Matt looked up from the computer when the door opened, watched Mello storm into the apartment and collapse on the couch, wondering what the fuck he was supposed to say to him. Welcome home? Where the fuck have you been? Nice of you to remember I was here, waiting on your ass?
But he didn't say any of them. Mello being here, with him, was still too new and he didn't want to fuck it up. So he got up and sprawled on the couch next to him. “How's Near? Still an ass?” He had to have done something wrong, after all, for Mello to come back from seeing him looking so pissed off.
“Yeah. Brat never changes,” Mello muttered around a mouthful of chocolate.
Matt grunted in reply, watching him from his peripheral vision for a moment before it hit him, like the stupid detective exercises they used to do when they were kids where they had to find the tiny detail that was out of place in a seemingly normal scene. “Fuck.” He reached over and touched him, ignoring the way he jerked away. “You're burning up. Didn't I tell you it was too damn soon to be running off?” Like Mello had ever listened to anyone about that kind of thing. Hell, about anything.
“Leave off, Matt. I'm fine.”
“The hell you are.” He reached up, deliberately stroked the raw burns on Mello's face to prove his point, a sick parody of a lover's gesture that made him wince internally, where Mello couldn't see, catching Mello's fist when he cursed and tried to punch him. “Come on.” He stood up, tugging Mello to his feet. “Get back in bed and I'll put something on these, give you some painkillers.” What the hell had Near been thinking, letting Mello just walk out like this? Selfish brat probably hadn't even noticed.
“I told you: I'm fine. I have work to do.” Mello jerked away, turning to sit back down.
Matt sighed. He should have known it wouldn't be that easy. So he turned and punched him, then scooped him up in his arms when he hit the floor, ignoring his flailing. Shit, he really was in a bad way, or this wouldn't be so easy. At least he hardly weighed anything, all long, bony limbs with no force behind them.
He dumped Mello into the bed and glared. “Now stay there! Who the fuck is going to stop Kira if you kill yourself like this?” Nevermind Near; he didn't matter at the moment; just like Matt's own need, his own questions of what he'd do without Mello (again), didn't matter. Not enough for Mello to listen.
“I don't have time to wait!” Mello growled back, eyes practically incandescent in his flushed face. But he didn't move, probably because he knew Matt would hit him again if he had to. Dammit, he shouldn't have to bully him into taking care of himself. What the hell had he been doing these past four years? Who took care of you then, Mello? Another question to add to all the others he thought but never asked. Not that he thought Mello would answer if he did.
“I'll be right back.” And he was, but Matt wasn't surprised at all to find Mello starting to get out of bed. “I told you to stay there!” He hadn't changed, still too much nervous energy to have the patience for something like being sick. Even as a kid he never let it stop him, always insisting beating Near was all that mattered, getting out of bed and staying up all night no matter how sick he was. But they weren't kids anymore and Matt wasn't about to lose him to his own stupidity.
“And I told you I didn't have time! I've already waited too long!” Shit. Usually, Mello won the arguments between them; if nothing else, he was way more stubborn. This was different, though; this was actually important and Matt refused to lose.
He set the water down on the bedside table, put both hands on Mello's shoulders, and shoved him backwards, which had the awkward result of an angry Mello flat on his back on the bed (which had to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, what with the burns on his back, not that he gave any sign of it) with Matt sprawled on top of him. But at least he was lying down now; it was a start.
“Matt,” Mello purred, wrapping a leg around one of Matt's, though the expression in his eyes said he was still pissed and in pain, “I didn't know you were so desperate for me! You could have just asked; I promise you don't have to force me.” Damn him. Yeah, Matt was still attracted to Mello, even after all these years when he thought he was basically hetero. And it made him uncomfortable as all hell and Mello obviously knew it, was willing to play with it and use it against him.
“Shut up.” Matt directed the words both at Mello and at his own body, which was definitely taking interest in the fact that Mello was in the bed, underneath him, wearing that stupid skintight leather he affected these days (and looked far too good in, at least for Matt's peace of mind). But even if he were sure he wanted to sleep with Mello, which he wasn't, Matt knew damn well the flush on his face had nothing to do with desire. “I make it a policy not to sleep with feverish people.” At least not when it was Mello and he wanted him to get well. A policy only invented this minute, of course, but at least it sounded good.
“Bullshit, Matt.” Yeah, that was no surprise. He hadn't really expected Mello to buy it.
Matt sighed and backed off him, watching him warily. “I brought water and painkillers back here. Are you going to take them willingly?” He'd force him if he had to, though he was sure Mello could get some good punches in during the process. But right now, Matt could kick his ass and he would if he had to. Mello knew it, too, which was probably why he took them, with more complaining about how he didn't have time to sleep, which Matt completely ignored. “Change out of those clothes and go to sleep, Mello.” In his bed, but he was hardly going to make him sleep on the couch.
“Drugging me and telling me to strip? Kinky.” But the tone of the words was all wrong, sulky instead of amused or seductive, so Matt ignored that, too, leaving the room without looking back and closing the door most of the way behind him. The pills would work soon enough and Mello would sleep whether he wanted to or not. Maybe it would even actually help. If he were really lucky, Mello would let him put the bandages back on his burns, bandages he probably should never have taken off, no matter what he said. But he wasn't counting on it.
In the living room, he sprawled on the couch and picked up his game again, but he couldn't concentrate. Damn Near! Didn't he care what could have happened? Was he really willing to win like that, by default? With all the resources at his disposal, he could have gotten Mello real medical care, no questions asked, instead of whatever Matt could manage on his own! But instead of doing that, instead of helping Mello like anyone would expect even a childhood rival with the sense of decency of a damn cat to do, Near did nothing, probably not even letting Mello sleep, sending him back to Matt when he was too sick to be of any more use.
Fuck. He was too angry to just sit here and do nothing. He had to talk to the fucker, bitch him out for being so damned irresponsible and heartless. Matt picked up Mello's phone, abandoned on the couch when he came in, and dialed a number he wasn't supposed to know and never supposed to call. But he knew it and was choosing to use it anyway, though he was sure Mello would find out what he'd done and be pissed. But not pissed enough to leave, so he didn't give a shit.
“Let me talk to him.” He paid no attention to the words of the woman on the other end of the line, though he couldn't miss how hopeful she sounded, thinking Mello had called her. Poor stupid girl; didn't she know he was using her?
“You're not him. Who is this?” Her tone had changed, become suspicious and protective, though whether it was herself she was protecting, or Mello, or even Near, Matt wasn't sure. He wondered idly if she were pretty, this woman both M and N were using in the game between them. At least she knew enough not to use any of their names.
“Just let me talk to Near. He'll know who it is.” Sure, he hadn't spoken to Near in years and hardly at all even before that, but he knew better than to expect that he had forgotten him. And even if he were an idiot in all the ways that counted, he knew Near could figure out who had called on Mello's phone asking for him.
There was a long silent pause, presumably while she asked Near about it. Matt wondered if he'd agree to talk to him, but doubted he'd say no. Near wouldn't turn down the chance to possibly gain information, even from a third-rate guy like him. Not that Matt intended to give him any he didn't already know.
The next voice he heard was Near's. It was deeper than he remembered it, but otherwise just the same, as cold and uncaring as ever. “Matt,” he said, a simple statement of recognition, without even a greeting.
Which just pissed Matt off more than ever. He was calling to bitch him out for being an inhuman bastard and he had to know it, yet he went ahead and continued to act like one? “Why the hell,” he began, through gritted teeth, “did you let Mello stay with you and yet do nothing when he was this fucking sick? Didn't you even notice he was in pain? Don't you give a shit about him at all? Or were you too busy messing with his mind or too desperate for him to fuck you to notice a little thing like the fact that he could be dying?”
“He's not dying. You wouldn't be talking to me if he were.” Still no concern in his voice, just faint sounds in the background, a sort of clicking that might be produced by stacking something methodically, as Near did almost everything. “And I'm hardly 'desperate for him to fuck me'.” Was that a hint of uncertainty, maybe even discomfort? Had Matt gotten too close to the truth?
“Don't lie to me! I can smell you on him!” Shit, that made him angry. Furious, really. Matt rarely got angry, but he'd just gotten Mello back and he wasn't about to lose him to Near, not again. He knew whose fault it was that Mello had left like that when they were kids, even if no one had ever told him. Everyone fucking knew.
“Really.” More clicking. “I'm surprised smoking hasn't destroyed your sense of smell.” Icy, yet devastatingly accurate, with just the right hint of cynical disbelief in his tone. Near had certainly learned something about verbal combat since Matt had last seen him.
In that moment, Matt understood why Mello smashed things when he was angry. If Mello hadn't been just in the other room, he would have. He wanted to march across the street and punch Near in the face for being such an asshole, hurt him like he had Matt, like he had hurt Mello just by existing. Yeah, maybe Near's scent on Mello's skin was just in his imagination, but it didn't mean he was wrong. Matt wasn't an idiot; he'd seen how it was between them long ago. He wasn't such a fool as to think Mello could stay with Near, even for such a short time, and not touch him, no matter how sick or injured he really was. “You didn't answer the question.” His voice was tight, his jaw muscles clenched, but he wasn't done with this conversation yet.
Near sighed impatiently, clearly ready to stop talking about this. “Mello trusts you. He'll let you see that he's sick. He's not like that with me.”
“Which means you didn't notice.” He refused to be distracted or consoled.
“And even if I did, what do you expect me to have done? Mello lets you take care of him. Not me.”
“Lets?” Matt remembered punching him, forcing pills down his throat. “He doesn't let me! I don't take no for an answer!”
“He lets you.” Near's voice was cold, certain, but the clicking had stopped. He was giving Matt his full attention.
Matt sighed. Near had a point. Mello resisted, but in the end, he let Matt do it. He could have fought back harder, or just fucking left. “Fine, maybe he does.”
“He trusts you enough to let you see his weaknesses.” For just a moment, Near sounded almost sad, but surely that was his imagination. Since when had Near had emotions? “You waited, because you knew he'd come back. I had to lure him here with his photograph. There's nothing to be jealous of.”
And then the hum of the dial tone in his ear, before Matt could answer. Near had hung up.
FUCK! For a moment, he almost threw the phone across the room, almost screamed his frustration aloud, remembering just in time that it was Mello's phone and that he was sleeping in the other room. He didn't really want to wake him; Matt was sure he needed to sleep, even if he'd had to drug him to get him to do it. He put the phone back where he had gotten it from, cursing under his breath. It was less satisfying, but it would have to do.
He was silent, however, hardly daring to breathe loudly, when he got into bed beside Mello, PSP in hand. Matt intended to be as quiet as possible, but he wanted to see Mello, prove to himself that he was there. Not only there, but still breathing, still basically okay, for all the extra heat he could feel when he was close to him. This way he was here if Mello needed him, if he had one of the nightmares Matt hadn't been able to keep from noticing, or if he were just too sick to do things on his own. Not that he'd admit it or ask, but Matt made sure he didn't have to. Better to be accused of hovering than to find Mello collapsed a few feet from the bed, not even able to make it to the bathroom by himself. It had only had to happen once for Matt to learn, even if Mello didn't.
Of course that wasn't the only reason. Even now, Mello deeply asleep, mouth open slightly, face flushed and sweaty with fever, Matt liked to watch him. His eyes traveled over the bare skin of his chest, watching him breathe, though he was watching more than that if he were honest with himself. As long as Mello didn't catch him at it, he could be. He wanted to pull the sheets farther down, trace over his hips and down his long legs, with his eyes if not his fingers, but of course he didn't. Instead he turned his attention back to his game, but he was alert to every move Mello made beside him.
Alert or not, he was still surprised when Mello moved closer, wrapping an arm around his waist and snuggling against him sleepily. “Mello?” No real response; maybe he wasn't really awake. Matt froze, unsure what he should do. Should he wake him? What would he think if he woke up and found himself curled around Matt? Hell, what would he think of Matt being in the bed with him while he slept?
Ok, so the last one was a stupid question. Mello would wonder why the hell he hadn't done it sooner and he might have a point. Why should Matt sleep on the couch when there was plenty of room in the bed for both of them? Even if being here next to Mello made him think things and feel things he wasn't sure he wanted to, or at least wasn't ready for.
If he were trapped, he might as well sleep. It wasn't as though he weren't tired; he'd never tell Mello, but Matt hadn't slept well the past few nights, too busy worrying about what the hell Mello was doing over there and waiting for the sound of his footsteps, his key in the lock. Hell, half the time he'd been convinced Mello was dead, or had just abandoned him again as suddenly as he'd reappeared. He hadn't given up, not yet, but the waiting had been hell.
But now the waiting was over. He was home (if this counted as his home) and Matt could rest, at least for as long as Mello allowed it. He closed his eyes, tried to relax, sure he'd wake up if he were needed. That's what he did, after all. Almost his whole life, even these last years on his own: Matt waited for Mello to need him.
He hated it, in a way, and did it despite that. Somehow Mello always wound up needing him, too, like it was meant to be that way, some sort of natural order or something. Stupid, but the way it was, and inescapable, along with the way Mello couldn't abandon his rivalry with Near, the way neither of them could give up chasing Kira and L's legacy. They were all trapped, just cogs in a machine bigger than any of them, even Kira, most likely. Still, there were worse places to be than this, in a bed with Mello beside him, arm draped across him, even if he wanted a smoke and wasn't sure he could sleep after all. Definitely worse places to be.