Warnings: sexual content, language, semi-AU (I don’t kill Mello off XD), some fluff.
Rating: Light R
Characters/Pairings: Mello/Near, Matt, Linda.
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer applies.
Summary: Hatred? Oh yeah, that’s easy. But love… love, on the other hand, is a different ballgame entirely.
Comments: Begins at Wammy’s and then spans the entirety of the Death Note series, I suppose. There are spoilers, and it is kind of AU, in the sense that Mello doesn’t die here. I wanted to write something for Near’s birthday, and wound up writing all of this just today. ^^;;;;;;;;;;;; Happy Birthday Near!!!
He’s never hated anything in his life, really. Never, until pale, grey-eyed, smart-ass Near comes tumbling into it.
Actually, ‘tumbling’ isn’t the right word. Nor is any variation thereof the right word. Near strides calmly into his life, shoulders hunched and head bent low, like his feet are the most interesting things in the whole world.
Stand up straight, Mello wants to say, but doesn’t. Stop looking at your feet.
Roger introduces him as Near, but it isn’t his real name, of course. None of them uses their real names, because they are following in L’s footsteps, and Kira can kill by having nothing more than a face and a name.
Near doesn’t even say ‘hello’. He takes his seat without breathing a word, and Mello watches him as he goes, shaking his head and thinking, You won’t get very far with that attitude at all. He is convinced he’s right—convinced that this boy will not surpass Linda or Matt, and certainly won’t surpass Mello himself.
Mello doesn’t think that that is an unfair presumption.
Matt nudges him, whispers, “Hey.”
Startled, Mello turns to look at his best friend. “What?”
“Why are you looking at him like that?”
Mello’s brows furrow, forehead wrinkling. “Like what?”
“You know,” Matt tells him, but Mello doesn’t know.
He’s certain that he’s not looking at the newcomer in any particular way at all.
Back on the subject of hatred.
He grows to hate Near, because Near proves him entirely, incredibly wrong. Near can do everything that he can do, academically speaking, and he can do it even better than Mello. His grades are higher than Mello’s, and he always comes up with the right answer before Mello. It’s frustrating and it’s sickening and it’s wrong, and Mello doesn’t like it one little bit.
It’s easy to hate Near for what he does and for what he doesn’t do (at least, it’s easy enough for Mello to convince himself that he hates the pale boy who never says much of anything and who can almost always be found working on an all-white puzzle). It’s easy for Mello to tell himself that this is some twisted little game that started the moment Near was introduced to him.
He isn’t the top student at Wammy’s anymore. He is second-best, and he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t like having a title that isn’t accurate, because he knows – knows without second-guessing himself – that he is better than Near. He just has to prove it.
So he studies extra hard, and it gets him nowhere, really. Near still makes better grades—still answers questions quicker than Mello can get the same answer from his mind to his tongue.
And he hates Near for it. He says it aloud when he thinks no-one is listening.
But Linda is there, and she says in her soft, high voice, “I don’t think you hate him, Mello. I think you’re jealous.”
Mello’s cheeks darken and he shoots her a dirty look, telling her to mind her own business, and telling her that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Because he’s not jealous. It isn’t like that at all—really.
One day, for whatever reason (or for no reason at all), he finds himself stalking over to where Near is currently seated on the floor of the common room, yet again playing with his puzzle. He has a whole tirade ready, but forgets it the moment that he comes to standstill, for the little brat on the floor before him has the audacity to not even look up at him before coolly greeting him.
“Mello,” he says, and Mello guesses that’s Near’s way of saying ‘have a seat and tell me what’s on your mind.’
He grinds his teeth together, frustrated, and wishes that he’d thought to bring some chocolate with him to help calm him down. His whole argument – the whole point of his coming over here in the first place – has been forgotten, but he grasps at it anyway, hoping that it will somehow magically return.
“You think you’re so smart,” he tells Near, and it’s not the most dignified or grown-up thing to say to one’s enemy (it’s probably pretty childish, actually), but it’s the first thing he thinks, and so it is the first thing he says.
Near pauses, grey eyes finally blinking up at Mello. “Mello is very smart, too,” he says softly, and Mello balls his hands into fists—a compliment (if that’s what Near wants to call it) isn’t what he needs or wants to hear from the other boy, and so he turns on his heel without saying another word and begins walking back in the direction from whence he came. He should go back to his room—maybe study some more. Maybe find Matt and play videogames. He doesn’t have time for this ridiculousness.
“Mello just lets his emotions get the better of him sometimes,” Near continues, and that makes Mello pause for a half-second. It makes him turn and glare at the boy who is still on the floor, looking calmly right back at him.
Anger, whitehot, boiling, slip-slides somewhere deep inside of him, and Mello resumes walking, because he didn’t ask for Near’s fucking advice, did he?
No. No, he didn’t.
Sometimes, due to some odd twist of fate or humanity or something, and due to the reminder (which always stays around his neck) that people are meant to do good things instead of evil things (and hatred is one of those not-good things—he was taught that long ago, but sometimes he can’t help it… can’t help much of anything when it comes to Near, really, and he hates himself for that), Mello finds it difficult to hate Near.
He thinks that it’s because Near looks a little lonely sometimes. A little sad. A little bit like a lost child.
“I think you feel sorry for him sometimes,” Matt observes, and Mello only realizes that he’s been staring at Near for (how long?) some time right at that very moment, and his ears turn red because of it.
“It’s not like that,” Mello says haughtily. “Just thinking about how stupid he looks over there all by himself is all.”
He’s sure Matt doesn’t believe him, but Mello pretends that he does anyway, because it makes him feel just a little better.
None of them is prepared for it—for the news of L’s death. It is a crushing blow, and Mello can’t even process it properly before Roger is babbling on about how L hadn’t chosen a successor yet and how he and Near should work together, and—
“I can’t work with him,” Mello hisses, pointing a finger at Near as if he is accusing him of something. “We are too different, Roger. It would never work, and we’d--”
“I’m okay with it,” Near interrupts, and Mello goes slack-jawed for two-tenths of a second before he repeats, “I can’t work with him.”
He adds, “Let Near be L’s successor. He’s more suited for that role, anyway. He isn’t like me. I’ve got to… I’ve got to make my own way, and I’m old enough to fend for myself.”
Mello can’t work with Near—can’t stand by his side and support him.
They aren’t like Near’s puzzle, after all. They don’t fit together, no matter which way they’re turned.
When Mello leaves, Roger tells him, “Be careful out there, and always remember that you have a home to return to if you wish.”
Matt tells him, “Do me a favor and don’t get yourself killed out there, okay?”
Linda tells him, “Be good.” (Mello doesn’t make her any promises.)
Near tells him (in a voice that may or may not be tinged with sadness and something like regret—both spoken and unspoken words stringing together and making a melody all their own, bittersweet and maybe aching, or maybe it’s all in Mello’s imagination), “It would have taken a lot of work, but I think we would have been okay. Would have been better. Could have been.”
He’s never heard Near talk like that before and it shocks him maybe more than a little, but he pretends not to hear him.
Those words stay with him, though—remain somewhere deep inside. An intangible keepsake. Something to remember on a cold, rainy day, perhaps.
If Mello were to want to do that, that is.
But he doesn’t.
At least, that’s what he tells himself.
Years (and one massive explosion) later, when he thinks he’s outgrown childish notions of wanting to win first place and when he thinks that Near is nothing more than a memory and certainly no longer an obstacle in his path, he discovers that he is once again dead wrong.
He blames it on Near out of habit (one he thought he’d broken), and because it’s easier than blaming himself.
He finds himself at SPK’s headquarters (because Halle hadn’t been cautious enough, but that was okay—her carelessness made things much easier), not because he’s curious as to how Near’s fairing (not because he wants to see him), but because Near has something that belongs to him, and because he figures that it’s about time he reminds Near that the pale boy isn’t going to be the one to catch Kira, because Mello is going to be the one to do that.
All is fine and dandy – or so he thinks – until Near tells him that all of his progress has been partly due to Mello’s own efforts, and that makes Mello sound like a tool, and he doesn’t take kindly to that at all.
He draws his gun, points it right at Near’s head (he isn’t oblivious to the guns now pointed at his own head, but he isn’t bothered by them), and the little bastard taunts him—tells him to shoot, but Mello can’t (won’t), because he’d get himself killed in the process. That’s the only reason, really.
Near returns the photograph (Mello’s purpose for coming here) without fuss, and yeah—maybe Mello notices that Near still plays with toys and that he still wears baggy pajamas and that his hair and skin are as pale as they used to be, but he doesn’t comment on any of those things.
He doesn’t even say anything when he turns the photo over to find ‘Dear Mello’ written there in elegant script. He ignores the familiar-and-yet-unfamiliar ache in his chest when he sees those words—when he realizes that Near is the one who wrote them. He ignores this feeling, and instead clings to his anger and his
Not wishing to be in Near’s debt, he tells him what he knows—tells him the notebook belongs to a Death God, and tells him that the Death God can be seen when the notebook is touched. He also informs Near that one of the rules in the Death Note is fake. And, easy (or uneasy) as that, he’s out of Near’s debt.
On his way out the door, he takes the time to remind Near that this is still just a game between them, and that in the end, he will be the victor, and he will wait for Near at the finish line.
He can hear the hint of a smirk in his adversary’s voice as he replies, “Right.”
Truth be told, at this point, Mello’s not certain as to whom he’s trying to convince: Near, or himself.
He tells himself that he can’t afford distractions—can’t afford to let Near get ahead. But regardless of that, he finds himself staring at the back of that stupid photo every single day afterwards, and he contemplates why Near would write such a stupid thing on the back of his picture.
Because Near is Near, he concludes, and he likes to piss me off and make my mind go around and around in stupid, pointless circles. It’s as good of a reason as any, he supposes, but it’s not enough.
He realizes he’s terrible at hiding his preoccupation when Matt, completely out of the blue, says, “Why don’t you just ask him, instead of staring at it like it’s magically going to answer you all by itself?”
“I don’t have time for that,” Mello replies flippantly as he considers burning the stupid photo for the ten-thousandth time (but he doesn’t actually go through with it).
“But you have time to sit there and stare at the back of an old picture.” He doesn’t see Matt roll his eyes, but he knows that Matt does it, anyway. “That makes perfect sense, Mello.”
“Yes it does,” Mello agrees with fake cheer, even though it doesn’t make any sense at all.
Near’s accomplices aren’t any nicer to Mello during his second visit to the SPK’s headquarters, but that’s all right, because he doesn’t expect them to play nice. He couldn’t care less, really.
“Leave us,” Near says. “I trust Mello to not kill me.”
His lapdogs are obviously not happy with his decision (and it’s a stupid one, really), but they retreat anyway, leaving Mello and Near alone.
“Miss my company already, M?” Near asks.
“It’s not like that at all,” Mello tells him, now eyeing the mostly-empty room. “Not a wise decision, Near—telling them to leave you alone with your enemy.” He leans against the wall, waiting.
Near’s dark, fathomless eyes turn to him, and Near says, “I’ve never considered you to be my enemy, Mello. And besides, you aren’t here to kill me. You’re here to ask a question, aren’t you? Perhaps something has been bothering you?”
How dare he ask such questions when he knows already?
Mello pushes away from the wall, glaring at Near whilst he advances upon him, perturbed (but not at all surprised) when Near doesn’t even flinch. “Even after all this time, you’re still doing it!” he tells Near, pointing a trembling finger at him. “You push all of my fucking buttons, and act all high and mighty when you aren’t, and you play with your toys and write stupid things on the back of photographs that do nothing more than piss me off, and you pretend to be so unaffected and so….” He trails off for a moment, shaking his head before continuing: “And you never act on a goddamn thing! You wait and you watch and--”
Near rises slowly, standing to his full height. He’s gotten taller over the years, but he’s still shorter than Mello. He reaches up, twirling a few strands of hair around his index finger as he says, “What would you have me act on, Mello? How would you have me act?”
Mello sees red and then white and before he even realizes what he’s doing, he’s taken two steps towards Near; he’s closed the distance between them and his right hand is gripping the front of Near’s pajama top and he’s kissing him. The kiss is full of venom and anger and years’ worth of pent-up frustrations and words that have gone unspoken between them. It isn’t gentle.
At least, not at first. But then Near tilts his head a little and the angle changes. His lips meld against Mello’s, parting just a little, and when he makes a soft sound into Mello’s mouth, Mello feels something inside of him crumble just a little.
They break apart for air, and Near is a little wide-eyed, and Mello believes that this is the most expressive he’s ever seen the fair-skinned boy.
“You’re better at acting on your emotions than me,” Near replies breathlessly. “Remember?”
“Shut up,” Mello retorts.
And for no reason at all (or so he tells himself), he kisses Near again.
Mello discovers that it’s really difficult to hold onto his hatred for Near (it’s an illusion, really—and who can hold onto something that isn’t real?) when Near is naked beneath him, the heat of his body all around him, and he’s warmsweettight, and oh God, why didn’t he think to do this before now?
(Maybe because he hadn’t been thinking at all).
Near’s skin is soft, and Near himself is very responsive to everything that Mello does—he leans into every touch, whimpers at nearly every kiss, and Mello discovers that he rather likes the way goosebumps rise on Near’s body when Mello skims his hands along the younger boy’s torso. He also likes the way Near blushes when he touches him in certain ways (when he ghosts his fingers along Near’s thighs, or when he brushes his thumb along the head of Near’s cock, messily smearing the pre-cum there). He likes how Near clings to him, how Near spreads his thighs and invites him in. He likes how Near arches up against him—how Near takes him in deeper and deeper with each thrust.
He likes the way little spots of purple blossom on Near’s skin when he bites or sucks just a little too hard—likes that Near doesn’t protest the marks.
He finds it unsettling that he’s savoring every touch, every kiss, every sound that Near makes and every thrust of Near’s hips against his own. He finds it unsettling that he’s treating these little insignificant, meaningless things (it’s lust—it’s lust and it’s hatred and it’s anger and that’s it) like they are precious: iridescent and irreplaceable and meant to be treasured.
And when Near comes, dragging Mello with him into warmth and brightness (territory which Mello hasn’t really entered before now), it leaves Mello more than a little breathless and even more unsettled than before.
When Near opens his eyes again, they’ve gone all soft and bright with wonder and something else that Mello is too afraid to put a name to. He reaches up, gently tracing the edges of Mello’s scar. “You’ve got to be more careful,” he says.
Mello snorts. “Yeah, well, then I’d be you.”
A hint of a smile curves Near’s lips. “I’d rather you be Mello.”
And when he pulls Mello in for another kiss, Mello (stupidly) doesn’t fight him.
Morning brings the sun, and with the light comes the harsh realization of what was and is and what never-will-be. He slides out of bed, trying to be quiet and not wake Near, but he fails.
“Good morning,” Near tells him, and Mello stiffens, reflexively touching the cross around his neck before zipping up his jacket.
He replies, “I have to go.”
“You could stay,” Near suggests quietly, like he already knows Mello’s answer.
Mello shakes his head. “No. It’s--”
“—Not like that,” Near finishes for him, voice still so very quiet.
Mello nods. “Exactly.”
He leaves feeling like he’s accomplished nothing.
More questions than answers.
He doesn’t like the imbalance.
He doesn’t remember when he gave Near his cell number—thinks that he probably never gave it to him at all. But, nevertheless, he hasn’t even made it back to his apartment before his phone is ringing and he fishes it out of his pocket, not even bothering to check the display, because he’s certain that it’s Matt.
He is greeted by Near’s voice: “It could be, you know. Like that.”
Mello ends the call without saying a word, because sometimes staying silent is a lot easier than letting the dam break.
“Did you find out what you wanted to know?” Matt asks him later, and it’s innocent enough, but Mello visibly flinches at the question anyway.
“No,” he replies, and he’s sure that he’s fooling no-one, but this is one of those times in which Matt apparently figures that pushing Mello further would be a Very Bad Idea, and he doesn’t comment any further on the matter.
Mello is grateful.
At least, until Matt sends him a text message that night that reads: Going to stay with him again tonight?
No, Mello replies simply, not that it’s any of Matt’s fucking business.
True to his word, he doesn’t go back to Near that night.
He goes back the next, though. And the next, and the next. It becomes a pattern: Familiar and dangerous and not right but right all at once. It defies logic.
They don’t ask questions, and they don’t really speak—their language is that of lovers, made of kisses and caresses, of whimpers and moans, of in and out and in again, of half-parted lips and fluttering lashes, of yes and please and more.
Mello likes this new language.
Near doesn’t try to talk to him about the things that they could have together, but Mello always hears the unspoken words later—always sees them in those dark eyes.
We could be equals, those eyes say, and Mello thinks it himself before dismissing it, because it’s always been about competition between them. Never equality.
It’s the status quo, and Mello isn’t sure how things would be if they decided to change that.
(Fleetingly, he imagines that it might be something wonderful).
But this? This isn’t like that—can’t be. Won’t be.
He watches Near sleep afterwards. Holds him close to himself.
No reason, really.
Eventually (Mello knew it was coming), Matt asks: “When are you going to stop lying to everyone—to yourself?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mello replies coldly, not bothering to try to suppress his glare.
“Sure,” Matt says, looking up at the ceiling. “Keep on lying. Tell us all that you’re still just trying to prove that you’re better than him, when all of us – including you – know what’s going on; you just won’t admit to it. You love him. At least admit it to yourself.”
“It isn’t like that at all,” Mello snarls, now glaring at a point somewhere above Matt’s right shoulder.
“You’re a shitty liar, Mel. I just wonder how long you’ll be able to keep playing this little game of denial.”
“It isn’t like that,” Mello repeats, and he knows Matt doesn’t believe him.
He’s too old to play pretend now, and so he doesn’t bother with pretending that Matt does believe him.
It doesn’t make him feel any better.
He doesn’t have a-million-and-one questions anymore. The truth is that he’s had the answers all along, right in front of him.
The answer (singular), really.
It just isn’t an answer that he’s ready and willing to accept is all.
Love, on the other hand, is very, very complicated.
He avoids Near for a while—keeps himself busy with the ‘game’. Kidnaps Takada and nearly gets himself killed for the nth time, but that’s okay, because he emerges alive and whole and somewhat victorious. The rest is up to Near now.
(He’s made peace with that, too).
When he arrives back at the apartment, he knows something is off. The door isn’t locked, and he always leaves it locked. Matt isn’t there either—Mello had just spoken with him, so that possibility has already been ruled out.
He enters the apartment cautiously, gun drawn, and he isn’t at all prepared for the sight of Near, sitting cross-legged on his couch and glaring at him like he’s committed the absolute worst atrocity known to man (and if he’s done that, why the hell are they chasing after Kira?).
“What the hell are you doing?” he asks, gently setting his gun on the nearby cabinet. “You’re here by yourself, and--”
“What the hell were you doing?” Near interrupts, and his voice is just a tad higher than usual. “You could have gotten yourself killed, Mello.”
Mello blinks once. Twice. And then he crosses the distance between them, sitting down beside Near on the couch. “Yeah, and this is different from any other day how, exactly?”
Near just continues to glare, and Mello gapes as two tears slip from those grey eyes and travel down his cheeks. “You could have been killed,” he repeats.
Mello reaches out in wonder, brushes the tears away with calloused fingertips. “You were worried.” It isn’t a question.
Near shrugs and looks away, shoulders hunched, and it’s a pretty damn good impression of his usual nonchalance. “It isn’t like that.”
Mello half-smiles, bittersweet. “You’re right—it’s not.”
Then, Near starts telling him about a plan of his own, involving warehouses and fake pages in the Death Note. A final showdown, he says.
And as Mello listens, he relaxes a little more. Everything falls back into place.
Well, almost everything, and that’s better than nothing, he supposes.
“We’ve won,” Near tells him days later, in a shaky, nervous voice. “Kira has been defeated.”
Mello (who hasn’t been as jittery as person who’s just had ten cups of double-shot espresso while waiting for Near to call) would like to say that the words he focuses on the most are: ‘Kira has been defeated’, but that’s a lie. The words he focuses on the most are: ‘We’ve won.’ We, not I.
“We’ve won.” He says it too—tests the words as they roll off his tongue, and they sound surprisingly right. They’ve reached the finish line together, not separately.
That feels right, too.
“Yes,” Near agrees, and whether it is to Mello’s spoken or unspoken words, he isn’t sure. He figures it doesn’t really matter, because Near is laughing then, and Mello has never heard him laugh before. He’s laughing, and it’s pure and joyful and relieved and free.
He thinks it’s entirely out-of-character for Near, but right here, right now, it’s more than okay.
This chapter of their lives is over.
And another has begun.
The defeat of Kira calls for a celebration, and the night finds Mello perfectly drunk off his ass, rambling to Matt about nothing and everything all at once, because Matt is his best friend and is obligated to listen to Mello when he needs to talk.
(Not that Mello feels he shares the same obligation, but that isn’t important).
“And you know,” Mello continues, concluding his rambling story about things that he’s already forgotten, “I think I love him.”
“About bloody fucking time,” Matt grumbles, shoving at Mello lightly. “Now why don’t you go tell him that?”
It sounds like a brilliant idea, really (because what the hell is the point of pretending now?).
Matt drops him off, refusing to let Mello walk on his own, and absolutely refusing to hand over Mello’s keys, saying that dying on the way out there wouldn’t be very conducive to Mello’s plan.
Mello can see the point there, and so he doesn’t try to argue. At any rate, he winds up outside of Near’s bedroom door (Near’s lackeys have started showing a little more trust in him, and they don’t even pull their guns on him this time, despite the fact that he’s ridiculously drunk—then again, they look like they’ve been doing some celebrating of their own).
He knocks on the door instead of just barging in, and Near answers it, looking somewhat bleary-eyed.
“What’re you doing?” Mello asks, confused as to why Near isn’t celebrating with everyone else.
Near rubs at his eyes. “Sleeping,” he replies, as though Mello should have known.
“Oh.” Well, maybe sleeping is Near’s way of celebrating. All who’ve been involved in the Kira case over the past several years could probably use some serious downtime.
Near now looks a tad impatient. “Is that the only reason why you came here, Mello? To ask what I’m doing?”
“No,” Mello replies automatically, pushing past Near, into the bedroom. He closes the door behind them and pulls Near close, kissing him slowly and thoroughly, and he thinks that Near’s kisses are possibly more addictive than chocolate.
“I think I love you,” he slurs when their lips part.
Near stares at him for a second or two, not speaking, and then he rolls his eyes and says (sounding both annoyed and amused), “Tell me that again when you’re sober. If you remember, that is.”
That night, Near holds Mello while he sleeps, instead of the other way around.
It feels nice.
The morning finds them in a tangle of arms and legs and bedsheets. Mello does not awaken with a headache or a sense of nausea. He actually feels like he rested more last night (despite the ‘celebration’) than he has in a long time. The world itself seems new, even though he knows that it hasn’t been ‘saved’ or anything like that—there are still criminals out there, after all.
But still. Things are different. He feels lighter, like some huge burden has been lifted off of his shoulders.
Beside him, Near stirs, opening his eyes and blinking at him, and Mello smiles, remembering.
He isn’t drunk now—not on alcohol, anyway. He is possibly drunk on Near’s smile and Near’s eyes, and the way Near’s skin feels against his own, but he figures that that doesn’t really count.
And so, he says (perfectly clearly, without any slurring of the words at all), “I love you.”
Near smiles, leans in to kiss him, and it’s slow and sweet and lingering.
… It’s definitely, exactly like that.
Attack of fluff at the end, for srs. ^^; I couldn’t help myself.