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It is February 14, 2010. A little more than two weeks have passed since the Kira investigation was finally brought to a close after six years of hard work and bloodshed. The world is only just coming to the slow realization that the so-called 'God' is no more. There is no more omnipresent watchdog judging their every move and doling out harsh justice to those he finds unworthy for his New World. Some rejoice for the God's downfall, for the return of a world that – while flawed – held no dark promise of death for those who failed to meet a set of ideals. Others, those on the receiving end of injustice, and who found no retribution coming from more human systems, mourned the loss of their savior, and prayed in vain for his return. There would be friction between these two groups, arguments and fights and pointless street wars over a man with a boy's view of how the world should be, and who, for a time, held the power to make it so.

For now, though, the world is still awakening to this fact. There were very few who knew for absolute certainty that Kira was dead. That Kira had in fact been no more than a highly intelligent Japanese high school boy, then college boy, and finally police officer. Those who had worked alongside of him and were betrayed by him, and the ones who finally brought him down were the only ones. Only they knew the whole truth.

They tried, now that it was all over, to piece together the lives they once had. To remember what it had been like, what they had been like before the coming of Kira. There were difficulties, but for most, life took up its familiar rhythms.

For some, there would be no return to the life they once had.

In England, in a quiet corner of the countryside not far from Winchester, was a small plot of land set aside with a special purpose. Not many knew about this place. It was surrounded by a tall, iron wrought fence with only one gate, which was usually locked tight. Just inside was what one would be tempted to call a watch house, but there was rarely anyone in it. Instead of a guard allowing visitors through, there was a keypad beside the gate – a sharp modern contrast to the dark iron surrounding it – that would cause the gate to swing back for anyone who knew the code.

A limousine rolled slowly down the drive, tires crunching along the damp gravel. The snow covering the countryside had melted only that morning, and while it was warm for the season, nothing was quite dry yet. The code was entered by the driver, who then pulled through into the smallish parking area. There was only one other car there. Once parked, the driver got out and opened the backdoor for his passenger.

From the back came an eighteen-year-old boy, although he had the appearance of being no more than thirteen or fourteen. He stood slightly hunched, dressed all in white. A baggy white coat protected him from the chill, a shock of white hair adorned his head, and he held a white paper bag by its handles in one pale, bandaged hand. It would be hard to believe that this was the one who had finally cracked the Kira case. The one who was now considered to be the world's greatest detective.

Once steady on the gravel, in white sneakers that were slightly too large, the boy turned to his driver. "You may go. I will call when I am ready to leave." The voice was quiet, monotone, and clipped.

The driver started. "But, sir, it will probably snow again soon. You surely don't intend—"

"James will leave this place directly. I am not a child to be watched over every moment."

James stepped back from the stare leveled at him. He had known this boy – Near – since his youngest days in Winchester, and had been on the receiving end of those slate gray eyes more than once. They had always been cold before, even flat, but today they were different. There was a kind of depth to the emptiness, where if you looked too long you might fall in and be lost.

He had received orders from one of Near's colleagues, Commander Rester, to not leave the albino alone… but Rester was back in town, and Near was here, staring him down.

He swallowed, and gave in. "Yes, sir."

Satisfied that his order would be carried out, at least partially, Near turned and set off on one of the muddy walking paths. It didn't really matter to him if the driver went all the way back to town. Near expected that he would pull out of the lot and find a place to park off the main road and wait for his call. That was fine. He just didn't want to be followed. The path he walked on was slick with melted snow, and bordered on both sides by well-tended trees, with well-tended pieces of lawn between them. It meandered a little, folding back and forth without coming back within view of itself thanks to those trees, giving the impression of much more space than there really was.

It only took two minutes of Near's slow pace to bring him within view of the first gravestones. They were proper, old-fashioned gravestones that stood tall on the earth, and not the more modern plaques that were set flush with it. These were the older graves, and didn't interest Near. He moved on.

Another minute's worth of walking along the twisting path brought two figures coming the other direction into sight. The albino stopped in the middle of the path and waited for their approach. He recognized one of the two coming close to him, and he wouldn't get away without some form of conversation.

As the two priests came close, they slowed, seeing the white figure in their way. One was older, about fifty or so, with dark hair turning to gray at the temples, a trim beard and mustache, and warm brown eyes. Near remembered his name: Morris. The other man he did not know, but he was younger, and only made to look younger still in contrast to his companion. Light sandy hair, blue eyes, and a smooth face, he was instantly forgettable.

Morris put himself directly in front of the teenaged boy as he came to a stop, looking down on him. Near looked back up blankly, unfazed by the man's dominating presence. The younger priest stood a step behind and to the side of the elder respectfully.

"Hello, Near," Father Morris said. "How are you today?"

Near stared back unblinkingly at the friendly inquiry. With a tone that belied the words, he said, "I'm fine."

Morris's smile froze a little and the blue-eyed man shifted uncomfortably. Trying to recover an even footing, the elder continued, "How are your hands?"

In response, the young genius held out one hand, palm flat to the priest's face, fingers spread wide. Wrapped carefully around each finger and half of the palm were tiny white bandages. If one were to look, they would see that the other hand was similarly gauzed. "Healing rapidly," Near replied. "There have not been any fresh blood stains for three days."

The Father looked as though he would have liked to take a step back from the hand that was thrust at him, but he held his ground. "And why are you here today?"

The hand was lowered, and the bag was lifted up a fraction. "Paying my respects." The boy looked from one man to the other. "Why are you?"

There was a slight hesitation before Father Morris answered. "Mello. He asked me to pray for him, and to visit, if anything were to happen to him." Near nodded his understanding, and looked away. It was a very Mello thing to do, considering his religious background.

The younger priest, beginning to feel awkward in his silence and that he should offer some comfort to a boy in pain, spoke up. "Would you like to join us in prayer?"

A quick shake of white locks. "No. I do not pray."

Father Morris was making small hand motions behind his back for the other man to remain silent. He either failed to see or misinterpreted the signals. "But you are wearing a rosary." He pointed to Near's waist, where a rosary and silver crucifix hung from his belt loops.

Near looked down at the accessory. His voice hardened. "I wear a rosary, but I am not catholic. I know there waits a Heaven and Hell, but I do not believe there is a God. I do not pray to what I do not believe exists."

"But—"

The elder man cut off his companion with a gesture. This was an old argument he was starting with Near, and not one likely to be won. It would be best to just drop it.

But Near wasn't finished. He reached toward the older priest and plucked at the cross hanging from his throat. "The world is full of evil," he said slowly, holding the symbol before it owner's eye. "And you place your faith, your trust, your future in nothing more than a name and dusty promises of redemption? And if it all comes to nothing? If what you believe is nothing more than some cruel joke being played on you? What then?"

Morris ignored the cross held a mere inch from his eye. As the boy spoke, he saw him edging closer and closer to a brink he had seen many times before. Holding the gaze as steadily as he could, he replied slowly, "That is a risk we all take, in one form or another. That all we perceive is nothing but shadows. That is why we hold close to our faith, our belief that there is something better than suffering and evil." He tilted his head a fraction. "Where do you place your faith, Near?"

Near released the cross, never looking away from the priest. He held the stare fiercely, the younger priest becoming more and more agitated with each passing second. Finally, Near readjusted his grip on his bag and stepped around the holy men. Floating back to them, almost lost for their softness, were the words, "Nowhere, anymore."

Near never looked back, didn't see the two priests watch him until he rounded another bend in the path, paid no attention to their whispers when they thought he couldn't hear. He didn't care what they thought. To a certain extent, he didn't care what they did, either. He had only one concern today: to visit his family.

The final corner was walked around, and the trees suddenly fell away to reveal rows of tombstones. In comparison to some graveyards, this one was very small, with only a few dozen graves filled. Near didn't pause to take in the sight. He had been here so often in the last couple of weeks, he knew every stone's inscription by heart, could walk the rows in his sleep.

His first stop was to two stones, set a little aside from the rest on a small rise. They were simple, but elegant. One was a blockish affair at the bottom, topped with a cross and feathery angel wings made of stone. At the base of the cross, small but impossible to miss, were a set of scales. Etched into the stone was a large calligraphic 'L', just below that were the words, 'Here Lies Justice'. The second stone was much the same design, only instead of a set of scales, there was a cast of a human hand, held palm up, as though offering something. The words on this stone read: 'Quillish Wammy. Here Lies Refuge.'

Near stared at the stones for a while. Justice and refuge, he thought. The one who brought criminals to their punishments, and the one who offered a home to the lost. Both dead.

Slowly, Near set down his bag on a tiny patch of dry gravel. Reaching inside, he took out a small, clear plastic container. Inside was a single slice of cake, double layered and crème filled, and topped with strawberries. The boy set the confectionary on L's stone and removed the lid. Another quick search through his bag resulted in a long silver fork, which was gently pushed into the top of the cake, spearing a strawberry. Next, a delicate cup and saucer were brought out and set on the second stone. It was filled with hot tea from a thermos.

Finished with his offerings, Near sat down before the stones, heedless of the moisture soaking into his pants. With a voice that may have been quiet out of respect or to hide the tears lurking behind it, he whispered, "Happy Valentine's Day."

L.

To the world, Near was now L, the world's greatest detective. Capable of mustering together and commanding almost every police force and agency across the globe, of solving the most impossible cases without ever showing his face, of bringing down the most horrendous murderer the world had ever known. L, captor of Kira.

Near leaned forward until his forehead rested on a knee. He was not L. He had never been L. Now that he was in those shoes, he realized he never wanted to be L. To be the next L meant that the original had to be gone. What had he thought that would mean? That L would retire, and he would take over? No, not in this line of work. To take over meant that the original couldn't continue with the job, not that he wouldn't.

And Near didn't want it. He'd played at it, for the sake of finding the person who killed the one man he had ever looked up to. Now that was done.

Near traced the outline of the L with a bandaged finger, gauze occasionally catching on rough stone. With the exception of Quillish Wammy, no one here had their real name set into stone, not even L. Near wondered if anyone ever knew L's real name. Did Mr. Wammy know the name of the genius he had taken in and raised? Did Kira, Light Yagami, know it? Or had he used one of his followers to write the name in the Death Note? There were only two people Near could be reasonably sure knew that secret. One was L himself, and the other… wasn't speaking.

Gathering up his bag, Near got to his feet. He left the cake and the tea in place, touched each of the crosses in turn, and continued on through the yard.

It was an odd graveyard, and not just because it was largely unknown and had a security system surrounding it. It was a private place, meant only for those who had lived in Wammy's House, or in Quillish Wammy's case, founded it. For those who had spent a portion of their lives at the orphanage, their final resting place was never a question. All were brought back here, a quiet corner of the world not ten miles from Wammy's. To others it might have been strange, but to Near it made a kind of sense, both from a standpoint of logic and one of sentiment. Ultimately, the majority of the children taken in by Wammy's were meant to be the successors of L, whose face and identity were closely guarded secrets. Anyone meaning to take over that legacy would need to be equally cautious. Even if the title of 'L' wasn't their goal, being a resident of Wammy's marked you as having ties to the enigmatic detective. To protect him, you came here after your death.

On a more sentimental note: where better for a bunch of orphans to come a rest than here, where they could say they had truly come from, in the company of those who knew something of the lives they led? Any life they had before Wammy's was one they were all told to discard on their first day. With no history before Wammy's, to return to where you came from meant to come here.

All of the stones were arranged according to your letter and 'generation' at Wammy's House, with the first generation being closest to the rise where L and Wammy were buried. The next stones that Near came to were headed with the letters 'A' and 'BB'.

These were the first two, the prototypes of Quillish Wammy's outlandish experiment to create another L.  All of the children had heard stories about these two; ghost stories, really, about how they had gone insane under the pressure. Tales abounded about how A had obsessed over becoming L, snapped, and killed BB, then himself. Or how after a particularly harsh assessment, A killed himself and BB ran away, never to be seen again. Some of the more fanciful conjurings had BB still alive and being held prisoner within Wammy's House, completely insane and needing to be chained to prevent his roaming the halls.

Near had never paid attention to the stories. To him it was just idle prattling passed from one child to the next, meant to scare each other and set up excuses to send friends on nighttime dares.

When he had found the thick manila folder in Mello's apartment, headed "LABB Murder Cases", there had been no reason to read it right away. When he had, only four days ago, those old stories clicked neatly into place. A had committed suicide, BB had run away to try and outdo L, and L had won. Later, Kira had killed BB. Most interesting, however, was that BB had possessed the shinigami eyes, giving him the ability to see a person's name and lifespan.

Near read the stones in front of him. Each bore the letter, the name taken upon entering Wammy's, and a small epitaph. They read:

A
Any
Beloved Friend and Brother


And:

BB
Beyond Birthday
The One Who Knew


Beyond Birthday held the power of the shinigami eyes. His four-word epitaph suggested that he had met L, and knew his name. Without a Death Note, such a power was nearly useless, but he had found a way to use it in his killings in LA.

As to why he had been so driven, Near thought he had a good idea. He looked at A's tombstone. 'Beloved Friend and Brother'. Near did not fail to notice that the letters 'B' and 'B' hemmed in the phrase. BB, appearing again on the headstone of his friend… his 'brother'. If there was as much meaning behind those simple letters as Near was giving them, then yes, he knew, and understood what had driven the boy to kill. His family had been stolen from him, no real answers given as to why, and no way to get it back… that need for revenge Near could understand.

To a certain extent, he could even sympathize, which was strange. For Kira, who killed from the high motivation of creating a peaceful world, he had felt nothing but disdain. Murder was murder, and killing in the name of an ideal did not make you a better person, much less a God. For Beyond Birthday, though, he felt a twinge of pity, even concurrence. His family had been taken away as well.

Near reached into his bag and pulled out a small glass jar filled with dark red jam. He unscrewed the lid with a grunt and set it at the foot of BB's stone. "For the fellow feeling," he murmured.

He continued. There were many graves to walk by. Plots, really, reserved for those who had yet to pass on. Everything had to remain in organized, and people didn't normally die in alphabetical order. It was eerie, walking through and knowing that these plots were simply waiting. Waiting for death to bring them their sleepers.

Near ignored them all. There were only two more he wanted to see, and they were the last in the long line of 'fourth generation' graves. Finally Near's sneakers crunched to a halt.

Before him were three plots, two filled, one empty. The first was a simple cross and plaque, with no superfluous decoration. Set into the plaque:

M
Matt
Loyal and Patient
His support was everything


Next was a small empty space, and then there was the last grave, much like Matt's, but a little different. This cross was a Russian crucifix, with three cross pieces instead of one. Above the main horizontal slat was another, slightly shorter one, and almost at the bottom was another short piece, left side set a little higher than the right. The words on the plaque were not all English:

M
Mello
Пламя и Страсть
Он никогда не был вторым


Near stood for minutes, staring at the words and fighting back the familiar tide that threatened to engulf him. The hand holding the bag shook; the other tangled itself in the rosary at his hip, close to snapping the beads.

Once control was regained, he took out two small, identical boxes from the bag, opened them, and set one on each stone. They were miniature Valentine's boxes, five chocolates each. Once again, he whispered, "Happy Valentine's Day."

The last 'gift' to come from the white bag was a third box of chocolates, which Near opened. He then sat down on the ground, in the grass between the stones.

This was meant to be Near's grave. The ground that waited beneath him, waited for his flesh. It had taken a fight to convince Roger to switch the order slightly, so that he was between the two older boys, but he had prevailed. To either side of him, only a couple yards worth of soil and wood separating them, rested the bodies of Matt and Mello.

He thought about talking aloud, but decided against it. What was there to be said anymore? What question could he possibly ask that they could answer? No, it was best to keep silent on this visit. Near had a suspicion that he was being watched this time, either by Commander Rester or Halle Linder.

Near held back a snort at the thought of his subordinates. They were both good agents, and good people, he supposed, but their concern over his well-being was annoying, almost nauseating. He popped a chocolate into his mouth and grimaced. The taste of chocolate was always too sweet for him. How Mello managed to consume so much of it…

-------


It was two weeks earlier, a mere three days after the fall of Kira, and it was time to prepare the last of his family to be buried. The funeral home was quiet, which was to be expected, with only Near, Commander Rester, and two open caskets standing in the room. The wake for the two boys had been small, only a few of the orphans that had known and been friendly with them still lived in the area. But a few had come, and were now on their way to the graveyard to attend the funeral proper. Only Near and his subordinate lingered. The funeral home's employees had been sent away to give them more time. Rester shifted occasionally, uncomfortable and wondering when his charge would be ready to leave, or if he would have to pull the boy away.

Almost fifteen minutes had passed before Near moved, and he moved toward the caskets. The first he went to was Matt's. The gamer was almost unrecognizable, dressed in a suit and with no game controller held in his clasped hands. The only allowances that had been made to his usual attire had been a red and black striped tie, and his usual orange goggles, set up high on his head. Near only looked for a moment before reaching into his shirt to pull out a game box with the words 'Paper Mario' printed across it. Careful not to disturb the mortician's work, Near tucked the box at Matt's side.

Next he moved to Mello's casket. He was also dressed in a suit, and his hair had been trimmed neatly like it had been while he'd lived at Wammy's. No amount of skill or make-up could hide the scar on the left side of his face, though, nor did it seem to touch the defiant smirk he held even in death. For Mello, Near placed a large bar of chocolate in his coffin.

Rester watched it all silently, but when the confectionary was lowered into the casket, he shifted again. Near noticed the motion and turned slightly. "Commander Rester disapproves my actions?"

The older man cleared his throat, and thought about denying any discomfort, but decided better on it as Near's eyes bore holes into him. "I don't understand how you can still show such compassion for them," he said lowly. "These men, at least one of them, killed off almost the entire SPK in a matter of minutes, with the childish motivation of coming first. They were criminals in their own right. Why would you…?"

Rester trailed off lamely under the weight of Near's glare. "These men," he replied, tone even lower than Rester's, "were also people I have known my entire life, and will be given proper respect."

"I don't dispute that the dead deserve respect, but still…"

There was a pause before Near spoke. "Would it give Commander Rester pleasure to know that the gifts I have left are empty?"

"What?" the older man asked, startled.

"The box in Matt's casket contains no game. The wrapper in Mello's holds no chocolate. They are both empty, their primary components removed."

Rester was appalled. Not only by the admission, but also by the fact that it was Near who was admitting it. He would have thought such vindictiveness beyond the albino.

The boy, watching Rester's expression intently, cocked his head. "Commander Rester still disapproves?"

"Well- yes," he stuttered. "You say you want to show them respect, and you leave them empty gifts? It seems a cruel final prank to pull."

Near's eyes flashed. "Commander Rester has no idea of the meaning behind my offerings, and would therefore be best advised to keep his opinions to himself." He turned away from the gaping Commander, once again looking into Mello's casket. He spoke over his shoulder, tone icy. "Rester will now leave me alone in peace. I will join him momentarily."

Once the older man was gone, Near allowed himself an expression. It was something between a scowl and a sneer. Stupid Rester, he thought. What would be the point of leaving practical gifts if the receivers can't use them? Matt and Mello are… dead. The dead do not play videogames, and they do not eat chocolate. They are nothing more than empty shells of who they once were. Nothing but husks, frames, molds… a box and a wrapper.

The boy looked between the two caskets. The two lying within would have understood. The most important parts had been removed, the game disc and the candy, but the most important part of the boys had been removed, as well. Empty gifts for empty receivers.

It was a good thing that Commander Rester had left so readily. Near hadn't known how sensitive the man was about postmortem rituals. If simple, symbolic gestures such as those had upset him, he never would have understood Near's next move.

He reached back into Mello's coffin…


-------


Near fingered the rosary at his hip absently, and swallowed another chocolate with difficulty. Even before joining the mafia, when wearing them prominently had become a fashion statement, Mello always had three rosaries. As far as Near knew, no one had ever asked the blonde why, and no one besides Matt and Near were told.

"Since you're both heathens and won't watch out for your own souls, I'll have to do it for you!"

He had said it as though he were angry, but smiled while saying it, like it was nothing. Like it didn't bother him that his two friends weren't religious, and would assumedly burn in hellfire for all eternity after they died. 'Watching out for their souls' was a way for the eldest boy to feel as though he were protecting them, in a way that only he could.

You watched over our souls, Mello. But who watched over yours?

He'd joined the mafia in America, had worked for them, and if he hadn't killed directly, he had led men to their deaths. In the course of the Kira case, he had kidnapped, extorted, and again, led many men to death. What shape was you soul in by then, Mello? How many prayers did you offer, how many times did you circle that rosary? Did you even attend a confession after leaving the orphanage?

Fingers clutched at the beads tightly as he came to the question he wanted to know the answer to more than any other, and never would:

Did you use it, Mello, or was it a flunky? Had the stain on your soul become too much to bear, that Mu, nothingness, became preferable? The loss of yourself, all that you were and could ever hope to be, was that better than the possibility of hellfire?

There was nothing Near could have done to prevent it, at least not directly. But he had tried…

"Matt must find him. Mello will never come to me, but he will not turn away Matt. Please. He must be found and watched over… before he does something truly stupid."

Had it been too late? Had Matt found him, scarred and alive in body, but his soul condemned to death? Near could only hope that Mello's faith had been too strong for such a move, that those rosaries had stared him in the face and dared him to play it until the end.

Three rosaries, for three brothers. One still lay with Mello, around his neck. The second was with Matt, wound loosely around his wrist. The last was with Near, on his waist. When Near was dead and laid in his coffin, it would be with him still, and the three of them would each have their beads.

The third chocolate was consumed.

There was another aspect of Near's life that Rester and Linder would never understand, for all the concern they proclaimed to have. How he could call these boys brothers, when they had been rivals? Near and Mello especially. All of their time at Wammy's had been spent competing for the title of 'L', and the Kira case had been a continuation of that. How could such long-standing rivals be close enough to call each other brothers?

Near supposed he could understand that confusion more. No one had ever really understood the dynamics of that relationship, except for the three involved in it.

At first it had just been Matt and Near, before Mello had arrived at Wammy's. The two of them were both quiet, antisocial, and liked to lose themselves in games, and that had somehow translated into a kind of friendship. Neither boy made friends easily, but they gravitated toward each other naturally. That was when Near had been first in line of succession, and Matt was second.

Then Mello had come. Even as a young boy Mello had a dark edge, a hint of danger in those ice blue eyes, waiting to explode out and devour all around him. Everyone at Wammy's had recognized it, and avoided him, including the top two at the time… until Roger asked them to try and make him feel welcome.

Matt approached him first, being the friendlier out of the two of them, but only made a little progress in softening Mello's edge. The redhead confided in Near one day that the new boy needed something to take his mind off of his past, something to distract him from the memories that darkened him.

So Near had given him a challenge: Beat me. Become the best and prove that you're worthy to be here.

It worked. Mello had taken that challenge and rose quickly through the line. He even beat Matt for the second place, not that the redhead minded, but stalled out when it came to Near. He could never seem to pull himself up by those last few points. Since he was a passionate individual, and his last hurdle constantly thwarted him, he would vent. Loudly, and sometimes violently, but he never took it out on Near. It was always the wall, or a lamp, or a window that was on the receiving end on his fury. For Near there were just angry shouts, and a promise to outdo him next time.

It became a game between them, that everyone on the outside saw as heated rivalry. It was a race to see who could get to L first. It also became a game between Near and Matt: to chase away as much of the darkness lurking in Mello as possible.

Yes, they competed. Yes, they were rivals. Yes, sometimes things became heated. But rivalry did not automatically equal hatred.

Then came Kira.

-------


Mello was shaking. Beside him, unnoticed from his place on the floor, Near was trembling as well.

Mello lunged forward, across the desk in front of him to grab Roger's shoulders. "But he promised me he'd find Kira and execute him! And now you're telling me that he's been killed?!"

This was bad. L, their mentor, was dead. It cut deep. L was the only man who Near looked up to, the only one who was worth any kind of consideration. But even more urgent at this moment was Mello. Near looked up to L, but Mello worshipped him. He competed with Near and Matt, but L was his goal, his purpose. With that purpose gone…

"Mello…" Roger attempted to soothe the blonde.

With a quick motion, Near lifted the puzzle he'd just completed over his head and dumped the pieces onto the floor. Mello turned at the sound and stared at him. He had to snap Mello out of this, before all the work he and Matt had done, all the progress they had made, was ruined. Quietly, he began piecing the puzzle back together. "If you can't win the game…" A piece clicked into place. Win my game, Mello. "If you can't solve the puzzle…" Mello, please…

"Then you're just a loser." He looked up at Mello. You still have me to beat.

Mello scowled, and Near realized that he'd made a mistake. The phrasing was all wrong, it was too blunt. Mello thought he meant L, not him. Instead of giving him an outlet, a distraction from the pain, he'd pressed his face into it, and made it all worse. He fell silent as Mello turned away from him again, back to Roger, demanding to know which of them was the chosen one. The answer was neither.

"Can't the two of you work together?"

Near agreed readily, but Mello refused. "It'll never work, Roger. We can't do this together… We've always competed. Always."

That was true. They did compete, and had since the beginning. It was just what they did. It was how they worked. Only now, from the bite in Mello's voice, he meant to use that as a wedge. L's death had finally pushed him over the edge Near and Matt worked so hard to keep him from.

He felt Mello brush past him, was aware he was speaking, but only heard the last words he said before closing the door.

"It's time I started living my own life."


-------


It might have ended there. The years they had spent together and the odd bond that had formed between them might have been dissolved in that single day. For a time, it probably had been. Near held no illusions that all Mello had done in the beginning, he had done to beat Near, to get as close to L as he possibly could. Even if it meant crushing Near along the way.

When he had come back for his photo, though…

-------


Mello stopped, halfway to the door on his way out. "Near."

"Mello."

Near heard the telltale crinkle of a chocolate wrapper being pulled back. Habit took over, and a hand went up to his hair. There was a crunch behind him as Mello took the first bite out of the bar. "Which of us is going to reach Kira first, I wonder?"

Near smiled. For the first time in years, it felt real. "The race is on."

"We're both headed towards the same destination. I'll be waiting for you."

Footsteps. Mello was gone again, but Near's heart felt lighter. "…Right…"


-------


Near smiled again. What Mello had said then was what he used to say about L, when their competition had still been a friendly game. By saying it again, it was a kind of message only he would understand.

"I'll be waiting for you."

The fourth chocolate was eaten quickly, minimizing the time the offending sweetness spent on his tongue.

In the end, that kind of competition had led to the capture of Kira. There was no hate between them. If Rester, or Linder, or even Roger failed to understand, he didn't care. If they tried to keep him away from the graves, 'for his own safety'… Well, there was nothing they could really do to stop him.

Near rubbed his bandaged fingers together. He knew that if he pressed hard enough on his nails, or rather, where his nail had been, bright, fresh blood would seep up and stain the gauze. He looked again at the stone of his brothers. The groundskeeper still hadn't quite managed to sponge the stains away, yet.

It had all been a game. It was a long, complex, and bloody game, but a game. Find Kira. Catch Kira. Avenge L. Beat me…

They had won. It had taken a total of six years and two months, and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, scattering countless families to the wind like paper, including his own.

But they had won. Hurray.

Near pulled out the last chocolate from the heart shaped box and examined it, held between forefinger and thumb. They were really too sweet. How Mello and L could stand to eat these things constantly was sickening. For a while Near had been afraid that he might vomit from the amount he was consuming in mere minutes, when he usually never ate them. The antiemetic he had taken an hour ago would prevent that. The candies and their specially filled centers would stay in his system.

He swallowed the last chocolate whole and sighed.

Once again ignoring the wetness and chill of the grass, Near lay down, inverted in the place that was to be his grave so he could look at the stones. He was already tired, and colder than a mild February afternoon would account for.

He wondered what would be put on his stone. What would be his epitaph? Who was left to decide, who knew him well enough to be an authority? He had picked the words for both Matt and Mello, who was left for him?

M
Matt
Loyal and Patient
His support was everything


Mail Jeevas, almost as quiet as he was, but so important to those closest to him.

Agate eyes drifted slowly to the second stone, half lidded and struggling to stay open. Mihael Keehl. The words on his stone were words he probably should have said to the boy's face, over and over again, until the blonde believed them. Well, if he really were waiting, he wouldn't wait long.

For the last time, dark eyes closed, soft lashes resting against a pale cheek.

On the stone, the words that were never said, or could even be expressed in English:

M
Mello
Fire and Passion
He was never second
Plot: The Kira case is finished, the world is safe, and Light is dead. So are L, Watari, Matt, and Mello, leaving only Near behind. The last of the Wammy children, the true successor to L, visits the graves of his family, reminiscing over the times that brought them here, the burials of his brothers, and his own decline. With his entire family gone, and his revenge taken out on the man who stole them away, what’s left to hold mind and heart together?

Genre: Angst, Friendship

Pairing: None, unless you read it in.

POV: Near

Rating: K+ for dark themes

Inspiration:
Forgiven by Within Temptation [link]
Stretched on Your Grave by Dead Can Dance [link]
Ghostly Near fanart by ~Evergreen-Willow [link]

Word Count: 6,686

Author’s Foreword: So, everyone has to do a ‘visiting the graves’ fic, yes? Well, this is mine. I wanted it to be simple, but the more I thought of it, the more I wanted to include. There is just so much that needs to be wrapped up by the end of Death Note! I still didn’t get everything I wanted in, like the ‘Dear Mello’ on the back of the photo, why L had never really chosen Mello or Near… There’s a lot that didn’t make it into this one, but they did in another... ;)

There are flashbacks, they are in italics, as are thoughts. Any thoughts while in flashback with be in italics and bold. There are occasional ‘flashback phrases’, they aren’t separated out like a full flashback, but are “Quoted and italicized.”

The Near in the photo is my lovely sister *SkyTurtle, she has her own take on the fic, here: [link]

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Death Note and characters (c) of Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata.
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:iconscissorhandss:
Scissorhandss Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2013
This legitimately made me cry. Well done. Loved it.
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:icongreywriter:
greywriter Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Aww, thank you! :)
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:icon77spawn77:
77spawn77 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2011  Student Writer
Wow... I love how you write. This is really beautiful, the way it adds more of a story to the three boys growing up at Wammy's House... I love how it fits with that one other one... I can't remember the name ::X: this is probably the most beautiful thing I've ever read. I love the symbolism in the casket part. Does Near die at the end...?
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:icongreywriter:
greywriter Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much~ I'm always glad when people pick up on the little details that I try to put in. :meow:

Yeah, I was mean and had Near commit suicide at the end with the candies. They were doctored, which is why he'd taken an antiemetic, to prevent himself throwing it back up. I think I should have made that plainer, really. ^^;
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:icon77spawn77:
77spawn77 Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2011  Student Writer
yeah... that's depressing. :icondepressionplz: Very depressing, actually. Yeah, you could've made it a little more obvious.
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:icongreywriter:
greywriter Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, well. Lessons for future fics. :)
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:icon77spawn77:
77spawn77 Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011  Student Writer
Yeah, you know what they say about learning from mistakes and stuff.
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:iconkyuujimagic:
KyuujiMagic Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2011  Student Writer
This will forever be one of my favorites stories. It's very deep and moving to me. One of the few titles that ever made me want to cry....
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:icongreywriter:
greywriter Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Awww~ *tissues*
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:iconlord-azeran:
Lord-Azeran Featured By Owner May 23, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
This is gorgeous. I'm not a fan of Near, but....I liked him in this :)
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