First the Worst, Second the Best, Third the Nerd

The rankings had been posted, and Mello had placed second. Again.

He worked himself up into a fury, terrorizing any orphan within a 30-foot radius of himself. If Matt were here, he would've calmed the blond down and gotten him back to their shared room, not worried for his personal well-being because he knew Mello would never dream of hitting him. He would sit Mello down and kiss him senseless, trying to make him forget about the rankings. It would eventually lead to… other things that oftentimes kept all the orphans in the rooms around theirs awake late into the night.

Mello lived for the day rankings were posted.

Wait, what?

No, that couldn't be right. Mello was supposed to hate that horrible day of the month where it was broadcast to all of Wammy's that he was only second, shoved in his face once again that he could never be the best. That he was so close, so close he could taste the teasing flavor of victory, but not achieve it.

Mello hated that day so much he terrorized all the other orphans – including the little kids, who quickly learned to stay out of his way – even more than he usually bullied them. Hated it so much that Near had to be hidden just so that something terrible and Mello-induced didn't happen to the little albino.

Right?

Wrong.

It was all a just flawless act. Mello didn't care that he was second. No, really. The world hasn't gone mad. He didn't care. He never cared. He'd never worked as hard to be first as people seemed to think he did. Now, that's not to say he could stay in first all the time if he wanted to, but he could certainly steal the title away from Near every now and then. He didn't always have to come in second.

But he worked very hard to never go above second place, thank-you-very-much, and he wasn't about to let all that effort wash down the drain.

You'll understand in a moment.

Right now, Mello had some dramatic storming off to do. But it wasn't to his room. See, Matt only wasn't there with him because he was in the infirmary, after falling out of a tree head-first while trying to give Mello a Spider-Man kiss (not many people knew it, but the boy was a huge klutz). He had insisted he do Spidey's part, and even though Mello had argued that the redhead was going to hurt himself like he always managed too, Matt had given him the puppy-eyes (which were just as effective upside-down, by the way) and won out. Then fallen in the middle of their kiss. Nice reflexes, Spider Man. Note the sarcasm.

Anyway, Matt had been unconscious for a half a day now, and Nurse Joye had said he might be out for a few hours longer, and even after that he'd have to be kept under observation for at least the night.

"Hey Matt?" Mello said softly, sitting down on the chair next to Matt's bed in the infirmary.

No response, as was to be expected.

"I got second again."

When he got no reply, Mello just sighed and continued. "You got third, as always. That's why I'm always second, you know. Because you're third. I don't want to be first."

That was the first time he had told anyone this. But he figured Matt, of all people, deserved to know. Even if he was lost in unconscious gamer land (hmm, wonder what that looked like) and wouldn't hear a word Mello said.

"Yeah, shocking right?" Mello laughed. "So I guess you won't have to worry about 'cheering me up' anymore. That's not to say I want you to stop… ranking nights are always… enjoyable."

That was a severe understatement.

"Now we can just do it in celebration," he suggested. "Because I work my butt off all month making sure I get scores better than yours and worse than Near's. Do you know how hard it is maintaining that balance?

"I guess you'd wanna know why I don't want to place first, right? I mean, my anger at Near isn't an act. Little bastard always acts so smug when he beats me. It's a subtle kind of smug, but I can see it, and he knows I can too. I probably don't need to tell you this. You're more observant than even L, when you're not playing your games, so of course you've noticed. But see, if I were chosen as L's successor, you'd don't seriously think I'd be allowed to stay with you, do you? Of course you already know this, but anyone L is close to is a vulnerability. L's not allowed to fall in love. L's not allowed to have a family. It's a weakness, and a smart enemy can pick up on that.

"To me, it just doesn't make sense, you know?" Mello could have sworn he saw Matt's head nod a little, but the fifteen-year-old was still completely unconscious. "Why work so hard for something, when the prize is to lose everything I love? I can't stand the thought of being taken away from you. So why would I work to let you go willingly?"

His logic was sound, if you asked anyone who felt a love like his (and there weren't many). There was simply no point in becoming L, if he couldn't be it with the one he loved by his side. L was only L because from the start L had never loved anyone, so he didn't have to give anyone away. He was fond of, respected, and looked to Watari like a grandfather, but that was about it in terms of relationships. He was never in love like Mello was, and even with that huge brain of his, he couldn't know how it felt.

"I love you, Mail Jeevas," he whispered planting a quick kiss on the redhead's soft, warm lips.

Then Matt stirred, rolled over to face Mello and, eyes not yet opened, muttered something that sounded like. "Fmphng ware sngng ngneb perrngnmb."

"What?" Mello asked, backing off a bit to get a good look at the redhead's beautiful face. His eyes opened, and Mello stared into them, relishing the opportunity to see the emerald orbs without their protective orange shield.

Matt smiled slightly, and mumbled, "First the worst, second the best, third the nerd…" before closing his eyes and falling right back asleep, presumably to dream about Mario and Luigi gettin' it on (this was not from Mello's imagination; Matt had told him he had a reoccurring dream about this).

Second the best, hmm? Yeah, he supposed he was the best.

Mello, in a way, had beaten Wammy's. He was victorious. He had emerged on top. At Wammy's, friends and lovers and even siblings turned against each other easily if it meant moving up in the rankings and getting closer to succeeding L. People didn't allow themselves to grow truly close to anyone, knowing that they would have to give them up if they ever wanted to become L. But Mello, even right at the top of the race, would not compromise Matt for anything, even following in L's footsteps.

Because really, why would he want that, when he could do whatever he wanted with his life, and have his little beloved nerd at his side?