way you're making it sound…"
"No," Near said, almost snapping in a sudden flare of irritation. "I believe it is quite plain that Matt wants to go. However," and here Near finally turned his head so he could see Matt with one eye, just on the edge of the ring of illumination. He was twisting the cuffs of his sleeves absently, and watching Near with unshielded green eyes, brows drawn in worriedly. Near felt his own expression harden. "He also wants permission before he goes. How very…" Near hesitated an instant, tottering on the edge of saying 'obedient' before finishing with, "… considerate."
Matt's posture shifted again, registering embarrassment and discomfort to Near, who had also learned to read Matt very well. Near turned his head away, back to his spiraling basket weave of black and white dominoes. "When is Matt leaving?"
Something in that snapped Matt out of his withdrawal, and he raised his voice, the increased volume sounding like a shout in the quiet room. "Damn it, Near! Stop using the third person on me! You only do that when you want to keep people at a distance. And don't you dare act like you've known that this would happen, like it was expected! There is no way you could, I never intended to-"
"Matt," Near cut in, interrupting Matt. He was becoming tired, and had no desire to hear the hacker's excuses. "We've both known that Mello has never left your thoughts. Ever since he left, he has been a constant consideration in your actions, conscious or not. We've both known that while you kept company with me," Near flicked the end of the white domino line, which sped away. The line spilt and became dozens, which dove between the blacks. Row upon row fell, until only one remained, which climbed the stairway made of its fellows up to the top of a workstation. The last white fell across a keyboard with a clatter, and every monitor went dead, plunging the room and its occupants into darkness. Near shifted, using his memory to bring his hand close to the line of blacks.
"You have been waiting for a time when you could rejoin Mello," he finished, and struck the first black to send the rows tumbling. They were impossible to see, but they could be heard, and their pattern was identical to the white. One line became many, many became one, there was a final clatter as a black domino struck a keyboard, and the monitors flared back to life, temporarily blinding the two men. When their eyes no longer protested the light, each screen showed a single calligraphic 'M' in their centers.
Near saw Matt stare at the screens for a moment before turning a glare on to him. "Knock it off, Near," he snarled. "I won't be manipulated like this."
"By me," Near returned, absently catching up two of the fallen tiles.
Near felt the tiny impressions that were the pips. "You won't be manipulated by me," he repeated, voice as bland as cream. "But it is obvious that you still allow Mello to retain a certain amount of control over you."
There was a hiss behind him, Matt exhaling through his teeth in frustration. "You seriously think you're rebound? That I've stuck with you all this time to use you as a replacement?"
It was Near's turn to shift as Matt's questions struck uncomfortably close to his own assumptions, but Matt either didn't notice or didn't care, and continued.
"Alright, fine, yes, it hurt like hell when he left, but he was only ever my friend, Near. I never had any plan to leave you and find him."
The edges of the dominoes in Near's hand bit into his fingers as he gripped them tightly. "All air," he said. "Actions speak louder than words."
Matt scowled, appeared ready to begin shouting in earnest, but reined himself back with some effort. "Alright, how about this, then? About a year after he left, Mello started calling me, once a month, every month."
"Calling," Near said, and received a terse nod in return. "To what purpose?"
The hacker sighed and ran a hand through a mess of auburn hair. "To tell me where he was," he said tiredly, "and to ask me to meet with him. I always refused, and eventually stopped answering whenever I saw that it was him on the line. He just left messages, then, regular as you please." Green eyes pierced gray through the dim light cast by monitors emblazoned with Mello's letter. "I never went, Near." He fished into one of his pockets and brought out a small red cell phone. He held it out to Near, "Check the phone records if you don't believe me."
Near made no move to rise from his place on the floor, or to take the offered phone. He stared at it distantly. "You could have easily gotten into the phone system and altered any previous call records…" Near trailed off.
Matt tossed his head. "Shit, Near! Do you honestly think that I would still be here, if I wanted…" the redhead stopped himself, gathering his wits as he stared at the floor. When he spoke again, he sounded exhausted. "If I were so determined, then why wouldn't I just walk out?"
Near paused, and thought about Matt's question, applying the same routes of logic that led him in his more professional investigations. "I do not know," he replied honestly. "Your behavior is contradictory from either standpoint: as Mello's confidant or as mine."
Matt's head lifted, and he quirked a brow at the smaller man in questioning.
"If you were truly Mello's," Near began, flipping the held dominoes over his fingers, "acting as his spy and relaying information back to him, then why you would still be trying to maintain… friendly relations with me, I am uncertain. Unless, of course, it is in the hopes that doing so will enable you to return at some later date when Mello is not in such desperate need of you, and continue to watch me on his behalf." Near watched Matt's expression carefully for any telling reaction to his statement, but the redhead was impassive. Near hadn't expected one, the spy that had led to the deaths of most of the SPK was obviously not Matt, and Near doubted Mello would have risked sending in two moles. "I don't believe this, however," he finished.
Matt just stared at Near through the dark, the light coming across his eyes at an angle and making them gleam while deepening the shadows of his face, sharpening the contrasts of his features. It made him look older, tired, and not the same carefree child gamer of Wammy's, or even the shy adolescent hacker Near had come to know over the past five years. This was a full-grown man that stood before him, whose true motives were hidden behind those eyes like glowing pools of jade. Complex motives that the once simple gamer was hiding from him.
Not turning his head away, so as to keep observing Matt's body language, he continued his theories. "If you were more inclined to remain with me, but still felt some residual kinship with Mello, then there is always the option of sending out a third party to collect him, while you remain here. This is not being carried out, and you seem very determined to go out and retrieve him yourself."
Again, there was no discernable reaction from the elder man as Near spoke. If anything, Near would have said that his face became more shuttered and immobile with each passing moment, leaving him to guess if Matt was still listening. Frustrated, Near finally turned his head away, cutting off the view of this man who was rapidly becoming a stranger. His voice was tired when he finished out his reasoning, unconsciously slipping back into his normal speech pattern. "I can only come to the conclusion, therefore, that my role in Matt's life was to simply act as a placeholder. Any action taken on Matt's part to smooth over any hard feelings generated by his departure I have to assume stem from his own sense of guilt. What he does now is to placate his own feelings, not mine."
The room was silent, neither man seeming to breathe or move at all. Near expected to hear footsteps behind him at any moment, followed by the mechanical sigh of the door as Matt let himself out and finally left the SPK headquarters. He expected the sound of footsteps, so when he heard them, it didn't register until he felt Matt's fingers dig into his shoulders that they had been coming closer, not retreating.
Near was forced to turn in place on the floor, knocking and scattering his fallen dominoes. He stared into Matt's scowling face, so close to his own that he could smell the stale odor of cigarettes that clung to him. He hated that smell, absolutely detested it, but it suddenly became one more thing he would miss when Matt was gone.
Matt's scowl softened somewhat, and when he spoke there was a gentleness overlaying the resolution in his tone. "Near, there's more to this than meets the eye. I can't tell you why, but I have to go, there's no other option. I want to stay here, to work with you, not trail after Mello, whose gone renegade, kidnapped, extorted, and fuck knows what else. He wasn't exactly stable as a kid, and time's only made him worse." The expression softened even further, the green eyes becoming less like chips of stone, and one of Matt's hands brushed feather light against Near's cheek. "I want to stay here with you."
Near kept himself still, kept from leaning into the hand at his face, his eyes open and alert. There was something nagging at the back of his mind, a memory that was only half remembered, and that Matt's speech had stirred up. It was important to this, he was sure. A clue that would point him in the right direction, but it eluded Near, left him stumbling after for it.
Matt was still staring at him, waiting for some kind of response. Near swallowed. He still needed some sort of hint where Matt might really stand, and if his own memory failed him, then he would need to use his skills as a detective to gain an insight. One such skill was acting as a fairly accurate lie detector.
"Do you know his name, his real name?"
Matt froze, pupils contracting and revealing more green to the world. Slowly his hand drew away from Near, to rest on one of his knees, fingers curled in a loose fist. He sat back on his heels, and Near realized that he had been leaning forward before. Not breaking eye contact, Matt nodded shortly. "Yes, I do."
Instincts trained over the years and supported by personal knowledge of Matt told him that the hacker was telling the truth. With as little inflection or feeling as possible, he asked, "How?"
An inhale, then, "He told it to me, years ago, when we were still young. Not too long before L was killed."
Truth, again, and something more. The memory was beating against Near even harder than before. There had been something in that statement that called it closer, but it still refused to fully emerge.
Shaking off the fog of recollection, Near asked, "And he knows your real name?"
There was a shift in Matt's posture, the eyes flicked briefly. "I didn't tell him."
Near's expression instantly hardened, the gray eyes narrowed. Not a lie, but not quite the truth, the elder man was evading. "That was not what I asked," he said severely. "Is Mello aware of your real name?"
Matt winced. He wet his lips and replied as though the answer were being physically dragged out of him. "Yes…"
When all Near offered in reply was a level glare, Matt decided to elaborate. "He got into the system at Wammy's and found it," he said lowly, not quite meeting the glare full on. "He's a fairly good hacker himself, and he'd watched me do it before. He got into the files and found my name."
The words rang true, although Near could sense more behind them. So this was part of the reason Matt felt the need to come when Mello called: they knew each other's names. To the rest of the world it wouldn't seem much, but to those raised in the Wammy House, knowing someone else's true name spoke a lot for what those two people shared. Willing or not, knowing Mello's name, and having his own name known formed an even stronger bond between them. Strong enough to have Matt abandoning his home and the position he had held since Mello's departure.
However, in those five years, Near and Matt had also developed a bond. Not the same brand, and not augmented by the knowledge of each other's names, but a very palpable one. Near was didn't know where it might have progressed if the memory of Mello hadn't interfered, or what it was exactly now, but it was there. That bond was what made it so painful as Matt twisted between the two people he shared something with.
Matt was caught between his loyalties, and was struggling.
There. There was the memory at last, back from the Wammy days. It was a tiny memory, really, a brief encounter between himself and Mello that had made no sense to him at the time, and which had been discarded entirely in the face of L's demise and taking over the Kira case. Now those words Mello had spoken to him made a kind of sense.
"Matt's just a puppy, Near," Mello sneered down at him, blue eyes glinting like polished ice. "Puppies always come back to their masters. Your hold on him won't last forever."
Near stared at him blankly, confused. "I have no interest in stealing Mello's friend away from him."
"Bull," the older boy snapped. "Just remember that his first ties are with me, and so are his last." With that, Mello had stalked out of the room, leaving a bewildered boy behind…
Near felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him. If what Mello had said those years ago implied what they seemed to, then Near had been wrong over his assumptions. If what Mello had said could be believed, then Matt had at least shown a friendly interest in Near before Mello had even left. Mello had recognized it, and attempted to warn Near away, although the albino had no idea what he had meant at the time.
Matt had shown interest, at least a little, while Mello had still been a close friend. Which meant that Near wasn't a replacement. He was the original.
Chips of jade swam back into Near's blurred vision. Matt was again waiting for Near to rejoin the conversation, to come back from his reflections. A tiny line had appeared between his brows while Near had been woolgathering, and every muscle seemed to tense as he waited.
In a daze, the only thing Near could think to say was, "Why didn't you tell Mello your name?"
Matt blinked, and the line deepened in confusion. He scratched the back of one hand absently, and thought before he answered. "Because… well, because your name is something personal, private, and meant to be protected. Wammy's taught us that early: never reveal your true name. To go against that training…" Matt shook his head, auburn locks fluttering around his face. "Sharing your name, it should only be done with someone you absolutely trust."
It was Near's turn to blink. So, even friends as they were, Matt had not trusted Mello enough to share his name. It must have upset the temperamental blond, who had then found the name another way, effectively stealing it. How had that made the redhead feel? How had he reacted to the knowledge that the show of trust that was meant to be given had been taken by force?
And for all of that, Matt was still going to him. He said that he had to go, that there was no other option in the matter, but what did that mean? Was there something else that Mello was holding over Matt's head?
Near wondered what he would do if it came to pass that Matt did return to him after Mello was safe. How far did his trust of the redhead extend? Enough to make him a part of his team, and enough to let him go back to his competitor. Was it enough to allow him to come back, when he may be under orders to undermine his every move? Mello held enough power over him to call him back to his side, who was to say that his actions couldn't also be forced at a distance?
Reaching a decision, he nodded once, locking agate gaze with jade. "I see," he said. "In that case," he leaned forward slightly, making sure that Matt caught every nuance of what he said, "my name is Nate River."
Matt started visibly, and his face became slack with shock. A full minute passed before he seemed to remember where he was. He blinked, and replied with a distant voice, "I'm Mail Jeevas."
Near smiled a little, the first time since the explosion in LA. "Then there is something of yours that I possess that Mello does not. Your trust, as well as your name."
Matt shook his head, also cracking a rueful kind of grin with a chuckle. "More than that, Near. Much more." His face became serious again, and a little sad. He shifted forward, "Nate…"
The tone warned him of what was coming next, and he interrupted. "Do not say something that you may come to regret."
Matt stopped, holding Near's gaze, the look of intense sadness and disquiet in his face almost painful to look at. "I only regret what I haven't done," he said quietly. He leaned forward, so close that Near was lost in a sea of precious malachite.
Near caught his breath, and closed his eyes. A moment later there was a ruffling of the hair by his ear, Matt whispering to him, as though what he said were some secret that even the shadows were jealous to learn. Two words, both so incredibly small… but Near had to suppress a shiver.
As he watched Matt rise from the floor, Near felt coldness seep into his bones. Neither of them said another word as the elder man walked out of the SPK headquarters, as the doors slid shut with barely a sigh, cutting off Near's view of the retreating hacker. When he was gone, and Near felt as though he could move again, he slowly began the chore of gathering up his fallen kingdom, with Matt's final words the only thing he could hear:
A/N2: … Sometimes the whole 'Matt is a dog' thing annoys me.
So, this is a two-shot, we've got one chapter to go. Originally I had everything all lumped together and it was a one-shot… but that had the word count of more than 11K, and that just seemed mean to do all at once. So chippy-choppy went the author and we have instant two-shot… kinda. XD
The next chapter shall be making an appearance in one week, so 10/06. I'm not telling all now, but chapter two will have us in Matt's perspective. What's actually going on, and why did he leave Near? Wait and find out. Fair warning… I'm slightly evil to both Mello and Matt in part two. Muah ha ha ha.