Many people can claim it, but in my case it's true—I've had a hard, shitty life. All I've ever wanted was to live happily, to have my salvation and redemption. My spiral downward really took off the day my father was gunned down, as an innocent bystander, by the Russian Mafiya.
I was three.
After my father died, my mother was left to raise three children on her own, and moved to England for the chance to start a new life. I had two elder sisters when we moved, Zala and Doroteja, and I loved them dearly. Zala was the oldest, followed by Doroteja and myself, respectively.
"Zala" is "beautiful" in Slovenian, and the name suited her well. At only age ten, she had managed to become the most beautiful girl I'd ever laid eyes on, but she wasn't conceited. More often than not, if you told her of her true beauty she'd disagree with you and say she wasn't all that pretty. "Doroteja" means "gift of God," and if the way she always helped me out in tough times said anything, it wasn't a lie.
Then there was me. Little Mihael Keehl, nothing more than the neighborhood freak, all because I wasn't smart enough to really learn anything and my mother couldn't afford to put me and my sisters through school. Had she been able to, I could've ended up accomplishing even more than I already have; the nuns at the church did a fine job, though, and they were willing to teach me the things the other kids were learning in school so long as I helped with the church's upkeep.
Because of my schooling situation I was far behind what would have been the norm for boys my age—I learned to read at seven, write at seven and a half, and do simple math at eight and a half. I may have turned out to be a genius, but I didn't start out as one; at least, not right off the bat.
My mother was a very religious woman and we always attended church, come hell or high water. It was there that I learned so many things about God and religion and the way the world was and should be. When church had ended for that week, Mama always answered my questions when I had them, no matter the subject.
She taught me that being gay was a sin punishable by eternal damnation, and I swore to her, when I was nine years old, that I would marry the prettiest girl ever and make her happy. I knew that it would make God happy, too, so it seemed to me then that it was a win-win situation. She taught me all about the ten commandments, and what each meant; I nodded in awe as she explained each and every one to me as simply as possible.
I didn't have friends because I spent all my time doing household chores, and I didn't have any free time because I spent my nights with the nuns, trying to catch up to where I needed to be. As I got older, learning became easier and easier, and soon enough I was well ahead of the standard, moving onto college-level academics at age eleven.
Then, disaster struck in the form of a car accident that took my mother's life. My sisters and I were placed into separate orphanages, and the man that took me to mine told me that it was for gifted children only. I knew then that I'd probably never see my sisters again, and to this day I'm not even sure if they're still alive.
They placed me in a room on the second floor and told me that I had a roommate named Matt, and some bug-eyed weirdo I'd later grow to admire stripped me of the last hold on my family I had—my name—and gave me a new one. An alias.
My first year at Wammy's House was a changing year for me. I realized that, having been given a new identity, I could be anyone I wanted to be. No longer did I have to be shy, sheltered Mihael; I could be Mello, and be brash, and arrogant, and whatever else I so chose.
Just like when I was younger, I didn't really have friends aside from Matt. I had dozens of accomplices, acquaintances, and scapegoats, but Matt was my only friend; he even earned the title of my best friend, and it's because of him that my life became so fucked up.
…no, it's not his fault. It's mine. I just can't accept it. It's my fault I got so emotional after hearing about L's death that I left, it's my fault I dragged him with me, and it's my fault I fell in love with him despite my efforts not to.
I wear a rosary around my neck, but I don't even know why anymore. I haven't gone to church since my mother died, and I haven't believed in God since L kicked the bucket. If God was there, why did He let Kira come into existence? Why didn't He protect L from him? Why did He hate me enough to give me Matt?
He says it's wrong to love another man except for in fellowship through Christ, then He makes Matt and practically throws me at him. It's a temptation I want nothing more than to give in to, but I know that I can't. Seems my mother's lessons still hold a place in my heart.
One time, I did give in.
"Matt, this is important!" I yelled, banging my fist on the door next to his head.
He pushed me away and opened the door, revealing a violent rainstorm taking place outside. "I don't care! I'm tired of this! I'm sick and fucking tired of all your bullshit, Mello, and I'm really sick of you!"
At that moment, I lost all control and surged forward, grabbing a handful of his hair and smashing my lips against his for a few seconds before pulling away and forcing a glare at him. Tears burned my eyes and a few escaped to roll down my face as I demanded, "Go." When he didn't budge, I screeched, "Get out! I hate you, and I never want to fucking see you again!"
And he left.
That was three months ago today, and I haven't seen him since. I'm starting to think that he really did mean it when he walked out on me, but no matter how much I told myself I didn't care I couldn't go on with even the Kira investigation. For the last three months, I haven't done anything beyond basic human functions and crying my eyes out.
He probably hates me, and I try to push that thought out of my mind as I hear the doorbell ring. I walk over to the front door and open it, freezing in place at the sight of none other than the same Matt that left me a couple months ago. "Mello…"
I don't say anything; instead, I just turn around and head back to the couch. Whether or not he comes in is up to him and him alone. I'm not his damn babysitter. The couch dips, alerting me that Matt decided to sit down, but I don't do anything to acknowledge him. "I thought I told you never to come back," I mutter, pulling my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around my legs.
"You did," he says quietly, "but when have I ever really followed orders?" He scoots closer to me but I move farther away from him, pressing my side against the armrest. Hesitating, he reaches out a hand that I slap away before averting my gaze to the floor. "Mello, you're crying," he whispers, wiping a tear from my face.
I wrench away from his touch and sniffle. "D-Don't touch me, Matt."
He sighs. "Tell me what's wrong."
"You," I reply simply, curling in on myself even more. "My life was fine until you showed up with your big, innocent eyes and your crooked smile and your awkwardness. It's all your fault!
"I… don't understand…"
"You made me fall in love with you! You made me break my promise to my mother that I was going to marry the prettiest girl and make her happy because you exist! Now I can't even focus on the fucking Kira investigation because I'm too hung up over you! And I know that nothing's ever going to come out of my feelings for you. Nothing…"
Matt cups one of my cheeks with his hand and lifts my face to look at him. "Just shut up, Mello," he commands in a stern voice, leaning in slowly as I feel myself doing the same.
"Matt… we should… stop… before we… before…" The rest of my sentence is lost as we meet in the middle, and I'm granted a few moments of bliss before reality catches up to me and I pull away. "No. No, no, no. We can't, Matt… we just… can't." I look away, ashamed at my own inability to just forget everything I know and move on. "I'm sorry."
The look on his face is enough to tell me he's confused. "Mello, why can't we?"
"Because I don't want your pity," I respond, clutching onto the hand on my face with both of mine. "It hurts enough that you had the audacity to come back after three fucking months, but I don't need you to feel bad for me, too."
His head drops onto my shoulder as his hand falls from my face to wrap around me and pull me into a hug. "Dammit, Mello!" he chastises, voice strained. "It's not about pity! Did it ever cross your mind that maybe I came back because I wanted to? Because I needed to?"
My eyes start watering again as I snarl, "Then why the hell did you leave in the first place? If you needed me that much, why the fuck did you walk out on me? Did you ever wonder what it would do to me? Do you even care that I haven't done shit because I was too busy pining for you?" He lifts his head again and looks at me with a studying gaze, and I no longer see anger in his eyes; I see confusion, hurt, and something else I can't quite identify.
"If you didn't want me to leave, why did you tell me to?"
"Because I care about you too damn much to drag you down with me!" My God, I'm fucking pathetic. By now, I'm not sure if I can stop crying. "You're the first person outside the nuns and my family that I've ever even liked! Catching Kira is going to get me the fuck killed, and I don't need your blood on my hands, Matt! You should've just stayed away… stayed away from me… I wanted you to leave so you'd be safe, but I wanted to be selfish and keep you here at the same time.
"That's why I've been so harsh on you. I was hoping that you'd get fed up with me enough to leave and never return, but I can't even do that right. It's no wonder why I didn't get chosen to succeed L; I'm just a first-class screw up. Number two."
Matt's voice interrupts my self-wallowing. "No, you're not. You're so much more than that. Stop short-changing yourself."
"No, Matt, that's exactly what I am. When I look at myself, I see a failure. I see a boy that tried to grow up too quickly and ended up worse off than he was before. I see someone that dwells too much on the past to live in the present. I see a jackass that was too stubborn to work with his rival, even for the sake of the greater good. And, worst of all, I see a sinner that's dragging his best friend to the depths of hell because he's too scared to go it alone."
"Well, do you know what I see when I look at you?" I tug my knees closer to my chest and bury my face in my arms as Matt plays with my hair, saying, "I see my very best friend. I see the boy that went through so much and still turned out to be an outstanding man. I see the first person to ever treat me like a human being rather than just an 'it.' And I see the little blond kid that took Wammy's by storm and stole my heart along with it." He laughs, which makes me pick my head up from my knees and stare at him. "Mello, I already know I'm going to hell in a hand basket; I just hope you're the one carrying it."
As he holds my chin delicately, I ask, "Why, Matt? Why are you so willing to die for someone as worthless as me?"
"Sometimes people do crazy things," he says quietly, "when they're in love."
It's been almost seven years since I've seen that movie, but I do remember that it used to be mine and Matt's favorite growing up; there was just something about someone who was willing to risk their life to save the one they loved that made me interested. As a kid, I never thought that I'd ever be in a situation where the one I loved would need to do that, but here I am.
I look at Matt, really look at him, and for the first time since he'd shown up at Wammy's all those years ago he's not wearing his goggles, unbelievably green eyes sucking me in like a ship to a whirlpool. Suddenly, everything hits me full-force and I realize, belatedly, that I should've seen this, that it should've been obvious. The touches, the favors, the general way he'd always acted around me—all of it should've revealed the truth to me.
But I've always been too busy with 'me' and too hung-up over 'I' rather than spending more time on 'him.' Maybe, had I cared a little more about him than what I showed, my life could've turned out differently than the shithole it's become. Maybe, were I a little less selfish, I could've lived the life my mother always wanted me to, aside from a few changes to fit Matt into it.
God, I'm such a selfish bastard.
"Selfish," I mumble almost inaudibly. "Selfish, selfish, selfish. Can't think of anyone but myself… going to hell… heartless, selfish bastard… nothing but a toy… broken, useless toy…"
Matt pulls me to him again and pats my back lightly as I shove my face into his shoulder, caught in my own fucked-up inner battle. I'm torn, torn between rationality and emotion, and I know that I need to choose a path soon.
My mind tells me to wiggle out of Matt's grasp, to forget my feelings for him and focus on the Kira investigation; my mind tells me that feeling like this will only get me hurt. It references my mother and how empty I felt after losing her, and how selfish and uncaring it would be for me to drag Matt down to my level and damn him because I can't stand being alone.
But my heart, the very thing I rarely use, tells me to do what feels right, to do what I really want and not what I think I want. It tells me to move closer to Matt, to hug him back, to pull him down and kiss him like I've always wanted to. It tells me that for once I should make decisions based on my emotions and stop trying to be rational.
Easier said than done, I muse, digging my face further into Matt's shoulder and trying to hold back another round of tears. I'm not nearly in tears because I can't choose, but rather because I know what I have to do and can't bring myself to do it. Damn my rationality.
Being this close to Matt I can smell his ever-present scent, and it smells of smoke, shampoo, and deodorant, but it also smells of something else, something familiar.
The same scent that wafted around my house as a child, that reached every nook and cranny of the church, that inhabited our room at Wammy's, and that floats around our apartment… it's the same thing Matt smells like, that he always has.
Matt smells like home.
Slowly, I break away from Matt's grip and lower my legs, scooting closer to him and brushing some hair behind his ear before I slide my hand into his hair. He understands, and meets me halfway as I lean in for a fate-sealing kiss.
For a moment, there's no Kira. There's no Near, no L, no crazy killer notebook, no Mafia, no Wammy's, nothing. It's just Matt, kissing me with so much love I feel like I might pass out, holding my face like I'm something delicate that needs to be treated with care. I need more of him, and I use the hand in his hair to press us closer together, further sealing us to each other.
Unfortunately, my brain comes back online as we break apart, and it's screaming that I'm selfish, selfish, selfish and I don't deserve Matt and I'm a horrible person and I'm almost starting to believe it. Matt must be able to read minds, because he takes my face in his hands again and touches his forehead to mine.
"Mello," he says, running his fingers through my hair, "it's okay to be selfish every once in a while…"
All my life I've been looking for salvation, for redemption, for a way out of this hellhole, and I've always returned disheartened and disappointed. My God failed me when he let my mother be killed, L failed me when he let himself be killed, and I failed myself when I was unable to just let go and tell Matt the truth.
Right now, I think that maybe I do have salvation. Maybe I do have a way out of this constant grind of failure, of disappointment. Maybe, I decide as I reach behind Matt's head for another kiss, it's been there almost all along. Maybe I just needed to open my eyes and see, really see the world and not the picture of the world I've fabricated in my denial-ridden mind.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 tells us that, "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in sin, but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres. Love never fails," and though I may no longer truly believe in a God that seemed to condemn me so many years ago, I know in my heart that these words are true.
Because Matt is love, and Matt has never failed me.
He's my salvation.