So this chapter was orginally wayyyyyy too long. So I cut it up into two chapters so... yay abrupt endings!
"Wow," Mello said with a slight hint of sarcasm as Matt slid into the seat next to him. "Way to cut it close there Matt."
"I had a prior engagement," Matt said, sounding slightly out of breath.
Matt rolled his eyes while he reached for his battered backpack. "Yes, your highness. I brought the journal." He pulled a sheaf of stapled pages from the bag, waving them at Mello. "See? I even typed it up all pretty for ya."
"Hmmph." Mello grabbed the papers, his lips curled into a disgusted expression. "And why is it pink?"0
"Peach wanted it that way," Matt replied, placing the egg on the corner of his desk, fenced in by two pens and his DS so it wouldn't roll off.
"You wrote our journal in pink because an egg told you to?" Matt nodded, a serious expression on his face. Mello stared him down for a moment and then shrugged. "Eh, it's still not the worst thing you've ever said."
There was a beat and then both boys cracked up laughing. A few of the kids seated around them looked in surprise. It was weird enough to see Mello talking civilly to another person, let alone laughing with them. Their interest lasted only a few seconds though, as Roger came striding in the door, briefcase in hand, a no-nonsense sort of look on his face. The older man placed his briefcase lightly on the desk before drawing a deep breath and turning to face the class.
"I trust you all brought your eggs back in one piece?" Most of the class nodded, while a few looked around sheepishly. Roger sighed. "And your journals as well?" There was a large shuffling of papers as kids reached into their bags to extract their journals and place them on their desks. "Good," said Roger, looking relieved that this project seemed to have gone well for the most part. "Everyone just sit tight and I will come around and individually evaluate the well-being of your egg."
Mello turned to talk to Matt and was surprised when he saw a look of genuine glumness on the redhead's face. "What's up with you?"
Matt sighed heavily, looking even more unhappy. In the background, they could hear Roger informing another student that, no, bringing back a broken egg in a Tupperware container did not count. "I'm just sad." He sighed again.
Mello felt the corners of his own mouth turn down. He didn't normally feel affected by other people's emotions, but he was used to Matt being so much more vibrant that he was momentarily thrown off. "What's wrong?"
"Our little girl is leaving us!" Matt burst out, looking dangerously close to tears. "I knew that it had to happen eventually, but I just love her so much."
Mello's jaw dropped a bit. He took a deep breath to steady himself. "And the sad part is," he said to Matt, who was now grinning as if he had pulled off a master prank, "I know that you're just a little bit serious."
"Ah, but I totally got you," Matt teased.
"Admit it. For a moment there, you cared about my emotions."
"No I didn't. I was just concerned that you would cry all over our journal and then we wouldn't be able to turn it in."
Their back and forth was interrupted as Roger approached, gradebook and pencil in hand. "Matt, Mello." Matt nodded in acknowledgement; Mello simply stared. Roger reached down and delicately plucked the egg from it's enclosure on Matt's desk. "I see your egg made it through the week relatively-" he raised an eyebrow at the skirt taped onto it, "unscathed. Your journal?"
Mello handed over the pages filled with pink type. Roger raised an eyebrow again while Matt snickered. "And I trust," Roger continued, turning his gaze to Mello, "that you two worked well together."
Mello started to blurt out a sarcastic remark, but Matt slapped a hand over his mouth and answered cheerfully. "Sure did." Roger gave them an unreadable look and then walked off to observe Near and Xanthe's egg.
"Ow!" Matt cried suddenly, yanking his hand back and glaring at Mello. "You bit me!"
"You covered my mouth," Mello retorted calmly.
"Yeah, but, you bit me! What are you, five?" Mello crossed his arms and stared sullenly ahead while Matt nursed his wounded palm. The redhead was doing his best to look mad, but even Mello could tell he wasn't really. If anything, he seemed slightly amused.
Roger had made his way back to the front of the classroom. "Well," he said, "I'm pleasantly surprised. There were less… casualties than I expected. So to finish off this project I'd like you each to take this opportunity to write a three page paper on what you've learned from this experience. It will be due-"
"What?" Mello's voice rang through the classroom and everyone turned to stare at him. "You're kidding right? You've got some of the brightest minds in the world here and you want us to write a paper on how we feel about taking care of an egg?"
"That's true," Matt piped up before Roger had a chance to reply. "It's not like we needed this project anyway. I mean, let's be honest. How many of the people in this room do you honestly think have the social skills necessary to reproduce?" About half of the class looked offended; the other half looked amused.
Roger pursed his lips and looked down sternly over his glasses. He glanced around at the student. "Is that what you all really think?" There were a few murmurs of agreement. Near, Mello noted, sat stock still, not seeming fazed by the events at all. "Fine."
Mello looked up in surprise. "You're right," Roger continued. "Why should I have all of you write a paper? Instead, how about just Matt and Mello?" There was silence and then someone chuckled. If Mello had been able to see who it had been, he was fairly certain they would have two black eyes by now.
"That's not-" he began angrily.
Roger smiled smugly. "No arguments. Class dismissed early."
"What the-" Mello began.
"Calm." Matt cut him off and reached over to place a firm hand on Mello's arm. "Pick your battles Mello." Mello inhaled sharply through his nose and clenched his fists. He could feel his nails biting into his skin. "Calm," Matt murmured, quieter this time.
Mello let his breath out in a sharp burst. "Fine," he muttered through clenched teeth.
"Come on," Matt said, releasing his grip on Mello's arm. "It's just a paper. It's not that bad."
"It's not just-"
"I know," Matt said quietly. "Come to my room with me okay? Cool off a bit. Then we can write our papers together."
"I can't." Mello finally unclenched his fists. His nails had left white half-moons across his palms. "It's-"
"-Ranking day. I know," Matt responded. "It's not important. Just come with me."
"Not important? How can you say that?" While they argued the room had emptied quickly of students. Ranks would be posted soon; they were probably all huddling down at the hall leading to Roger's office.
Matt looked around, as if checking that the room was truly vacant before saying, "You know what I think about the ranking system. I've told you. Don't make me repeat it."
"Well it's important to me," Mello said icily. With a violent push, he stood and shoved his chair back. "Now if you'll excuse me," there was anger in his voice, "I'm going to go wait for the ranks to be put up."
Matt threw his arms up in exasperation. "Why? Why bother? Why do you insist on torturing yourself with this stupid system?"
"It's not stupid."
"But it is!" Matt yelled. Mello jumped slightly in surprise. Matt was not a person that yelled a lot, and when he did, it was disconcerting. "That rank isn't you! It has nothing to do with you! It's just a number! What can L tell from a number? Nothing, and he's stupid if he thinks that he can pick a successor based off this ridiculous system! So you're number two? Who cares?"
"I care," Mello said obstinately.
"Why?" Matt continued, and his voice echoed a bit in the empty classroom. "It's just a number on some made-up scale! It's not you! You can't possibly tell from a number that your eyes are the lightest blue I've ever seen in my life, or that you have more determination or passion than anyway in this sorry place, or that this system is crushing you, even though you don't realize it! How? How is a number going to tell L all that?"
"Listen," now it was Mello's turn to be angry. "You've made it perfectly clear what you think about the system here. Maybe you're right, maybe I don't like it. But it's what I have to do to be L, so I deal with it. It's not important to you? Yeah, okay, but it is important to me."
Matt was gritting his teeth and looked like he had more to say. "Don't," Mello said simply. "I'm going to go look at the rankings now. Maybe you don't understand what it means to me, or maybe you just don't want to. I don't know and I don't care."
"Fine," Matt said, his expression hard. "Just, promise me one thing."
"Just do it."
"I won't promise."
"Damnit, Mello, why do you always have to be so goddamn difficult!" Matt took a deep, steadying breath. "Just… come by my room tonight, okay?"
"Why would you want to see-"
"Just do it, okay?" Matt turned on his heel and burst through the classroom door angrily before Mello could reply. Mello exhaled sharply, frustrated. He was in the middle of telling himself that it had been good while it lasted, but really, he didn't need a friend like Matt, and there was no way he would be going over to Matt's tonight, when he caught sight of Matt's DS. It had slid off his desk and was lying open on the floor.
Mello felt a bit of the anger drain out of him as he knelt and picked up the toy. He snapped it close and slipped it into his pocket. He would go see Matt tonight, he told himself, but only to give this back. Not because Matt wanted him to.
Reviews? What do you guys think of where the story's heading?