A/N: Hello! I really have no excuse for writing this, since I already have a chaptered fic that's in desperate need of updating, but I hope you enjoy this little AU nonetheless! It's only gonna be 3 parts (for now), and then I'll get back to writing "I And Love And You." I certainly haven't forgotten about it; in fact, this fic started its life as chapter 4 of IALAY, but when L and Light magically inserted themselves in here I knew it had to be its own thing. Anyway, I kinda fell in love with this 'verse and I hope you do too!

Warnings: Frequent scene switching, textual mood swings, unrequited Halle/Mello (I'm sorry, I couldn't help it), and pining all over the place.

Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note or anything recognizable.

On some level, Mello realized that this was rather pathetic. And by 'this,' he meant the last five years of his life.

It wasn't that he hadn't tried to move on; he really, honestly had. But some things are easier said than done, and that was certainly one of them.

Here he was, 23 years old, living in a mediocre apartment and working at the local drug store for just above minimum wage. This was okay with him; he didn't expect or want anything spectacular from his life, barring one major event that he hoped for every day: that his best friend, who had left without a trace five years ago, would contact him somehow.

Matt had been Mello's best friend for as long as he could remember. They had lived next door to each other for all of their lives, up until Mello had left for college and Matt had left for God knows where. In college, Mello had flourished academically, putting all his effort into studying in an attempt to channel his constant sadness into something productive. It had worked, and he had graduated with high honors. But with nothing to motivate him after graduation, he had sunk into a seemingly pointless cycle of working, sleeping, and hoping, and it was only interrupted by the infrequent visits of his sole college friend.

The first time Mello met Near, he had been walking to one of his classes, minding his own business, when a book had fallen on his head. The book, Mello had discovered, belonged to Near, who was sitting in a tree, the branches of which hung over the sidewalk.

It was an odd beginning to a friendship, but then, Near was an odd person. He was also a very good listener, as Mello quickly discovered, and he soon found himself telling Near everything he could about Matt. Near was calculating and unemotional, though, and he never gave Mello any false hope of Matt's return. And in a way, Mello had found that helpful, since he could never be rational about the subject, himself.

Today progressed like any other day. Mello awoke promptly at 6:30 AM, ate breakfast, showered, and left for work to start his shift at 7:30. He dealt with nearly-deaf old people attempting to solicit his advice on which cream to use to heal their terrible rash, along with teenagers awkwardly shuffling their way to the register, attempting to cleverly hide their pack of condoms in between energy drinks. Every hour or so, his immediate supervisor, a sarcastic, impeccably dressed blond woman, would arrive at his register to check on him. Mello was never entirely sure, but sometimes he got the feeling that she was attempting to flirt with him. He wished she would stop.

It wasn't that he had anything against Halle; she was quite pretty and was never rude to him. He just couldn't think of her as anything more than his supervisor. She was also nearly ten years older than him, which didn't help her case.

And, as Near had so plainly stated one day after Mello had told him of his suspicions regarding Halle, Mello would never be able to be in a relationship with anyone because he was hung up on the memory of Matt.

Yes, that's true, and I know that, Mello had said, and so Near had elaborated:

It's obvious you were in love with him, and you still are.

Matt was not homesick.

Not once over the past five years had he ever experienced that particular feeling. He didn't miss his parents, he didn't miss the rest of his extended family, and he certainly didn't miss the suburban town he had grown up in. To be fair, he did miss his dog, an Irish Setter named Penny who liked to smother his face in doggy kisses. But being homesick was a foreign concept to Matt.

He supposed the more appropriate term for his feelings was one of his own design: he was Mello-sick.

There was nothing and no one that he missed more in the world. Before he had left, there had been very few days when he hadn't at least seen Mello, and though their 18-year friendship had certainly had its ups and downs (especially vivid in Matt's mind was the night he had thrown an entire watermelon at Mello's face—it was a long story), they had remained the best of friends, and neither one had ever considered ending their friendship.

That is, until Matt had gotten this stupid idea in his head and it had ruined everything.

His parents never had any concern for what he did, and because of this, they let him get away with anything. Matt had never completely tested their boundaries when it came to what he could and couldn't do, until the day when he bought a car using their money and promptly went on a five-year-long road trip.

It had started as a kind of soul-searching adventure: Matt had just graduated high school and had absolutely no idea what he wanted to do with his life. He had thought that maybe seeing more of the world than a few suburban towns would help him find his calling. Instead, he had ended up living in an apartment with a ridiculous roommate who insisted that Matt refer to him only as "L", spending the rest of the money he had "borrowed" from his parents, and working at a video game store under a manager who knew nothing about gaming.

And through it all, he had wanted to contact Mello every day, but something in him would hold him back, and it bothered him that he could never figure out what it was. The threat of humiliation? The defeat of his pride? The knowledge that he had waited so long to attempt this that Mello probably hated him by now? Whatever it was, it prevented him from making any moves towards reuniting with Mello.

Until today.

Today, L had revealed to Matt that he was banging Matt's manager, and Matt had subsequently had a complete and total freak-out, questioning everything he had ever known and throwing some prayers around to various gods for good measure.

Of course, L hadn't used those exact words; he had expressed it a bit more delicately. But only a bit.

"So, Matt," he had said while he ate his fourth ice cream sundae of the day, "you are aware that Mr Yagami, your manager, and I, are…friends, correct?"

No. No, Matt had not been aware of that.

"Well, recently, our relationship has progressed to a level beyond which the notion of 'friendship' appropriately describes. I just thought you should know, in case anything should come up about it at your work." While he had been speaking, he had neatly tied a cherry stem in a knot with his tongue, and then he had placed it on the table in front of him and excused himself.

And that was why Matt was now sitting on the fire escape of his apartment building, questioning his very existence, and also how he would ever face Light at work the next day.

Sometimes, Matt would come back to him.

Mello would find him outside his apartment door, a sheepish smile on his face, and he would say "Hi" and toe the hallway carpet a little and Mello would pull him inside with a little too much force and would be equal doses angry and ecstatic.

Or he'd run into Matt on the street, and would recognize him instantly but be too afraid to say anything. They would look at each other for a long moment, then Matt would reach out to him, slowly, tentatively, and people would walk past them on the busy street and not even notice. Matt would cup Mello's cheek and Mello would touch Matt's hand, and it would be like they were alone despite all the people shuffling around them.

Or Matt would call him and Mello would melt into the sound of his voice, slightly distorted by the bad reception but unmistakably him. And they would arrange to meet somewhere, and Mello would spend the hours or days or weeks until their meeting doing nothing but worrying and hoping.

But in the end, every scenario always ended the same way: with a jolt of awakening, a sigh of disappointment, and a resolve to make it through the day the best that Mello could.

And maybe the room always felt a bit colder afterwards, but that was probably just Mello's imagination.

"So I take it L told you."

Oh God, oh God. "Yes, he…he told me."

"Good. Could you stock that cabinet? We have a bunch of trade-ins piled up in the back."

Matt hadn't slept. He had spent the entire night immersed in a fog of thought, which had gotten progressively more incoherent the longer the night went on. He had started thinking about how best to contact Mello when he didn't even know where he lived or if he had the same phone number. Curse their mutual pact to never join Facebook, he had thought. He would gladly slog through the inane status updates of a thousand air-headed girls to find out where Mello was right now. Then, as the sky had begun to brighten and birds had started to sing, his thoughts had gotten a bit confusing and distinctly not Mello-related. How did birds first figure out they could fly? Why can't humans fly? Evolution and stuff, I guess. E-vo-lu-tion. Words are weird. Why is that the word to describe that process? Sounds pretty science-y, I guess. If apples are blue why isn't my foot asleep?

It was at that point that he had determined that his night would be completely sleepless, and so he had traipsed to the kitchen and eaten an entire box of one of L's extra-sugary cereals, which he would undoubtedly pay for when he returned from work.

Right now, though, his primary concerns were stocking one of the used games cabinets and avoiding Light at all costs.

Once his stocking was completed, Matt shut himself up in the break room, prepared a large cup of coffee, and texted Mello. Or, rather, he composed a text to Mello's number and then saved it in his drafts without sending it. This was something he hadn't done in a while, but as he scrolled through them now, he realized he had done this quite a few times in the past. More times than was healthy, probably.

The earliest ones were all along the lines of I've decided to leave, don't know where I'm going yet, gonna miss you a freakin' shit-ton. As time went on, they became more upbeat: Guess where I went today? The Hershey's Chocolate Factory! You'd've loved it, seriously. And finally, the tone shifted to that of sadness: I'm so sorry, Mels. I'm stupid and I shouldn't have done this.

The text that Matt composed today would remain both unfinished and unsent. There is nothing I want more than to be able to see you again. But you've probably

Forgotten about me. Moved on. Been mad at me for so long that you could never feel any other way.

Sometimes, on days when Matt is particularly honest with himself, and he can't ignore the pang in his heart, he will type Mello I know you don't care but I love you and that way he ensures that the text will forever remain unsent.

Nothing like this has ever happened to him before.

He's standing behind the counter with 30 minutes left in his shift and no customers in sight, and Halle is approaching.

Mello smiles politely at her like he always does. Her face remains passive like it always does. Then she says, "You get off at 3:30."

"Yes," Mello says, because he knows this and she knows this and he's worked this shift, 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM, since he started at the drug store a year ago. Why they are wasting breath having this conversation is a mystery to Mello.

"Do you want to get coffee afterwards?"

Oh no. Oh, no, no, no. Is she…is she asking me on a date? Is that what this is?

"Are you asking me on a date?" he blurts out incredulously before he can stop himself.

Halle cocks her head a bit, then nods.

"Umm," Mello says. "Well," and he usually doesn't stammer, but this is a completely new situation and he's unsure how to react. He doesn't feel that way about Halle, but maybe if he stipulates that they go as friends…he could do with another friend.

"An 'outing with a friend'?" Halle repeats, making air quotes around the words as she says them. "Well, ok. Whatever you wanna call it."

Mello calls Near that night and explains what happened with Halle, and Near seems unimpressed.

"So you went on a date," he says. "Good for you."

"No," Mello insists. "It wasn't a date. I told her it wasn't a date."

"You might not have considered it a date, but you can't stop her from calling it whatever she wants in her head."

Mello sighs, and then there's a long pause.

"Mello," Near says finally. "Just call Matt."

"What?! This has nothing to do with Matt!"

"Everything in your life has something to do with Matt," Near says, and he seems bored by the conversation. Mello can just see him sitting in his chair, elbow on his knee, twirling a curl of hair with a tired expression on his face.

And Mello realizes that Near is right. Of course he is, because Near is always right. He shouldn't be leading Halle on, even if he doesn't mean to. He shouldn't be calling Near at odd hours of the day and night just to talk to him about someone he's never even met. He shouldn't be so hung up on Matt and yet so unwilling to change his situation. He shouldn't be stagnating at an entry-level job, wasting his degree, wasting his youth.

He hangs up with Near and comes to a decision. He's either going to try his damned hardest to bring Matt back into his life, or he's going to forget about him for good. There's no middle ground. It's been a long time, and Mello shouldn't have to suffer like this just because he's been too scared to do anything about his life.

He allows himself a night to sleep on it, and can't help but think that his future rests solely on this decision, no matter how dramatic that might sound.

The title of this fic is from "Sax Rohmer #1" by The Mountain Goats.

Also, I'd like to address something. I know there's no reason for them to be using their nicknames since this is a normal life AU, but there's a simple reason for it: that's how we're familiar with the characters. We know them by their nicknames and that's how I feel comfortable writing them. That's not to say that using their true names in AUs is a bad thing, I just don't think it's necessary in this fic. You can think of your own reason for them going by their nicknames.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you join me again for part 2, coming soon!