Inspired by Sins of the Father and Under One Roof by Sarapsys. Her vision of the House got me thinking about what it was like when M and N left.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nothing at all.
Debasement: To lower the value, quality, or status of something or someone
The food got worse.
At the time, it almost seemed unimportant; a tiny, seemingly inconsequential detail when compared to the shock of current events in the House. Years later however, Matt would look back to it as the tipping off point, the calm before the storm. And on his darker days, it would bring a sort of morbid smile to his face when he realized that the beginning of the end of his life at the House was foretold by the quality of his mashed potatoes.
The food at the House had always been exceptional- not that Matt had ever bothered to notice. (But of course, now he had time to concentrate on the little details- now that M and N were gone and— no, it was best not to think too hard about that; it wasn't worth the pain.) The lowest ranking dishwasher at Wammy's could have been a head chef at a five star restaurant. That was what a seemingly unlimited budget will get, and of course only the best was provided for the genius children of the House.
However, L's successors were really only worth the weight of the future services they would provide for the world, and towards the end- those last, twilight days before the news of L's death rocked the foundations of the House- the House came to exist solely for two reasons. Both those reasons disappeared shortly after L's death- one running, a wraith-like shadow in the middle of the night without even a whispered goodbye, the other locking himself in his room for weeks on end before leaving early one morning in an armored car without even a glance back at the place that had raised him from infancy.
And so it didn't shock Matt one evening when he drug a fork through his mashed potatoes and noted with dull surprise that they were the kind from the box and not the fluffy, buttery product he had eaten for the entirety of his time at the House. Matt wasn't number three for nothing, and while the other children continued to shovel forkfuls of processed potatoes into their mouths and fill the dining hall with lively chatter, Matt took the time to silently process the unspoken message in his dinner plate. It was at once both a subliminal statement and accusation to the children that were left. 'You will not succeed L. You are not good enough. We no longer have a use for you.'
Matt saw that message everywhere. He saw it in the slipping quality of the food- more than half of the kitchen staff had been let go; after all it was no longer useful to serve the every whim of children who now were no better than insufferable geniuses without purpose. He saw it too when three of his usual classes were canceled when the teachers left as the pay plummeted. It was there in the buildup of dust on the windowsills of the upper floors that left a gritty, grey coating as Matt trailed his fingers aimlessly walking the halls, and again when his laundry was returned a full two weeks after it had been taken to be washed.
Even though some of the younger ones didn't know the exact reason, every child began to feel the changing atmosphere of the house, though none as harshly as Matt. It was almost as if the House was physically rejecting their presence, covering their footprints in dust and swallowing their voices in the dark, wooden halls. The feelings built and grew until, two months after M and N had fled, nearly all of the older children had gone.
At first it was just A and Z, claiming they were the farthest from succeeding L anyway, and speaking the truth when they said no one would miss them. W, C, F, and X quickly followed suit and packed their few belongings, leaving those iron gates and immediately assimilating into the real world to follow lives and careers of their own choices. Briefly, Matt considered joining the exodus, throwing his laptop and a spare change of clothes in a backpack and going to look for M. But where would he go? If Mello didn't want to be found, he wouldn't be. So Matt stayed in the House where he had never quite belonged- being the second M had always seemed a cruel joke, until he became the only one and wished desperately for things to return to the way they had been- on the off chance that Mello would return.
Of course, Matt would never admit that that was his real motive for staying. He continued to lie, mostly to himself- since there was no one left to really lie to. First, he stayed because he had to finish the programming on his latest project- the one he had started before things had changed. Once that was done, he stayed because he needed to secure new ID's and passports for the children that had decided to leave- it was the nice thing to do, helping them (never mind that he had never once in his life done something just because it was nice). After that, he stayed to help watch the smaller ones since the minimal staff that Wammy's now employed clearly had their hands full. But even that task came to end as, one by one; the children too young to leave on their own were transferred to various homes across the country. And always, always in the back of his mind, Matt waited for the front door to slam open and a familiar, demanding voice to ring out and finally give Matt the freedom to leave.
But that never happened, and eventually- not fast enough to surprise him, but slowly enough to scare him- Matt ran out of reasons to stay. He had done as much as he could through his connections to ensure him a comfortable life out of the House- but of course, he wouldn't (couldn't) leave until he knew for certain that M would not return. There were no children left to help or to watch.
The realization that he was the sole successor left in the House didn't set in properly until one chilly morning when Matt awoke and realized, for the first time in his thirteen years there, he couldn't hear anything. There was no sound; no one talking in their sleep, or up early to work on an assignment. No sounds of quick footfalls as a late night adventurer returned to their room undetected, nor was there the noise of the cook staff preparing breakfast in the vast, empty kitchen. He was the only one left and- it hurt to realize- there was no one left to care. Not even Roger, who after the deaths of Quillish and L and the subsequent loss of M and N had kept up the façade of caring for the remaining children quite well, had stayed. Matt was alone.
Matt spent the first day of solitude in complete silence. For the first time in years, he turned off every piece of electronic equipment he owned; a strange sort of peace settling over him as he watched the screens blink out one by one. Then he slowly made his way up to the fourth floor, muffled footfalls echoing through the empty space as motes of dust glinted in shafts of light thrown through against the dark walls. There was a windowsill up on the fourth floor, fifth window in from the staircase to be specific, where he and Mello had carved their names when they were seven. M & M. The only set of double letters to exist in the house. At the time they didn't realize the significance of that bond, and now seven years later, Mello still didn't see it. Matt did though. He was the second M, and it was his job to wait for his chance to help the first M in any way he could.
But now, tracing his fingers over the rough splinters of wood in a comforting pattern, the second M realized that he couldn't wait any longer. The House was dead. It was a ship that had already disappeared beneath the waves, and Matt barely had his head above the surface, fighting desperately to avoid being sucked under in its wake.
It didn't even take him ten minutes to stuff his life into a single backpack and have it slung over his shoulder. And like M and N and all the other children before him, Matt didn't turn back to say goodbye to the House. He merely pushed open the creaking, iron gate and silently slipped through. He would find his purpose beyond the House, in the world, and maybe, just maybe, he would find M along the way.
Reviews? I'd love some.
This could be seen as a sort of prequel to Selfish, so if you enjoyed this you should give it a shot.
Beta-ed by: Emo-Nerdy-Insane-Writer