Disclaimer: don't own, no money. Lyrics - These Few Presidents by Why?

Note: I like Linda. I like Matt. I like them because we don't know anything about them except that they have known these two characters that I think are incredible. And that's got to have left a mark. Something quick I wrote and thought I'd share. Enjoy.

x

The Art of Growing Up

even though i haven't seen you in years
yours in a funeral i'd fly to from anywhere

-

Time has passed and changed the shape of days. Life is different beyond recognition.

Three years ago, Matt thinks, three years ago this wasn't his world. This big wide city, these banks, these office blocks; this was not his life. Everything he knew was encapsulated within the grand walls of the orphanage, trapped behind the imposing face of its doors and behind latched windows. It had been a small and strange world, where everything was twisted, even just a little, and you were never allowed to simply take things for granted. It was, Matt thought, like living life in a snowglobe – tiny, idealised, and always, always under scrutiny.

Not that scrutiny had ever meant anything to Matt. At least, not when he was standing by Mello's side, watching sparks dance between his eyes and the ideas flickering across his mind catch light. At times like that, nothing much else had ever really mattered at all.

The only thing about Mello, though, was inevitably, he changed everything. You found your priorities shifting, and found the way you looked at things distorting. Somewhere along the way - and Matt wants to say 'slowly' but knows that really it happens the second you get a glimpse of the curve of his grin and the glint of his eyes – you end up defining yourself in the shadow of the brilliance he gives off.

And from then, he thinks, there's not much turning back.

He finds himself in London. It's big and it's loud and it's nothing like the secret little gap-between-the-lines kind of reality he tumbled out of, so he settles. It's a terribly restless kind of settling, with no fixed place, a myriad of odd jobs, and ha if Roger could see him now, but it works. It gets him by.

Because as pathetic as he feels admitting it, without the shine of Mello's sun, getting by is all he can hope for.

-

Linda's getting nowhere. She's butting her head up against resistance every which way she turns, and it's like Wammy's hasn't helped her, it's destroyed her.

She is an artist at heart. She always has been. Linda, she's been one of these rare people who feels more than she thinks and can actually manage to turn those feelings into something that makes sense. She feels, on her more poetic days, like some kind of great conduit for the universe to pour its heart out to – and then, in simple strokes of a brush, in delicate pencil lines, she tells its story.

But the orphanage...

The orphanage has broken her down and reforged her into something new and alien. She's been trained in academics, in latitudinal thinking, in all the countries of the world and all the names of all the stars in the sky. She has met such people as she would never have dreamed existed – boys with blank eyes, boys with fire eyes, girls with deviance behind their eyes at the age of ten. She has been taught to want nothing more than the chance to be someone else. And slowly, piece by piece, it has worn her down and changed her.

She was fifth. On test scores and aptitude and all of the little notes and measures they used, she'd come fifth. And she'd stayed fifth, patiently and unproudly, for ten years. The day she walked out of the orphanage and into the world, she told herself that fifth was going to be plenty good enough, thank you very much, and she'd never really wanted to be a detective anyway. She turns her back on Wammy's. They took from her her drive, her dream, and her heart.

They had even taken her name.

But here, in the lights and sounds of the city, in a world filled with silent screams and invisible laughter, she is learning things over. She is teaching herself to feel first and think later and act through paint and paper and ink.

Slowly, she's finding her feet.

-

The park is spread out with starving artists. Some have tents and are beckoning passers-by inside to see their work, others have heavy tarpaulins spread out over the fresh grass.

Most of the paintings, in Matt's opinion, are crap, and he can see why this lot are starving.

And then he sees one of Mello and there's this second where his heart stops.

He sort of realises, then, that he's standing in the middle of a half-crowded park staring at a canvas like he's seen a ghost. He blinks a couple of times. The sun is warm, if not hot, today, but it's early enough that there's still dew on the tips of the grass. It comes together and makes everything feel refreshing, makes everything feel alive. It makes it feel like today could be a day when anything could happen.

Matt looks at the picture again.

It isn't Mello, and then again, it is. It's warped enough to distance it from a portrait, but there's something there, underneath it, in the cut of the blue of his eyes and the hard gold line of his hair –

There's something in the feeling of it all that makes Matt feel sure...

"Matt?"

A woman – the artist, maybe – has appeared from inside a neighbouring tent. He squints in the sun, and then he sees her.

"Linda?"

Her face splits in this smile, and Matt knows exactly how she feels.

-

It's a gradual thing.

It's like the coming together of magnets, when you put the same polarities next to each other. Because they are the same, the two of them – in all the ways that matter. They both know they were never made to be L, they both know they'd rather work things through in their own ways – Linda, with an easel and canvas, and Matt with a computer and keylogger.

And they both knew all too well how they'd made the orphanage their homes, and how much it hurt to be cut loose.

And yeah, it's like magnets. One moves a bit closer and all the forces of physics dictate that the other has to shy away. But little bit by little bit, gradation by gradation, closer they get, until suddenly one spins around and red and blue connect.

Maybe at first, there's this sense of common ground, this sense they're bonding over the things they've lost. They hear about Kira killings on the news and grip each other's hands tightly. They know they're out there, those mad ones, the little boys of fire and ice who have somehow grown into soldiers in the war.

They keep each other close, and there's the unspoken promise to never let go.

-

The call comes on their six month anniversary.

Linda has cooked, because Matt said he was going to do something romantic and she was so terrified he was going to try to use the kitchen that she'd pre-empted him. The romantic thing, it turns out, is sporadic flower deliveries throughout the day of one hundred and fifty three tulips – one, he says, as if she can't work it out herself, for every day they've been together.

So they're sitting down and she's just brought out desert, and his phone rings. He nearly rejects the call, but when he frowns and says "unknown caller", she knows he'll answer. He's always been the cat that curiosity would eventually kill.

She can vaguely make out Matt's name being said over the line, and then all the colour drains from his face.

"Mello?"

Linda freezes. "Mello – Mello?" she mouths, but he's staring wide-eyed ahead.

Mello talks for about a minute, and then hangs up. Matt doesn't say anything else. Numbly, he puts down his phone.

"That was Mello."

"I guessed." She runs a finger down the silver edge of her spoon, and there's a growing feeling of nervousness and inevitability curling in her stomach.

"He needs me."

Linda looks up. There's an awful kind of conflict being waged behind Matt's eyes, and guilt wars with duty on his face. Years, it's been, years and years, with not a word. And now he calls, out of the blue, and just asks

"Go," she says. There's no recrimination in her tone. There's no trick, no challenge. He knows, as well as she does, that she means it.

He plants one final kiss on her lips before leaving. "See you later," he mumurs.

Her hand closes around his and she tips her head to look at him. She doesn't say it, but they both know that there's a very real chance he won't.

"Are you sure?" he asks.

"Aren't you?"

He bites his lip. "Linda..."

She lets go of his hand.

He goes. Secretly, she knew that one day, this day would come for one of them. She always supposed it would be him. She has too few friends from that place left today, and the only one who meant as much to her as Mello did to Matt...

Well, Near's never been big on asking for help. Or needing it, for that matter.

She lets him go with no bitter thoughts and no regrets. She sits back at home, on her own, knowing that her three brave boys have gone out into the war to die.

There is no man who stands the same after battle.

Turns out, she thinks, fifth wasn't good enough after all. And if she's honest with herself, running away from Wammy's was never going to happen.

But with no way back in, she simply sits, and waits, and mourns the loss of love.