Author's Note: Happy 19th Birthday, Near! Even though I'm not having a cake for you this year, I still love you. Promise.
Merry Christmas in, ah, August, everyone! My last Near's-birthday-fanfiction was winter themed too. There seems to be something about Near that just begs to be in a winter setting. I wonder what it is...
Much thanks to chibi-hime123 for betaing this!
Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note or Bing Crosby.
Stephen was staring at Near, and Near looked like a snowman.
An admittedly strange snowman, because not once in his frosty childhood days had Stephen ever seen a snowman so lean and lithe and lovely, but a snowman nonetheless.
Near knew that Stephen was staring at him, because sometimes it seemed like Near knew everything, so slowly, elegantly, he turned to stare up with coal eyes.
"Gevanni," he prompted and the syllables fell upon Stephen's cheeks like snowflakes. "Is there something you need?"
Stephen could only stare.
Near was just so…
It was downright frightening sometimes.
But at other times it was thrilling and entrancing and delightful because he was like some strange creature out of Grimm's Fairy Tales and at times Stephen would stop working for minutes on end so that he could watch the boy-man-child-adult that was Near.
Stephen still hadn't said a word.
Near sighed, his breath puffing against his train set, billowing against the miniature tracks and trees and vending machines and passengers like a fearsome winter storm. His coal eyes left Stephen, bored already, and gazed deep and dark and dull upon the little world at his little socked feet.
"I would appreciate that you return when you've regained your ability to speak. Until then, leave me alone."
Stephen flushed furiously and took a step forward. "Ah, sorry," he apologized quickly. "Just zoned out for a second there." He laughed weakly.
Near picked up a derailed train, pale, spindly fingers peeking out from their soft, cotton homes. "Chugga chugga choo choo," Near whispered, much to Stephen's surprise. He blinked once, twice, then shook his head vigorously and focused.
"Ah, I was going to say, ah… We—that is, Rester and Lidner and I—we wanted to invite you out to the main room, because we're having a sort of party—well, not a party, more of a get-together, or a gathering, because it's Christmas Eve, so—"
"I wish I could say that I appreciate the invitation, but I do not attend parties, nor do I celebrate Christmas, so it would be more truthful of me to inform you that I couldn't be more uninterested."
Stephen couldn't go back to Rester and Lidner with that answer. He took several urgent steps forward. "Please, Near, I—"
There was a sickening crack.
Heart pounding against his chest like icy snowballs, Stephen lifted his foot and reluctantly looked down at the carnage below.
One of Near's prized dolls lay shattered and mangled against the cold tile.
Near looked like he had been the one smashed and broken.
"Oh, God, Near, I'm so sorry!" Stephen rushed, falling to his knees and inspecting the remains of the doll. Near had made more and more dolls over the years, out of finer and more fragile materials each time. Rester and Lidner and he all anxiously tiptoed around Near's workspace, dreading the day one of them would slip up and crush one. Of course, it was Stephen. Lidner would win those fifty bucks after all.
Near stared at the pale remains. "You broke him." Suddenly, Near looked more like an ice sculpture than a snowman.
"I'm so sorry, really!" Stephen said once again. "I'll help you put him back together, I promise."
"Please stop talking."
Something sounded caught in Near's throat, and Stephen took a closer look at what was once a doll. Like all of his dolls, it had light, smooth skin and great big eyes. This one had been given piercing pinpoints of pupils, a blonde, feminine haircut, and stark, black clothing. It was Mello, and Near was staring down at the replica as if the actual person was dead at his feet.
Stephen glanced back up at Near and found that his coal eyes had closed, leaving nothing but a trembling white lump of snow.
Faint traces of light shimmered down from a high window, snowflakes flurrying past.
The room was so cold. What was wrong with the heating system?
Stephen didn't ease out of his crouch and Near didn't open his eyes.
They were frozen.
Time had frozen.
And as Stephen stared, his eyes locked forever on Near's face, he realized that this boy-man-child-adult was quite alive after all. There was a light dusting of color across his cheeks, and a slight hue of pink in his thin, delicate lips, and his feathery tendrils of hair stirred, and his thin chest rose and fell, and Stephen imagined that if he unbuttoned that loose shirt and pressed his ear to that little chest, there would be a heartbeat other than his own in his ears.
Then Stephen realized that he was fantasizing about Near being shirtless.
He was so thoroughly startled that he tipped over and landed on his bottom, breaking the sudden and isolated ice age that had briefly fallen over them.
Near's coal eyes flashed open, but they didn't look as much like coals as they did the mysterious, beautiful expanse of outer space.
It was so absurd and poetic that Stephen thought he would be sick.
The sound of his first name in Near's mouth was startling.
"I have reconsidered and decided to join you in this Christmas Eve party."
As if this statement alone wasn't shocking enough, Near smiled.
The main room was decked out in true Christmas Eve fashion. Fake garlands and light-bulb-candles were strewn across horizontal surfaces, and a small, pre-decorated white Christmas tree glittered in the corner, a bright red skirt adorned with leaping reindeer arranged around the stand, and Bing Crosby softly crooned White Christmas from iHome speakers. There was only one thing missing.
"You said Rester and Lidner would be here," Near remarked with a slight frown.
"They were here when I left them fifteen minutes ago!" Stephen stammered, wandering about frantically for any signs of his two so-called friends, who he was beginning to worry had tricked him.
"Fifteen minutes?" There was a smirk in Near's voice, and Stephen turned around to see Near slinking towards him, pajama bottoms trailing on the floor. "Does that mean you were waiting outside my door for a good five minutes?"
Stephen gaped down at the boy-man-child-adult, who he just realized was really quite tall now and nearly reached his shoulder. Near raised his chin and gave a devious little grin. His white curls fell messily into his shining black eyes, suddenly very close to Stephen's blue ones. In fact, Near was quite close to Stephen in general, and if Stephen lifted his hand, he could press his hand against Near's heartbeat or trace his collarbone or the line of his neck or his pert nose or run his fingers through those silky curls or—
Stephen stepped back.
"God rest you merry, gentlemen," Bing Crosby suggested.
"There seems to be a note next to the music player," Near observed, ever the world's greatest detective. As Stephen collected himself, Near shuffled over and picked it up, the white paper almost disappearing into his shirtsleeves. "It says, 'Merry Christmas Eve, Stephen and Near. We regret having to miss this wonderful party, but we both have family emergencies and had to leave unexpectedly. We hope you understand and enjoy yourselves. Rester and Lidner.'"
Near lowered the note and looked very seriously at Stephen. "I suspect that the family emergencies were fabricated in an effort to avoid spending Christmas Eve with their boss. I am perfectly willing to leave if you think you'll be able to convince them to return in time. I wouldn't want to ruin your evening."
It hurt Stephen somewhere deep in his chest to see Near looking so unconcerned about being unwanted.
"Don't be ridiculous!" Stephen's mouth burst out. His feet tripped towards Near's form and his hand reached out to pat down on his bony shoulder. "I don't know what happened to Rester and Lidner, but I can't think of anyone better to spend Christmas Eve with than you."
Near smiled sadly and gently removed Stephen's hand, his fingers like cold little butterfly feet. "I appreciate the sentiment, but we both know that my lack of Christmas spirit would be quite the downer."
Stephen could only watch in amazement as his brave head shook and his brave mouth protested and his brave arm linked elbows with Near and his brave legs led them both to the couch, where they sat with a gentle puff.
After a few moments, Stephen wrestled his bravery into submission and pulled his arm away from Near, who was looking unsettlingly intrigued by the situation.
Stephen cleared his throat and gestured towards the coffee table, where an assortment of beverages and baked goods and vegetables were laid out. "Lidner made cookies," he informed the still smirking Near. "Half of them are yours. They're gluten-free and barely have any sugar, and Rester said they're horrible, so she must have done something right." Stephen chuckled a bit to himself and Near's smirk widened. "And then we have vegetables for you, and warm soy milk, but Lidner was joking about spiking it, so I'm not sure I would drink it if I were—"
Cool snowman lips pressed against Stephen's.
"I'll be home for Christmas," Bing Crosby assured them.
For several endless seconds, Stephen stared uncomprehendingly into wide coal eyes, and felt warm breath against his slack mouth and soft cotton against his neck.
This was Near, the mythical creature, the world's greatest detective, the boy-man-child-adult, the snowman, and all Stephen could think was, "Whowhatwherewhenwhyhow?" but even that much couldn't come out of his mouth.
Near shifted his weight and climbed further onto the couch until he was seated right in Stephen's lap, somehow both heavier and lighter than Stephen had imagined.
Feather light fingers tiptoed across Stephen's cheekbones and slinked into his bangs, sweeping them out of his eyes. "You're extraordinarily attractive when you're surprised, Stephen Gevanni."
Near could have been sitting right on Stephen's diaphragm and he would've had less trouble breathing than he did now. "I'm afraid I don't understand," he whispered and the words came out as flimsy and tremorous and intricate as snowflakes.
There was a catch in Near's breathing, and he ducked his head ever so slightly, just enough for curly bangs to brush Stephen's forehead like eyelash kisses. "I was always alone," Near murmured, and his hands slipped down to rest against Stephen's shoulders.
"It never bothered me because L was alone and I was going to be L, so it seemed inevitable. Mello ran away when he was fourteen, you know. He was always with Matt, but when it came down to it, when he finally had to be L, he was alone too." He paused. "But that's not really true. Because when he ran away, he had the Mafia, and when he left the Mafia, he had Matt back. He was never really alone." Near fell silent for a moment and his hands continued their journey down, now smoothing down the center of Stephen's chest and resting at his sternum. Stephen's could feel his heart pounding furiously against his ribcage and wondered if Near could feel it too.
"The other day I was looking into L's last case, the Kira case, and I found out something interesting." Near brought his gaze back up and his eyes were so bright and dark that Stephen's breath caught. "L wasn't alone." This was news to Stephen as well, so he forced himself to focus on this rather than the feel of Near's long fingers against his chest.
"Roger didn't give us all the files when we were younger. There was a sort of journal that L kept, reporting on the little details of the case. It began predictably detailed, but a few days into Kira's imprisonment with L, there was this sudden flood of information. Little things about Kira drinking coffee and fidgeting and having creases in his brow and saying witty things, and it was all in the same detached voice, but you could just tell that L was paying so much attention. It was wrong." Near's fingers curled into fists and his thin arms shook.
"Then suddenly, it stopped." Near's eyes closed and a crease formed between his barely-there brows. "Something happened, and I think I know what it was." Stephen waited, anticipating what this genius little boy-man-child-adult had unearthed.
"L fell in love with Kira."
Well, Stephen certainly hadn't been expecting that.
"Impossible," he said reflexively.
Near opened his sad coal eyes and gave a little smile. "That's what I thought too at first, but then I realized something." Near pushed in close, the tip of his nose brushing against Stephen's.
"What?" It was barely more than a quavering breath.
Near leaned in even more and mumbled against Stephen's lips, "I don't want to be alone anymore either."
Stephen couldn't believe his ears. The wisdom, the innocence, the complexity of this boy-man-child-adult. Shakily, carefully, he reached his arms very deliberately around Near's form, humming in appreciation.
With a sound halfway between a gasp and a laugh, Near threw his arms around Stephen's neck and hugged him as close as his weak arms could manage.
"It's always been my unofficial job to protect you," Stephen murmured. "If you don't want to be alone anymore, I won't let you be."
"How can you make that kind of promise?" Near questioned softly with faint traces of terror in his voice.
Stephen frowned. "Well, I can promise that I'll try my best."
"What if your best isn't good enough?"
It took another moment, but Stephen finally understood what Near was getting at. "If you live in fear of death, you can't really live."
Near exhaled into the crook of Stephen's neck and Stephen heard "Everyone I've ever loved has died" in the air.
"It's Christmas Eve," Stephen noted with a smile. "That means it's a time of change and celebration and new beginnings."
Near hummed noncommittally. "I'm an atheist, you know."
Stephen chuckled in reply. "The sentiment still counts," he insisted, and Near simply snuggled closer in response.
"Soon it will be Christmas Day," Bing Crosby promised.