Mello never liked stripes. Of course, that was before he met Matt.

Mello stalked through the hallways of his house, glaring at his younger brother who was wearing a blue and white striped shirt. Fucking stripes, the tempermental blonde thought bitterly. Who the hell wants to look like a goddamn convict, anyways? So what if they're not black and white. They're still stripes.

What kind of a word even is that? Stripes? It doesn't even sound normal, he continued in his head before his mother, Lydia, looked up at him, a smile on her softly lined face. "Mihael?"

Mello scowled. She always insisted on calling him by his "real" name. Though now Mello didn't know if that even was his real name or not. Mello suited him so much better, and besides, Lydia was the only one who had ever called him that.

"You're muttering to yourself, darling. Is something the matter?"

Chocolate was brutally snapped off a Hershey's bar in response and shoved into the blonde's mouth. "Nothing's the matter, Lydia." he grumbled, leaning up against the wall, which scooted his long-sleeved black shirt up a bit, revealing an inch or so of Mello's smooth white stomach.

Lydia sighed. "Mihael, I'm your mother. Please do not call me Lydia; it's disrespectful."

Cerulean eyes rolled and Mello walked out of the room, mumbling again. "Stupid Lydia...I don't even see why the hell they make me stay here if I'm as smart as they say I am. But speaking of stupid shit; Wammy's is just about the top of the fucking list."

Suddenly, Mello's long, golden hair was yanked and he turned around snarling to find Dimitri, his stripes-wearing younger brother giggling. In response, Mello shoved him down onto the floor and pressed his booted foot into the younger boy's chest. Strangled wheezing noises were coming from his brother, and Mello finally moved when he made out something that sounded like "Mercy," coming from his victim.

He wasn't entirely cold-hearted, as most people seemed to think.

"I hate you, Mello," the little boy sobbed as he stood up and ran into the kitchen, screaming for their mother.

The blonde snarled and slammed the door to his room open, yanking on his red-and-black leather jacket and jumping out his second-story window to land quietly on Lydia's daffodils, deliberatly crushing as many as he could under his combat boots before striding off in the direction of his second home, the orphanage known as Wammy's House.


The doors were slammed open in Mello's anger, almost hitting a frightened Near who quickly scampered out of the way and out of view of the furious blonde who seemed to enjoy using the small albino as a punching bag.

Mello was almost all the way up to the room that had been assigned to him, but that he rarely ever slept in when a flash of black, white, and red caught his eyes. Stripes, Mello thought angrily, changing direction to stomp towards the boy.

"What the fuck is this?" Mello asked, grabbing a handful of the student's shirt.

"Um, it's my shirt." A red-headed boy said, looking at me weirdly. "Ya mind letting me go? I'm gonna be late for class."

"Yeah, I do-cause you're wearing goddamn stripes!" he yelled, slamming the redhead against a wall.

"And you're wearing fucking leather," the boy snarled defiantly, pushing Mello away.

Mello's eyebrows rose in surprise. No one ever fought back-unless they really, really wanted their ass kicked. He drew back his fist and punched Stripes in the nose.

The redhead responded with an unexpected roundhouse kick, hitting Mello smack in the chin.

"Fuck," Mello hissed, spitting crimson blood out of his mouth. He drew back his fist to hit the kid again, then stopped. "What's your name?" he asked suddenly, and the boy only glared at Mello.

"You first," he spat.

"I'm Mello," he informed Stripes, rubbing his bruised chin. "And it wasn't neccesary to kick me that hard. Damn."

"Matt," he said, still glaring at Mello. "Why the hell did you punch me?"

The blonde rolled his blue eyes. "You're wearing stripes," he explained. As if it made things clearer. "Whatever," Matt grumbled, picking up his books and heading down the hall.


"This is bullshit!" Matt whined, plopping down on his bed, opposite of Mello's. "Why do I have to share a room with you?"

"I dunno, Stripes," Mello grinned, enjoying Matt's reaction to the nickname. "Cause Roger said we had to." Matt rolled his eyes. "I hate Roger."

"I do, too..."

Matt smiled, then caught himself and glared at Mello again. "This doesn't mean we're friends, you know." he grumbled, rubbing his now-black eye, and Mello frowned back. "Of course not."

They were both silent for a minute, each staring at the other-Mello seething as he examined Matt's striped shirt closer, Matt watching Mello's odd expression.

"What do you have against stripes, anyways?" Matt asked softly, snuggling up in his covers. Mello was about to tell the gamer off, but he felt like Matt somehow deserved to know.

"My stepdad wore stripes, and I hated him." That was quite enough information. And Matt knew that; he dropped the subject. "Oh. Well, goodnight," the redhead yawned, rolling over and instantly falling asleep.

Mello lay awake for hours, wondering why he felt so much better saying that one little sentence to Matt.


"Wake up, Mello!" Matt yelled, pouncing on the sleeping blonde. "We're gonna be late!"

"Go away," Mello said sleepily, pulling the covers up over his head. "No!" Matt shouted, pummling his roommate with stuffed animals. "I'm gonna take all your chocolate if you don't get up right now!" he threatened.

Mello groaned and rolled out of bed, quickly pulling on his leather and following Matt out the door.

"Why does school start so early?" the blonde grumbled, following Stripes into the cafeteria and loading his tray with anything remotely chocolate. He made his way over to the least-occupated table and sat near the corner, scowling as he poured chocolate milk over his chocolate cereal.

Matt shrugged, popping a piece of waffle into his mouth and watching with interest as Mello shoveled spoonful after heaping spoonful of the chocolate mush into his mouth. They sat in uncomfortable silence; the only sound being the crunching of Mello's cereal and Matt quietly swallowing his orange juice.

"So..." he said awkwardly, and Mello looked over at him.

A small, pale girl with bouncy brown curls ran up and started talking to Mello in a fast voice. "Hey, Mello, is this the new guy Matt? Ohmigosh, he's really cute. Are you guys friends?" she said in one breath, glancing at the confused redhead. "What?" the gamer asked.

"Yeah, we are," Mello said decidedly, smirking as Matt got more puzzled. He focused on the least strange fact. "Who are you?" he directed at the slightly annoying girl, and she rolled her eyes. "Linda," she answered, "fifth in line for L's successors."

Matt snorted, choking on his milk. "But you're a girl," the redhead informed her, mouth twisting as he scrutinized the tiny figure, whose sweet expression changed to one of absolute fury. Her dark eyes shot daggers at Matt. "So? You think that just beacuse I'm a girl means I can't be as smart as L? I'm probably smarter than you, anyways. You just need to shut your fat mouth!" she said, shouting the last part.

"Jerk!" she yelled, stomping off.

"What's her fucking problem?" the confused gamer asked, looking at his new friend for help. The blonde considered. "Well, she gets picked on a lot for being a girl, and trying to be L's successor." Mello smirked; he had obviously teased her about that before. "She's actually pretty smart, though, I guess. Being in the top five is a pretty big thing for us."

"But aren't you the second smartest?"

Mello gave an unsatisfied frown. "Second," he sneered. "Yeah, always second."

Matt immediatly snapped his mouth shut; reminding Mello about his runner-up status obviously hadn't been a good idea. He was learning a lot about what not to do around the blonde: Never take his chocolate, don't fight back, never ever mention Near; and don't wear stripes.

A very loud snapping sound came from next to Matt and he jumped, turning his head to see Mello breaking apart a large chocolate bar with his teeth. Even though he'd been doing it for the entire day they'd been roommates, Matt still wasn't used to it.

Just then, a tall, salt-and-pepper-haired male teacher walked up, and Matt immediatly recognized him as Professor Price, his biology teacher that Mello couldn't stand. "Ahem," the man intoned when the blonde deliberately refused to look up, focusing instead on his chocolate breakfast.

"Matthew, I don't believe you turned in your homework. If you-" He broke off as the boys howled with laughter, banging their fists against the table, tears streaming down their cheeks. "-Matthew..." The redhead choked out, falling on the floor. "You're such an idiot!" he proclaimed between fits of giggles, and the teacher's face grew scarlet red. "My name is Matt. M. A. T. T. Not Matthew!"

"BOTH OF YOU IN MY OFFICE NOW!" he snarled, and the boys grew quiet, quickly composing themselves. The rest of the usually deafening cafeteria was silent, everyone staring at Matt, Mello, and Mr. Price. Mello cleared his throat, glaring at them, and a quiet murmur broke out as the two boys were led out of the room, Matt's crimson face matching his hair.


"Matt, Mello, I'm quite ashamed at the both of you." Roger said quietly, leveling his disappointed gaze at each of the boys in turn. Mello returned the look proudly with his head held high; Matt with his head hung and his eyes covered by goggles and scarlet bangs. "You've both been here far long enough to know the rules and what's expected of you by now. Two thirteen-year-old boys such as yourselves should have conducted your behavior much better."

He steepled his long, wrinkled fingers and looked down, then back up. "Mello, you hold the title of second smartest at Wammy's. Matt, you hold the title of third. Do either of you think Near would ever be found calling one of our esteemed professors an idiot, deliberately refusing to look at them, and then laughing?"

"No sir," both boys mumbled in slightly disjointed unison, and Roger held back a sigh. "Two weeks detention with Professor Price for you, Mello, and three for Matt." Both boys started to protest, but Roger held the pen he was writing their punishment slips with poised in the air above the paper. "Shall I make it a month?" he asked, effectively silencing the two, who shook their heads. "Good. Return to your room and think about what you've done. And when you've finished reflecting, I want the both of you to go find your professor and apologize to him."

Matt nodded and Mello scowled, shoving his hands in the pockets of his black jeans as they walked out of the door. "Dammit! Two weeks of detention? With fucking Price? Who does Roger think he is?" Mello snarled once they were out of the old man's hearing.

He continued fuming as the redhead walked companionably beside him, trying to calm him down. "Mel, shh...if anyone hears you, we'll get in even more trouble. Let's just go find Price and say sorry."

"But I'm not sorry!" The blonde's voice rose to a shrill wail. "All these idiot adults think we're damn idiots just because we're younger than them. Shit, I'm thirteen years old, I'm not gonna be treated like I'm three!" Mello snarled, then continued mumbling incoherently until Matt leaned in and kissed his cheek.

The blonde's turquoise eyes grew huge in his pale face, replaced by a scowl seconds later. "What the fuck?" he hissed, drawing back his fist to hit the redhead, but instead he slowly withdrew his hand and stroked Matt's cheek, surprising himself as much as he did Matt.

"Mello?" the gamer asked uncertainly, his emerald eyes confused and hopeful. The hand traveled down his neck to his smooth chest, covered by Matt's trademark black-and-white shirt. "Mel?"

Biting his lip, Mello's breath caught as he tried to figure out what exactly was going on, pulling his hand away and shoving it into his pocket. What the hell am I doing, he wondered, and...why do I like it? Matt and I aren't gay! We've only known each other for a day and a half, and I don't even like him! Other than a friend, I mean, he amended. Maybe.

Suddenly Matt dashed out the door. Mello sighed and headed after the boy, though he didn't know if he could bear to see him right now.


The final bell rang, and Matt burst out the door and through the hallways to Mello's last period classroom. "Mello, I have to ask you a question!" he hollered as soon as the blonde came out. "WELL DAMN YOU DON'T HAVE TO YELL IN MY FUCKING EAR, DIPSHIT!" Mello yelled back, attracting the teacher's attention. "Mello-" Mr. West began,

"I didn't say anything."

"I just heard you, Mello." He stared down at the defiant boy, who glared right back. "Cursing is strictly prohibted, and I might just refer you to Mr. Wammy," he threatened. "Yeah? Go ahead. He likes me best, anyways." Mello stuck out his tongue and dashed away, pulling Matt with him.

Panting, they both flopped down in their room. "W-what was it you wanted earlier, Matt?" Mello coughed out, his chest rising and falling quickly.

"Oh," Matt said, huffing a little. "Oh. Well, um, I...I just...uh-" His cheeks flaming, Matt stopped midsentence and looked down. "Well, spit it out," Mello said irritably. "Go on."

"Mmmmmhhphm," Matt mumbled incoherently. "What?" Mello asked, ticked at the gamer now. "I like you a lot!" Matt hollered, throwing his body on his unmade bed. "I'm crazy about you," he told the pillow.

Mello opened his mouth to reply, then shut it, shocked.

" me?"

Another mumbled "mmmhmmm" came from the boy on the bed, and Mello furrowed his brow. "Well, that's good," he decided, "because I like you a lot, too." Matt's head shot up from the pillow and stared at Mello with a wide-eyed expression, his goggles hanging around his neck. Mello pounced on the bed next to Matt, causing the redhead to sink towards him when the mattress shifted.

Mello experimentaly took ahold of Matt's hand, letting his fingers lace through the gamer's, and causing a cute rose-petal pink blush to appear on his cheeks. "This is...nice." the blonde finally said, letting his head rest on Matt's shoulder and inhaling the spicy scent of him.

"Yeah," Matt said awkwardly, looking down at his and Mello's entwined hands. "This is nice." It seemed like Matt was going to say something else, but he was too busy being fascinated by Mello''s perfect pink lips. "Can I...?" He trailed off uncertainly, leaning in to brush his lips against Mello's softly, as if asking permission.

When he pulled back, he was surprised to see Mello's face with a dazed expression on it. The blonde's mouth shaped a whisper.

"Do it again."