Plot stuff ahead.

If she hadn't studied Japanese in college just to be closer to a cute blonde boy with a guitar and a nipple ring from her dorm, if she hadn't been such a great fucking secret service agent, if she hadn't answered that call from Mason to join the SPK, then she wouldn't be here. Here with three naked, panting, moaning… foetuses, and one dim-bulb hotshot who snores.

None of those bad decisions would have stopped Kira – just subtracted her from this shitty situation. Where would she be in that case? Other than stars and stripes and a three bedroom home to herself she doesn't want to think about it. With her mind in this weird state of idle meandering, she thinks of the situation. She thinks about what happened four days ago.

For a moment the three Americans shifted uncomfortably on the second floor platform of last resort. The locks were all undone and the door was cracked open.

"Near?" goggled eye behind the dead-bolted crack in the door had asked. "You must be desperate to come here," the kid said, allowing Near inside, and rudely shutting out the other two. Five deadbolts slid and clicked into place once more.

They had waited a while outside the door, listening through the steel. After a few more minutes the deal was struck and the door was opened once again, and the agents let in.

Mello's apartment. The light inside was dim, the furniture sparse. Confortable chairs, shitty tables. Clean, but disorderly. Lived in. The taller boy matched his surroundings, he had dyed his hair badly, the black over red looked almost green, but he ends were recently trimmed. One tenth of the way between luxury and squalor.

Mello, they recognized from before. His voice had a cutting edge to it. In comparison, Matt's harsh words came out soft and fell right to the floor. But Mello's voice filled every corner of a room and lingered, soaking the paint on the walls, tatami mats, the skin of the listener. He stood so proudly, even in the rundown surroundings. And even with the left side of his face covered in ragged skin he still looked beautiful to her. She wasn't so green as to consider that an accident, since he had taken his time to answer Near at the door, and because people didn't typically wear jewellery, boots, and even a little bit of makeup. And as long as her clarity of thought produced such reason she didn't consider herself to be nursing a crush. But she was always a bit stubborn that way…

"Lidner, Giovanni, Mello and Matt have agreed to let us stay here. They will let us continue our reconciliation efforts, and help where they can, with only a few conditions…" Near's voice came out unfaltering as he explained the terms that they had gone over.

She couldn't believe that Mello would be so outrageous, that his friend would have gone along with it, and that Near would accept it.
When she questioned her former boss he turned and looked her in the eye, in an attempt to be reassuring. "I understand that this is not ideal… for any of us really. It was all I could manage. I hope that you are not too… uncomfortable."

She remembered sitting on the couch so stiffly – her and Giovanni; How they made Near strip and taunted him.

Giovanni glared at Mello the whole time. And she felt something that she hadn't encountered since the last time that Mello and Near met, when Mello broke in to her heavily surveilled apartment in New York and did something outrageous. He would always do outlandish things, as if he had the power to turn fantasy into reality. She'd felt it every time they met – he was like something that shouldn't be able to exist in real life, but he pushed his way into her world and made things like what she was experiencing now, surreal things, happen.

She was almost jealous of him, almost jealous of his lovers, but mostly wondered what it would be like if she had never heard Kira's name. If no one did.

She wondered again now as she drifted off to sleep.

Earlier that day, across town in a much nicer apartment in a much richer neighbourhood, someone else wondered the same.

Yassa Yamatto looked out of the window of his girlfriend's apartment at the sleeping city below and saw putrefying core. If the apartment had been facing south he could have seen the gardens of Kira's palace, but he preferred this view of the downtown core, it was more authentic.

He laughed smugly, sipping a third glass of wine, and then looked down at it coldly.

"Grapes rotting on the vine." he mused.

"What?" the bespectacled girl reading on the couch smirked, recognizing the slight slur in his voice.

He didn't answer immediately, and she was used to this. He was thoughtful about what he said at the best of times, but the liquor slowed his train of thought. As she watched his nearly unmoving form she let her eyes slip into red-vision, the disorienting view that showed the world in foggy rust tones with people's names and lifespans floating above their head. His numbers fluctuated sometimes, and today they were lower than usual, and always much lower than average. If he turned around while she was doing this he would see her eyes flash an unnerving red color.

"Grapes make wine because the sugars basically rot to form alcohol by a controlled process. A bunch of grape mash left to sit on its own just rots. The world is rotten, but Kira can save it. Like a benevolent overseer, Kira is building a better world. It's something I heard at school after I joined the acolytes," he sighed.

"Right, right. Something about how Lord Kira is a necessity for humanity to reach its full potential. I remember my Doctrine professor say that the rotting was a natural process, just as God wills it, but without Kira to guide it the result will be a failed concoction. You need a winemaker to make wine; You need God to make us reach our full potential. "

"Such bullshit," she laughed.

He paused a moment and looked at her, although quick, she could discern the red flash in his eyes. Possibly that statement had sent her own numbers tumbling, Nori wryly chuckled. But neither would tell the other.

"It's almost eleven, have you drank enough courage to head out yet?"

Yamatto drained his glass. "Yeah," he replied, "Let's go."

Yama and Nori never met with Skye anywhere near Kira's palace, and although most identities were known within the group, none of them used their real names. For purposes of the meeting, Nori was Ling and Yamatto was Nix.

They met on the upper floor of a nightclub this time, but when they got to their private room only two of the three expected members were there.

A young, cute-looking college student with soft brown ringlets and stylish clothes greeted them. "I already swept up in here," she smiled, "we won't be having any bug problems." That was great, because if they did then it meant Kira's secret police were onto them and they were all dead anyway.

"Yuki ordered food, so the waiter will come in once, and then hopefully leave us be. We've got the room for two hours," a sturdy looking young man in glasses added.

"Thanks, Knox. We didn't recognize anyone on the way in," Ling said, adding to the pool of information.

"Hey," a cold voice greeted from behind Ling and Nix, attempting to sound cheerful.


"Yuki, Knox, have you had any bites trying to contact L, or the SPK? Anyone?"

"We know of a few other splinter groups, like us, are still active but the latest fishing trip hasn't brought anything new in, and the others don't seem to have the connections that we do, so it's best not to risk exposure to them."

"You've got your finger on it, though?"

"As much as I can."

"Every fishing trip exposes us a little more. If we don't get any bites from the Zakuro Club flier then we'll lay low for a while."

"Any reason for that, boss?" Nix asked.

They were interrupted by the waiter's knock, and politely accepted the food he brought, changing their subject immediately to idle chatter.

"You were late, Skye. Boyfriend wouldn't let you go?" joked Yuki.

"Waiter, I'd like to put in a drink order. Are you guys having anything?" Nix griped.

"No drink orders," Ling snapped dismissively.

"Boyfriend. As if. I just had trouble slipping out," their leader apologized as she sat down, "Things are going to get a little more tight for me, so I might not see you guys for a while."

The waiter left with a quick smile and nod.

"Were you serious about that last part? Anything we need to know about?" Knox questioned, seriously.

"Not particularly, it's a personal matter. But unless I can convince my family otherwise, I'll probably be married soon."

Yuki chuckled, "Seriously."

"It's an arranged marriage. I have to go to an Omai," Skye said gravely, "With Teru Mikami."

"I bet you want that drink order now, huh?" Nix whispered slyly to Ling.

Yup, an update. Please tell me what you think. It's been over a year, anyone reading this?