Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note.

Mello is not gay.

Really, Mello is not gay.

And secretly, Mello is under the impression that if he repeats this as many times as his mind will let himself without the words tumbling over each other, there will be candor in it.

He tells Matt, often, that even being friends irks him sometimes. But it's all right, because he's not gay, even though he can tell from the way the soles of Matt's shoes spit rainbows when he walks that Matt is hiding seriously suppressed homosexuality under his goggles, whether he admits it or not. Not like Mello will ask for confirmation on his assumptions. That would bring a conversation into the midst that would wander into the category Mello labels ambiguously as Awkward Things.

In the back of his mind, the sensible part of his brain that Mello has been neglecting out of the reason that logic tended to slow down his thinking to degrees of stupidity that didn't speak L's successors in any shape or form, knows that he's overreacting.

Matt is not a girl. His boots are thick and his hair doesn't see the end of a comb often, and despite a certain aura of submission that Mello has picked up on, Matt's manly tendencies overpower his effeminate traits.

The fact that he picks up on all of this is the only thing that has Mello bothered.

Matt's noticed too, and frankly, his noticing is a bit of a problem. Mello was perfectly content with his mild obsession of his friend's sexuality, picking up on the small things and the smaller things, such as the way his eyes, even through his goggles, gravitated toward the curvature of Mello's back and the way his jeans fit tighter than the rest. And now that Matt has too taken notice of Mello's taking notice of things that shouldn't be taken notice of, Mello has to promptly throw himself into the depths of denial to avoid the inevitable knock of homosexuality offering motivational pamphlets at his door.

Because really now.

Mello is not gay.

O O O O O

Sometimes, even the way Mello manages to make love to his chocolate bars when he eats them is defaced in comparison to the manner that Matt enjoys his cigarettes.

He doesn't particularly approve of the habit, mostly because Matt is still vaguely innocent in his mind and he likes it that way in his mind, and also because cigarettes leave the ineluctable after-smell of lingering smoke in the air. It's a musty smell, old and dusty and crawls up his nostrils, and it sticks to Matt's appendages as though it's his natural scent.

Approximately four times a day, a routinely number that's been escalating by the years, Matt mysteriously disappears from sight and is promptly found once more a brief five minutes later with chapped lips and concealed within a bookshelf of the library, almost as if he had been there the whole time Mello had been searching for his friend.

It's once in the morning, right around when Mello's dreams fade away and his mind is still caught between sleep and consciousness, that Matt will slide out of his covers as quietly as he can muster without the bed springs yawning, but still, Mello hears his padded footsteps across the floorboards. Then, it's once in the afternoon, right when lunch is over and Matt has an excuse to wander off for a short period of time, enough time to slip outside by the strawberry bushes hugging the walls of Wammy's House. Then, once more in the evening, always with the overused excuse of leaving books downstairs, right before the sun sets. And finally, one more time after Mello settles into bed and stares at the wall in the hope that his even breathing and wordless silence will deceive Matt into believing he's asleep, and it always does, for the redhead tip-toes across the floor to slide open the window and blow his smoke out as discreetly as possible.

It's much too early for Mello to be awake, and he makes this declaration based on the fact that the sunrise isn't blaring through the window and acting as a furnace to his room yet, and also because Mello is tired.

His pants are low on his hips and his socks are fuzzy, itchy right where they pool around his ankles. He doesn't even remember wearing socks when he crawled into bed last night. Then again, he doesn't remember wearing pants either.

The only disturbance to even pull him from the peaceful embrace of slumber was Matt's sneaking, which this morning, sneaking did not describe as accurately as it normally did. As a matter of fact, it was not sneaking at all. Matt's clumsy morning feet had tripped over his own covers, noisy thuds possibly even waking the neighboring room's occupants. The torrent of shits coursing out of Matt's mouth also provided little aid in Mello's ability to burrow into his mattress and sleep on.

And now here he is, elbows propped up on the window pane, his eyes half-lidded as he stares languidly out the window to watch Matt traipse around the bushes under his window, lighting a cigarette with matches Mello has yet to see Roger allow within Wammy's.

It is, perhaps, the eloquent way that Matt manages to wrap his lips around his cigarette, his damp tongue claiming it as his, moistening it with his saliva, that manages to wake Mello up better than the sound of insistent footsteps vibrating through the floorboards from upstairs or the sugar feeding his energy from his chocolate.

Even two stories up, Mello can smell the smoke. It swirls up the shillings on the walls and lingers by his window in dissipating puffs. Mello blows them away lazily. Two stories down, Matt plugs the cigarette back into his mouth, shuffling the soles of his shoes along the auburn leaves he's flattening with his heel.

"You know, I can see you."

Matt jumps, and almost swallows his cigarette. He lets out a string of swear words around it, mad puffs of smoke still working their way from its burning tip.

"Fuck." Matt hisses, and grinds a forlorn stem into the soil underneath his feet.

"Swearing and smoking," Mello drawls, and drags his knuckles across the windowpane, "didn't know you were such a bad boy, Matt."

"I'm not–" Matt's voice is tight, like chains. For a moment, it almost sounds as though he's trying to create an adequate excuse, but the smoke still revolving around his nose makes it hard to be smart about this. He sighs, and plucks it from his fingers back into the cavern of his mouth.

"I didn't know you were committing suicide."

Matt cranes his neck to stare up at the window, and stuffs a hand in his pocket.

"Slowly."

"…I didn't know you were such a smartass, Matt." Mello adds, mildly amused, and watches the cigarette as Matt pulls it from his mouth again. Stuck in his lips, it ages the boy, at least ten years, smoke and wrinkles increasing in prominence. Mello grins a grin completely devoid of any trace of bliss.

"I'm trying to be more like you."

"Cranky in the morning? Or is that what the cigarettes do to you?"

Matt is silent for a moment, and stares at his shoelaces. "I've been smoking for half a year now."

Mello is above deflated never minds, and instead hisses.

"You look ten years older with that thing in your mouth."

Obnoxiously, Matt shoves it back in and inhales deeply. Mello cringes when he imagines Matt's lungs through his ribcage, shriveling up like a forgotten banana in the heat of an African forest, coal black and bumpy.

"Maybe it's what I'm going for."

"Then you're an idiot."

"Maybe I am." Matt mumbles from around his cigarette, and Mello realizes, a little awkwardly, that he has just lost an argument. He sighs, and even from the window, Matt hears it. He cranes his neck again and stares up at the window pane. Mello waves his hand dismissively even though he's not all too sure what he's brushing off.

"Whatever," says Mello, and he looks fixedly at the withering tree to the left of Matt. A gust of wind whistles through the branches, the susurrus of leaves scraping each other's surfaces reaching his ears.

"I hate it when you say that. It's like you don't care." Matt murmurs, absent-mindedly at best, as though complaining about a bothersome fly.

"What makes you think I care?"

"I don't."

Mello stares. Matt's goggles are firm around his eyes, completely concealing any emotion brewing inside his irises. Mello almost minds. When reading Matt's face, because he always can – two pages at a time, like a comic book – stops, and his body language immobilizes, Mello finds his options are quite slim.

"…you can close the window now, Mello." Matt mumbles, softly, and it takes Mello a second to realize what he's referring to. And then, almost like a slap to the cheek, Mello nods and pulls his nose back into the confines of his room, and the smell of smoke stops abruptly. Mello breathes through his nose, realizing that he's already identified the musty scent with Matt. It's familiar; he's been smelling it on the boy's clothing for weeks. It's a dusty smell, like a murky attack, and Mello finds that he is starting to like it.

But through the translucence of the window, Mello muses, as he watches Matt finish his cigarette, swirls of smoke still floating past the window like balloons, he sees the shape in the form of a boy, donning stripes on his arms and a cigarette in between his fingers. And Mello likes it. He likes Matt, blowing smoke from his mouth and kicking leaves.

For a second, he's almost attractive.

And then, a second later, Mello is reminded that he's not gay.

Really, Mello is not gay.

O O O O O

Many who have had the opportunity to observe Mello's antics at Wammy's House would be able to clarify that Mello does not let his hormones get the better of him, but rather anger as a replacement. It becomes common sense to adapt from L's mannerisms of stunting his emotions to avoid interference with his work, but they are all children, curious children, without a doubt, with nothing but years of puberty to travel through with the company of equally intrigued teenagers as comrades.

Others would frequently be spied in the crooks of the halls or heard behind the barrier of a door, stifled moans and hurried kisses, but no one has ever caught Mello pinning a girl against the side of a wardrobe. The options remain to be either asexuality or unspeakable levels of discretion, but considering that Mello's attire is growing to be increasingly provocative with his snug leather, the former is easy to doubt.

For a while, simply to avoid the hassle of blossoming unanswered questions that would form into rumors, Mello has claimed to simply have an aversion to physical contact in general. He doesn't find girls worthy of his second glances, just as they find him too distant for a second conversation. Calling himself a misogynist would be extreme, but Mello still considers the females he's come to be in the presence of to giggle unnecessarily and braid their hair, things he deems as superfluous.

But simply for the case of his own sanity, something he is rather protective of, Mello decides to boycott contact as a whole instead of just the female species.

Besides. It's not like he has desires to touch the boys in contrary to the girls, despite what some individuals are convinced of.

One of these individuals, to the bad luck of Mello, is Matt.

Which is why, really, it isn't exactly a good thing when his spine is arched against a wall, twisting like a pretzel, his hair knotted into tight locks around Matt's fists, their teeth scraping and their noses bumping.

Mello swipes his tongue across Matt's lower lip. Matt lets loose a noise, satisfied, from the caverns of his throat. Mello promptly swallows it.

Really, he isn't gay.

If he thinks about it, or at least distracts himself from Matt's lips long enough to form a coherent contemplation, he knows that this isn't a very innocent situation. It's incriminating to say the least, infallible reasoning as to why he never accepts girl's suggestive invitations into their pants. And in no way was this affection discreet. Pinned against a wall in a frequently used hallway, hands tucked into the hem of Matt's shirt, mouths fused together, this is far from inconspicuous.

Absent-mindedly, excuses start forming in Mello's head, each one more preposterous than the last. With every second that his lips are rubbing against Matt's, his IQ drops by the tens, and by now he starts to wonder if he even needs excuses.

Matt's fingers dance down his scalp to rest at the point where the hem of his hair meets the nape of his neck, and instinctively, Mello's hips buck against the other boy's.

Still, he isn't gay.

He rather likes to believe that he is often thrust into situations that, at first glance, give off the appearance of extreme homosexual tendencies. It's a poorly constructed lie he's built as the foundation for his denial, and inside, Mello feels like the husband sneaking away from his wife to have weekends away with his dentist with the patterned ties.

But really, his reasoning isn't all too faulty. He never initiates these sorts of things. He does little to protest, but still, he's never the one to fire his pistol first when it comes to the battleground of romance he's oh-so inept in.

Like the time when Matt aided Mello during his bloody incident with the bushes outside of Wammy's, nursing him through his pain and even managing to fall asleep with his head in the crook of Mello's neck in his poor attempt at mollifying him. He might have encouraged the cuddling, but Mello puts all of the blame on his lack of lucidity because of his laceration. Then there was the time where Matt and Mello were cornered under the mistletoe, and this one Mello blames on meaningless Christmas decorations that have no business in orphanages and the fact that Matt had been practically waiting underneath it. And then there was the time that Matt had walked in on Mello in the bathroom after a shower, conveniently towel-less and cheekbones flushed from the steam, hair mussed like sex and the heat doing nothing to make the situation any less awkward. It also didn't help that Matt had lingered much too long for a humiliated teenager in the bathroom that now forever scarred Mello's brain. Bathrooms, he muses, are unfortunate places to be scarred.

Still, he can't be the only boy out there who feels more comfortable with his tongue down the throat of the only person he trusts at an orphanage built around distrust and distrustful teamwork, especially when Matt's tongue feels even better down his throat.

Others would say it's sexuality preference confusion. But honestly, Mello knows he isn't gay. He isn't gay.

O O O O O

There's something very satisfying about lying straight in the triangle of Matt's left elbow, thighs and everything else exposed touching, the even rise and fall of Matt's chest lulling him to sleep, not even the thought of the half-annihilated chocolate bar peering out from Mello's pants pocket tempting enough to distract him.

They have passed the stage of writing off this incident as a mere one night stand or logical relapse emerging from the hefty pressure weighing down on their shoulders, as a matter of fact, they have passed it months ago, when this unspoken agreement first began.

Mildly, Mello admits that it could have been. He's almost surprised that neither of them have backed off, forgotten, for the sake of material things and other details that are much more time-worthy.

Mello flexes his knuckles. His fingertips are leather clad, the only bit of him still left safely clothed, but at the moment, his gloves are merely fabric in the way of feeling Matt. Right now, evoking a sensation out of the other boy – still peacefully encumbered in the lazy arms of post-sex slumber – with his touch is the only goal swimming around his disoriented mind.

Mello raises a slender fingertip, slowly, and touches it delicately to the curve of Matt's eyebrow. Matt's facial features all twitch in dissatisfaction, disturbing the phlegmatic expression of sleep embedded in his lips and eyes, and he burrows closer to the human furnace that is Mello's naked torso. Mello's lips tug upward into a smug smirk, and he drags his finger down the line of Matt's face, sliding down his jaw and to his jugular, encountering many ardency-induced bruises from the night before on his journey.

What's really unfortunate is that Mello knows that he's not cruel enough to claim to be using Matt as a sexual outlet, no matter how much he wants to be and he knows he should be, but frankly, he has no other halfway plausible excuses.

Wordlessly, Mello eyes a strand of uncombed hair fallen unceremoniously over Matt's eyelid and considers brushing it aside. Then he's promptly reminded of the levels of affection hidden beneath the stroke and, vaguely bewildered, he freezes his fingers. And then Matt's eyes peel open, as though the lack of contact has awakened him, and Mello becomes more bewildered still.

"What the hell were you doing?" Even with recent sleep weaved into his words, Matt still forms a sane sentence. Mello readjusts on the hammock that is Matt, hooking a leg over his knee gingerly.

"You," he replies blithely, addressing the ceiling.

For a second, Matt remains silent, and Mello assumes that he's considering the words and possibly even reliving the actions behind it. Mello chuckles throatily.

It clearly doesn't merit a verbal response, as Matt's arm seems to regain life and slides around Mello's shoulders a bit more firmly. The way the bed sheets wrinkle around their ankles and pool around their waists, the way neither of them are eager to Febreze away the loitering scent of sex, the way neither of them comment on the thorny stickiness acting as adhesive to the sheets on their thighs, it all reminds Mello of a sleazy newlywed's vacation. He can't even hear the rowdy redheads that Mello can't remember the names of from the adjoining room.

It also doesn't help that their beds are meant, purposefully, for one person and one person only. The half-a-person pillow is flattened against the headboard and Mello has taken a shining to the unconventional method of fixing the space situation by sprawling his scrawny body straight over Matt's. It's so very hot and sticky, Matt's thumb languidly dancing up and down Mello's spine, his eyelids half-mast and lips parted, his tongue still tainted with the lingering taste of chocolate and Matt.

Through a sudden cloud of silver smoke, Mello scowls.

"Where did that come from?" He avoids creating a makeshift gas mask with his palm and instead pinches the bridge of his nose with exasperated fingertips.

Matt stares at him, and talks around his cancer stick, "You know where that came from."

An innocent, smoky halo revolves around Matt's awry hair. Mello's scowl stays firmly in place. The only thing he approves of concerning his friend's habit is the manner in which his voice deepens to a rumble after a breath of his cigarette, low and rough, just like Mello wants to remember it as forever.

He tuts, and his tongue lets out a soft hiss, "What a nice way to ruin a good moment, Matt."

From behind him, the headboard nudges a corner obstreperously into the small of his back. Mello shifts, worming his way onto Matt's lap even more, comfortably cushioned against his chest.

Really, he's just a pillow. Mello isn't gay.

Matt exhales onto the crook of Mello's neck, right where his ear curves to meet his shoulder, and plugs his cigarette into his mouth like it's an anchor for his lips, "Nice?"

Mello stares at the ceiling. Matt isn't one to commence womanly, meaningful moments, like the musical montage parts of movies, because thankfully for Mello, his avoidance of commitment and the remaining fragments of his stunted manliness keeps him from willingly obsessing over indirect compliments such as the one Mello has just made. It's not Matt's style. Instead, he goes for the one word inquiries that are spoken like one might speak to query about the weather, cautiously suggestive, like nice?

"You have a problem?" Mello says, his voice tight, and Matt smiles.

"No." And as though the conversation is over, Matt silently tugs on Mello's shoulder to bring him closer still even though their skin is already touching in every which way, like sticky cookie dough, and tucks his nose atop the crown of Mello's blonde head, exhaling onto his hair puffs of hot morning breath.

Mello moves a leg so the underside of his knee presses onto the curve of Matt's thigh, and is comfortable still. From next to his ear, he can feel Matt inhaling a mouthful of hair and not even bothering to pull away.

Really now.

Really now. Mello isn't gay.

O O O O O

Just like every girl that Mello has ever had the displeasure of encountering, Matt had an unmistakable time of the month.

Supposedly, according to Matt, Mello has one too, except that instead of an outburst of womanly confessions and admittance to inner turmoil, Mello has the constant eruption of anger, bubbling out of his throat like a science project gone wrong, a never-ending temperance that even Matt has never been patient enough to tolerate.

Still, Mello thinks he's being reasonable. He'd rather take umbrage and enmity over epicene chats that always peak into routinely therapy sessions, something that Mello has neither the patience nor the amiability to do properly.

Not like that's an obstacle to Matt. Once every few weeks, he'll mope around with his technology more than humanly necessary, until his thumbs ache, and inevitably poke at things that don't want to be poked at in a way that always eases a few sentimental words out of Mello's less-than-willing mouth.

"So," Matt is saying, seemingly innocuously, with an aura of chatting about recent news and a hint of maybe or maybe not plaguing the edges of his words.

Mello looks up from the things that are far more important and far more interesting than Matt's soon-to-be speech, and curses himself for doing so. It's the way he says so, that freakishly nonchalant manner that is so very un-Matt, because it's more than just a little awkward. And in general terms, Matt is not an awkward boy. He's straight-forward, but never bordering on cruel much like Mello always is, and this very, very awkward so is an omen that things are about to take an even more awkward turn.

Internally, Mello is murdered.

"…I hear death is very becoming lately."

And once more, Mello finds himself being repetitiously stabbed in all of his organs by toothpicks that wiggle in one way and go out the other. Even Matt's wording is so very poor and he doesn't want to be involved in this conversation at all anymore.

"…that's a little morbid, Matt." He tries to dismiss, and gropes under his bed helplessly for his damn chocolate.

Matt shrugs, and stares over Mello's head. Mello scowls. Matt's goggles are blurry and tinted, and it bothers him a bit too much when he can't detect where the boy's gaze is standing. His thumb scrapes against the floorboards under his bed. Still, no chocolate.

"I was just thinking."

"And then talking."

"Uh huh?"

Mello blinks, impatiently, waiting for the response he's expecting. Then he vaguely starts musing why he's even encouraging a reply from Matt in the first place.

"Is there even a fucking point to this, Matt?"

"Well, yeah," Matt wavers, and plucks half of his goggles away from his face, revealing one curious eye and angry red markings imprinted like tattoos next to his eyebrows, "I'm thinking about…your birthday."

"That's nice," Mello says, for lack of anything better to say.

"Shut up," Matt retorts instantly, and his thumbs twitch. It looks like his fingers are aching for something to hold onto just so the situation would lose some of its steadily developing weightiness, "You're getting older, before me, and, and I just think it's. It's. I swear there was a point to this."

"I doubt that." Mello's hand withdraws from under the bed, instead tugging at the hem of his shirt and staring fixedly at the ceiling. He can see Matt in his peripheral vision, but he sees him much clearer in his mind, eyes low and his smile in a u-turn. He looks at Matt.

By this point, however, his trademark goggles are no longer acting as his aegis, completely off his face and hanging limply off his neck. Matt blinks at him, and Mello blinks back.

"The point is. The point is," Matt trails off, and the forlorn expression on his face as he slowly loses all sense of terminology is replaced with a grimace, "y'know, you make me feel really stupid."

"I'm not going to dignify that with an apology."

"Like right there!" Matt points at him with an accusatory finger, and his boldness withers away a second later. Mello stares at him. He considers breaching the silence, and then halts himself mid-thought. Matt's nose twitches, as though speaking for itself.

Matt peels his goggles away from his neck and lays them on the pillow carefully. The deep red circles orbiting his eyeballs almost look like tattooed targets on his face, and Mello finds he can't look away. Matt looks at the window.

"You already know I love you."

"Hey, me too." It slips out, almost like a reflex, and Mello doesn't even have time to look forward to regretting it. He pins his bottom lip between his teeth and waits, inevitably, for Matt's mouth to start spewing sewage.

…there's silence. For a second, Mello is concerned. He doesn't know how to deal with silence, he only knows how to deal with Matt's everlasting, awkward, awkward rants.

"…you never said anything."

"Did you?" Mello chews moodily on the tip of his glove, and the salty tang of leather assaults his senses. He yanks it off and jams it into his belt.

"You're the one who's leaving first." Matt says in a small voice.

"Yeah," replies Mello, and he realizes that it's far from a concrete argument, "…and you're leaving second."

"What does that––" Matt sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose, and suddenly Mello feels thirty years older, "you're such a homophobe, Mello."

He tuts, and smoothes a stray strand of blonde hair out of his face. It doesn't do anything to sweep aside the massive curtain concealing his eyes from view, "I'm not gay."

"You're in the closet."

"I'm not in the fucking closet! I'm in my goddamn room!" The wrinkles in his bedspread are forming small, jerky question marks. Mello's thumb smoothes them away. His sheets stare at him imploringly.

He isn't feeling all too straight anymore.

Matt's throwing rainbows at him, his leather's feeling a bit too snug, his far from ironed sheets are mocking him, and he just indirectly confessed his love to a boy who he's been adamantly denying his homosexuality to ever since Matt tackled him in the grass before they had even hit puberty.

"I'm not," even to himself, his voice sounds feeble, "…not gay."

"You kissed me."

"I know."

"You slept with me."

"I know."

"You just told me you loved me."

"Would you just shut up, Matt?" Mello wants to have something to charge and aim just for the hell of it. A part of him wants to keep working his way through this altercation even though he's clearly already lost and isn't even on his own side anymore.

"So you are gay."

"I – what, no," Matt's eyebrows rise up to Hell, and Mello feels a little part of him whimper when he realizes that Matt has the upper hand, "look, only for you. Just shut up."

He doesn't even realize how incredibly feminine his words are until they escape his mouth, almost as if the neglected portion of his mind is bursting with sweet nothings his tongue isn't used to tasting. Matt picks up on it too.

"Only for––"

"Shut up," Mello is ordering, and before Matt can protest, he's perched himself on Matt's knees and clambered into his lap like he's claiming his legs, a gloved thumb and forefinger gripping his chin. Matt makes a noise, more of a hum than a word, beginning with the soft susurrus of M- and ending with -lo. Mello dismisses the plea with his lips.

All he feels is the coarse locks of Matt's hair under his palm and the steadily moving massage of their lips bumping and teeth grinding, and it's so good, Mello forgets to curse himself for liking it. It's like playing with fire, and Matt is flammable.

Because really. Mello's only gay for Matt.