Slight AU. Total angst-fest born from a very tired mind.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nothing at all.

"Matt, Matt, Matt… What have you been doing to yourself?" Near paused in the doorway and looked around the small apartment with an odd mixture of pity and disdain. He reached up to flick on the lights, hoping against all logic that somehow the light would cause the depressing room to disappear, or at the very least appear less disheartening. The switch flipped with a dull thud, but no glow illuminated the room. Near futilely hit the switch a few more times, but it was no use- the electricity was off.

Near turned his attention to the apartment's sole occupant and approached the couch where the sad, miserable heap that was Matt was sitting. The redhead was a pathetic island amid a veritable sea of empty bottles- beer, vodka, gin, and some others that Near wouldn't even contemplate cleaning his floor with, much less drinking.

Near made a small sound in the back of his throat. Really, Matt's appearance shouldn't have surprised him- he knew his former acquaintance had been suffering since Mello's death- but, damn, did Matt look awful. His red hair was stringy, greasy and hanging in front of his currently closed eyes, and his clothes were so dirty they wouldn't have looked out of place on a homeless person. He looked like he had lost weight as well, which wasn't surprising given that the only food Near could see was some fast food wrappers on the floor (and incidentally, he guessed the more disgusting looking ones to be the source of not altogether pleasant smell tingeing the air- a smell that reminded him of rotting fruit and a certain feeling of hopelessness).

"Nearrrr?" Matt slurred from his place on the couch, cracking both eyelids open as one hand reached with practiced ease for the half empty bottle of vodka sitting on the cluttered coffee table. Near grimaced and gingerly made his way to the couch, stepping carefully over months of accumulated trash and clothes and god-knows-what-else littering the stained carpet. He sat down on the sofa and neatly swiped the bottle from Matt's hand to deposit it safely on the floor and out of the redhead's reach. Matt looked for a second in confusion at his empty hand, reflexes dulled by the constant damper of alcohol coursing through his bloodstream.

"You're already drunk," Near said simply, answering Matt's unspoken question. "You don't need any more."

"No, asshole," Matt said. "I was drunk half an hour ago. Now I'm trashed." Near smirked. It was morbidly amusing how articulate Matt managed to remain even when he was absolutely hammered.

Deeming his vodka as a lost cause, Matt instead reached for a small flask under a pile of old magazines. Again, Near neatly swiped it from his hand, earning a contemptuous 'fuck you' from Matt. Near noted as well a few empty pill bottles dotting the floor, little white specks in the overwhelming mess of the apartment. He read off the names silently to himself; morphine, oxycontin, and vicodin before he sighed and said quietly, "Matt, if only your pain were physical, this might actually help."

Matt gave no sign of reacting to Near's almost whispered statement, so Near turned to face the redhead and said more forcibly, "You're too smart for this, Matt."

"Smart?" Matt laughed and Near had a fleeting thought that if he had a lighter he could have easily lit Matt's alcohol saturated breath on fire. "Fucking brilliant, that what we are, innit?" Bloodshot green eyes met steady pale grey ones. "Fucking geniuses. Too smart for our own fucking good. Gotta keep us locked up inna big house, keep us in line, right Near? But what did you knowbout it, huh? You left, dinnit you? Everyone left." Matt let out a strangled sound and reached blindly for a bottle that Near quickly moved.

"Matt…" Near began, but the former gamer cut him off.

"You know what Wammy's was like after you two left? Do you? Dead, fucking dead. Dinnit need us anymore, did they? Dead, s'what it was."

"If it was so horrible, you could have left as well, Matt. There was nothing keeping you there," Near said.

"Not true, issit?" Matt asked, his volume rising significantly. Near flinched inwardly; he had obviously hit some sort of button with Matt. "Had to watch, dinnit I? He mighta come back. I had to wait for Mello." He spat the name as if he was trying to rid himself of a bad taste.

"But he wasn't going to come back," Near said calmly. "Surely you knew that."

"He left me," Matt said, nearly whispering this time. Near was wary of his sudden change in mood; anger he could deal with, sadness… not so much. As luck would have it, a still very drunk Matt slipped back into an alcohol-assisted rage with his next sentence. "He fucking left! Fucking left me!" Matt's balled up fists punched the couch with every word. "He left me and I fucking waited. I waited for so long and I finally left, and I was okay and everything was okay and then he fucking calls. 'N needs my fucking help. And I helped him and then he fucking left again!

Near sat quite still, letting Matt ride out his wave of anger. In a way, he was glad to see Matt furious, instead of with that dead, hollow look he had come to associate with the redhead.

"'N I helped him! I did everything fer him! Pulled him out of a fucking burning building, dinnit I? Listened to him cry when his skin came off! Do you know what that's like, Near, do you?!" Matt's eyes were wide, staring with a helpless sort of desperation at Near.

"I imagine it was quite awful," Near said, as calmly as he could. He knew that he had never been close to Matt, but seeing anyone this way was a disturbing experience.

"Imagine? You don't need to fucking imagine it, do you, you little fucker?!" Matt now turned his irrational fury on Near. "Fucking selfish; thas what you are. Dinnit want his competition anymore, did you? You coulda fucking saved him! You saved me, you coulda saved him!" Matt grabbed two handfuls of Near's shirt and with a surprising amount of strength, pulled Near in close.

Near calmly placed a hand over each of Matt's and pried his fingers from the material. Matt let the fabric slide from under his grip and his arms hung uselessly by his side, anger spent.

"Yes," Near said suddenly, in a monotone that his subordinates had come to identify with only his highest level of anxiety. "Yes, you're right. I could have saved him. But he told me not to. Why do you think I got you away from Takada's bodyguards, Matt? I risked a lot to do that, you know. It was because he came to me and he asked me to save you. And in the same breath, he ordered me to let him carry through with his part of the plan alone. Imagine that? Demanding and begging at the same time. It was so very like him."

"I don't fucking believe you," Matt spat. "You're a fucking selfish bastard, Near, for not doing anything. He wouldna said that, I know he wouldna of!"

"Do you ever think," Near said, his voice chilly, his words practically encased in ice, "that Mello was the selfish one? He didn't ask me to save him because he was scared. Scared that once his plan was pulled off, and got us that much closer to finding Kira, that he would lose his purpose. He didn't want to live in a world where he was number two and he had no grand purpose. He was a coward, Matt. And he left you to deal with the consequences."

"Get out," Matt whispered. When Near made no move to get up, Matt shouted, "Get the fuck out!" Matt's head drooped, and he let out a strangled half-sob, "Please, just get out."

"I'll leave," Near said, before standing and making his way to the door. While he was still on the threshold, he said simply, "Matt, Mello chose to let his life end. Don't let him continue to end yours." Near let the door click shut behind as he headed towards Gevanni and the waiting car in the parking lot. He thought about the broken boy in the apartment behind him and then about the promise that had brought him there. "Sorry," he said quietly to the air. He had never been one for theatrics. "I don't think I can save him from this, Mello."

Reviews? They might inspire me to write something funnier next. =]

Beta-ed by: Emo-Nerdy-Insane-Writer