Kaori looked out the common room window at the snow slowly drifting down from the sky; a lot of the kids had gone outside to play, as it was a rare opportunity for them. She leaned her head against the windowpane, deep in thought.
It's been two weeks now since L told me he might adopt me. To be honest, I don't really know what to say. I want somewhere to go, but...for some reason I'm held back. Is it because of Near and the others? I don't want to leave them, but.... I know I should be thinking of myself at a time like this. Well, I still have a while to think over my decision anyway. But...I wonder if he would feel the same about adopting me if he knew....
Suddenly, something outside caught her attention: someone standing in the snow.
Near..!! What is he doing outside? Kaori got up from her spot and went out the front doors.
It didn't take her long to spot him; he was standing over to the side, looking up towards the sky.
“Near, what are you doing out here?” she asked, walking over to him. “I thought you never went outside.”
He smiled. “I wanted to feel the snow,” he replied.
She laughed. “You're going to catch a cold if you keep standing out here like that.”
“But it feels nice,” he said, closing his eyes as the snow slowly drifted on his face.
Kaori realized just how much she would miss him when she left. “Hey, Near...what do you say we go for a walk?” She smiled at him. “I want to talk about something.”
They walked around for a while, not really talking about anything in particular. They mentioned the accident, and Mello's current attitude; Near refrained from mentioning the scene in the closet to Kaori. Mello hadn't spoken to him about it since, so he figured it was an unspoken agreement that they wouldn't mention it again.
“So,” Near said, “did you have something in particular you wanted to talk about, or were you just making conversation?”
Kaori wondered if he noticed something was bothering her. “I'm just...wondering how I'm going to leave this place.”
“What do you mean? I thought...Roger said you could stay,” Near said.
“He did. But...”
She sighed and stopped walking, and Near turned to face her. “Near...L is planning to adopt me.”
At first, Near wasn't sure how to react; the news was both unexpected and shocking. “You...you mean when you turn fifteen, you'll....”
“Go and live with him. Yes. He talked to me about it a while back, and told me I could think about my decision,” Kaori answered.
“Well...have you decided yet?” he asked.
“....yes. I've decided to agree to it,” she said quietly.
“Well...I'll admit that I'll miss you – a lot – but I'm sure you'll be happy there, and this way you'll have a real home.” He smiled. “I'm happy for you. This is really good, you know?”
She managed a small smile. “Yeah...I know.”
“Where will you be living, then? I know he has homes around the world...”
“I'm not positive. I'm fairly certain it'll be here in England.”
“Well that way you can visit,” he said cheerfully. “But on the other hand, you might get to go back to Japan.”
“...No. I never want to go back there,” she said.
Near was silent for a moment, but then smiled again. “Wherever you go, I hope that you're happy. I always worried that you would be alone after you left, but now I know that you'll be alright.”
“You...were worried about me?”
“Of course. I wasn't sure what would happen to you, but now that I know you'll be with L, I feel a lot better about the whole thing. It was good that he decided to do this.”
“Yeah...it was,” she said softly, not meeting his eyes.
“Is there something else you wanted to tell me?” he asked, noticing her expression.
“No, I'm fine. I'm cold, though – I think I'll go back inside.”
“Alright. I think I'll stay out here a little longer. It's not every day it snows, you know.”
“Don't get sick, you hear?” she warned.
She smiled and turned to walk back to the orphanage, the tears making her face cold. I don't know how I expected him to react...maybe I was hoping he would be upset about it...maybe I wanted him to be against it. If he said he didn't want me to go, it would be easy for me to say no to L and this whole thing. But...he said he was happy for me. Was he just faking it, or does he really feel that way? I guess I wanted him to care that I was leaving. But...what did I expect him to say? What did I want to hear from him?
That night, Near heard a knock on his door.
“Come in,” he said, figuring it was Kaori.
Instead, Mello came into the room. He shut the door behind him and looked at Near with an uneasy expression. “Um...Near?”
“Yes, Mello?” he asked politely.
“About that whole thing in the closet, I...I wanted to thank you. You didn't tell anyone about it, and I'm grateful.”
“I had no reason to tell anyone. Besides, I figured Mello wouldn't want me to.”
“Well, I...I also wanted to apologize. For...”
“Nearly strangling me?” Near finished.
“Wha...yeah. I uh – I don't really know what came over me.”
“You had a lot of anger built up. It was only natural for you to release it in some way,” Near replied.
“Near, this hatred between us...”
“I only seem to recall you hating me, Mello. I've never done anything to indicate the feeling was mutual.”
“I guess I always assumed.... Anyway, I just think...maybe all of it was pointless after all. I never knew what this kind of hatred could do to a person, but now I...realize. If you're willing to, I would...like to put this whole thing behind us.”
“That's fine with me, Mello,” Near said, still in the emotionless voice that Mello hated. But for some reason, Mello's blood didn't boil the way it usually did. If anything, it saddened him.
“Near...” Mello began, sitting down on the window-seat where the other boy was at. Near didn't look away from the scenery outside. “Near...look at me.”
Slowly, Near turned his head and looked into Mello's eyes. “Yes?”
“What are you looking at?”
“Obviously, I am looking at Mello. That's what Mello requested of me, isn't it?” Near replied.
“...what are you thinking?” Mello asked.
“I am wondering why you asked me to look at you.”
Now I remember why I hated him in the first place...
“What about you, Mello? What are you thinking?”
“I'm thinking that you're annoying the hell out of me right now with these half-ass answers.”
“What answer would Mello like me to give?”
“A better one.”
“Alright then...” Near paused and looked back out the window. “I am thinking about my parents.”
Well, I uh...I wasn't really expecting that straight of an answer....
“Yes. I'm thinking about the last time I saw my mother.”
“...and, when was that?”
“Two years before I was sent here by my father.”
“Wha...why did he send you here?” Mello asked, completely bemused.
“I don't know,” Near replied quietly. “What concern is it of Mello's?”
“Geh...would you stop using my name like that? It's annoying!” Mello said. “Why do you do that anyway?”
“Refer to me in third person all the time! Why can't you just say 'you' like a normal person!?” He griped.
“...I suppose that's because I like saying your name.”
Mello could feel a blush fire up in his cheeks. “Wh-what do you mean by that?”
“I just mean I like saying your name. What else do you think I meant?”
“Gods...that's not even my real name, you know.”
“I am aware of that. I just wasn't aware that it bothered you when I said your name like that.”
“Wha...it doesn't...I mean...fine, say it if you want! Gods...” He crossed his arms, and was silent for a minute before speaking. “So why did your father send you here?”
“Why does Mello want to know?” Near replied.
“Gods...stop answering my questions with questions! I'm just curious.”
“I already told you I don't know.”
“You don't know why you were sent here?”
“...Then do you miss them? Your parents, I mean.”
Near was quiet for a moment, and his voice was a whisper. “Yes...I do.”
For the first time in his life, Mello saw tears in the other boys eyes. He wondered if Near would try and hide it, or if Mello was simply imagining the whole thing. But no...they were sliding down his face now. Near...is crying.... Mello stared wordlessly for a moment, not sure how to react or what to say. For the first time since he's been here...he's crying....
Near didn't make a sound; he sat quietly, making no attempt to hide the tears that were silently streaking down his face.
Softly, Mello reached out and touched his face. When Near didn't flinch away, Mello gently wiped away the tears and lightly brushed his hand across the other boy's face. “Near...”
Without saying a word, Near's hand reached up to touch Mello's. He held it against his face and closed his eyes. Mello could feel the tears drip against his skin – hot and fast.
Knowing of nothing else to do, Mello slowly put his arms around Near and pulled him into his lap. There, Near buried his face in Mello's shirt and reached up, touching the other boy's hair. “You hair is really soft...” he said.
Mello laughed. “Thanks, I guess.”
Near sat up, tears still running fresh, and gently fingered the scar on the left side of Mello's face; this time, Mello didn't flinch as he would have before. Near was looking at it, almost in an apologetic way... “I'm sorry about the accident,” Near said. “I know you got into the wreck because you were angry with me.”
“No...it isn't your fault,” Mello said. “I was an idiot that night. You had nothing to do with it.”
Silently, Near wrapped his arms around Mello's neck and buried his face in his shoulder. Mello tightened his hold around him, and noted the surprising warmth of his body. Did I expect it to be cold...?
“...I'm scared, Mello.”
“That I'm going to be left alone again,” Near said, his tears soaking into Mello's shirt.
“Why would you think that?”
“My parents left me here...and n-now...Kaori's going to leave too...”
“Wha...what do you mean she's leaving?” Mello said, appalled.
“Her fifteenth birthday is coming up, and...L is planning to adopt her,” he said shakily. “She's going to leave.”
“L is planning to adopt her?” Mello repeated.
“Yes...I'm happy for her, but...I – I don't want to be alone again.”
“It terrifies me, Mello. I can't stand being all by myself...I don't want to be alone again.” His crying wasn't silent anymore; he was sobbing. “I don't want to be left here again.... Once she leaves, I'll be alone.... I don't want to...I don't want to be alone!”
Mello gently stroked the other boy's hair. “I'm sure she'll visit, you know.”
“Mello, no one who leaves here ever comes back...you know that!”
Mello had to admit that Near was right. “But Near, you won't be alone. Matt and I will still be here.”
“No, but Mello will be leaving soon, too....”
“You mean you'll miss me too?”
“Y-yes...I'll miss Mello as well.”
Mello smiled. “You'll be fine, Near. We'll take care of you.”
Near sat up and looked Mello in the face. “M-Mello will take care of me?”
“Of course. We aren't just going to abandon you.”
“But how does Mello plan to do this?”
“Don't worry about it – we'll take care of you.” Mello wiped the tear stains from Near's face again. “You won't be alone anymore. I promise.”
-End of chapter 24-