Warnings: childhood disillusionment?
Characters/Pairings: Mello/Near, if you squint. Mentions of L.
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer applies.
Summary: Somewhere out there, there are children who play hopscotch and tag and ring-around-the-rosy, and can say that they are not trying to walk in the footsteps of a person that they can never possibly surpass.
Comments: Takes place at Wammy’s House. Features a younger Mello and a younger Near. ^_^
He finds his adversary sitting on the pristine floor of the common room—he’s cross-legged and he’s playing with his puzzle, as usual. No shock there. This is where he can often be found, away from the rest of the children, locked up in his own little world, and when Near is like this (which is pretty much all of the time, really), Mello has a difficult time deciphering whether he’s on the outside looking in, or if it’s the other way around entirely.
He crouches down beside Near, a few feet away, just outside of the younger boy’s personal space. He’s drowsy right now—it’s raining outside and he’s just eaten a few too many biscuits (with honey) and drank warm milk, and he’s blinking frequently to keep himself awake. He’s loose-lipped right now, and he blames it on the food and the milk and the weather—blames it on anything except himself, and denies that he feels anything other than extreme dislike for the boy sitting next to him. No, it isn’t curiosity or concern that makes him speak.
“You never play with any of the others,” he says, and it’s an observation that he’s made countless times before now, but has never spoken aloud, not even to Matt.
“You don’t like me,” Near deflects, not looking up from his puzzle. No doubt he’s wondering why Mello is in here with him, but perhaps he doesn’t care enough to ask for a reason.
Mello bites his bottom lip before taking a chocolate bar from his shirt pocket and unwrapping it. He’s eaten too much already, but there’s always room for chocolate.
He is silent for a moment as he contemplates what to say—he could always just agree, but he has this feeling that he’d get nothing out of the pale boy if he did that (because he hates this kid, he really does), and so he persists: “You never even try to join in when we’re playing ball or anything. You’re always in here, working on that puzzle.”
Near shrugs then, picking up a piece of the puzzle and eyeing it before setting it back down. He picks up another and puts it into its rightful place, and then replies, “That isn’t what we’re here for, anyway.”
Mello knows what Near means—he isn’t second-best in Wammy’s House for nothing, after all. He’s not an idiot, and he knows he’s every bit as smart as Near, though not nearly as emotionally-controlled. He knows that there is no innocence here, not really. Here at Wammy’s, none of them have a true childhood; none of them can say that they are like any other child in the world, outside of their world. Somewhere out there, there are children who play hopscotch and tag and ring-around-the-rosy, and can say that they are not trying to walk in the footsteps of a person that they can never possibly surpass.
(But ‘somewhere’ is not ‘here’).
They always have to think on their feet—always. Even the games that they play are based on strategy, and all it is is preparation, really. The assumption is that the younger they are when they begin, the more ready they’ll be to take over the role of the world’s greatest detective, should anything happen to the one who currently holds that title.
Mello never wants that day to come, in a way, because he thinks that none of them could ever take L’s place—not Near, and not even himself. There’s a lot of pressure on them, a lot of stress to be dealt with for ones as young as they themselves.
And so Mello – in all of his efforts to make it seem a little less frightening than it really is – makes it into a game, one between himself and Near, to see who is the best in the end—to see who L chooses to be his successor. It’s childish, and that’s just what Mello needs: some real shred of child-like behavior in this grown-up world of good and evil and detective and suspect.
Near does it, too: He plays with toys and he wears clothes that are far too big, making him seem even smaller and more fragile than he really is.
“I know what you mean,” Mello murmurs softly, and he does know, and maybe that’s what makes this so much more meaningful than he wants it to be.
Near – puzzle piece poised between the thumb and index finger of his right hand, the sleeves of his oversized pajamas nearly covering his fingers entirely (giving the illusion of innocence—but that’s all it is, a perfectly-executed illusion) looks up, grey eyes wide and curious for just a moment before the mask is carefully put back into place. Looking entirely nonchalant, he whispers, “Yes, you do,” and there’s more emotion in those words than even Mello is willing to admit that he’s just heard.
They don’t speak after that. They don’t have to. Near lifts his free hand to curl his fingers around a few strands of his hair, and Mello takes a bite of his chocolate bar.
If they move a little closer to one another, neither of them breathes a word about it.
It’s moments like this when they are on a level playing field—when first place and second place don’t exist, and the two of them are just a couple of boys: They are just Mello and Near, Mihael and Nate, and it’s easy and peaceful and Mello has to admit (even if only to himself) that he likes this feeling, whatever it is.
And it’s moments like this when he has to admit that he doesn’t dislike the younger boy nearly as much as he would like to think he does.
He doesn’t breathe a word about that either (what’s the point of telling your enemy that you don’t really hate him?), but as he tentatively moves to put one of Near’s puzzle pieces into place on the board, he swears that he sees Near smile just a little (and he’s never seen him do that before), and he thinks – realizes – that Near probably already knows anyway, the little twit.
And maybe (just maybe) he’s okay with that, too.
This is kinda meant to be a mirror-image of the Light/L ficlet I wrote earlier: Trying Something New. I wanted to offer a little insight on the similarities and the differences in their relationships just by using brief scenes, and I wanted the endings to be similar and yet filled with a special meaning all on their own, which is unique to each pairing. Not sure if I actually managed to do that or not, but I tried. XD
I like that this image is more hopeful, even though we know that Mello gets all stubborn and all “I HATE NEAR” anyway. Still~. I like this one better.