Thanks for the Memories

BY : Duomi
Category: Death Note > General
Dragon prints: 962
Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Rating: PG-13

Comments (by Duomi): Thanks for the Memories is an idea that was bouncing around in my head for a while-- a prequel to Goodnight Moon and Tear You Apart focusing on the Wammy's House boys and what makes them tick. When I mentioned it to Gloria, she took to it and was so full of energy and inspiration that it actually got the fic into action. So really, this is all thanks to her! Some of you will like it, some of you will still hate Mello and Near and want us to write other things, but this is fun, so deal with it. (I'm still working on TYA! This is just distracting me for the moment while I work out a kink in one of the upcoming chapters.) I'll be writing Near's chapters when they pop up, and she's doing Mello's. Fancy layout for this is courtesy of Gloria, who is so much less lazy than I am, and so full of talent!

Once again, this chapter is by the wonderful Gloria B.! Her author's note is attached at the bottom.

Spoiler warning: Mello, Near and possibly Matt's real names, probably some information on B later. We try to keep our facts canon if we can, but this prequel is going to be mostly creative license. La eMe is a real LA-based gang, and we don't own them, either.

New Disease

“...Fuck morality and everything I know...

...If I didn’t hate this then I couldn’t cope...


...Impersonate myself for what I used to be...


...Denial is all that’s left now...”


~”New Disease” by Spineshank



January 5, 1994
***



Have you ever seen something bizarre in the corner of your eye, only to double back and realize it’s something perfectly mundane and normal? And then you spend the rest of the day making up scenarios where that bizarre thing you thought you saw could actually have been there? Well, I’m convinced that there’s some equivalence to my life in there somewhere. Some strange metaphor that mirrors the bizarre disguised by the mundane that one can only perceive if looking sideways at it.



A joke at my expense.

~*~



FBI Agent Douglas Dane frowned through the glass of the observation room at the scowling five year old. He was filthy; all knees and elbows and wild blond hair that looked as if he cut it himself.

“After the bust, we sent him to Orangewood,” the officer standing beside him explained. “But he escaped. When we found him again, he was on the corner of Santa Monica and Broadway stealing Hershey bars.”

Dane looked askance at him before gazing back at the child. “I read his file,” he said in a clipped voice.

M, the child called himself. Probably a nickname given to him by members of La eMe--who apparently knew even less of what to do with him than they did Why he was with Rod Ross and the other sub-runners of the Mexican Mafia was still technically a mystery.

After the boy’s escape from the orphanage and recapture, the child was sent to LA General. Apparently, the kid didn’t much like his quarters in the Psychiatric Ward either because he went missing again. After the local precinct picked him up a third time, Dane had stepped in, claiming that the child was a source of information for their case against La eMe, and therefore under the FBI’s jurisdiction.



However, that was just a cover. Dane wanted to see the child himself. He had interrogated Rod Ross and the boy had come up during their…conversation. Certain aspects of this little boy, this M, might be of interest to a…past acquaintance of his.

“I’ll say it one more time,” Dane had snapped, leaning forward over the table, Ross’ file open between them. “Topo. What can you tell me about him?”

“And I say again,” the cholo Family member had replied under his withering black glare. “I’ll not say nothing.”

“Fine.” Dane had stood abruptly, but then paused as a thought crossed his mind. “Your mascot is already bending under our interrogations. Eventually, the child will tell us everything. He’s claiming you kidnapped him.”

Rod had surprised him by laughing. “Mihael? Oh, no. I can guarantee you no one would want to take that poquito niño.”

“Mihael? That’s his name? Who is he?”

Laughter. “No one knows gringo. He showed up on my doorstep one day, bartering for candy.”

“Bartering?”

“Had information for the Family. Don’t know how he got it—don’t want to know. Loco niño. Don’t try to keep him behind bars gringo. He don’t do too good locked up.”

“Oh? What would he do?”

To that, he had only grinned. “He’ll leave gringo.”

And he had, twice.

The child was moving. His bright green eyes fixed on the glass separating them, and even though Dane knew Mihael couldn’t see him, he could swear the kid was staring straight at him. Slowly, the wild boy moved closer, like an animal closing in on his prey, until his grimy face was pressed up on the glass. He hissed through his teeth and Dane flinched back.

The officer beside him leaned forward and pressed the intercom. “Step away from the glass,” he said into the microphone.

The boy didn’t need to be told twice. He flashed his audience a quick smile before sauntering back to his seat. Dane chewed on his bottom lip. That smile wasn’t one of a wild young boy; it was the grin of a clever mind that knew exactly what it was doing.

“I have to make a call,” Dane said. “I’ll be right back.”

Dane knew the rules. He drove a full mile away from the precinct and pulled up to a pay phone. After inserting the coins, he dialed: 010-5928-1472-18.



The line did not ring. It beeped once, and then a low hum followed. After a few minutes, Dane heard a rapid succession of clicking noises before a voice—young and female—said: “Enter code.”



Dane said the words into the mouth piece, his voice low and his back turned to face the traffic behind him. “D1225.”



“Processing.”



And then another voice came on the line—this one elderly and kind. “Deliverance,” the old man greeted benevolently. “How have you been?”



“Well, Watari, thank you,” Dane responded. “And give my thanks to L for his aid on La eMe.”



There was another voice, this one muffled and distant. Dane could not make out the words, but he could discern the monotone, almost disdainful sound of the teenage genius that was currently climbing the ladder of the most brilliant detective minds in the world under the generous care of his old mentor.



The old man chuckled at whatever the other voice had said before turning his attention back to Dane. “D. You have a gift for me?”



“I do—“



“The boy.” This was not said by the older voice.



“L?”



“Yes. This is L.”



Dane was not surprised, really, that L knew of the child. He had put many hours into this case and probably knew more about La eMe than even he did. What did surprise Dane was that L had taken enough of an interest in Mihael to take over Watari’s private call.

“You’ve relocated him?”



“Yes,” Dane responded. “I’m afraid he’ll escape again, though. I’m not sure how he does it, but the little brat won’t stay put.”



There was silence, and then the muffled noise of L speaking to Watari. The old man resumed the call. “I will accept your gift,” Watari said and paused. Then: “L says to check his hair.”



The call ended abruptly, and Dane stared dumbly at the receiver as the dial tone hummed loudly from it. Slowly, Dane hung up the phone and returned to his car. Soon, an escort would be in Los Angeles to transfer the child and he would be off his hands.

~*~



Why am I writing this stupid journal?



Why?



Why? Why? Why?



Rod hated that word with a singular passion that I found equally fascinating to provoke. I would torment him with it.



“I’ve got to go out,” he’d say.



“Why?”



“Because Jose says our shipment’s been stalled.”



“Why?”



“I don’t know. That’s why I have to go talk to him.”



“Why?”



“Because I need details.”



“Why?”



“Because without them, I can’t properly—“



“Why?”



“Because, dammit! A dios mío! I thought you were smart…”



Anyway, so why?



Well, because they told me to would be the easiest answer. However, the real answer is much more complicated.

~*~

Mihael woke with a start and immediately clutched at his pounding head. He blinked the last bits of sleep from his eyes and rubbed his face with one hand. It took only a moment to register that he was in pajamas he didn’t recognize, and lying in bed with rocket ship-print sheets. Mihael grunted in disgust and pushed the sheets away.



Quickly, he got out of the bed and took in his bearings. He was in a simple bedroom with a large window, a computer, a dresser, and a closet. It was snowing outside. Mihael rushed to the window, but growled when he saw it was barred shut. He turned in a circle and spotted some clothes on a chair by the dresser. He crossed the room, discarding his pajama pants and top as he went, and pulled on the black, over-sized shirt and loose-fitting black trousers. Then he sat down at the computer desk and proceeded to hack files—but they were all empty save for a few complimentary programs.



Mihael slumped in the chair and reached for his rosary, but it was missing from its usual perch around his neck. He jumped up; spinning around as his wide green eyes frantically searched the room. It was there, on the nightstand. He rushed over and grabbed it, sighing in relief as he slipped it back over his head, the heavy cross resting against the jut of his belly. Reaching with small fingers into his hair, he headed for the door. He nearly screamed in frustration when he couldn’t find any of the small knives or picks he kept in his wild, yellow hair. Whoever brought him here must have found them.



He grabbed the doorknob and flung all his weight into the door. He crashed into the hall, smacking his head against the marble floor as he realized the door had never been locked.



Mihael clutched at his head for a second time, groaning as he tried to stand. He froze when he registered whispers at close proximity. Someone was holding his elbow, trying to help him up. Mihael snatched his arm away and looked around. Dozens of faces stared back at him. They were kids of varying ages. Mihael bared his teeth and hissed at them and they shrunk back, the whispers becoming louder and louder.

“M,” a deep voice said.



Mihael whirled around. An old man was towering above him, his smile kind but his eyes tired. He had thick, sloping grey eyebrows that made him look incredibly sad, and graying hair that was receding at the temple flopped around on his shiny head with no particular direction. Everything else about him seemed orderly. His shirt pressed, his tie just-so.



“My name is Roger,” the old man said. “Please come with me.” To the other children, he said: “Back to your studies. Off with you.”



As the other children began to scurry off to wherever they were headed before Mihael’s bodily crash into the hall, Roger turned and began to walk. Mihael frowned at Roger’s receding back, caught between the desperate need to escape and curiosity at the man’s strange British accent. If he was British, he was likely not an FBI agent…and probably wasn’t an American doctor either. The children were holding school books and seemed aware, so this place was definitely not like that horrible loony bin they had sent him to before. Abruptly, his urge to flee this place dissolved into the desire to know exactly where he was. Before the man calling himself Roger turned the corner at the end of the hall, Mihael began to follow. His bare feet fell quick and silent against the marble floor as he hurried to catch up.



Roger led him through a labyrinth of halls lined with dorms, classrooms and large stained glass windows; and after many minutes, they stopped in front of a pair of mighty oak doors lined with ornate engravings. It was there that Roger finally turned to face him.



“This is Wammy’s Orphanage,” Roger said plainly. “And this is the front entrance. You may leave or stay. I will tell you now that no one will follow you or force you to return—but also know that our protection of you will end the moment you leave the gate at the end of the estate.”



Mihael scowled but did not answer, eyeing the large wrought iron handles and trying to calculate whether or not he was strong enough to pull the heavy door open on his own.



“However,” Roger continued. “Should you decide to stay, know that we will feed you, clothe you, and—most importantly—educate you. Every child here is exceptionally brilliant and we believe that you qualify for Wammy’s specifications.”



“Why?”



Roger paused at the sound of the child’s voice. Considering the vehemence of his scowl, the little boy’s question was soft, barely moving the air around it. Roger took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. If there was one thing he’s learned after all these years, it was that he had no special gift for small children. Even prodigies had moments of heartbreaking vulnerability and it always made him feel awkward in his own skin to attempt to dissemble a child’s plea for information.



“Well,” Roger said finally. “Well, because you interest L.”



Who is L? was Mihael’s first thought. “Why?” was what he said.



Roger bent him under his stern gaze, already knowing where this was headed. The "why" game. “I don’t know,” Roger lied. “But perhaps the answer lies in how well you will perform the syllabus he’s drawn up for you.” Roger pulled out a sheet of paper from an inner fold of his coat and handed it to the boy.



Mihael took it and noticed immediately that the top read “Mello. Codename ‘M’.”



“Incidentally, it seems to mirror much of L’s own regimen when he was your age,” Roger said, watching the boy ignore its contents and stuff the paper into his pants pocket.



“I want the familia released,” the boy said suddenly, the solidity of his words belying the softness of his whisper-like voice.



“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. And you’re in no position to be bargaining.”



“You want my mind,” Mihael said.



Roger paused. Then: “Rather, we want you to want your mind.” Roger sighed after the boy rolled his eyes and began heading for the door. “You like chocolate, yes?”



The boy paused, glancing thoughtfully out of the corner of his eye, his yellow hair falling savagely in his piercing beryl gaze.



“A never ending supply, free of charge, should you stay,” Roger said. “You have my word.”



The boy looked back at the door and hesitated. After many moments, Mihael finally shook his head. “Not enough,” he whispered, clutching at the rosary around his neck. Then Mihael grabbed the door handle and flung it open with all his might.

~*~



They told me that it would be a good way to record and organize my thoughts for later reflection. They even went on to say that I would be expected to share passages from my journal with my other classmates, so they would have the opportunity to get to know me. Indeed, I was forced to sit and listen as other children read from their journals for nearly an hour. Frankly, the whole idea of it appalled me.



First of all, my thoughts don’t need organizing. They already come that way.



Secondly, I’m not really that fucking complicated. I’m five, ambitious and smart. You could throw a dart anywhere between the words “arrogant” and “unhinged” and hit the one that best describes me.[1]



My past is a jumbled mix of half-memories, learning how to shape words by reading street signs and listening as passersby pronounce them, and following Rod around on drug and weapons trafficking deals, entertaining loose notions of becoming the leader of La eMe.



And I love chocolate.



No, I won’t bore you with the description of how it tastes, or how it melts in your mouth, or how the foil wrap crinkles in your fingers. The reason I love chocolate is as simple as the reason I am writing this journal is complicated.



Once, I sat next to a fat woman at a bus stop. She was delicately breaking off a little, pre-designed square from a bar of Hershey’s chocolate and relishing the tiny block as it dissolved in her fleshy mouth. Then, she would slowly break off another square and repeat the process.



Eventually, she noticed me staring. She smiled kindly, reached into her bag, and produced a second bar—which she handed to me. I ripped off the wrapper and bit into it savagely.



To this day, I can still hear her horrified gasp. What did I do to elicit her appalled reaction?



I ignored the pre-designed squares and the delicate process. I rebelled against the normal, destroyed the boring, idiotic procedure of reasonably consuming a Hershey’s chocolate bar.



A synonym of normal is compos mentis. Compos mentis actually means, by definition, mentally sound. And my first taste of chocolate coincides with the first time I fell in love with the notion of being abnormal.



I always knew I was different. Ever since I realized that other children were sucking on their thumbs while I was wrapping my head around Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem versus Peano’s axioms.



But that gasp! The notion that one simple action could make someone feel such animosity towards a child! Oh, it was perfect.



I love chocolate like the way I love making others miserable. I love making others miserable because they are stupid fucking sheep. I like to rub their noses in how completely dim-witted and useless they really are. Scurrying around in their little, perfect, pre-designed, square-cut worlds that won’t mean shit to anybody once they’re dead and gone. No one will remember them; they think they matter but they don’t.



No normal person ever did anything important or noticeable or memorable.

~*~

The white was blinding. And Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it was cold.

It went right through him like a heavy blow and he stumbled back. It never snowed in California. Sure, it got cold from time to time, but never like this.

But Miheal’s pride was more stubborn than the cold was bitter, and he threw himself out into it.

One foot in front of the other, he chanted in his mind as the snow soaked his thin clothes and the gusts tore the sodden, frozen fabric around his body. Soon, the piercing pain in his feet faded to a strange, weighty numbness—and if it weren’t for the chattering of his teeth and the fierce shaking of his body, he might have made it further.

Distantly, he heard a voice shout through the howling winds as he stumbled. The gravel beneath the snow bit harshly into the flesh of his palms. Abruptly, there was an arm about his waist, pulling him upward. Mihael struggled, but he was shivering and bitterly cold. He was suddenly wrapped in something heavy and warm, and then pushed into the backseat of a car.

The car dipped as someone got in beside him and Mihael struggled with the thing wrapped around him, fighting tooth and nail to get free. Next to him, a male voice swore in a foreign language. Mihael paused in his plight, attempting to locate the language in the files of his memories. It sounded familiar. Asian. Not Korean or Japanese, something less common in the streets of Los Angeles. Mihael felt fingers fumble with the heavy fabric and pull the edge down from over his head.

Mihael blinked into the face of his captor. He was indeed Asian, young also, and handsome. Maybe eighteen, maybe younger. The man gave him the once over before reaching back and procuring another blanket, which he threw over Mihael’s still-shivering form.

“Nasty weather,” the man said in only slightly accented English. Then he smiled kindly. “I’m F. I was just about to leave on assignment before you jumped out behind my car, silly runner.”

Mihael blinked again, the warmth of the blankets and the dryness of the vehicle working to slow his feverish shaking. His teeth were still clenched against chattering, so he did not respond.

“Where were you off to without shoes, runner?” F asked in a gently admonishing tone. “One would think that a child of Wammy’s would at least bring a coat.”

L. F.

...M. Mihael’s mind was working furiously.

F continued to talk, blowing on his reddened hands between words. Outside the haven of the vehicle, the snow churned and the wind howled. “You must be new then. You have a name?”

“M,” Mihael forced out through clenched teeth. Suddenly, another wave of shivering attacked his limbs.

F waited for it to pass before speaking again. “They’ve already given you a name?” The young man’s voice was serious now, lines forming around a now-frowning mouth. When Mihael did not answer, F said: “Have they drawn you a syllabus?”

Mihael nodded.

“Give it to me.”

Mihael stiffened and F sighed. “If I wanted to hurt you, I’d have left you in the storm. Give it to me.”

It took a great deal of wrestling with the blanket before Mihael cold produce the crumpled ball of parchment from his pocket. When he did, he handed it over and F carefully flattened out the worn sheet. As he read, his brows drew closer together, forming a shadow over his gentle brown eyes. “When did you arrive?”

“I don’t know.”

F glanced up. Then he grinned and returned his eyes to the syllabus. “I mean, when did you wake up?”

“This morning. An hour ago maybe.”

The frown returned. “Usually it takes weeks of observation before they assign a syllabus,” F informed him in a strange mutter. “They filter out the ones who would be better off in families and assign them a normal education until adoption papers are drawn. The rest remain here and are further sorted into...alternate education that hones their natural skills, whatever those may be. This—“ F raised Mihael’s wrinkled syllabus—“suggests they believe you to be...” F’s voice trailed off as he became lost in thought. At long last, he said: “Exceptional.”

Mihael straightened in his seat. “Why?”

F shrugged and handed back the syllabus. “I don’t know. Maybe they’ve already had an opportunity to observe you. They must have. And after B’s nonsense—“

“Who is B?”

F opened his mouth to answer, but Mihael interrupted with another question, the child’s eyes lighting up in a blaze of green. “Who is L?”

F seemed startled. “L is...L is L. He’s...” His voice trailed off again. Finally he ended in a soft voice that strangely held absolutely no animosity: “The best of us. And the worst.” F leaned forward suddenly. “L is gaining power and influence rapidly. And his life is not only increasingly in danger, his life is becoming increasingly irreplaceable. Do you understand what this means?”

Mihael thought of The Family, and what they did when a member was lost. “They need a back up.”

“Precisely.” F glanced askance at him as he leaned back. “You are sharp.”

“What does he do?”

“Does? Or can?” F eyed him perspicaciously.

“Can. What can he do?”

“Soon,” F said, “everything.” F paused. “And I think the world will be better for it.”

The world. Once, Mihael thought La eMe was the surest way to gain power and influence. Yes, it was unlikely because he was white and gringos were not only mistrusted, they were outsiders. Often enemies. The face of corporate oppression and political propaganda against their people. The banner for rival gangs who would claim the land that was theirs long before the white men came. And a gringo would never gain power in the Mexican Mafia. Mihael thought that perhaps one day he could figure out a way...but maybe—

Maybe this was better.

The world.

And a never-ending supply of chocolate.

“So,” F said cheerily, “where were you off to? I don’t think Taiwan will agree with you much, but if you’re runnin’, I could at least take you someplace to get boots and a coat.”

“No,” the child said. “Take me back inside.”

~*~



I find myself a willing specimen for bad faith. I am speaking—or writing, as the case may be—of course, of the existentialist philosophy mauvaise foi, wherein one denies one’s total freedom, instead choosing to behave as an inert object. I’m hoping that I won’t stumble into Nietzsche’s concept of ressentiment by way of naiveté.

Which brings me back to why I’m writing this journal.



Because I am ambitious and abnormal. Because I want to be remembered.



And because of L.



Or rather, because of my new cancerous desire to impress him, become him, surpass him. My diseased motivation to be the best—something that has always been a driving force in my short life.



Before, it was Rod. Before it was La eMe and The Family, the most powerful prison gang in the United States of America. But now, it looks as if Topo was going under, and Tupi Hermandez with him. They will probably be indicted sometime next year.



The Family was an impressive aspiration, but I had to concede that L is far more fascinating.



He is the most brilliant man in the world, the most successful and powerful detective known to mankind and he was reared right here at Wammy’s.



They said I could leave and that no one would stop me. But if I stayed, I might have a shot at being L’s successor. A more enticing game, I’ve decided; and the only price is to play by Wammy’s rules.



One of which is that I have to keep a journal.



Again, it’s a simple solution: “Because they told me to”.



But beneath that, there’s a desperate part of me that believes I might fail…and that if I do, I’ll die as I was born: No one and unwanted. I’ll disappear as if I never was.



But.



If I succeed L, this journal, this one piece of evidence of my own vanity, would ultimately work to my demise.



So I’ve constructed a compromise. I’ll record my real journal on my computer, encrypted to keep prying eyes out…but of course you would already know that as you are reading it. The other side of the compromise is the hard copy of my journal, hand-written and comprised mostly of utter bullshit. In the end, it will work for all parties involved. Wammy’s will be satisfied, my ego will be satisfied, and if this journal, safely tucked away behind layers of code, is discovered by an enemy…then I was never worth succeeding L in the first place.



My name is Mihael Kheel. My alias is Mello. My codename is M. And this is my journal.



~Excerpt from the Journal of M.


~*~

A/N by Gloria B.: Hello readers. Its a pleasure and an honor to have the opportunity to write Mello's arch of Thanks for the Memories, Prelude to Doumi's fantastic fanfictions Good Night Moon and Tear You Apart.

I remember being struck by how normal and happy the child Mello seemed in his photo-- the one in the canon that had his real name written on the back. So for TftM, I was inspired to approach Mello as a blank canvas and work to apply layers of childhood tribulations, adult situations, incredible intelligence and an aptitude for memory, and a big heart with many feelings until it morphed into the Mello we meet in the third arch of the Death Note series. I wanted to explore possibilities of how he became bitter, what the significance is of the rosary he is commonly seen wearing, what motivates him, who is Matt to him, who is Rod Ross, and most importantly, when and how did Mello snap. In Mello's arch, marking his journey from how he came to Wammy's orphanage to the beginning of Good Night Moon, we explore these possibilities in detail.

I'm a huge fan of listening to input and using it as a tool for further updates, so don't be shy. If you ever have any questions, feel free. You can find my contact information in the Author's Panel under "Gloria". Thank you for reading.

[1] Quote is a direct line from House Season Three—which was a source of great inspiration for this chapter.



Duomi's disclaimer on [1]: We don't own House, either, sadly. We just fangirl on him.



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