Chapter Four: Prelude

Between

Matt: 4:12 p.m., December 6th, 2009

"Matt, what are you doing? Mogi and Misa are at LAX!"

I glance at the screens, where a massive U-haul has been blocking the main entrance for hours. How Misa managed to do her packing without my noticing, though, escapes me.

"So they are," I say, trying to act bored despite Mello's panic. "Oops."

I heard exaggerated fuming over the line, and then he says, "Matt, we're going to Japan."

A honeymoon! is my first thought. Then, damn, he'll want chocolate, and the airport's See's Candies is shit expensive.

XXX

"We will now begin boarding first class passengers to Tokyo International, flight 667 at 11 p.m."

He stands and takes several strides towards the gateway, stopping to look back expectantly when he doesn't hear my footsteps behind him.

"Aren't you coming along?"

I dangle my boarding pass in the air; he stares at it without reading it. "Yeah, that's your ticket, so come on."

"Can you read?"

He can.

"What? Why didn't you…why are you in 27F? I thought you booked first class for both of us?"

His voice echoes with bemusement, irritation, impatience, other shades that I don't bother to dissect; I phase it all out in favor of letting that slight high wash over me, that feeling of anti-certainty whenever I board a plane. They say that the likelihood of getting in a car accident is higher than that of getting in a plane crash for the average person, but the likelihood of dying in a plane crash is much higher than that of a car accident. I take my chances.

For the same reason, I chose 27F, the most crowded, miserable section, the steerage of modern planes. Statistically, I might be only slightly more likely to die sitting there than anywhere else since it's too crowded to get to an exit quickly. I could be overthinking things. Mostly, I need to hand off chocolate duty to the flight attendants and rest for ten hours. Blonde bombshell can really get on all seven trillion of my nerves sometimes.

And I need to think about what to do with the info on Wammy's House…hm. Some of these things are just too interesting to pass up. My trigger finger's itching.

XXX

Six hours later, nature calls, and I squirm out over the lap of an enormously fat grandmother who keeps calling me 'dear child.' I stomp my feet twice to shake them awake and proceed to the nearest lavatory, which happens to be occupied.

With a six-man line in front of it.

I turn around to find another one, which turns into a plane-wide recon mission, Operation Save Matt's Dick From Bursting. I ask, I seek, I knock, yet no door is opened to me.

All right. New tactic. I came, I saw, I conquered. The first class cabin lavatory shall be mine.

I push through the curtain, bump past a surprised steward carrying a tray (what's that, caviar? Lox? I've only ever seen those in pictures. So this is what it means to be the 1%), and my finish line is in sight. I raise my eyes, and manna from heaven falls in the form of the overhead sign switching from occupied to vacant. Victory! I scream in my mind as I barrel chest first into the person exiting the lavatory, who happens to be Mello.

"Fancy meeting you here."

I don't even know which one of us said it; my mind's just too occupied with alternating thoughts of 'Eliminate! Eliminate!' and 'Fuck, Mello.'"

Notice the importance of the comma there.

Then he says, "You'd better get in quick; the steward's after your head."

I stare, more because I don't understand why we can't stay away from each other than because of how he said what he said, but he replies to my look with, "No, I'm not coming with; if you want to have plane sex, there's no point trying to be covert." Then he steps smartly past me and the raging steward to return to his seat.

He gives sound advice; I follow it and dash for the lavatory, still pondering how much of the plane sex part he meant.

I mean, his face would've given Lady Gaga a run for her money.

Ugh.

XXX

Off the plane, onto the street, into a spanking set of wheels (I plan ahead; I requested this baby even before I booked our plane tickets), off to the hotel for a night until I can find somewhere for us.

Outside the window, fake snow piles in the street, fake trees forest every shop and foyer, fake cheer and fake spirit trill through the air, and you know, this might just be my neglected, cynical inner child talking, but I've never had much patience for Christmas.

Yeah, it's because I never get any presents. I know, you thought I was going to segue into some long, philosophical discussion of St. Nick's Day. No, it's simple, Christmas just doesn't mean anything to me.

Mello doesn't seem to care much for the decorations either, but he could have just outgrown them. Maybe his Christmases were pleasant enough until a certain one-lettered moniker came along and made him study through the holidays instead of enjoying them. An idle thought crosses my mind and solidifies: maybe I should get him a present.

For once, I have someone to exchange presents with. I think of the first thing I ever threw at him and know what I'll get him. Of course, 'exchange' indicates that both parties give and receive gifts. I wonder if the notion will even strike him.


Cornerstore Confrontation

Matt: 2:02 p.m., December 9th, 2009

"I need chocolate."

Not that again.

"You need smokes."

Well, that is true.

"You always buy the wrong brand."

Well excuse me if I can't differentiate between the rows upon rows of unique chocolate bars.

"And you won't let me drive the car."

You ever heard of walking? Or public transportation? Japan's an expert at it.

"Come with me just this once, can't you?"

Yeah, I can do that.

XXX

He drums his fingers against the countertop as the poor girl (looks like a trainee) fumbles with the store's entire stock of chocolate (he's gotten less exclusive and can tolerate milk chocolate now) and maybe a quarter of the cigarettes (I do have to save some money to pay for my life insurance). Although it's just a race to see which of us dies first from our respective vices.

If I ate as much chocolate as he does, I could speed up the process. I almost salivate.

(I don't even like chocolate.)

"Matt? Your smile is creeping me out."

"Yeah, I was just wondering how much time you lose with each bar you eat. And each stick I smoke." At a blank look from him, I explain, "How much time goes down in the numbers above your head."

A moment passes, then blank changes to mildly irritated to outright infuriated as he launches into a tirade. "And you were thinking that with a manic grin on your face? Am I missing something here? Are you secretly a Kira sleeper agent with a deathwish?"

The cashier's looking at us curiously, as are the customers behind us. Mello's raised voice and mention of Kira, although the English is Greek to them, doesn't make great publicity.

"Relax, Mello. It's a fucking joke." I tear open a pack that's already been scanned and start to take one out, but Mello's hand closes around my wrist.

"Why, Matt? Why do you always do these things? Why do you act like you don't care about life?"

"I-"

"You want to catch Kira, so you must want to live. You must value life. You must see it as a gift, a resource. You can't just play around with it and throw it away."

I think that's my radius and ulna uncrossing, owwww—

"What's wrong with you, Matt?"

What am I supposed to say? This is how I am?

"Look, if you're just going to die on me, I'm better off working without you. I can't stand it; it's like you're planning your own funeral."

He grabs two bags of chocolate, leaves the rest, and stalks out under everyone's shocked stares.

The cashier says something that I take to mean, do you still want the chocolate? and I nod.

He's got to at least come back for his birthday.


(Almost) One Hundred Hours of Solitude

Matt: December 10th, 2009

It's quiet.

Noise accompanies him; Mello eats chocolate like he's singing a fucking aria. Basically, very dramatically and loudly. Every breath he takes is a sigh, a suspiration. Without him around… I think about the last thing he said, about me planning for my own funeral. I could almost already be there; it's quiet as a mausoleum around here. I find myself trying to inhale deeper, which gets me a little more smoke, type faster, be louder in any way possible, just to fill the silence, which I've never noticed before Mello.

It's like I'm already dead, isn't it?

No, I'm not quite. Not yet. I've still got things to do.

I type "unusual designs for guns" in Google and hit return.

XXX

"Hello?"

"It's Halle."

"How do you do, Halle."

"We've moved to Japan, following the task force."

"Well, at least Mello beat Near in that aspect."

"Is he there?"

"No, he's out, but I'm sure he'll be back shortly. I can take a message for him."

"No…no, there's nothing in particular that I wanted to say. I'll keep you updated on Near's actions. That's all."

I hang up and frown at the phone.

Near is basically L's successor; he operates in all the same ways. Never shows his face, never sees the light of day, never stops doing what he does: solving cases. It's a way of life, and I'm not sure if it could ever be right for Mello. I wonder if he's ever really thought about it.

There would be no flamboyant action-movie shootouts, no daring on-scene snooping, no L Day Parades; in fact, there wouldn't be much going out at all. There would be a lot of phone calls to outside agents and talking to a computer and living amid cold machinery. There would be no publicity, no glory other than that buzz he'd get when the headlines reported another case solved by L (but no one knows HE'S L), and no end to the cases lined up for him. There is no end to injustice.

Wouldn't he eventually wear out, throwing himself at every wrongdoer in the world and getting cut to bloody pieces in the end? How far could intrinsic motivation get him before he'd realize, this job really doesn't pay off? How long would he last? What made him think he ever wanted to be L?

What were you thinking, Mello? L is fundamentally alone. You can't be alone. I don't know how you've managed twenty-four hours without me as it is.

Where are you? What do you think you're doing?


Freud's Sweet Tooth

Matt: 12:12 p.m., December 13th, 2009

I know the moment has come when a shadow passes over the sun; it's like God flipped the switch, even though it's most likely just a bird or a plane or a cloud or a UFO.

Sure, the turn of keys in the lock might have tipped me off, too.

He looks a bit worn; his jacket hangs off his shoulders, his face is ash grey, and his usual stentorian door slam falls short as the door clicks quietly shut behind him. I suddenly feel the need to be the loud one.

"Happy birthday, Mello," I chirp.

"Hm."

He drops into a chair that normally creaks something awful but remains silent under his minuscule weight.

"So whaddaya want for your birthday? Anything's negotiable, within reason. Hot meal? Warm bath? Personal space heater for your bed? I'm not a big fan of this couch, you know."

"Psh, I'd take you up on the last if you didn't stink so much. Don't bother; I don't want anything. How's work going?"

"Watched HQ, nothing happens, no leads, although that Takada lady is shooting her mouth way off with her Kiravangelism. But don't change the subject. Don't you want anything at all? It's quite an achievement, staying alive for two decades."

"I just want to finish the goddamn case, Matt. Let me see what you've got on Takada." He gets halfway out of his chair and slumps back.

"Fine, but not before you get something in your stomach," I say. Now where did I put it…in the kitchenette? Right, duh. Faintly, I hear him say something about putting something in my stomach, most likely a vicious punch.

Ooh, here it is. He'll love it; he can't not.

"You know, Mello, you left your gun here, so I took the liberty of making you a copy…"

I present it to him, handle first, straight from the freezer.

"…that you can eat."

It's made of pure, 80% dark Dagoba chocolate. Melted down. Mello must have realized this, because he says with a dry smile, "And there I was thinking you didn't know how to use the stove."

"I got the idea from this website. They also had a mold for a grenade, but it was too complicated."

"So this is what you spend your time doing," he murmurs, stroking the barrel, the twin of his own in sleek cocoa. "And you expect me to start sucking on this in front of you?"

The unspoken statement is clear: "What kind of a Freudian fetish do you have?"

"Well, I suppose you can put it back in the freezer," I say, trying to sound miffed.

"It's fine," he says, nibbling on the trigger.

I tell myself the slight twinge in my gut is just because I'm glad he's back, not because he's eating the chocolate gun in a suggestive manner at all.

"There were a lot of interesting ideas on the website besides this one," I say. "Beer-squirting guns, gun-shaped soap bars, a gun with a cell phone built in the handle, a condom case shaped like a gun—"

Ooh. Awk.

"Really?" he says as elegantly as he can through a mouthful of chocolate—most of the handle is gone. "Were you considering making me one? I don't exactly have much need for rubbers."

Why is it that with us, everything can be read multiple ways? Is he suggesting that he's celibate, asexual, not concerned about safe sex, not interested in me, even in a teasing fashion, or what?

Is this normal for male…uh, friends, housemates, co-conspirators, whatever we are?

"Ok," I say as I try to restore some sanity to the conversation. "I'm just going to ignore that and give you the files on Takada. And pretend I never said anything."

"Fair enough," he says, practically swallowing the rest of the barrel whole. "I just wanted to give you a heads-up in case you're stuck for future present ideas."

"Keep the attitude up and there won't be any future presents."

It's an idle threat.


Glad to Be Alive

Mello: 4:17 p.m., December 13th, 2009

Has he ever been glad to be alive? I think, as I watch him lob a cigarette stub at the ashtray that is never located conveniently right next to him. The flickering embers smudge the carpet, and he flirts with the idea of setting the carpet on fire.

No, Mello, NO. Matt and flirt do not ever go in the same thought, you hear me?

Yeah, I get you loud and clear. But really, has he? Has he ever just burst out of school on a Friday afternoon, inhaling fresh, unacademic air and looking forward to a free weekend? Has he ever curled up under a shady tree with a book (a real book, not a tech manual; not that he even needs to read those), read it cover to cover in a day, stretched his back afterwards, and shivered at the amazement those fine-print words left him with? Has he ever looked into someone's eyes and smiled because they made him happy?

I snort and shake my head, earning myself a brief, bemused glance from behind his goggles before he turns back to whatever file he's reading. Those instances of joy hail from my past, specifically from Wammy's, before L. They're not his past. For all I know, he might have spent all eternity in his apartment typing away, picking up random strays who came and went whenever he had a moment. He might be a demon condemned and confined to this mundane world for insubordination. The Kira case has given me solid evidence of more unlikely things. Everything about him just seems so ageless, so lifeless—he could be reading anime fanfiction, a.k.a. PORNPORNPORN and I wouldn't be able to tell.

How has he lived this long without being happy even once in a while? I unwrap a bar of chocolate less than quietly, and he doesn't turn his head; that's one sound he's acclimatized to. Unless maybe… it's because I'm here that he's not happy?

Don't flatter yourself, Mihael. Your middle name may be Misery, but you don't cause enough of it to completely unhinge him emotionally. You haven't made him what he is.

Great, so how do I make him into something he would be better off being? Namely, happy? And also, why do I care?

I don't answer the questions in my head, instead turning back to my computer and cursing myself for wasting time thinking about Matt when I should have been reading up on Kira's supporters.

Somewhere at the back of my mind, though, I think I know.

He has to change himself.

And…

Why do I care? I guess, for the same reason I care(d) for Near, and L, and Wammy, and the girl in the corner store where I buy shitty Japanese chocolate, and the idiot hobo who sits at the bus stop, and the people in the lesser cars at intersections who drool as we blizz by in Matt's new, fire-truck-red muscle car.

But, more than that. All of that and more. It's just another thing I can't answer, and I've come to accept that.

It's the 'how much' part of the question that scares me. Goddamn, my head hurts.


The Futility and the Earnestness

Matt: 8:45 p.m., December 13th, 2009

"Mello, Halle's on the phone," I call. He should be able to hear me through the closed door to the suite's bedroom, where he's retired early, claiming migraines.

No answer. I try again. "She's calling to wish you a happy birthday and hinting that Near's noggin is spinning extra hard."

Still nothing. Normally I'd leave it at that and hang up without further bother. Something seems off, though. It might not be just my mother hen instincts overreacting, I think as I walk towards the door.

I put my ear to the door (don't wanna walk in on him getting off or anything) and listen hard. His tone, volume, and words make it clear what he's doing.

I never thought he was religious; I assumed the rosary was just a fashion statement. But I can hear "In the name of the Father" and "Holy Spirit" and "Virgin Mary" and such jargon dotting his sentences. He's…praying.

"Halle, I think he's having a Mello moment. Call again tomorrow and he'll be good to talk. Bye." I hang up before she can get a word in.

I don't personally believe, but I can see why Mello does. He needs people to fulfill himself. He needs them to be content, to feel at peace. He fancies himself independent, but he clung to Near to make himself feel in control of his emotions; he suckered onto L, goddamn shadow of a man who represented what Mello thought he wanted to become; he held on to God and his faith in an attempt to what? Fill some emptiness in his soul with the thin air that is a god with no ears?

He starts a familiar one, one that always accompanied dinner with my great aunt back when I was a kid, and I roll my eyes at the King James holier-than-thou diction:

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name."

Yes, yes, all hail Lord Kira.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."

Looks like that's already happening.

"Give us this day our daily bread…"

Yesterday I saw this whole foods commercial on TV, where this Japanese girl in a miniskirt and pink blazer, who by the way looked completely out of place in a supermarket, was holding a wholesome loaf of bread and bunch of grapes, proclaiming, "We support Kira-sama!"

Must be good for business.

"…and forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors."

Well, I can forgive Mello for spending so much on chocolate, but that's the limit of my magnanimity.

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Kira, you were the one who gave in to temptation by using the Death Note.

"For thine is the kingdom…"

That was in "Hollow Men," wasn't it?

"…and the power…"

My dear Eliot, you are over-quoted and overrated.

"…and the glory…"

Going out with a bang does not make you superior to those who go out with a whimper.

"…"

Seriously.

"…"

Wait. What about the rest? Is this some avant-garde, new religion kind of unfinished prayer style?

I ease the door open gently and say, "Forever. Amen," to the dark room. Then I flick on the lights.

"Matt?" he says tiredly from where he sits on the bed in a nest of pillows.

"Uh, hey," I say with an awkward sense of déjà vu. Why do we always end up like this, in darkness, in ignorance, in vulnerability? "Are you ok?"

"Fine…" he mutters, fingering the rosary loosely."Did you need something?"

"Only to tell you that Halle called to wish you well."

"Ok. Anything else."

"Mello," I begin, unsure what to say. "When you said the Lord's Prayer, you were thinking of Kira."

At a dark look from him, I hastily revise myself, "I mean, not blasphemously, but you were thinking of how fucked up it is that Kira holds more sway over the world right now than God does. And how his goddamn kingdom and power and fucking glory might just last forever, like it says."

I walk over and sit at the foot of the bed, facing the wall to his left. He can tolerate physical contact, I've learned over these past days, but emotional proximity is something different.

"Mello, it can't last. It won't. Kira's human; he makes mistakes. We're bound to stumble on something sooner or later that will bring him down. And even if we don't, Kira will die eventually. He can't maintain his dystopia after he's dead.

"I know what you're thinking: oh, but he can, because there was the second Kira, who carried out his will. And there was a third. Why can't there be infinitely more? It'll never end. So what can we do?" I ask of his still form, his eyes staring ahead, dully reflecting the light from the doorway.

"Did the nuns or whoever taught you your rosary teach you the serenity prayer? The one that goes like, 'God give me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, courage to change what I can, and wisdom to tell the difference.' There's more to it, but that's the main idea."

"I didn't think you were a Catholic too, what with your habits and your fixation with death," he says in a hollow, slightly nasal voice.

"I'm not," I smirk. "I just read that aphorism in Slaughterhouse Five."

"You read books?" The incredulity in his voice is almost adorable.

"When I was very little, yes. I still know how. I'll read to you someday. But the point is that," I return to the topic before we can get too reminiscent, "in our lifetimes, we may not be able to stop Kira and change the world. But the great thing is that God probably won't grant this prayer anyway, because he never does, so we won't have the wisdom to tell the difference. We'll just keep dashing ourselves against Kira's infallibility and bleed out on the pavement, and it'll be fine."

"Yes, just dandy, I'm sure." Hm, at least his sarcastic streak has returned. We can work from there.

"Really, Mello, usually I'm the one who's preaching doom and gloom and hopelessness. Don't let me rub off on you." I slide off the bed and look down at him.

"Mm, will do."

We share a comfortable silence.

"I'm going to sleep now," he announces, shifting and crawling under the blankets. He closes his eyes.

"Ok," I acknowledge, but I don't move.

"Matt?"

"Mello."

"Thanks."

Against my better judgment, I reach over and tuck a strand of hair away from his face. If he notices, he says nothing.

I walk out slightly confused.


A/N: So, there you are. While I was putting this together, I alternated between thinking "ooh, this is the shit :D" and "what is this shit?! O_O", so it all kind of evens out. Idk. Just not real happy with the pacing of this. Oh well!

I don't own Death Note, nor the things quoted: Eliot's "Hollow Men," Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or any of the gun designs featured. They are real; you can find them if you google 'unusual designs for gun' and it's the first one. Lol, the things I do in my free time. So, review?