A/N: This chapter is a whole lot more different than the original version, but I think it's way, way better. Thanks so much for all the feedback, and a happy Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a happy New Year! :)


Chapter 2: Two

Forget this.

Always

Mello is trying to drag the fridge into the bedroom. I only watch him from the couch. His determination to get this done is comical, if not almost endearing. At the beginning he had tried to pull it along with him, but now he's trying to force it forward with his back. I want to make a snide comment or two, like how he wouldn't be struggling so much if his ass isn't so skinny, or how ridiculous he looks, but I bite my tongue.

He's trying to ignore me, or I'm supposed to be ignoring him- I forget which.

Either way, it's clear to me why he isn't mouthing off or screaming for me to haul my ass up and help him. He's trying to prove that he can get things done without me, that he can manage just fine without my help. I'm not protesting in the least. I've been worked like a dog, and I should know I deserve a little relaxing time.

He's watching me from the corner of his eyes, obviously waiting for me to do something. I only lean further into the couch, silently telling him I could really care less. His lips press into a thin line, turning away from me. He braces himself against the fridge again, and he kicks and pushes his feet against the floor, trying (and failing) to move the blasted thing.

Mello ends up falling flat on his ass. The fridge falls forward, its door swinging open. I hear egg shells breaking, bottles clanking and shattering, and the floor becomes an absolute mess around him. Despite knowing that he's going to leave the mess for me to clean, I snicker at the sight a little. A mistake, because I should know by now Mello won't stand for being ridiculed. He is already on his feet, stalking toward me, and before I can register anything else-

Bam! He whips my head with his gun, and hard.

"What the fuck?" I cuss out, cringing at the stars I see for a moment. I try my best not to touch the growing bump or to shield my head from him. I won't show that I'm vulnerable enough to hurt, even if he does hurt me so well.

I feel a gloved hand running through my hair before it fists and yanks hard enough to tear a few strands from my scalp. My (bruising) head is forced up to meet Mello's cold eyes. Under my chin, I feel him press the barrel of his gun. "Something funny, Matt?" he hisses, yanking harder at my hair.

My throat is too parched suddenly, and my lips are dry for words. My tongue darts out to moisten them before I grin toothily.

Roughly, he lets go of me, tucking the gun back into his pants. Shooting me a dirty glare, he spits, "I didn't think so. Wipe that grin off of your face before I wipe it for you." I easily hear the deadly warning in his words. He doesn't bother waiting for me to reply, clearly thinking I'm frightened enough, and he turns back to the mess to salvage something.

Finally finding my voice, I cough out, "What happened to 'please', Mello? You used to say that last time."

There are two bottles of scotch whisky in his hands when I finally gather the nerve to look at him again. He steps over the mess as I expect him to, and heads off into the bedroom without so much as another glance in my direction. What he does do, however, is say, "Today isn't last time. Please grow the fuck up, Matt."

The quiet returns to the apartment with a vengeance.

I notice he leaves the bedroom door wide open, just in case I decide to utter an apology to him. He's going to be facing one hell of a disappointment. I've been thinking a lot lately, that it's about time I force my way through his head, make him listen to me. I won't take any more. I'm sticking with my decision to speak up and speak out. One can only fight fire with fire.

"Funny words," I yell out, just to test my newfound courage, just for good measure, "From a guy who's yet to grow up himself!"

Holy hell, I'm pathetic. He doesn't even deem my words worthy of a reply. That, or maybe he's fully focusing again on stalking Near. If I know Mello –old or new- and I know I do, he's probably regretting taking his eyes off of the video feeds in favour of attempted fridge stealing. Stalking the sheep is so important, after all.

Asshole.

I sometimes forget that we had been best friends at some point in the past. What with the way he outright refuses to spend even a fifth of the attention he gives Near on me, I ought to be recognised as a faceless stranger. As much as I hate having to live through all this unnecessary abuse, I hate his ignorance even more. How the hell did this become possible?

Near is probably the first and last thing on his mind. It stings more than I expect it to.

Yeah, maybe I'm jealous, or maybe I'm just so cheesed off that I can't have Mello's eyes on me for any longer than thirty seconds. Even then, I still doubt that I can make him look at me. No, forget looking at me, I want him to see me, and not Number Three anymore. Fuck that. I don't want him to see the gamer, or the lazy asshole, or the hacker, or the mafia associate. I want him to look right at me and see only me.

He just looks through me.

Torturously slowly, but steadily, I let myself believe that my Mello isn't ever going to resurface. I doubt he even exists anywhere else but in my half-forgotten memories anymore. That's as good as gone, like L, and I've got no one but this stranger. He's familiar, definitely, but he's also more alien to me. He's too dominating, domineering, cruel... too different from my Mello.

I've been tearing myself up about this, been looking for someone to blame for what has happened to him and us. It has taken me a while to find the right person at fault: Kira. If it weren't for Kira, L wouldn't be dead. Mello wouldn't have ever changed. Mello wouldn't have ever left.

I remember four years ago, at an ungodly hour, running into his and Near's shared bedroom to see him gone. The bedroom window was left wide open, the curtains flying wildly with the wind. Rain and snow entered like a curse, spreading about the disaster zone without consent. Even Near's things hadn't been spared from wreckage. Mello's books and Near's toys, among other things, were haphazardly scattered across the floor, torn or broken. There had been darkening red stains on the wall, suspiciously shaped like hands and fists, and I remember my stomach lurching.

Everything had been ruined.

I had found Near huddled in a corner in his closet, curled in on himself. He told me how angry Mello had been, at him, at L, at Kira. Near and I both faced the window, his hand shaking in mine, but all that registered in me was that Mello was out there somewhere.

Near and I decided it was best not to look for Mello. If he had left without any notice, it was obvious that he had no intention of letting himself be followed or found. It's okay, I said. He can totally defend himself. Mello's smart, I said.

I doesn't matter what I said.

Sometimes I wonder if Mello had even hesitated to walk out through those iron gates. I knew he would have wanted to leave for revenge the minute he found out about L, but I guess I just didn't expect that he would leave no note, or number, or even something as simple as a goodbye.

It's funny. I thought I was worth saying goodbye to.

Went on with life, I did, and I can say that I've been doing pretty well. I have made a friend or two, and hacking bank accounts have granted me a pretty good lifestyle, or as good as an illegal lifestyle can be anyway. Until months ago, when Mello came barging in right through my door, I had figured that growing up meant going our separate ways.

We did grow up with separate lives, lifestyles, environments, and I think that's why everything went wrong. Some time somewhere down the road to the underworld, Mello had himself stripped off of heart, rationality, innocence, and God knows what's he's done to end up like this. My Mello had always known reason, but my Mello also isn't here anymore.

He's gone.

I guess a devil had told him to damn all the consequences, to forget reason; forget all that ever made him who he had been. He thinks a conscience can only hinder him from his sick goals. Now, he can twist words and bones like candy wrappers; he can seal fates of those who've wronged him with his gun; he could kill me.

He can kill me.

So what's stopping him?


Seconds yawn into minutes, and then into hours.

I'm smoking fags like my life depends on it. The mess is still there on the floor, unsurprisingly, because he refuses to lower himself to my level and start cleaning the shit up. I roll my eyes. He's not proving his independence, or anything worth noting to me. As a matter of fact, his predictable dependence on others (me) is beginning to sully my (admittedly questionable) opinion of him.

I'm still on the couch, alone, if the unopened bag of potato chips beside me hardly counts as company. Unfortunately for me, it lacks presence or warmth, and inanimate objects don't provide any conversation. Hell knows I need a distraction to pull my mind off of things.

After a while of feeling like an idiot, I decide gaming will suffice, if only just for the moment. Almost in a laughably eager way, I choose a game from my collection, carefully inserting –shoving- it into the Cube and I switch the contraption on. I let my gloved fingers get comfortable with the feel of the cool plastic console, willing myself (and failing) to focus completely.

It's Mario, with the annoying, happy-go-lucky boop-de-beep tune, mushroom stomping, and the repeating failure of saving Princess Peach from the right tower. My arsenal here is painfully limited; the controls are too simplistic and the logic of the game is borderline barbarian. I only realise later, that the those are facts that help to sum up to my failure in trying to ignore myself.

My gut keeps lurching in the most disastrous manner, like it's goading me to feel bad about these recent events. Like hell I will; I'm not that much of a pushover. I expose myself only to brewing anger and impatience. I know that if I don't feel content with his ignorance, anger is what I ought to feel. Mello has yet to make a move, and the wait is the worst.

What will he do? Pretend nothing has happened? Threaten me? Kill me?

I want to know.

I want to know why in spite of both my bitterness and better judgement, I end up thinking thoughts of Mello. Like I need to. I could have handled them thoughts had they been the nasty ones you give your enemy. Instead I think of the stupid things that shouldn't matter to me, like how soft Mello's hair looks, or how his eyes are like icy fire when he's angry.

I'm so weird and pathetic, I'm upset with myself. Some genius I turned out to be. Honestly, I'm disgracing L's legacy. I'm supposed to know more than the average Joe. I can fit millions, maybe billions of pieces of information (more than half of which I know are never going to amount to much). I've been trained to know, and not to feel so fucking stupid. I should understand my emotional roller coasters completely, but I'm as good as lost.

I don't understand why Mello makes me feel.

A voice in my head tells me that the answer is bloody simple. Heh.

I should probably stop thinking and focus more on Mario. I'm only giving myself worse a headache than I already have. Too bad not thinking isn't as easy as it should be. Too bad nothing is easy anymore. I end up sinking deeper, almost drowning in my thoughts, reminiscing like I'm denial of the present. I know I am. Memories only worsen my mood, but I can't stop remembering.

Who am I kidding in this life anyway? I'm barely nineteen and I feel so much older. I feel if I let things with Mello go on like this any longer, I might as well off myself dead because I'd be good for him as a zombie. He's changed that drastically, almost enough for me to take a while to remember what he had been like years before.

Could you believe that it's only been four years? I want to relive the past, to forget this shit of a life I have now. What I wouldn't give to see my Mello again.

This imposter is taking too much from me: my thoughts, my mind, et cetera. I haven't minded before, but there is only so much toil and verbal abuse I can take. I've been letting him push me and hurt me so much, and what do I get in return? Fucking ignorance. More pain and more misery. Every bit of rage I've received from him, everything I've been through, every bead of sweat, blood and every tear comes rushing in my mind like an uncontrollable stampede.

Suddenly, I decide to forget contemplating second chances and tolerance. I only see an anger I have never thought I could possess, and I feel it rushing. It's searing hot and unhealthy, but it is as addictive as any drug can get. It's like heroin, encouraging me into illusions of bravery. I like feeling brave.

Hell knows I've been a coward for too long.

"What's with the look on your face?" Mello's voice cuts through my thoughts. I didn't even notice him skulking in the corner. He sounds suspicious of me, but all I wonder now is how come he's gotten tired of snubbing me so quick. He's lived without me for four years, after all. One would think that he would cave from lack of company a little later than this.

Still, I wipe the glower off my features, putting a facade of cold indifference. I put up pretences of focusing completely on playing Mario and not hearing him. I don't even look in his direction. I want to give him a taste of his own ignorance, make him lose his temper like he's made me lose mine. I want us both angry when I confront him.

Unfortunately, he thinks I'm too distracted to hear him, so he wants to direct my attention to him. He steps in front of the television, the only place he is sure my eyes are trained on. He blocks my view of the game, but I'm not going to turn my head away from him. That would imply that I'm paying him some mind, that I'm afraid to even look at him. I'm not.

Taking in the sight of him now, I see his hands clenched so tight his knuckles are bone white. I see a scowl gracing his lips, his normally picture-perfect hair unusually messy. There are bruises hanging under his eyes, hinting sleepless nights. I wonder why I haven't noticed before. It takes half of me, but I manage to remind myself not to react.

I hear my character's dying music play after a minute of blindly playing, and though I can't see it, I know the screen reads 'Game Over'. It's like someone up in the heavens has read my mind exactly. I want to end Mello's reign over me, and I want to make it clear that I won't let him control me anymore. I can be my own person.

Mello breaks the silence first. "Enough of this."

I could say the exact same thing. Forget confusion; it's time to be impetuous for once in my life. I don't know what I'm going to do now, but like hell Mello will stop me. A loss of patience gnaws at me, grating at my skin, whispering tempting ideas that fuel me to speak my mind. The angrier part of me is like a cauldron of bubbling lava, threatening to spill over and wreak havoc. Anger tells me, forget Mello. I am my own person.

I don't want to be his lapdog.

I don't want to be anyone's lapdog.

I don't want to be a fucking lapdog at all.

He crosses his arms and looks at me expectantly, "Well?"

"Well what." It comes out more like a scathing statement than a question. "You're going to have to be a little more specific." My bad mood is worsening by the second. A panicked voice tells me to look away from him, to calm myself down, but I force it away. I watch him, completely transfixed.

"Well, how long does it fucking take for a person to apologise?" he hisses. I pretend not to hear him, flexing my fingers around the game controller. "I've given you shit loads of time to do it, Matt, but it looks like you've lost half your brain. Look. I've had enough of your attitude-"

Oh, he's had enough? He thinks he has had enough? What about what I think? In case he's forgotten, I'm very much capable of thinking, damn it. I'm capable of feeling, and hurting, and hating. Is he so conceited, so stuck up in his head not to think of what I'm feeling? Is he so fucking superior? Does he care about me at all? The way he addresses me, treats me, the air he carries around himself reveals everything. He takes shit from no one, sure, but what he's giving me right here is lower than shit.

(... Aren't we supposed to be best friends?)

"You've had enough." I say, snorting. I run a hand through my hair and make a fist, yanking just like Mello has done earlier. I feel the large bruise under my fingers, and a migraine heading my way. "You don't know what the fuck you're talking about. I've had enough."

An eyebrow shoots upwards as he appraises me with a critical eye. "Isn't that the same thing? You going to say you're sorry or what?"

"What difference does it make?" I question. "I'm only going to piss you off again. Hell knows everything pisses you off."

Mello's eyes narrow dangerously. "One would think a person would learn from his mistakes."

I cock my head aside, a wry smirk tugging at my lips. "One would think a person would realise that he's done nothing wrong. It looks like, Mello, we're both disappointed."

There I see it, his temper flaring. Mello takes a step toward me, approaching me like a serial killer would his next victim; always making each second mean much more than it should. "You fucking dolt! You were told to watch the SPK. It was a simple order, dipshit, and you were slacking like-"

I don't listen anymore. The only words that get in my head are 'you were told' and 'simple order'. He's treating me like a dog again. Maybe I don't have so much of a bark, but I'm no longer afraid to bite. Lifting my chin up defiantly at him, I steadily meet his eyes for the first time in years. The goggled blue eyes of mine lock on molten hot aquamarine.

Dispassionately, I say, "You know the saying: if you want something done, do it yourself. In case you've forgotten, I didn't ask for an involvement in any of this shit."

"You sure as fuck didn't complain, Matt," he hisses venomously. "I asked you to watch them for a bloody reason. I asked you for help for a fucking reason."

I bark out in derisive laughter. "You? Ask me? You never ask me to do anything. No, Mello, never ask me anything." Feeling slightly at a disadvantage sitting down, I shoot up from the couch. I barely register myself throwing the game controller across the room, but Mello's eyes are wide as they follow it. The controller flies like a shot, hitting the wall with a loud crack that does nothing to break the awful tension. It crashes onto the floor completely in pieces, tinkering and scattering.

I stalk my way to him, closing off the distance between our chests because I'm brave enough, suddenly. Startled, Mello almost jolts, but he doesn't back away. Of course not. I spit, "You never ask, Mello. You always tell. You always order me around! Didn't you notice?" I grab his arms, shaking him. "Holy fuck, Mello, don't you notice?"

He tries to get my grip off of him, but my hands only tighten. He shakes his head, expression contorting into one crossed between rage and something else (do I see fear?). I forget he's armed, but when he pulls out his gun and presses it between us, the barrel aimed right for my abdomen, I'm hardly deterred. Vaguely, I hear it click.

"I—" Mello starts, but I cut him off too quickly.

My eyes are still dead on his. "I'm tired of all of this, you get me? I. Have. Had. It. No more ordering me around, no, more forcing shit, no more fucking hurting me, no more! No more. I won't take another goddamn moment with you."

And then I see it clearly: confusion, unease. I swear I can almost see my Mello until he clears his eyes from showing any emotion, and his tone holds one of malice, albeit an unconvincing one. "What are you talking about?"

He sounds like he genuinely does not know. I seethe. If he doesn't know what I'm talking about, then it's not worth the fight. That's it, I'm done hoping.

"You know what?" I ask lightly. I let him go, turning my back to him. I'm hardly intimidated that he has a gun in his hand; it's lowered now anyway. I adjust my road kill vest and give him a half-smile. I hate that it comes out more awkward than distasteful. "I'm done."

He doesn't provide a reply, and the silence begins to really get me. He stands there frozen where I've left him, eyes completely on me, completely wide. A part of me wonders if he's looking at me right now, and not through me.

Does it even matter anymore?

I slip on my boots slowly and pick up my wallet and my apartment keys from the kitchen countertop. Sparing a glance over my shoulder as I head to the door, I see that his eyes hold something akin to apprehension, or worry, or fear. It confuses me. Am I delusional, or is it all just a clever trick of the light? This Mello has never felt these things before, so why should he now? He shouldn't.

(... Don't make me feel guilty, damn it. I've done nothing wrong!...)

"Where are you going?" his voice is harsh, but shaky. I like to imagine that I've finally gotten through his bubble and that I've made him listen, but I won't be sticking around anymore to find out. I can't let myself go through the disappointment I'd feel if I'm wrong.

I think I've been in over my head when I had thought before, that everything still has a chance of changing back to the way it has been before.

Aren't we just too different now?

I shrug, "I've had enough of this. I'm out."

He looks stricken, but only for a mere second or two. Of course, Mello isn't going to break his composure entirely for something as lowly as a dog. He isn't going to lower his guard; he isn't going to lose it like I'm about to.

Mello tries to laugh in return, but he sounds borderline hysterical. He shakes his head in something like denial or acceptance- I don't know. Although he clearly is trying to hide it, I see that his eyes still betray him. I see that he's not okay with me leaving.

I don't enjoy seeing him like this, but my nightmares have already shown me that there are worse things that could happen to him than having lost an -dog, number three, minion, zombie- ally. I steel myself forward, telling myself that I hate this life and I want out of it. I need out of it.

His tone, when he speaks, holds the fakest sort of amusement. "You think I'll miss you or something? You'll be doing me a favour." I hold my tongue from saying anything. He gives me a wild grin that looks slightly forced. I try to convince myself that he hates me, and that he could care less that I'm leaving. It makes me feel a whole lot better than having to walk out on someone who cares.

I shrug again, not even bothering with goodbyes.

(...I don't trust myself to speak...)

Turning away, I exit past the door, telling myself I didn't hear that last whisper of "I don't need you."

If you're convinced. I whisper back in my head. I've never needed you either.


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