Author's Note: Right, so… the basic premise of this fic is that fandom needs more club scenes, and more aftermath-of-club-scenes scenes. I started this in August and finished it a couple weeks ago, and it's for the fantabulously wonderful IceQueenRex, who gave me the prompt "bitch bunnies" way back in June.

Yes. "Bitch bunnies."

That got me to thinking about Light's dubious cursing when he was wasted in "The End Is Near," which resulted in the basic premise of this fic—what if the boys, basically in their TEIN incarnations, were in a slightly different AU, and they all got really, really drunk?

Read on and find out! ;D …and please, this is a fun fic. If you take it seriously, you're missing the point. XD It was written almost exclusively while listening to Lady Gaga and Cascada songs, which should tell you everything you need to know. XD


Watch your heart when we're together; boys like you love me forever
– "Boys Boys Boys" – Lady Gaga –

"I want that one," Light decided.

Matt pushed his goggles back to peer over the railing of the balcony at his colleague's choice. "The blond?"

"No," Light scoffed, gesticulating with his glass. "The dark one."

"Omigod," Matt muttered, squinting and leaning, slightly dangerously, over the rail. "The blond one's a guy." He paused. "A hot guy."

"Wonders never cease," Light remarked, adjusting his sprawled position on the couch to look less contrived. "Make sure they come up here, yeah?"

"What am I supposed to do?" Matt fired back over his shoulder. "Throw shit at them?"

Light pointed to the stack of cocktail napkins on the closest table.

"The hell with you," Matt decided. "They're coming this way by themselves." He leaned a little further, only the toes of his black boots on the floor now. "Yours looks like he hasn't slept in days."

"Yours looks like an outpatient of the psych ward," Light replied.

"Better than an insomniac."

"I respectfully disagree."

"You kidding?" Matt turned for a corny wink. "Every tried sleeping with an insomniac?"

He ducked a balled-up napkin, and the projectile sailed over the balustrade to disappear in the crowd below. Next thing Light knew, Matt was halfway over the railing to watch it go.

And then he was three-quarters of the way over the railing, boots kicking wildly in the air.

Light laughed.

Then he leapt up, vaulted over the low table in front of their chosen couch, and grabbed Matt's ankle before the boy's weight shifted and dropped him ten feet onto passersby and concrete.

"Damn," Matt said. "That was going to be a crowd surfing session for the Guinness Book."

"Or for the Darwin Awards," Light replied.

Matt looked over Light's shoulder and then grasped it urgently. "They're coming!" he squeaked. "Quick, like we practiced!"

In a rush of vodka-scented breath and meticulously-chosen clothing, Light flung himself down on the couch, one arm splayed along the back, the other hand cradling his drink, his long legs spread just enough for an unmistakable hint. Matt was perched on the couch arm, his drink in one hand, the other raised to light the cigarette tucked between his lips. He flicked the lighter and summoned the flame at the precise instant that their respective targets topped the stairs.

They had practiced, after all.

"This is unwise," L announced.

"So's your mom," Mello replied. "C'mon, Lawli, play along."

"Playing is for children," L rejoined. "And don't call me that."

Mello threaded his lithe body between two clusters of club-goers. "Everyone calls you that. It's an inevitable consequence of your oral fixation."

"You're the only one who says it to my face," L pointed out, utilizing sharp elbows to push through after him.

Being so scrawny as to earn regular accusations of malnutrition—if only because, after five minutes, anorexia was out—did have its advantages.

"Imagine that," Mello sighed happily. "I'm your only honest employee."

"I'll appreciate your honesty more when I'm drunk," L said.

"The bar upstairs is never as crowded," Mello assured him, heading for the stairs. "Let's give it a whirl."

The idiom nodded ominously to twirling rooms and hurling into toilet bowls, but Mello wouldn't have listened if L had made any mention of those—especially not after they ascended the stairs.

The young man lounging magnificently on the couch was probably the most beautiful human being L had ever seen, and the redhead lighting up not far away was quite a looker, too.

L had a great deal of difficulty tearing his eyes away from the brunet's pinstriped white button-down shirt, undone to showcase the skintight black tee beneath; from the dark-wash skinny-jeans-clad legs, which might have gone on forever if not for the Converse high-tops; and from the honey-brown hair trailing artfully into calculating eyes.

He managed to snap himself out of it in time to see that Mello's sharp gaze was on the redhead—or, more specifically, on the strip of the redhead's bare back that was visible between where his studded belt marked off his jeans and where his striped shirt had mischievously ridden up.

L seized Mello's arm and dragged him towards the bar.

"I was checking that out," Mello protested.

"You've got nice eyes," L informed him. "Nicer still when they're in your head."

"I was getting the message across," Mello explained.

"With a steamroller," L replied.

Mello rolled his nice eyes and pulled his arm out of L's grip. "Dump truck at worst." He shook himself. "Why in the name of all that is holy are you giving me advice? Your social life consists of me and your cat."

"Horatio is an excellent conversationalist," L contended calmly. "Particularly when he's hungry at one in the morning."

"Keep telling yours—Jesus God, is that Near?"

Mello's gaze was on the bar now, and it was, indeed, the white-haired genius they knew and loved.

Well, L loved, at least.

L's premier protégé was settled on a barstool, one leg curled beneath him. He was wearing black pajamas today, and the effect was striking—though not quite as striking as the fact that he was flanked on both sides by dark-haired men in business attire, one wearing square-framed glasses, his hair brushing at his shoulders; the other possessed of unruly bangs that attractively veiled his gray-blue eyes.

Near had one man's tie in each hand, and he was practically purring under the attention.

L found of all of this dreadfully amusing.

Mello stormed to the bar and flagged down the man who kept it.

"—strong enough that I won't want to kill that little pimp of a bastard," Mello was saying as L caught up—an advent that didn't escape his notice. "Actually, make it two—happy birthday, Lawlipop."

"I told you not to call me—"

Mello shoved a drink into his hand. "Less talking," he ordered, "more drunken shenanigans."

"It's looking likely," L sighed, ceding him a toast.

"Hot damn," Light muttered, peeking over the back of the couch. He must not have been too wasted yet; his interjections were still making sense. "That little albino kid is making a killing."

Matt was rather more wasted than his companion, and he was having trouble focusing on anything other than the intense desire to tap the blond's mind-numbingly fine ass. White skin, black leather—like cream encased in a dark chocolate shell.

Shit, was he drooling?

As he patted worriedly at his chin, searching for trails of spit, Light shoved at his arm.

"Hey, they're coming back this way! Be cool!"

Matt wanted to explain that being cool required an altered state of existence, and acting cool was really all they could hope for on short notice, but it didn't seem like a good time.

He settled with settling on the couch, gazing idly up at the distant strobe lights through the orange plastic of the goggles.

His heart was pounding in his ears as a flash of gleaming black leather heralded an advent of both pure glee and unadulterated terror: the blond sat down on the arm of the couch beside him.

"Sat down" was actually extremely reductive—sex machines didn't sit; they perched and alighted, which pretty accurately described what this souped-up model had done without spilling a drop of his drink.

It must have been good to be a sex machine.

"Your shoe's untied," the sex machine announced.

Matt had taken five full minutes to select tonight's boots. (He had felt very girly until he had found out how much time Light had spent deliberating in front of his wardrobe.)

"They don't have laces," he said slowly, none too unhappy to search the blond's face for a clue.

The smirk was a clue. That was a good clue.

"You're not as thick as you look," was the verdict.

"Is it the goggles?" Matt asked, pushing them up into his hair.

"Yes," the sex machine replied.

"Wouldn't be the first time I'd heard that," Matt remarked. "Are you looking for work as a fashion consultant, or do you wanna dance?"

"Both." The blond knocked back the rest of his drink—well over half the glass—and shook it off. "Either way, maybe you'll learn a couple things."

Matt grabbed the sex machine's arm and hauled him down the stairs. Miraculously, neither of them fell and died, and they made it to the seething, crowded dance floor unscathed.

The music was shitty, but the beat was fine, and Matt whipped the blond into a spin and then hauled him back to grind their hips together, leaving no shortage of suggestion.

"Little-known fact," he murmured right into the other boy's ear. "I dance better when I'm drunk."

"I like you," the blond purred back. "Can I call you Ginger?"

"You can call me anything you want to," Matt told him, "but, officially, it's Matt."

"Does Matt have a last name?" the blond inquired.

"Only if you have a first one," Matt fired back, setting his hands on the warm, slender waist. He wasn't letting this opportunity slip away.

"Mello," the blond muttered, mouth grazing his ear. "A man who doesn't like to learn too late that he's found one of his client's relations."

"I don't have any family in the country," Matt replied.

"Any awkwardness is on you, then," Mello said. "Drinks are on me."

Before Matt could get a word in, Mello had him by the belt buckle and was dragging him towards the bar.

Not that Matt was planning to complain.

Not that Matt was planning to do much of anything other than follow Mello wherever the lunatic was planning to lead.

"Surprise me," Mello instructed the barkeep. He glanced at Matt. "Surprise me twice."

Matt commenced plotting how he was going to oblige the second he had the sex machine alone.

Maybe he shouldn't wait that long. The bathroom door probably had a lock. And if it didn't, he could always haul a barstool in and barricade it.

Mello shoved a drink into his hand and knocked their glasses together.

"Cheers," he noted, and then he downed an enormous portion of his.

Matt hadn't gone to college for nothing—he could handle this.

To blonds, he toasted mentally as he upended his glass.

The dark-haired man sat down and crossed his long legs.

"I think I'm out of a ride," he remarked as his yellow haired companion disappeared with Light's.

I think Matt's up one, Light noted, having seen the looks the two had shared.

"I doubt he'd be in much condition to drive as it is," he answered instead.

"He's a slightly suicidal driver," the dark-haired man mused, sipping at his drink. "Suicidal-homicidal if you carpool with him."

"Do you work together, then?" Light inquired, leaping on the fragment of information.

The dark-haired man blinked his huge eyes—which were gorgeous, gray, and half-hidden by his feral hair.

Light was fairly certain that his desire to brush the wild bangs out of the way to see those wonderful eyes better was mostly the vodka talking.

The vodka was eloquent indeed.

"I'm a private detective," Light's newest obsession replied. "Mello is one of my most accomplished trainees. Another is that boy there." He pointed an elegant finger towards the bar.

It was the white-haired one. He was awfully cute, in a sardonic-puppy sort of way. He was also still in the process of seducing two men at once, apparently without much effort. The shorter-haired of the pair was kissing at the pale boy's neck, the bespectacled one was favoring the boy's right ear, and each of them had a hand on one of his knees.

Light admired the scene for a moment, and then he returned his attention to his prize.

"Do you teach them how to do that?" he asked, tilting his head to make his eyes gleam.

The dark-haired man stared at him for just long enough that Light considered deliberately getting alcohol poisoning and passing out, but then he cracked a wide, sweet smile.

"No," he said. "I imagine Near's latest suitors would be running in the opposite direction if our places were reversed."

Light, observing the man's wrinkled white Oxford, black silk vest, and tattered blue jeans, found that unlikely.

He was willing to bet, however, that the flip-flops were a bad plan; the guy was going to get his toes crushed walking around a club like that.

It immediately became Light's sworn duty to protect the dark-haired man's feet.

The vodka, once it got started, was incredibly persuasive.

"I don't think you give yourself enough credit," Light commented.

The man shook his head, hair shining as it fluttered around his face. "This isn't in any way my area of expertise," he explained. "I'm only here tonight because Mello insisted for my birthday."

"Happy birthday!" Light exclaimed, finding that he was leaning forward without his brain's permission—his body, apparently, knew what it wanted and wasn't afraid to ask. "Let me buy you a drink."

The man stared into the one he had, smiling sheepishly. "It's not really my birthday until Sunday," he amended, "but I refused to go out on a work night—"

"Halloween!" Light realized. Cripes, he was getting awfully close. Why wasn't the poor guy scooting away? "Still, what can I get you?"

"I'm fine," was the verdict, the wide eyes flicking over his expression, gauging his intent.

"Come on," Light insisted. "You only turn—what are you, twenty-two? Twenty-three?—once."

"Twenty-six," the man corrected quietly, sipping at his drink.

Older, then.

Light was more than a little disturbed to discover that he unconditionally approved.

"I want to give you something," Light heard himself say.

His mouth worked fast.

…this was getting worse and worse.

Mr. Private Detective smiled over the rim of his glass. "You could give me a name," he suggested.

Light liked the sound of that.

So did his wallet.

"Light," he announced. "Light Yagami."

"How does Light Yagami make his living?" the man inquired, still attached to his drink as if it was some kind of security blanket.

"He's—I mean, I'm—an engineer," Light answered. "Software development and stuff. Matt and I work together; he's the one your friend went off with. We, ah—" He made a point of glancing melodramatically over one shoulder. "We do some hacking in our spare time."

A lot of people had a very romanticized impression of hacking—they envisioned lots of frenetic typing, breaking into top-secret government programs, and hiding from the FBI.

Light was not about to alert them to the fact that he did most of his hacking in his pajamas.

"Nothing too serious, I hope," the dark-haired man remarked, gazing at him innocently. "When it's serious, businesses catch on, and then they come to me."

"I could take you," Light decided, grinning a bit more madly than he had intended to.

"Could you?" the man asked, smiling, watching Light out of the corners of those incredible eyes.

"Maybe we should try it and find out," Light said.

The man tilted his head, promisingly intrigued. "I suppose a bit of competition wouldn't hurt. I'll take you up on that drink, Light Yagami, if you purchase yourself an identical one."

Light grinned again, wolfishly this time. "You're on."

Matt. God in heaven, Matt.

Matt had green eyes. The stupid goggles hung around his neck, his jeans clung low around his hips, and he had So Far Gone written all over his face.

In addition, he could hold his liquor and that of three frat boys without looking too much worse for the wear.

Such as it was.

Matt had recently put his head down on the bar and closed his eyes, but given that most human beings would have been strapped down in the ambulance two drinks ago, Mello was pretty impressed.

"You must be Irish," he noted.

Matt raised his head, beaming. "Will you kiss me if I am?" he wanted to know.

Mello was closer to wasted than he had thought—his hand vanished, only to reappear curling warmly against Matt's neck.

"Is it lucky?" he asked.

"Depends," Matt murmured, leaning in, long eyelashes batting at his cheeks as he breathed against Mello's mouth. "Might get lucky."

"I'm down with that," Mello replied, clenching his fingers in Matt's hair and dragging him in to close the gap.

Mello kind of hoped that Matt was also a better kisser when he was drunk—if he was any more effective sober, Mello didn't know if he would be able to handle it.

Fortunately, it wouldn't make a difference, since he'd be gone before Matt's hangover had even settled in.

Momentarily, Mello managed to draw back, reeling, upon recalling that oxygen was necessary for survival.

Matt turned to the bartender, gesticulating in the general direction of his glass. "Can I get this in a Styrofoam cup? Like, to take home?"

Mello's skin prickled at the word.

"One more dance," he said.

Matt offered a gut-wrenchingly guileless smile. "You got it, babe."

It was weird and disconcerting how right it was—how easily, how naturally, how quickly they fell into rhythm, how perfectly their bodies fit. How safe Mello felt in the middle of a writhing crowd of punks and perverts, with—or because of—Matt's steady hands at his waist.

It was weird and a little bit frightening.

If there was one thing Mello knew, however, it was that drowning anxiety in sweat and a bassline almost always worked. He pressed closer, spreading his palms on Matt's chest, because proximity was power, and if he got warm enough, he might just manage to blur out all the rest.

One dance turned into two, and they were sharing humid air, and Matt's hands were slowly rising up his sides, and then they were out on the sidewalk, and Matt was pushing him against the brick of the outside wall for another sucker-punch kiss beneath the buzzing neon sign.

"It's walking distance," Matt mumbled into his ear, sounding so contented that Mello hoped he reconsidered his whole plan.

Maybe the walk would sober him up, and he'd get his brain in gear and kick Mello out on the street.

That would end better for everyone.

"Hey," he cut in as Matt's hands stroked at his ribs; the kid's mouth was favoring his neck. "Look, you're a nice guy—we're clear, right? I just want a good fuck. That's it. Tomorrow, I'm gone."

"Whatever you're offering," Matt murmured back, "I'll take it, and I'll thank you for it. I'll take anything."

Mello took a deep breath and put on a crooked smile.

"You're going to regret that," he said, and he wished he didn't know that it was true.

L liked Light Yagami.

He imagined that he might like Light Yagami even more if Light Yagami wasn't having so much trouble assembling sentences.

Staying balanced on the barstool also appeared to be a challenge.

"Well—it was like—you know how people do that thing?"

L blinked. "Which thing is that?"

Light gesticulated unhelpfully. "How they'll get all excited if they know something you don't, 'cause they know you're smarter than they are, and then they're just, like—lording it over you that for once you're a step behind. Like it's okay to be condescending just because they don't usually get the chance." Light pouted around the rim of his glass.

L tried to focus on being impressed that the boy had come up with 'condescending' even during such a thorough pickling of his vital organs.

This was significantly safer than focusing on Light's mouth.

"I am familiar with that thing," L managed to reply.

Light sighed and ran a hand through his hair, then spent the next fifteen seconds undoing the damage.

"Have I embarrassed myself yet?" he inquired. "I do that. This is why I never want to go out with Matt; he always goes and falls in love with somebody and leaves me here to drink until I make an idiot of myself. And I talk too much."

L had taken note of that particular detail.

He sipped at his own drink, sending a bit more brandy blazing down his throat, and wondered how long he would continue to pretend that anyone could dodge inevitability.

"Am I embarrassing you?" Light asked, looking stricken.

"No," L assured him hastily. "Not at all. But—ah…"

Head titled, Light gazed at him and waited for the rest.

"You needn't match me glass for glass," L went on. "Especially since you had a head start. I should hate for you to feel badly in the morning."

Light shrugged, watching his finger intently as he slid it through a ring of condensation on the bar. "Small price to pay for feeling good tonight," he said quietly.

L smiled faintly. "Well, it's not very—fair, is it? And… I also have an inherent advantage; my metabolism is dreadfully fast, which means that I'm not quite as susceptible…"

Good God, it was contagious.

Judiciously, L decided to bury the rest of that sentence in his drink.

"It's fine," Light told him, smiling at him sidelong. "I'm having a good time. Though I'm still going to exact revenge on Matt come Monday." He paused, looking at L properly now. "Wait a second."

L obliged.

Nothing happened.

…perhaps he was slightly more susceptible than he thought.

"What's your name?" Light asked.

"L," L answered. It made sense. "L Lawliet."

Light tilted his head the other way, looking tantalizingly puppyish. "How's that?"

"Lawliet." L was going to regret this. "Like 'lollipop.'"

Light considered.

Then he broke out in song.

"Suckin' too hard on your lollipop, oh, love's gonna get you down…"

L struck his forehead with one palm. "You're embarrassing me now."

Light stopped as suddenly as he'd begun, though his top priority seemed to be taking another long sip, rather than preserving L's dignity from further damage.

"I'm really wasted," he mused when that was done. "I'm actually—I mean, I'm kind of charming, when I'm… not-wasted. You'd probably like me."

"I like you anyway," L informed him, somewhat in spite of myself.

Light's eyes… well, lit up.

"Really?" he prompted. "That's fantastic. Do you want to dance? We could dance."

"Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts on getting you home," L responded, privately doubting that Light's stomach would sustain any excessive motion.

Light looked downcast, and L hoped he hadn't said something terribly wrong—he had learned a great deal about Light within the short span of their acquaintance, first and foremost that his companion, intoxicated, went through mood swings that almost put Mello to shame.

"I live a long way away," Light explained mournfully. "I drove to Matt's place, 'cause he lives close, so my car's there, but I can't really drive back, at least not without mowing down half a dozen pedestrians and getting a DUI and sending my permanent record to shit, and Matt probably brought Mello back there anyway, and…" He fidgeted. "I don't really know where to go."

L tried to weigh his options logically, but he knew when he began what the outcome would be.

"You can stay over at my apartment," he suggested quietly.

Light transitioned abruptly from misery to disbelief, and thence to sunshine and rainbows.

"If," L broke in, "you promise not to vomit on my bed."

"I promise," Light answered solemnly.

It frightened L to think how difficult it would be to refuse the owner of those wide brown eyes anything he asked.

"It's just a few stops on the subway," L told Light, sliding off of the stool and getting to his feet.

Light stood, swayed, and lurched forward, and L caught his arm, steadying him again.

Light didn't let go of him, offering only an almost painfully genuine smile.

"You're wonderful," he said.

L wished he'd had another drink.

Matt battled valiantly with the lock, which had decided in his absence that it had a vendetta against keys.

When he was on the verge of kicking his own door in and shoring it up with furniture from the other side, the damn thing finally gave, and he led an uncharacteristically hesitant Mello into his apartment.

It wasn't much, but it was his, and he'd cleaned up the worst of the horrifying messes while Light was still doing his one-man fashion show thing, in the hopes that exactly what had just happened would.

Mello was pretty much precisely what he'd been hoping for, which made it all the more critical that he didn't fuck anything up.

Mello tried not to seem like he was examining everything out of the corner of his eye, but Matt didn't really mind—there was nothing too incriminating, and most people didn't cop out on sex just because their host had an epic pile of video game shit in front of his television.

And on top of his television.

And around his television.

And bleeding onto the coffee table a bit.

In any case, the joint apparently passed Mello's cursory inspection, because he shut the door, leaned against it, and drew Matt in by his shirtfront.

Matt had no objections.

Since talking was out, he made his position clear by sliding his palms slowly over those amazing hips, leather hot beneath his hands, and pulling both of them towards the bedroom.

There were advantages to cramped living spaces, one of which was having the ability to navigate them backwards, blind, and preoccupied.

Mello broke away when one leather-coated knee met mattress, gasping a little, and took to searching Matt's face.

Matt didn't know what he was looking for—what he could be looking for. He smiled helplessly and tried to look hot.

Either it worked, or Mello gave up trying, because the sex machine tossed himself down on the bed and dragged Matt with him.

Some part of Matt that was still sentient definitively decided to go with it.

The rest of him was already going, going, and largely gone, and lucidity was an endangered species by the time Mello peeled his shirt off of him and smoothed both hands down his chest. Matt went ravenously for that incredibly tarty vest, though he didn't fling it quite as avidly as he might have liked—the prospect of imminent sex or no, leather was damned expensive around here, and he wasn't about to toss somebody else's clothing on the floor.

He had his standards.

Matt was no professor of anatomy, but it looked like Mello was trying to stop himself from breathing as hard and as eagerly as Matt was doing now.

Matt kissed down the pale, narrow chest, dragging his palms over its sharply angular ribs, and tried to ignore the deeply-rooted trepidation rising in his own.

Naturally, it refused to be disregarded—and, in protest of its mistreatment, blossomed into full-fledged fear, sending the palpitations of Matt's heart racing to a much less pleasant rhythm until he blurted out his concern.

"Problem," he told Mello's breastbone, bless the alcohol for making him bold. "I've never done this with a guy before."

Mello shifted beneath him, and a glance upward confirmed that the little devil was smirking.

"I must be something special, then," he said. Before Matt could explain that that was exactly the problem, Mello extended an arm to catch the abandoned vest, from an inner pocket of which he duly retrieved a packet of lube and a condom. "It's pretty simple," he promised. "You'll figure it out."

"Fuck you," Matt whispered, taking both items from Mello's hand.

"Touché," the blond replied.

If this was "pretty simple," Matt didn't want to try out Mello's "convoluted."

He blamed his difficulties in large part on the fact that, as soon as Matt had peeled those wild leather pants off of their owner, Mello snatched the lube back from him and ripped the foil open with his teeth—after which Matt wanted him so badly that he almost forgot how to work his own limbs, let alone a fucking rubber.

Between the booze and the endorphins, Matt thought that was probably the funniest pun the world had ever seen.

What would have been uproarious laughter transitioned surprisingly well into a hapless moan as Mello's deft fingers made short work of his jeans and therein his composure.

Somehow, in a haze of over-stimulated ecstasy, Matt managed to put all the right pieces together, at which point Mello bit his lip and clenched his fingers in the comforter.

"Fuck," Matt choked out, holding himself together by force of will. "Sorry, I—"

"No," Mello cut in. "That's good—I mean—just—shut up."

Matt could do that. Matt could do that very well.

Well, relatively speaking—speaking; man, he was on fire tonight—given that he personally didn't count a whole lot more moaning and a couple quiet whimpers as a violation of the "shut up" rule.

At any rate, Mello didn't complain, possibly because he was so occupied with twisting, writhing, groaning, gasping, and clawing at Matt's back.

Matt was slightly surprised and none too displeased to discover that, at least when it came to Mello, he was a little bit of a masochist. But then, maybe Mello demanded that sort of attitude, simply by virtue of his existence.

Matt was going to go with that one.

Together, so close that Matt dizzily thought their blazing skin might meld, they shifted and crushed and collided, and Matt's heartbeat was deafening as he propped himself up with one hand and set to do Mello a favor with the other, but he could still somehow hear it when Mello's breath caught, his fingernails digging in deeper as his back arched, pushing his hips even harder against Matt's. Bright yellow hair stuck in the sweat on his forehead, and the startling eyes were tightly shut, and it was all just too good.

Seriously too good; Matt couldn't handle it; he was just going to combust any second now—

Mello gave up on shredding Matt's epidermis and applied his efforts to the bedsheets instead—which Matt had to protest, because they'd been damned expensive. He curled his fingers tightly in Mello's hair, drawing the bastard in for another kiss, the hardest and sloppiest yet, and Mello's lithe body rose against his, and they arced off the bed together, and Matt couldn't take it anymore—

He bit down on Mello's bottom lip and just let go.

Mello made a sound a little like a sob and followed suit.

Matt dropped to the bed after that, pulling Mello in close, halfheartedly folding the comforter over on top of them.

There was a potent silence, but Mello didn't move away.

"Hey," Matt said. "Hey, Mel. Can I call you Mel?"

"No," Mello muttered, and fell asleep.

Light was vaguely aware of a lot of things.

First, L Lawlipop was guiding him with a warm hand on his arm. Second, the music was urging them—apparently very convincingly, if L's haste was any indication—to evacuate the dancefloor.

The woman singing then requested that the DJ burn their establishment to the ground, which Light hoped the good man would ignore.

A distinct impression of a subway ride came next—Light was relatively certain that he spent its duration leaning on L's shoulder, staring at the safety procedures and mentally vituperating the letters for squirming, blending, and running away.

He had never seen a more inconsiderate typeface.

Fortunately, they reached their destination without incident, and then L was towing him out of the station, up some stairs—somebody up there was looking out of him; by all rights, he should have tripped and died—and then to a slick but not flashy complex. Light was unsteady in the elevator and began humming "Lollipop" in the hope that it would restore to him some semblance of balance. Before he'd managed to remember the second verse—and certainly before he'd remembered that he didn't need to know the words to hum the song—L had taken his arm and led him out of the elevator, starting down the hall.

Light stumbled on the threshold, narrowly avoided a graceful face-plant, and felt everything go very wrong. His head spun, and his stomach chose that moment to flip like a gymnast and twist like a contortionist.

He hadn't realized that his innards were so talented.

They were also extremely mutinous, and when he flung a hand out for support, L was there.

Between twinges to inform him how much it hated the rest of him, Light's gut conveyed a weird, spreading sort of warmth regarding L.

Light wasn't sure he liked that.

He had more pressing concerns, however, namely the fact that he was totally going to puke.

"Shit-monkeys," he gasped, gripping L's wrist harder than he intended to. "Bathroom—?"

L helped him around a few corners, sophisticated carpeting twirling as he stared at the floor and struggled to hold back, and then it was tile that was spinning like a merry-go-round with a shattered axle, and then Light crumpled to his knees in front of the toilet and tried to think of a coherent expletive.

He failed.

"Bitch bunnies," Light said wretchedly, and then he vomited, more wretchedly still.

A gentle hand patted his back—which was slightly startling. If he'd been L, he would've cut and run by now. The only thing more awful than throwing up was watching someone else do it.

When the worst was over, the hand retreated, and a cabinet clicked open and shut.

"I'll get you some water," L explained. "But here's a toothbrush for you if you'd like."

Light panted a little, dabbing weakly at his face with toilet paper. Resisting the impulse to scrub his sleeve across his mouth was killing him.

"Yeah," he managed faintly. "I… thanks."

L paused, offered an awkward smile, and hesitantly touched Light's hair.

"You're welcome," he said, and retreated.

Light gave it another minute, massaged the ache at the juncture of his ribs, and dragged himself to his feet, a better position for brushing one's teeth twice in a row.

When he staggered back out into the living room, L was curled up on the couch, his arms around his knees, looking interestedly at the glass of water on the end table beside him. An identical vessel occupied the table framing the couch on the other side, so Light sat down next to L to take it up and take a sip.

"You learn fast," L remarked, appearing to be hiding a smile behind his own glass.

Light drained half of the water before replying, "Good joke."

"It's fairly evident that you're very intelligent," L responded.

Light set the glass down and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, trying to force the headache out and away. "Brilliant," he confirmed. "Brilliant people are big on self-imposed hangovers. They're the Next Big Thing."

"Perhaps," L murmured, "you will feel more optimistic once you've slept off the worst of it."

From behind the shield of his fists, Light was about to concede the possibility when the couch shifted, and something soft and warm put a gentle pressure on his thigh.

Hell-fish, this guy moved fast.

Light hastily withdrew his hands from over his eyes, turning to give L a surprised—but not discouraging—look.

Before he'd swiveled enough to convey the message, he noticed that the invasive limb did not belong to L at all, but to the lithe black cat balancing one paw on Light's leg to stare at him with freakishly sentient yellow eyes.

"This is Horatio," L said, as if keeping cats smarter than the average person was a normal thing.

"That's an interesting name for a cat," Light managed, praying he didn't smell like catnip.

"I had an old, gray cat before," L mused. "I called him Lear."

Light wasn't sure if L was crazy, or if he was crazy for liking the guy.

Horatio sniffed at Light's shirt, apparently none too perturbed by the lingering scent of far too much alcohol, and then settled to knead at his leg with an extremely sharp set of claws.

Light considered the cat's sleek, dark coat, which matched L's hair perfectly, and tentatively scratched at the tuft of soft fur behind an attentive ear.

"Shouldn't you have called this one Othello?" he asked.

L looked positively tickled.

"Now, that," he said, "is just racist."

Teru and Stephen were tangled up rather elaborately.

"Go ahead," Stephen prompted, pink-faced and smiling. "You want it more."

"No, no," Teru replied, his glasses slipping down his nose. "You've had your eye on it longer."

"Really," Stephen cut in warmly, "I insist."

Teru seemed conflicted. "I'd hate to put you in that kind of a position…"

"It won't hurt," Stephen assured him. "At least, not as much as the one I was in five minutes ago."

Teru wavered, sweat gleaming faintly on his forehead. "Still…"

Near cleared his throat.

"I said," he repeated, "'right foot red.'"

"Sorry," Teru managed.

"Go on," Stephen urged him again.

Teru planted his foot on the accessible red circle, and Stephen smiled and struggled to reach an open one. Their arms were crisscrossed, and Teru's hair was hanging against Stephen's neck. Their chests were colliding gently as they breathed.

Near curled his toes and flicked the spinner. He was fond of this game.

The plastic arrow slowed and stopped.

"Right hand blue," he read.

Blearily, Mello opened his eyes.

This was not his bed.

This was not his carpet.

This was not even the hallway outside his apartment.

He'd fucked up somewhere.

A stream of expletives was welling behind his lips as he raised his head, finding himself in a neat, utilitarian bedroom. There were soft sheets and warm blankets draped over him, and the digital clock on the nightstand read 9:12.

AM, a piercing ray of sun gliding through the windowpane to blind him added cheerfully.

Mello was naked and hungover in someone else's bed.

This wasn't supposed to happen—he never let this happen. Mello always went home with the guy, bailed if he looked like a perv, slept with him if he didn't, and then ran like hell. He always woke up first and fled, because mornings-after were fucking awkward.

Well, post-fucking awkward.

His internal clock must have been malfunctioning like a bitch if he'd stayed unconscious this long. Something was wrong with him.

Mello gathered the sheets around himself a little, too unnerved to be amused by his own cracked-out concept of modesty, and peeked out the window.

This place was five floors off the ground, and it didn't have a fire escape.

Wasn't that illegal?


He took a few deep breaths, slipped out of the bed, and hunted for his clothes. After fifteen seconds of scouring the floor, he noticed that a certain collection of leather had been carefully laid out on the desk chair, chumming it up with the two laptops (and probably another in parts) that occupied the desktop.

The more he thought about it, though, the less appealing sheathing himself in leather began to sound.

There was a pair of flannel pajama pants crumpled on the carpet. He picked them up, shook them out, and stepped into them, knotting the drawstring. Matt's hips were broader than his.

He actually stumbled as the recollections flooded back—it was melodramatic enough to set his stomach to roiling, though the hangover certainly helped. Jesus Christ, Matt—Matt, who hit warm, wet, and heavy, like a tropical hurricane.

Mello ground the heels of his hands against his eyes, casting around for an anchor to focus on instead.

Nope. Everything in the room was tied to everything that had happened in it.

He floundered vaguely out the door, stumbled through the living room, and was struck with a wave of glorious scent as he neared the doorway to the kitchen.

Matt turned, glancing over from where he stood at the stove tending to his frying pan.

"Pancakes," he confirmed. "Are you staying? I made a lot."

Mello sat down at the table, in large part because he couldn't think of anything else to do.

Matt put a stacked plate in front of him and set the syrup down.

"Have as many as you want," he urged. "Usually I force-feed Light, but who knows where the hell he is."

Mello pushed his hair back. His throat felt like a rusty scaffold trying to support his voice.

"Probably with L," he rasped out. "The brunet, right? L was eyeballing him."

Matt grinned, moving to the fridge. "Light wanted your friend bad," he remarked. "Orange juice?"

"Sure," Mello managed faintly. "Thanks."

Matt beamed.

This had to be the weirdest one-night stand Mello had ever undertaken.

He sipped tentatively at the orange juice, in part because he had strongly suspected that some of the fuckbuddies he'd fled would have drugged him and kept him sedated for their own nefarious purposes if he hadn't slipped away in the nick of time.

The larger portion of it, however, was the worry that Matt might not be the type to have used up all the orange juice before it expired.

This glassful was no sourer than it should have been, as it turned out, and Mello hid behind it, watching Matt. His hair was a brighter red in the sunlit kitchen—a deep color picked out with tones of coppery orange, and completely authentic, as far as Mello could tell. He was wearing ratty jeans and a black tee-shirt advertising for something called "Oingo Boingo." Mello liked his arms and his elbows. He almost missed the stupid goggles, though it would have taken a whole chariot race's worth of horses to drag it out of him.

Matt sat down and skewered a pancake.

"Did you say you were a detective?" he asked.

Mello nodded, attempting to keep his hair from ending up in the syrup.

Matt smiled.

"That's really cool," he said. "Do you get to carry a gun?"

"We're more into the intellectual aspect of it," Mello explained. "Though when we can't get any good hired help, we do sometimes bust people."

Matt's eyes shone. "That's awesome," he decided. He then looked a little put-out. "I work in a cubicle."

Mello winced sympathetically.

"It's a pretty nice cubicle, though," Matt rustled up. "I've got weird shit on the walls and stuff. And Light's just the next one over, so we hang out and make fun of people and get our work done at the last minute."

Mello was more likely to proclaim the sexiness of stupid goggles, but one of his favorite parts of work was playing darts with Near when L was out, so he understood.

"Well," he managed, "that's the important thing."

Matt nodded and gulped down some of his own orange juice, which proved either that it was safe, or that Matt was insane.

Mello wasn't sure he liked those odds.

He cut a wedge from the stack of pancakes on his plate and tried it. It was good.

There was, however, one thing missing.

Mello shifted in his seat and tucked his hair behind his ears, trying to look cute. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

"Do you have chocolate?" he asked.

Matt made a face. "For breakfast?" He realized that Mello was serious and stared.

"You must really like chocolate," he observed after a moment of silence.

Mello smiled, only a little bit evilly.

L paused on the way to the kitchen the next morning.

Light was sleeping on the couch, his jeans and his Oxford shirt draped on the back, snuggled up with the spare quilt L had offered the night before. Horatio was curled up against the boy's stomach and purring softly.

L's own stomach was twisting most unsettlingly—he must have been more intoxicated than he'd thought, to have invited a stranger into his home. He didn't even let Mello visit, though that was mostly because Mello always ate all the Rocky Road ice cream as soon as L's back was turned.

It was strange, however, that he had welcomed Light in without a fight, and it left him uneasy. What was it about the boy on the couch that made L want to trust him regardless of the consequences?

Vaguely disappointed with his own appalling lack of circumspection, L stumped over to the covered dish of donuts on the countertop. He ate a favorable glazed specimen and licked his fingers, feeling a little better.

He jumped despite himself when he heard an unhappy groan.

L peeked into the living room, where Light had sat up on the couch, the blanket bunching around his waist, to consult the cat.

"I am so fucking hungover," he confided.

Horatio's ears flicked in a way that might have been sympathetic.

"Would you like some breakfast?" L asked.

Light started in surprise and then smiled at him sheepishly. "Oh. Yeah. I mean, that'd be great, thank you."

L indicated the kitchen with a hand, and Light extricated himself from the blanket carefully so as not to displace the cat, who seemed to appreciate the sentiment.

L appreciated the view—Light in nothing more than his tight tee-shirt and his gray boxers was something you could charge admission for.

L pretended not to be calculating ticket prices according to ogling time (in quarter-minute increments) as he led the way to the kitchen and offered Light a donut.

Light chewed on his lip, which L also did not mind.

"Do you have anything—plain?" he wanted to know.

"Anything that won't send a regular human being into a diabetic coma, do you mean?" L responded idly, opening the cabinets.

Light laughed nervously. "Yeah. Something more like that."

Light considered the contents of the refrigerator and retrieved the sizeable bowl of fruit salad that he had assembled in a moment of extraordinary productivity. He proffered it to Light, who beamed.

"That's perfect," he enthused, "though I can't eat it all."

There was something wrong with this guy.

L supposed it was typical for models to have strange eating habits.

Obligingly enough, he found Light a smaller bowl and a fork, and then he set to making some extremely-instant coffee, which was the only kind he had the patience for.

He was willing to bet Light wouldn't want any sugar.

Thinking about it, as he sat tentatively across from his guest and dug a tablespoon into the sugar dish, maybe that was a good thing. It left more donuts and fruit and sugar for him, after all. The two of them complemented each other.

This was a disturbing concept, to say the least.

He drank some thick, slightly gritty coffee and peered at Light over the rim of the mug. What was he supposed to do now? What did he say? "I had a bizarrely nice time taking care of you while you were wasted; do you want to go to lunch sometime"?

L considered. "Well, nice to meet you; please get out of my house" didn't sound much better.

Light hesitated, fork most of the way to his mouth, and then set it down, clearing his throat.

"I—about last night," he said.

L blinked quickly four times, then slowly twice, which spelled out hm in Morse code.

Light shifted and chased a grape around his bowl with the fork.

"Just… I'm really sorry I put you through all that," he said, his shoulders sinking noticeably. "I'm pretty sure that wasn't how you wanted to spend the Friday night before your birthday."

L added a little more sugar to his coffee and mashed it down with the spoon.

"It's all right," he said. "I would have spent it aimlessly wandering the bar if it hadn't been for you."

Light sipped at his own mug, looking unconvinced and unenthusiastic. "I was hardly good company," he replied.

L was terrible at smalltalk, and he wasn't too cut out for being comforting, either. His talent was in raw intelligence, so he used it—he tried to determine, from an index of experiences in cinema, television, literature, and daily observation, what a regular person might say at this juncture.

He concluded that regular people avoided this sort of situation.

He swallowed, and he decided to tell it like it was.

"To be very honest, Light," he began, "I'm on my own so often that it has actually been—"

Horatio leapt up onto the table, Light flinched, and his mug slipped out of his hands, drenching his shirtfront with hot coffee.

"Sweet Jesus!" Light cried, fumbling to get the mug onto the tabletop as he scrambled to his feet, plucking the steaming cotton away from his skin.

"Take it off," L ordered, already at the counter, where he jerked a paper towel from the roll, folded it, and soaked it in cool-not-cold water from the tap. Light obliged, gingerly holding the sodden article in one hand, and L knelt before him and held the paper towel to the epicenter of the prospective burn.

This amounted to being level with Light's abs, in close quarters with his chest (and with other things that lay in other directions), which was another opportunity L could have sold at theme-park rates.

"Does it hurt?" he inquired, struggling not to get distracted by the coarse, dark hairs trailing most suggestively downward from Light's navel.

Their owner set his jaw. "A bit," he said.

L nodded idly. "That's good. It means you haven't obliterated any nerves."

"Hallelujah," Light managed.

"Quite," L replied, peeling back the makeshift poultice. "Yes, this doesn't look too bad. I suppose there are advantages to taking one's time with one's coffee, as it were." He inclined his head towards the shirt dangling from Light's right hand, feigning ignorance of the way it was dripping coffee on the linoleum. "We can take that down to the laundry room for you, if you like."

"Well, I—I'd hate to impose," Light stammered, looking down at him with something unlike any reluctance L had ever seen.

"You wouldn't be," L assured him. "It's been very nice having someone to share coffee with."

Light smiled. "And, apparently, to share with his shirt as well."

L was slightly surprised to discover that he was grinning.

After he'd chugged a tall glass of chocolate milk, Mello looked a lot saner—more like a slightly jittery person and less like a cornered animal flexing its claws and pinpointing the jugular.

Matt toyed with some spare syrup on his plate and watched the sex machine (who had more than earned his title) from behind the safety of his eyelashes.

Mello paused in packing pancakes into his incredibly lean frame.

"Do you always treat people this well the morning after?" he asked.

Matt smiled. This guy really didn't bandy words.

"When they stick around," he answered truthfully, "yeah."

Mello stabbed a pancake straggler viciously.

"You're a full-service station," he remarked.

Matt grinned. "If you want a show," he added, "I can beat Super Smash Brothers faster than anyone I know."

Mello raised an eyebrow. "A man of many talents."

Matt waggled both of his. "You wanna see?"

"Sure," Mello said, unexpectedly. "Let's see."

In two minutes, Mello was sprawled on the couch with more chocolate milk, and Matt was sitting on the floor before him, beating the shit out of people with the Master Sword.

"You bastard!" he shouted when Donkey Kong somehow managed to pull a fast one and dropkick him off of the platform. "Fucking cheat!"

"That shit is bananas," Mello commented, completely innocently.

Matt had to pause the game to laugh before he made things even worse.

Weirdly, Mello just sat and watched and—this was really weird—cared as Matt burned through every level like the game was going out of style.

Mello was right about one thing—this wasn't the way it usually went. Some of the girls left phone numbers—some of them even left valid phone numbers—but, once he'd fed them, they never stuck around. Having someone stay was totally bizarre and strangely… okay. More than okay—nice. Comfortable.

Matt didn't want Mello to leave.

In fact, it sounded so terrible that, when he had reigned Super-Smashily victorious, he worked up the courage to turn around and look the sex machine in the eyes.

"I've still got a bitch of a hangover," he reported, "but do you want to go out for lunch?"

Mello blinked, blue eyes brilliant, if a bit redder than they had been the night before.

"Me, too," he said, "but… yeah. Yeah, I do."

Matt had a tickly feeling in his stomach, distinguishable from and preferable to the lurching feeling engendered by the remnants of the booze.

"Really?" he said, feeling a grin overwhelm his face. "Cool. There's all kinds of stuff down on the street; we could check it out."

"Cool," Mello agreed, making uneasy caution look awfully good. "I—can I borrow some clothes?"

Mello also made slutty leather look awfully good, but he might get arrested for disturbing the peace if he went out in broad daylight strutting that shit.

Then there would be handcuffs.

Matt needed a cold shower and a new brain.

In the meantime, he headed to the bedroom and turned up an outfit that wouldn't turn so many heads.

This was Mello, so they were going to attract some attention, but Matt figured that some attention was better than pointing, staring, and drooling from everyone with eyeballs.

"I dunno what you wanna get," Matt went on bravely, forcing himself to look away as Mello shamelessly dropped the pajamas to replace them with Matt's offerings—not because he didn't enjoy the view, but because enjoying it too much would have left him with another distraction he didn't need. "What's your favorite kind of food?"

He dared to peek, and Mello gave him a smoldering look conveying You so clearly that Matt shivered down to his toes.

"I like Italian," Mello then answered guilelessly.

This was a fun game.

In twenty minutes, they were seated at a streetside café (French, not Italian, but who was counting?), and the girl behind the counter had hit on both of them in the process of giving them their total, which Matt had insisted on paying.

"That," Mello was explaining, "was when I pulled out the warrant, and Lawli said, 'Sir, if you were hoping for anonymity, making a bonfire of the evidence in your backyard was not the way to get it.'"

Matt laughed in mid-sip and choked on his lemonade, and Mello offered an apologetic cringe.

When proper respiratory function had been restored, however, Mello looked more solemn—almost… hesitant.

After just over half a day, Matt knew that that was uncharacteristic.

"What's wrong?" he prompted, steeling himself to take whatever answer came.

"There's just one thing I'm still wondering," Mello divulged.

Matt tilted his head, trying to think where he'd been misleading. "What's that?"

Mello reached across the table, seized a fistful of his shirtfront, and hauled him in for a deep, thorough kiss shot with a lemonade tang.

Matt melted into it, the prickling sense of other people's eyes on him fading in seconds flat, and Mello became the only reality in the whole of the world.

When they broke apart, the blond sat heavily back, his eyes wide, looking shaken and perturbed.

Terror crept up Matt's chest, and he blurted out the necessary question before it could freeze his voice box as well as his heart.

"What? What is it? I—"

"Fuck," Mello said blankly.

Matt blinked.

Mello grabbed Matt's unsteady hand and raised it to his cheek—warm, smooth skin, wispy pale hairs at his temple, the curve of his cheekbone, the shift of his jaw as he spoke.

"You kiss even better when you're sober," he announced.

Matt stared.

Then he grinned.

Then he cupped the other hand under Mello's jaw and drew him in to earn the compliment.

Light was standing in his underwear in a stranger's kitchen.

To his credit—such as it was—this was a situation with which he had absolutely no previous experience.

Hadn't he had pants when he'd arrived?

He tried twice, managed to clear his throat on the third go, and attempted not to notice where L's face was in relation to his last flimsy article of clothing.

On the upside, the awkwardness had caused him to forget the pain of the burn almost entirely.

"Why don't I," he said, "…um."

"Yes," L replied, which kind of made Light wonder what he'd proposed that L had been willing to agree to.

Odds were that they had both remembered Light's jeans draped over the back of the couch, in pursuit of which he retreated, dodgily it had to be admitted, to retrieve the coveted denim and hop back into it with gusto.

He worked the fly, pulled his shirt on, buttoned it, and smoothed it down his chest, feeling a lot safer behind the bulwark of what he knew were snappy clothes. He always felt better when he knew he looked all right.

L had taken his T-shirt and wrung it out in the sink, and now he returned with it balled-up in both hands and held it out.

"I'll get the detergent," he said.

Light took the wet ball of coffee-infused clothing, turning only a little guiltily to watch L slouch his merry way to the hall closet—he was wearing what appeared to be yesterday's ragged jeans and an old, slightly stained white sweatshirt, long and baggy enough to make him look strangely small and almost delicate. The neckline had slipped to the side enough to bare an angular collarbone, and L's hands were half-enveloped by the sleeves, disappearing entirely when he curled his fingers into fists.

Light hoped unoptimistically that it was the headache and the hangover that were making him find all of these bizarre details so attractive.

L wandered back with the bottle of detergent, fishing in his pocket with long, pale fingers. His hand reemerged with a quartert of quarters.

"We'll need a couple more," he remarked.

Light dug into his own pockets. "Let's see," he replied.

Armed with a wealth of spare change, they trooped down the stairs, and L let them into the plain, white-walled laundry room with his little bronze key. It was warm in here, and one of the dryers was giving off a rattling hum. Fluorescence gleamed dimly on the linoleum floor, and the air was thick with the viscerally comforting smell of fabric softener and vaguely industrial cleanliness.

Light dropped his shirt into one of the washing machines, and he and L took turns tipping quarters into the slot. The timer came up, and the mechansims inside made the first overtures of churning and soap.

Light fidgeted—which was unusual for him—and adjusted the cuffs of his shirt—which was not. Apparently similarly inclined, L shifted his weight from one foot to the other, both of them bare on the tiles of the floor.

Then he raised his right hand and touched the pad of his thumb to his lips, angling his head in just such a way that his bangs fell into his beautiful eyes.

Light's hangover had been making inappopriate suggestions since the moment he'd become conscious this morning, but now the voice egging him on was deafening and irresistible.

And, honestly, at this point, what the hell did he have to lose?

He crossed the narrow aisle between the rows of opposing machines, pushed L against the cold metal of the dryer at the other man's back, and sealed their mouths together.

It was funny how sometimes even the most detailed fantasy, even endless speculation, even hours of imagining every second and every move, couldn't prepare you for the real thing.

It was the sharp, invasive kick of coffee on their breath; it was the lingering syrup of the fruit just under his tongue; it was the overwhelming sugar-smooth taste of L's donuts; it was clumsy hands with butterfly fingers, soft hair tickling at his cheek, and the great and intoxicating warmth of L's slender body flush against his.

Speaking of flushes, Light had worked up a good one by the time he pulled away.

"Thank you," he translated.

L's pink tongue darted over his upper lip, and his eyes were bright and… devious?

"You're welcome," L replied—and shoved him up against the vibrating washing machine to return the favor emphatically.

This was a slow way to have a conversation, but Light thought he could get accustomed to it.

Blinking, Near discovered that he was wrapped up tightly in two men's arms.

It was a bit cramped, to tell the truth.

On second thought, as Near settled better in the crook of Teru's elbow, his cheek by Stephen's neck, "cozy" was a better word.

The shift of his body had a domino effect—Teru stirred first, then Stephen did, and in a matter of seconds, there was a lot of bleary movement all around. Teru crushed a blind kiss against Near's ear and sat up, fumbling for his glasses by the clock, as Stephen ran a hand through his hair and stretched, tugging his pajamas back into place.

Near curled his fingers into the flannel before Stephen could get up, garnering a hair-ruffle and an indulgent smile.

"If you want breakfast," Stephen told him, "somebody has to make it."

"It's still early," Near insisted—which was debatable, but the portion of his brain reserved for argumentative skill was still asleep.

Teru, bespectacled now, stroked a hand through Near's hair and ran a finger down the bridge of his nose.

"I'm starving," he declared. "I'm with Stephen on this one."

Near frowned. "You're ganging up on me."

Stephen and Teru stared at his pout and broke out at the same time with a heartfelt, "Aww!"

Near rolled over and held a pillow over his head.

For a long moment, Quillish honestly believed that he had walked into the wrong office in the haze of his Monday morning.

L had a box in his lap, from which he was withdrawing various selections of chocolate-dipped fruit to eat—which would have been normal if the box hadn't read, in straight, unfamiliar handwriting, Happy Birthday.

Near was curled up in his chair, but he also was smiling and glancing expectantly at his cell phone on the desktop beside him.

As for Mello, he looked so happy that Quillish tried to remember if he'd heard on the news about any unsolved homicides.

They all beamed at him where he'd paused in the doorway, which was very much in keeping with this incredible trend.

Quillish removed his fedora and hung it on the coat rack.

"Have they dissolved ecstasy in the water supply?" he hazarded.

L popped a chocolate-covered blueberry into his mouth and answered around it, "That would probably seem more plausible than the truth."

Mello laughed brightly.

Quillish was never going to get used to this.