Disclaimer: Don't own Death Note, no money being made. Lyrics lines - Sophmore Slump or Comeback Year by Fall Out Boy. Quotes from the unspecified poem in the text are from Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol. The two stanzas at the end are from the same poem.
Note: Bah, this is okay I guess. I wanted to write some more Matt and some Linda, because even though she only has one line I secretly think she's awesome. Hope this isn't too painfully rambly and pointless. Love you everyone.
Where The Heart Is
and we've travelled like gypsies only
with worse luck and far less gold
the kids you used to love
but then we grew old
Snow crunches underfoot. It is the worst time of year, for him – the ecstatic confusion of Christmas has come to an abrupt end, the wait for the New Year is over, and all that is left is the anti-climax, old hopes, family fights, and ice, covering everything, coating the ground, making the roads slick and deadly.
The world is hung over, grey and dreary, and everything has faded. Banners are soaked and torn, frost crusting them, mud streaked along where they have trailed against the ground in the harsh winds overnight. Balloons hang deflated on fences and there is a general sense of apathy clinging to the place, clinging to everything. There is an unshakeable feeling of pointlessness in the air.
Or maybe that's just him.
He sidesteps. The ice is dangerous, even off the roads, and trudging through heavy inches of cold snow is slow going, but safer. And there's something undignified about landing on your ass in the middle of a housing estate.
Ass? Arse. He's home, now. He should be using the correct bloody slang.
As much as this place has even been home for any of them, he thinks, and turns a corner.
The pavement slopes downwards. "Shit," he says again. There's little snow here, everything has been crunched and trodden down already, to layers and layers of slush and ice. One false step will send him skittering down the hill, fingernails slipping through cold and nothingness, to broken bones and an awkward exchange at the orphanage's infirmary.
This is the last place on Earth he wants to be, it really is.
A curtain twitches. He can't lark about here, standing around like this. He's exactly the wrong age and the cold has forced him to trade in a body warmer for a hoodie. He's slouched, he hasn't shaved – if he was going for the delinquent youth look, he couldn't have done any better if he'd tried.
He hates it here so fucking much. Once upon a time, in another life, this place had felt like belonging. For a few short, glorious years, this had felt like home. This had been right.
But like everything else in his life, every fucking little thing, it tarnished, and fell apart, and rotted into dirt and dust and decay. God damn it.
He'd give anything to be anywhere else but here. Anywhere else but where –
His breath hitches at the memory, and he turns his face quickly, away from nothing, to face nothing. His eyes sting and he has to fight to regain himself, forcing down the hot lump swelling in his throat. He shakes his head roughly and brings up ungloved hands to run through his hair. He's slick with perspiration from the walk but feels no warmth at all, just an unpleasant clamminess.
His hair's getting long. He ought to cut it soon.
All he can think of is eyes like blue fire and hair like gold straw.
He faces back to the slope. He trudges up to one of the houses, the one with the woman standing where she thinks is out of sight at the edge of the window, watching him. He grabs the lid of her dustbin. Let her stop him.
He careens down the slope sat atop it, crouched and steering with his knuckles being flashfrozen by the snow. He grits his teeth and hangs on, shifting his body weight oh so slightly to the left, the way he learnt, the way he taught –
- And he is suddenly caught four years ago, this same slope, this same time of year, this same cloying atmosphere of depression and disintegration. Only, he isn't succumbing to it, not in the memory – in the memory he is thirteen and unruly and an awkward, tumbling mix of long limbs, precocious brilliance and disobedience. He is doing exactly the same as he is now, skidding, racing, outstripping the air, only four years ago and he is not alone. Next to him, ahead of him, tearing towards the bottom of the slope, whipping round to throw him a look of ice and fire and electricity, pulling back on his dustbin lid until he skids in a shower of fallen snow, there he is, there he is –
And there he isn't.
And he has reached the end of the slope and skudded to a halt, his new weight bringing him to an undignified stop. He overtopples, slow motion, knowing he can't catch himself, falling on his side into the snow.
He stays there for a minute, letting the cold draw its cold fingers across his cheek, feeling it seep over his hoodie, feeling the damp begin to bite into his bones. He curses, maybe, or maybe he's too cold and his lips don't respond and it's only in his head. This place is so quiet, so still, that even he isn't sure if the breaks in the silence are real.
He knows that at some point he must have gotten to his feet, because he's walking again, hands buried in the pocket of the hoodie, shivering under it, but he doesn't remember getting up.
Onwards and onwards. Wammy's House looms into view.
He stops outside the gates, uncertain. He needs to go back. He has to. It is, as they say, The Only Way.
He has paused too long. Someone is there. Behind the gates, under the shadow of a tree, voice skimming over the static of the wind. He looks up.
He raises a hand to give a casual, half wave to the speaker, but cold has numbed him and his fingers are gnarled and bent. It turns into awkward, beckoning fumble, and the figure slips out, detaching itself from the trunk of the tree and drifting towards the gates.
She is wearing gloves, and in delicate motions unlaces the chain from the gates, and pulls one back a few inches. Feeling like a ghost, he slides in the gap, and when he hears the soft chink of the chain being pushed back into place, he knows there's no turning back.
Matt has changed.
Linda didn't think anyone could change this much in so short a time. Two years, maybe a little more, that's how long he's been gone. He'd be – what? Seventeen now?
And he looks so, so different.
He's slipped, somewhere, out of boyhood, and it looks as if he has done it as casually and apathetically as he has always approached everything that doesn't seize his attention, and has left half the job unfinished. His chest his wider, and his shoulders have broadened, and the new shape of his arms is defined under the thin fabric of a cheap hoodie. But it's all angles, still, the lingering sensation of boyish sharpness and wiriness underlying every new line of definition, every new muscle. His jaw looks stronger now, and his stubble is a dark red, almost brown, scattered across his cheeks, his chin. His face is gaunter, though, and his hair is a shaggy mess...
And there is that written in his eyes
Which none should look upon
The lines drift to her unbidden. He is taller, hunched, everything about him laced with a new maturity and a kind of foreigness and strangeness that it makes her wonder if she ever knew him at all. The poem drifts back to her in bits and pieces, things about the world being wide and God not looking on those things which man does to man, and he does not win who plays with Sin in the secret House of Shame.
She has never felt quite so juvenile, quite so young and half-formed, as she has now, standing in the snow in the her soaked-through slippers, as he hunches over in front of her and tries to look as if he doesn't feel he has never belonged here.
Where has he even been? she wonders. She can't even think. Matt – and it hurts her to think this, her, who has always taken such care to separate each thing from each other thing, give each its uniqueness and individuality – is, was, and has always been defined by the fact of someone else's existing. He has been the sidekick for as long as she has known him, the second string and content with it, quiet and loping and the side-slashed grin, hunched shoulders and a murmur in the ear or a boy much wilder and stronger and bolder.
When Mello came, Matt found his purpose, and Linda cannot even imagine what he has done without him.
She looks at him, at the rough edges and the worn, cheap clothing, the unpresentable half-beard and the mop of red, and the look behind his eyes, just out of sight, the look of loneliness and abandonment and alienation.
Where has he been...?
She decides she does not want to know.
Why he is here, though, that she knows. Roger keeps close tabs on all the Wammy alumni, and that includes rebels and deviants like Mello. Of all the places in the world, of all the people who gather and trade closely-guarded secrets and codified information, this is the only way he can get what he needs.
This is the path that leads through childhood and ends at the doors of Mello's world.
Linda steps forward through the snow, toes curled into the wet mess of her slippers to keep them from wedging in the snow and stripping her of their scant covering. She slips her hand into Matt's, as if no time has passed at all, and she is thirteen and he is fifteen and she is asking him where he is going to go now.
He curls his fingers around hers, and she is not sure if it is out of a reciprocation or politeness or a leftover instinct of old times, feral times, a knee-jerk reaction of cold moving to clutch at warmth.
"Come on," she says quietly. "It's cold."
He follows her, wordlessly, into the orphanage. She can feel it emanating from him, his trepidation, his unease, his sense of not belonging. If she is honest with herself, totally honest, in the way she is when she is alone in a room with a white canvas and oils, then she will know that none of them have ever really belonged here. Certainly, they have all found something like home inside these walls, some semblance of friendship and a mockery of normalcy – routine, goals, achievement. But they have never belonged. Not really. They have always been at war with one another, in secret, in their hearts, and they have always been jealous and cold and brilliant, a kind of icy incandescence being nurtured inside each and every breast.
No, she thinks, as she turns back and tells Matt, "We should go to Roger." She slips off the ruined moccasins and pads up the carpeted staircases barefoot, still leading Matt by the hand. No, she thinks. Matt, he belonged. Not to the orphanage, not at the orphanage, but to Mello. With Mello. From the day those two met, it had been there – that sense of naturalness, of ease, uncapturable in words or ink. Linda had tried, once upon a time, to sketch it out, what that sensation was, in a pencilled picture of the two of them walking down a hallway, Matt trailing behind, hand in hand.
She still had the picture, folded up neatly and tucked at the back of a draw, under an unopened bar of chocolate and a cartridge for an outmoded console.
Matt belonged with Mello as much as anything had ever belonged with anything else. Mello, for Matt, was home.
"Come on," she says again.
Matt stays silent, except to steadily drip on the carpeted floors.
She leaves him at the door. He looks at her, then, and opens his mouth.
She does not interrupt him and he does not continue. His eyes fill with something untraceable, and his lips form a thin, sad line.
She feels warm and cared for and overfed and safe, and everything childhood represents. Even though this place is far from comfort, far from happy and far from home, it is better, she realises, than wherever he has come from. These hallways, in the air of them, the history of them, Matt used to find a spun-gold home.
She lays her hand on his chest, studying his face. Every line of him is so different, and so sorrowful it splits her heart. He blends, in her mind, between boy and man, and when she opens her eyes from a blink, he is there, Matt, cold and warm all at once and tangible under her finger tips...
And still so completely out of all their reach.
She does not sleep. Instead, she pours over a sheet of paper, changing lines, adding scratches of pen and ink to the draft, a shot in profile, a pressed-down portrait of loss and hope and the raw unfairness of the world outside this house.
In the morning Matt is gone, and no one even knows he was there. He has come and gone as silently as a ghost, and there is nothing to tell of his presence except her slippers, sitting in a small puddle at the bottom of the stairs, and the grey, drawn look on Roger's face at breakfast.
He will find Mello, she knows. He will find Mello and the two of them will be remarkable.
And, she knows too, it will not, could not, ever last for long.
Three years later she sits in an airy studio in London and paints a picture of a rich woman in sleek furs and little else. She takes a break, and drinks instant coffee and thumbs through the morning's paper.
There is a small article about a car and a kidnapping and Japan, and it is January, and there are no names mentioned but there is a picture, and Linda knows she was right all those months ago.
She tells the woman she can go, and starts on a new canvas. Red and yellow and blue and peach all blend and mingle and find their edges, and she does not stop until the painting is done.
She picks up another canvas. She starts again.
She paints and she paints and she paints, pictures from memory, linked hands and rough housing and imagined reunions and starry skies. It is quite likely that no one in the world ever knew who either one of these young men were. It is entirely likely that they were passed in the street by people who neither knew nor cared of the sheer, raw brightness that had so nearly brushed against the boundaries of their lives.
She is going to make sure they do. She is going to tell their tale, and she is going to spin them a story so close to the truth that no one will believe it.
She smiles, and in some part of her mind there is tiredness and the memory of commissions and gallery openings and food.
She paints on, stroke after stroke of the only story she has ever wanted to tell.
For three long years they will not sow
Or root or seedling there
For three long years the unblessed spot
Will sterile be and bare
And look upon the wondering sky
With unreproachful stare
In Reading gaol by Reading town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
And his grave has got no name.