Disclaimer: I'll say it once. I don't own Death Note. Wish I did. But all I own is this fairly original plot bunny. The damn thing wouldn't shut up.

Summary: Matt was perfectly fine living in Mello's shadow, comfortably ensconced in third place, but L just had to shove his ugly letter where it wasn't wanted and undertake the impossible task of getting Matt to give a damn.

Note: This is the first thing I've posted in years. I wouldn't have uploaded even this, but as stated above, the plot bunny was insistent and my hands started typing without me. Sigh…what can you do? Oh, this is shonen-ai. (The M rating is for language) No like, no read. Please be mature.



The young man in question did not stir from his position, crouched over the keyboards of his small array of computers, his eyes riveted on the white-blue glow of the screens. One hand typed steadily at the keys beneath his fingertips while the other hovered near his mouth as he gnawed distractedly on his thumb.


The man's toes clenched and unclenched around the loss fabric of his padded computer chair. He bit a little harder than normal at his thumb, but did not once glance away from his computers.

A tired sigh flowed through the air, resting finally in the man's ears.

"You can't avoid the decision forever, L. You know you can't. You have to make a choice."

The speaker waited for a moment, sighed again, and turned to leave.

"I know, Watari."

Watari paused, his back to the genius detective he had known and cared for since the man was but a young, obnoxiously brilliant child. Even when his old back ached and his joints protested movements he could once pull off with ease, the famous inventor, Quillish Wammy, never felt as old as when he and L were forced to discuss the complex issue of choosing an heir.

"However, as brilliant as Near is, number one, always beating Mello with ease, he's limited as well. Too unemotional, too disconnected, those are the sorts of qualities that will be an undeniable asset for him, at least until something unexpected comes at him sideways, in a dimension he'll never understand and it kills him. If I chose Near, I'd be killing him."

"Everyone dies eventually, L," Watari intoned gently.

L's eyes were still riveted on the screens before him. "The same is true for Mello. He's brilliant, but he has no control over his emotions. His instincts are superb, meaning that his dangerous gambles are never nearly as impossible as they may seem, but such tactics only need to fail once to fail forever. In the end, the only way to pick either of them would be to pick both. Together, they might be able to overcome their respective deficiencies, flaws and histories, but their utter abhorrence of each other makes such an option completely unfeasible. As you well know, all attempts by the Wammy's House officials to help them overcome this relationship flaw have ended in physical damage to both children.

"But none of that is new information. Is it, my friend?" L ended in the same dry monotone he had begun in.

"L…you need to pick one of them, while your situation is fairly secure right now, that could change at any time and at least one of them should be prepared in case anything…it won't have to be permanent, we can increase the searches for other possible heirs right away."

"I don't know that that will be necessary, Watari," L said, the hand not hovering before his mouth had paused in its incessant typing.

"Whatever do you mean?" the old man asked curiously, turning around to face the back of the genius's head, "None of the other children's scores have changed, have they? Near is still number one, with Mello at a close second."

"You're right," L said, a strange emotion creeping into his usually emotionless voice. "Nothing's changed and that's the problem."

"Explain," Watari encouraged somewhat impatiently.

L's lips curved into the barest hint of a smile around his thumb, "These are human beings, human children that we deal with here, Watari, not machines. Consequently there is error. Every single child in Wammy's House has a rank, but that rank oscillates on a day to day basis, based on the child's skills and motivations in their various classes. Even Mello and Near fluctuate, sometimes Mello is first in one thing or another, though Near almost always destroys any lead the other boy might gain, it still happens. Any given child will swing between several ranking positions, always averaging out in about the same place. This statement holds true for every child in Wammy's House, every child, that is, but one."

Watari frowned, "But according to what you've just told me, that's impossible. Even the dead last child of Wammy's would sometimes be second to last or third to last in at least some areas."

The world's top three detectives nodded his head, "You'd think so, but the numbers don't lie. I've checked every ranking list, every single grade report, and every last test. And Matt is always third."

"Matt?" the inventor demanded incredulously.

The detective hummed lightly at that, "Surprising, isn't it? He did a good job of it too; managing something like would require that he be intimately aware of all the strengths and weaknesses, not only of Mello and Near, but also of the children several ranks down from him. His superior hacking skills (one of the few things he hasn't hidden, I suppose) would help a great deal with that, however, the precise calculations and shrewd intuition that would be needed to keep him so firmly entrenched in his position is simply mind boggling."

"And you're sure…?" Watari began tentatively.

"Quite," the genius replied dryly. "Such perfection, shifting easily with the tides of his fellow children and always coming in the same place…things like that simply can't happen by accident. In his own words, I suppose, Matt might say that we've 'been played', so to speak."

"Played? Even if that's true, the boy hardly seems malicious, why would he even bother with such activities, if he was really that capable, he would be number one, not Near. Why waste his time with the Charade?"

L scowled, that was the problem, wasn't it. "Mello," he said, picking up one of his more solid suspiciousness. "He's doing it for Mello, at least in part. Mello is his best friend, but he's a very fickle friend, from what I've been lead to believe. Matt's a smart boy, but considering his history…I'm not surprised that he might choose to do something like this."

"And what exactly do you think that something might be?" the old man prompted.

"Putting his connection with Mello first, before anything, including himself. Meaning," the genius continued, "that he quickly discovered that Mello would have nothing to do with him if he even dreamed of doing better than Mello, but that if he was anything less than just bellow Mello, he would be too disgusted with his idiocy and uselessness to even bother with him. Given that situation, the twisted child-logic that dominates even Wammy's House prodigies would have lead the boy to the understanding that his friendship with Mello pivoted about the fact that he must be third.

"There could of course, be many other explanations, but that is one of the more viable ones that I have been able to come up with."

"If that's true, though, then knowing this makes no difference, does it? The boy obviously has no interest in being L. Even if he is smart enough for the job, who's to say he'd even take it if we offered it to him."

"Not necessarily," L said, his dark eyes boring into one of the side screens and the two images that hung so innocently in cyberspace, "Life is all about perspectives. Matt has known only two such angles in his short life. Perhaps it's time for another. A change of scenery, so to speak, might just provide the right kind of motivation for our 'lazy' genius. And a little bit of motivation, as you well know my friend, can take one to surprising places, don't you think, Watari?"

"It couldn't hurt."

"Oh but it could. It very well could, my friend. But the probability of this working far outweighs the possibility of a spectacular failure. I'm almost eighty percent certain of this." L's toes fidgeted with the loose material of his seat cushion as he explained the basics of his plan. He finished his abbreviated explanation with an offhand, "if you could begin making preparations, Watari, we'll have to move quickly if we want this to have the proper effect on him."

"Right away, L," the old man intoned as he departed to follow up on his charge's requests

"Good," the detective mumbled to himself, his eyes still riveted on the two pictures. The first was of the source of all this excitement, one little redheaded boy in an odd stripped shirt with tinted goggles strapped over his eyes. The boy was an odd contrast to the other picture, and the two pictures seemed at first to be completely unrelated. But L had searched countless countries and innumerable schools to find that boy. He was the key, L was sure of it. He would change everything.

So…curious? I hope so. Any guesses as to where this is going? Please tell me what you think; constructive criticism is always appreciated, especially since I wrote this at one o'clock in the morning…