A/N: I'm sorry for having been m.i.a for such a long time. ;_; I hope to get back to updating my fics, but as I've mentioned in the author's notes for some of my stories, my fall wasn't exactly happy, and got even worse towards the end of the year. My spring term doesn't look much brighter, although I did get some of my energy back during the two weeks I spent in Tokyo after Christmas. :3 Anyways, I'm afraid I'll be slower than ever, and I hope you guys can still find it in yourselves to be as understanding and kind as you have always been. I also apologize for not having replied to some of you - I hope you know I adore every single comment you take the time to write, and I'm very grateful for each and every one of your kind words.

Please review? It would make me insanely happy and boost my inspiration, too.

Oh yeah, someone asked about the ages of the boys. Light and L are 20-something - I'm guessing 23-25. Mello and Matt are around 19-20, and Near is ~18. :) Technically, this makes Near and Matt underage in Japan, but when has that ever stopped any of the Wammy kids?

Chapter 2

Keeping Up With the Joneses

Days that started with hangovers rarely ended any better.

This one was certainly showing an inclination to prove the point.

"But why does he insist on talking to us now?" Light groaned as he followed L from their Nissan Skyline (or rather, L's Skyline; it would have seemed odd for a regular Japanese student to have a fancy car when you could get everywhere by train, but it was common knowledge that L was a rich kid and, despite his appearance, a bit of a showoff) to the elevator. "He should know pretty damn well that we're hellishly busy right now, with the Cerberus landing within an hour and all, and didn't Roger just say he's not even here? Where was it again? Hawaii?"

Dear gods, Christian or Japanese or Mayan for all he cared, how he would have liked to be there as well... Watari had better bring them shiny new gadgets to aid their job if he still wanted Light to keep working for him. And a car of his own would be nice, too. Something that would make L's Skyline look like a tricycle.

"That's what he said, but I believe he's on an assignment, Light-kun, and please do not refer to my cousins as mythological monsters. I'm fairly certain that he's not on Hawaii, and absolutely certain that he's not on vacation. He probably wants to berate us on last night's failure – though I don't know why he insisted that we come to his office when he's presumably out of the country." L flashed his key card, hit the button that read 23 (it was unavailable without the key), and leaned back to the mirrored wall of the elevator as the doors closed. "He wouldn't risk being seen at the office if he's officially not in Japan, would he?"

"Hardly," Light admitted. "Perhaps he left someone to explain things to us. At any rate, it's safer to contact us through his personal channel, rather than call us, and maybe that's the reason."

Quillish Wammy, L's guardian and adopted father and now their employer, was a very powerful man. He had worked as an inventor when he had been young, and many of his inventions were now used for military or espionage purposes; his intelligence was remarkable, and his numerous bank accounts (some of which were used exclusively on charity) under at least a dozen of different names were practically overflowing. In addition to that, he was an excellent cook, a self-learned mechanic, a devoted gardener, and a brilliant sniper, had a black belt in karate and studied Swahili and medical herbs in his spare time. Watari was, in Light's opinion, James Bond plus forty years and a touch of Sherlock Holmes and Gandhi.

Light admitted that though both he and L were over twenty, he still regarded the elderly man with the utmost respect and awe, and he knew that so did L, despite having grown up in his care. In their mind, there was absolutely nothing that Watari couldn't do.

This, of course, included ditching them, telling everyone he had gone to Hawaii, and leaving L and Light to do his job both as snatchers and as role models and caretakers for three young men. Watari was certainly the only person who could do that to them and live to tell the tale, that much was sure.

"Ah, finally!" a new voice greeted them when the elevator doors slid open, letting them into a wide white corridor bathing in golden light. There was a young Japanese man standing on the red carpet covering the marble floor; his hair was longish and curled at the ends, his suit was flawlessly ironed in a way that revealed he had spent hours to make it look like that, and he seemed to have troubles deciding what to do with his restless hands.

"You must be Kira-sama and Ryuzaki-sama!" he said, making it sound like a declaration. "Nice to meet you! My name is Touta Matsuda! I'm your new assistant!"

L and Light blinked and slowly turned to look at each other. Is excessive use of exclamation marks illegal? their eyes asked.

"Nice to meet you, Matsuda-san," Light replied smoothly, smiling and extending his hand to shake Matsuda's. "I'm Kira, and this scarecrow here is Ryuzaki. I don't think Watari said anything about a new assistant...?"

The man didn't strike him as the sharpest crayon in the box, but unlike L, he seemed to have a natural talent for social situations, and he was quick to pick up on the unvoiced question Light had left dangling in the air.

"Ah, I think I was meant to be Watari-san's assistant," he said, grinning nervously and scratching the back of his neck. "But he had to leave unexpectedly before he could brief me in all this stuff... He said he hoped you would teach me something about your job while he's away."

"I see," Light muttered, glancing at L. The raven-haired man shrugged and breezed past Matsuda towards Watari's office. "I'm sorry, but we must be very careful. Do you have any way to prove that you were indeed sent by Watari?"

Matsuda looked crestfallen, and Light felt like he had just kicked a puppy. "Um, no... but he's going to call you in a minute, then he can tell you himself!" he added suddenly, his expression brightening enough to put Light's name in shame.

Light blinked, stunned by the variety of expressions this face could show within two minutes, but fixed it quickly into a warm smile. "That's good. Let's go to the office, then."

Guided by either punctuality or his apparently supernatural senses, Watari was on the line the moment Light had settled down on the other armchair in front of the man's desk, L had kicked off his sneakers and drawn his knees up, and Matsuda had closed the door. The eager assistant-in-training rushed to press the button next to Watari's keyboard and turned the flat screen around so that Light and L could see the video as well.

"Good morning, boys," the elderly man greeted them. He was in what looked like a luxurious five star hotel room, pulling on a tuxedo as he nodded at them.

"Good morning, Watari," L and Light replied in unison, glanced at each other and added, with an appropriate amount of shame, "We're sorry for failing last night."

The man was waving a hand with a good-natured smile before they had even finished their sentence. "Don't worry about it – the Yotsuba case has been postponed for now. You have a new, more urgent case at hand."

"Mello is urgent, that's true," L mused.

"Ah, yes. He is, too." Watari smiled gently and turned to a mirror to fix his tie. "But I was, actually, referring to another troublesome blonde. There is a damsel in distress."

"Tokyo will be full of damsels in distress when the source of our distress lands," Light grumbled. He had never met the rest of L's family in real life but he had heard quite enough, and had talked with the demon cousins over the Internet. He knew them as well as anyone could know someone they had never met in real life. "Why is this so urgent? It won't be easy to hide all this from the Hydra -"

"Light-kun, what did I tell you about nicknaming my relatives?"

"Shut up, Gorgon."

"... My gaze does not turn people into stone..."

"Matsuda-san," Watari's calm voice interrupted their bickering, "I can't see you, so I presume you are hiding behind the camera. Please give Kira and Ryuzaki their files concerning the case. If there are any problems, contact me through Matsuda-san."

Wait – Watari wasn't even going to tell them about this urgent case topped with a distressing dam- no, a damsel in distress himself? And he was telling them they were only allowed to contact him through Touta "I just started today!" Matsuda? Now this was a bit too much, they had to draw a line somewhere...

"Excuse me but -" the bounty hunters started, once again in unison, but were effectively silenced by the sight of Watari holstering a Beretta 92G Elite under his tuxedo.

"Yes?" the elderly man asked with a serene smile, looking for all the world as if he hadn't just stuffed a gun into his breast pocket. "I must ask you to hurry; I'm expected at the casino downstairs in five minutes. I have a meeting with a Miss Kiyomi Takada..."

L and Light blinked at the mention of this infamous criminal lord – or lady – who had narrowly escaped from them six months ago. The woman was not only intelligent and greedy, but extremely well guarded, and the loyalty of her men made her very dangerous.

"I trust that you have a couple of paramedics around, just in case?" L asked rather than stated with a tinge of worry in his otherwise expressionless voice.

"Oh, I hope Takada-san and her guards will not need their aid," Watari replied airily, reaching out to his laptop to end the connection. "I must go now. I wish you the best luck with your new assignment – and the case as well."

The screen went blank, and silence fell over the three men.

"He has the utmost confidence in himself," L muttered after a while, wiping a hand across his eyes – much the same way as Watari did every time L did something reckless or appeared overly confident. Matsuda nodded quietly, still staring at the screen in awe.

Light shook his head and got up from his armchair, stretching his back and glancing at the grandfather clock decorating the corner behind the desk. Holy Trinity was going to land in twenty minutes, and it would take from forty-five minutes to an hour before they would be ready to leave Narita Airport. Unfortunately, most of those final blessed minutes of peace and silence would have to be used on driving to the airport...

… But come to think of it, how exactly were they going to pile themselves, three boys in their twenties and their luggage for a month in L's Skyline? They could manage everything else, but the luggage?

Allowing a sweet, lovable smile to stretch his lips, Light turned to the newest addition to their team. "Hey, Matsuda-san...? Did you come by car?"

Light had only seen pictures of his partner's adopted cousins (adopted in every way, since no one in their peculiar family was actually related to any other member of it), but even if he hadn't, he had heard enough stories to be able to tell them apart from regular people miles away.

Mello was walking in the middle like a mob boss, a thumb hooked under the studded belt hanging dangerously low on his hips, just like his leather pants – who the hell wore leather pants in bright daylight on a Thursday morning, especially for a long overnight flight, anyway? Who the hell wore leather pants at all? The blond's other hand, clad in a black leather glove, was clasped around the handle of a wheeled Luis Vuitton trolley case; his eyes (and half of his face) were covered by wide, dark pink sunglasses, and his rosary swayed from side to side in rhythm with his hips, comped by the steady beat of his combat boots hitting the floor.

The redhead walking next to him had to be Matt, then. The boy was walking in a much more relaxed manner, practically sauntering, yet managing to keep up with his blond friend's pace. He had probably practiced this... Dragging a black Samsonite along, a laptop bag slung over his shoulder, he followed a step and a half behind Mello like a bodyguard.

Dressed more casually in faded, torn jeans, a D&G belt, a striped long-sleeved shirt and a Mouton vest, he could have looked like any normal fashionable young man, if it hadn't been for the orange-tinted goggles covering his eyes; but the goggles were there, screaming "geek" as much as Mello's appearance screamed "gay", and the toothpick jammed tightly between his lips told Light that despite his calm demeanor, Matt was rather nervous – about going abroad or going outdoors in general, he wasn't sure – and was hoping to replace the toothpick with a cigarette as soon as possible.

That left Near, who was trudging some steps behind his adopted brothers, wrapped up in a white coat that fell halfway down to his thighs, and with a practical gray suitcase trailing after him, attached to his thin wrist by a strap. The youngest boy was sweeping the terminal with an disinterested gaze, stopping only shortly when his eyes met Light's. The older man was impressed to see that the white-haired boy could lead his two friends to his direction even while trailing after them and keeping his mouth shut; maybe he had telepathic skills?

"Light Yagami, I presume," Mello droned in fluent Japanese as he stomped to a halt in front of him, eying the taller man from head to toes and back as if to decide whether or not he was worthy of living with his cousin.

"You presume correctly, Mello," Light drawled back, bowing shortly at them. "I hope your flight was comfortable?"

"Endurable," Mello replied, scanning their surroundings from behind the pink glasses. "Did L send you?"

What did that little MySpace celeb think he was, L's butler?

"Actually," Light returned smoothly, "I sent him to get us some coffee. He's such a darling, always so obedient..." He trailed off, allowing a slow smirk to settle on his lips as he focused his eyes on the half amused, half irritated man standing behind their three guests.

"Light-kun," L chided him, "don't confuse them. They're going to think you're talking about someone else."

The trio whirled around at his voice; Mello opened his mouth to shout in glee, Near's serious face conjured up a little smile, and Matt latched onto one of the two take away coffees L was holding.

"Oh, coffee! Thank you, sweet God!" he gasped, downing half of the hot beverage in a few gulps.

"... 'L' will suffice," L murmured, eying the stolen cardboard cup and then turning to blink his wide eyes at Light. "That," he informed his flatmate gravely, "just happened to be yours."

"I figured," Light replied dryly. "If it had been yours, the poor kid would have either spat it out immediately, or fainted from the sugar overdose."

Matt turned to look at him, apparently back in this world now that he had gotten his coffee fill. "Sorry," he said, looking vaguely embarrassed. "Want the rest?"

"No, go ahead," Light smiled, "you probably need it more than I do, anyway." Even though I'm still hungover... "I would have L share his with me, but seventy percent of it is sugar, so the amount of coffee wouldn't be of any use even if I could force it down my throat."

L looked a little hurt. "Don't insult me with such approximate numbers, Light-kun – it's at least seventy-three percent sugar, which is the perfect combination of sugar and coffee." He demonstrated the drinkability of his coffee by taking a few sips of it, all the while eying Light intently. "And some caramel syrup," he added.

Near cleared his throat. "Did you come by car?" he hinted.

"Ah, yes," Light was quick to catch on the plot, and started herding them towards the parking lot before they could attract any more attention. After they had piled the boys' luggage in the trunk of Matsuda's sedan (the man had been left at the office, looking after L's Skyline), the younger trio was ushered to the backseat, where Near was unceremoniously squished between the other two who demanded window seats.

"How are we going to be sleeping?" Near asked after Light had started the car, maneuvered out from the parking lot, and proceeded to take them to the highway.

"Horizontally and with your eyes closed, I hope," Light muttered, and then had no one but himself to blame when the image of Mello sleeping upside down, hanging from the ceiling like a bat, popped up in his mind.

"Your arrival was rather unexpected," L said, as if to apologize though his voice was far from apologizing, "so I'm afraid we can't do better than futons and the couch in the living-room."

The silence that seeped from the backseat exceeded any amount of noise the trio would have been able to produce if they had been screaming at the top of their lungs.

"No," Near said in a very decisive tone. "Just no. Mello and Matt need a room. With a door. A thick door, with a lock. And thick walls. Twenty inches thick would do. And no windows. Or at the very least, a room that is not the one I sleep in."

"Yeah," Matt agreed, "because we're kinda sleeping together, and Near totally isn't."

"We're totally sleeping together," Mello corrected, "and Near kinda isn't."

"I can almost hear a yet at the end of that statement," Light sniggered. "Mello wants it all?" He could have cracked a joke or two more, but didn't dare – yet, at least. The sleeping arrangement – or whatever – between the three seemed to be a little up in the air.

"I'm astonished that neither of you is even feigning shock," Mello said, sounding a little disappointed and deftly ignoring Light's half-question.

"When you've lived with Light-kun for as long as I have, it's going to take more than a little rainbow-colored chit-chat to shock you," L replied levelly.

"Oh, aren't you the innocent one..." Light grumbled.

After hauling the three guests and their luggage up the stairs and into their apartment, meeting Naomi Misora and Raye Penber briefly in the corridor (Misora was currently on the phone about changing the lock of their door, and Penber just nodded and smiled when Light stopped to apologize for his earlier behavior; he seemed to find it amusing and perhaps even a little endearing that their new neighbors were hard-working law students during day and turned into wild party animals at night.) they left the trio unpacking and making themselves at home to return Matsuda's car.

"Alright," L said as they were waiting for the traffic lights to change, shuffling through the case folder Matsuda had given him while Light drove, "once we've gotten my car and sent Matsuda on his way, I think you should take me straight to Shimbashi train station. That way I should make it in time to meet with Rem-san, the manager of our new customer, at four thirty."

Light nodded and was the first to take off when the light changed. "I just still don't get it. Shimbashi? Why on Earth Shimbashi?"

"Amane-san is fairly famous," L muttered as he focused on the page of Misa Amane's biography. The folder was, in general, a printout of the scene star's official website – excluding the cleverly imbedded lines instructing one, and just one, of them to meet up with the manager at 4:30 pm, dressed "casually but stylishly". This had caused some debate between them; in the end, Light had managed to make him look like any other young man in Tokyo with relatively slight changes, one of them being that he now wore torn jeans two sizes smaller than his usual.

To the curious looks of their guests L had just said that he had been blackmailed into an outing with his co-workers from the store he was supposedly working at, and they had seemed to accept it.

"Well, I guess Rem-san will tell you more," Light shrugged as he turned into the parking garage under the office building. Matsuda was standing in the exact same spot they had left him in, guarding L's Skyline; he was the perfect example of taking one's job way too seriously. Light could easily imagine him growling fiercely at every single person walking past him to warn them off.

After changing cars and promising to contact Matsuda the next day, Light took L to the Shimbashi station and headed home to see what was left of it. They had left the termites alone, after all.

God, was this how parents usually felt when they were forced to leave their children home alone?

Misora and Penber had disappeared from the corridor, and much to his surprise, the trio was lounging rather peacefully in the living-room – Matt was sitting at the small dinner table with his laptop, Near was lying on the floor building a castle of domino pieces, and Mello was sprawled across the couch and watching television.

It had a strangely homely feeling about it, too.

"Yo," Mello greeted him without taking his eyes off the TV screen. "Got L there in time?"

"Yeah, though we had to stop at his workplace to switch cars – the one you saw was borrowed from one of his co-workers." Light blinked at the distinctly feminine moan coming from the TV speakers, and then blinked again when another one followed. "Is that... are you watching The L Word?"

"U-huh. Love it. I'd go straight for Shane."

"You're forgetting," Matt piped up in a slightly bitter tone, "that you'd have to straighten her, too." He paused. "Or just get her really, really drunk and dress girly."

"Hey Near, did you hear something?" Mello looked lazily at the white-haired boy. "I thought I heard a jealous little fly bitching at me, but I guess it was just my imagination..."

Near shot him a look that, by nearific standards, was thoroughly exasperated. Light could almost see him mentally roll his eyes. "Please. Leave me out of all this relationship stuff. I never thought I would catch myself saying this, but I actually believe I was happier when you used to chuck books at me, tie my shoelaces together or lock me up in a closet for hours."

Matt grinned. "Well, as you know Mello has reformed his evil ways, so now he has almost twenty years of untying your shoelaces and helping you out of closets to do to repay for all the misery he's put you through."

"I," Near declared dispassionately but determinedly, "am not a dating kind of person, and even if I were, I'm eighty-nine percent certain that I'm straight."

"So is spaghetti until you heat it up," Mello winked. "Anyways," he added, turning around on the couch to look at Light, "how are things going with your L word?"

"Not sure what you mean," Light threw in the naive act as he shrugged off his jacket and hid it in the closet.

"Well, you know. L for our scarecrow of a cousin, O for obsession, V for, uh..."

"Vertical sex," Matt supplied helpfully.

Light stopped halfway to the kitchenette. It was... strange, he thought, to be in the company of people he had just met and realize that you had actually known them for a long time, if only over the Internet. There was no reason to feel insulted by such personal inquiries, because they were already sort of close. These three knew more about his personal life than anyone here, at any rate, excluding L, of course.

"You got it wrong" he said, throwing a carefree smile at the trio over his shoulder. "The word you're looking for is L for my roomie, U for unavailability, S for secret and T for twisted. We agreed on that when we moved in – it'd be really damaging to our friendship -" (Damn, he had almost added 'and job'! He needed to be more careful...) "and besides, it'd be kind of awkward."

Lust was bad enough – even mere physical attachment to your partner could cloud your judgment and endanger your life – but love was downright unthinkable. Things were bound to get ugly when people of their status and job description fell in love.

Sensing the trio exchanging glances behind his back Light sauntered into the kitchenette, fetched a can of iced tea from the fridge and, upon returning to the living-room, was met with the sight of three hands extended expectantly.

"Well? Where's my soda?" Mello demanded, showing uncharacteristic discretion by dropping the subject for now.

"Do you have beer?" Matt asked.

"A glass of milk would be nice," Near added from the floor.

Light stared at them for a moment. "Okay, listen up, germs. We didn't invite you. You are not my guests, and I'm not your servant. In fact, since I guess Roger's paying L to keep you out of his sight for a month, I'm currently your landlord. And that means you rich kids are going to have to learn to take the trash, do the dishes, make your beds and, worse still, get your damn drinks yourselves."

1) Nissan Skyline?

I don't know a thing about cars. :D I mean, I can drive one from point A to point B (though it often takes far more time than it should!), but I don't know the first thing about them otherwise. Nissan Skyline is something I spotted in a movie, then googled, and decided it looked nice enough. The only Nissan I've ever driven was a tiny little Micra, and we had to stop in the side of a motorway because it overheated, lol. :D

2) Beretta... whatever?

My knowledge of weaponry comes from video games. And google.

3) Shimbashi, Odaiba?

Shimbashi is a station on the Yamanote Line that goes in a circle in the center of Tokyo. It connects to Odaiba, an artificial island in front of Tokyo, through a monorail train, Yurikamome. I love Odaiba. XD

4) ... The L Word?

I could SO go gay for Shane. XDD

5) Cerberus, Hydra, Gorgon?

All are mythological monsters, the former two with several heads and the last one with a gaze that turns people into stone.

Please review? :3