Title: Crossed Wires
Characters: Matt, Mello
Word Count: 3324
Summary: Mello first contacts Matt in New York.
Comments: ...This was supposed to be an actual fic-fic, but I started it about a year ago, wrote it all in one sitting, and haven't touched it since. So. Here you are. I don't think I'll be continuing it, even though I meant to. >.>
Matt was suddenly very tiny. He looked around himself, startled, wondering why the hell that blocky pink comforter looked so damn familiar, and froze when he locked eyes with a mouse the size of a Toyota. It was bobbing its head and squeaking to the beat of Sasasan Katamari, and everything behind it was a blank, blinding white. Matt blinked.
No...this wasn’t right...
He groaned. His throat was uncomfortably dry, and his tongue felt thick and sugary from the soda he’d fallen asleep drinking. The three giant monitors surrounding him cast an eerie green glow throughout the dark room, and it took him a moment of dazed blinking to remember where he’d put his cell phone. The chorus of na na nas grew louder as he pulled it out from beneath a toppled stack of uncased CDs.
Matt waited, but there was nothing else. He shifted his legs under him so that his butt wasn’t so uncomfortably numb, then pulled the phone away far enough to glance at the screen. Unknown Number. He frowned. He’d reprogrammed the damn thing to trace any unknown numbers so that he’d know if a cop was trying to track him through his cell. He sat up a little straighter and tapped a key, blinking when the endless stream of Matrix code gave way to a dozen dull grey programming boxes.
“Who the hell is this?” His voice was still thick and heavy with sleep. He took a swig of the open Mountain Dew sitting in front of him, but it had lost its fizz hours ago.
“What, you don’t recognize me?”
It was a young male voice, and it sounded American, with no particular regional accent, so probably Midwestern. Matt wasn’t familiar with it. “I’m hanging up now.”
He did, and sighed heavily as he glanced at the time. Damn. He’d only been out for a little over an hour, though it felt like a lot longer. He glanced at his bed, sleep-crusted eyes breezing over the clothes and computer parts sitting on top, then looked once more at the monitors in front of him. Hell, he was already up, he might as well finish that virus he’d started. The guy wanted it by the end of the week, but he bet he could get a little extra if he finished it earlier.
He’d hardly finished the first tag when Sasasan Katamari flared up from beside his elbow again. He checked the number before answering this time, and frowned at its inability to trace the call. Was the tracking chip broken? Had he just hung up on his client by accident? But no, this guy was more cool-headed, more refined, than his client had ever been.
“Is that you, Skiar? Where the hell are you calling from?” He opened his tracing program and slid it over to the screen on the right. If he could keep this weirdo talking for a few seconds he could find out what kind of firewall he was using. Damn, he’d only updated his phone a week ago; he hadn’t expected it to go out of date so soon.
“You can’t trace my number because my phone doesn’t have one. Nice try, though.”
No problem, Matt thought, and merged the tracing program with a global locator, confident that the jamming chip in his phone would protect his own identity. He tapped open an extra jammer on the middle screen though, just in case. He hadn’t made it so long doing the things he did without taking a few extra precautions here and there.
“If you’re not Skiar, then who the hell are you and how the hell did you get this number?” Looked like the guy was somewhere in southern Illinois, not far from St. Louis. He wondered what kind of reception they got down there. Not too many signal towers to hack into and reroute information from, if there even was any on a phone with no number.
Matt wasn’t fazed. He watched Mister Mystery’s little red dot float slowly across the Land of Lincoln. Too fast to be in a car; a plane, then, one heading east. He summoned up a browser and typed in the operating address of Midwest Airlines, then opened another for Trans-American. He’d broaden his search if these didn’t work, but he had a hunch one of them would.
“Oh yeah? You hoping to bid on his product, or were you the one who killed him?” It hadn’t taken Matt more than five minutes on the phone with Skiar to discover that he was a member of the mafia, and that he spent most of his time in the middle of California, probably somewhere in Los Angeles. He’d claimed to want the virus to play a prank on a friend’s small business before Matt had even asked, which meant he was most likely covering up for something far more sinister. Matt wasn’t stupid, for God’s sake. This virus was fairly potent. If he combined it with all the other software he’d been asked to create for people in Skiar’s area lately, he figured they could do a hell of a lot of damage to something very big and very powerful. Oh well; it wasn’t Matt's problem.
“You sound awfully sympathetic.”
“He paid me half up front.” Trans-American seemed to be the only one with a plane in that vicinity at that particular time. Nice. Matt copied and pasted its information into a new window and quickly extricated himself from their security systems before someone stumbled over his trail. He pondered his next move carefully. The guy’s plane would be landing in D.C. in a few hours; was that his final destination, or was he changing flights? He could pinpoint the phone’s exact location on the plane and figure out the guy’s identity through seat numbers, but that sounded like a pain in the ass, and Matt was still a little groggy. Besides, a simple polite switch to give some kid a window seat could screw it all up. He wasn’t up for putting out an arrest warrant on some kid just trying to make it home in time for Thanksgiving.
“I’m still surprised you don’t recognize me. Has it really been that long? Or is it the accent?”
Matt shrugged, grimacing when he found a crick in his shoulder. He rotated it slowly. “You sound American to me.”
“Funny; so do you.”
“Imagine that.” Matt ran his free hand over the empty pizza boxes and half-eaten bags of chips strewn across the floor around his cushion in search of his cigarettes. He really should keep them in one place so he didn’t have to go through this every goddam—ah, there they were, the last two, half-hidden under that bowl of ramen he’d forgotten to take to the sink. Now where was his lighter...
This guy is wasting his time, he thought absently, balancing the thin cell phone between his shoulder and ear in an attempt to light the slightly bent cigarette. If he had some connection to Skiar then he was probably attempting to trace Matt's phone so he could...what, avenge him? Like Matt would bother himself with the guy’s death. He never bothered with his clients; as long as he was paid what he asked for, he didn’t give a damn what happened to them one way or another. It was always fun watching his signatures flare up on the evening news, though. Not too many of his clients got caught, but the ones who did made their own mistakes. His software was flawless, as far as he was concerned.
“So,” he mumbled around his cigarette, “what’s your connection to Skiar? You want his product or what?” If he wasn’t getting paid for creating that virus, he was wasting his time. If this guy was a threat, there was no point in provoking him.
“You make it sound like a drug.”
“You make it sound like you’re the only one on your plane. You got a first class ticket or something? How much do those go for nowadays? I hear flying from L.A. to D.C. can get pretty expensive.”
“I was wondering how long it would take you to figure that out.” He could hear the grin in the guy’s voice.
Matt rolled his eyes. He hated challenges, especially when there was no profit in them. “Do you actually have something intelligent to say to me, or did you just call to trace me? Either way, I’m bored. Goodbye.”
He was about to clap the phone closed when a familiar chuckle made him pause. But no, his sleep-deprived mind was just playing tricks on him again. He took a deep drag of his cigarette and reminded himself that it was probably just another jealous programmer trying to scare him out of his business, and that he had wasted enough of his time on this moron already. He hesitated again, though, when he heard his name, his old one, the one he hadn’t used since he stepped off the plane from England.
“Matt. It’s me. I’m on a plane to New York, and I need a place to stay for a while. You up for it?”
Matt froze, his cigarette burning low between suddenly dry lips, and stared at the little red dot making its steady way to the Indiana border. He didn’t bother asking how Mello had gotten his number, or even how he knew that he was in New York—Mello just knew these types of things, and how he got his information without the use of the internet was completely beyond Matt. Instead he forced himself to put out his cigarette before it burned him, immediately reached for another, and asked quietly, “Where have you—”
“Tell you later. So are you in, or should I look somewhere else?”
“Well I uh, um...” Matt glanced around his one-room apartment and actually took in the mess. “My place isn’t exactly meant for guests—”
Mello laughed. “Since when have you considered me a guest? I land at JFK around midnight, I think. You got a car, or should I take a taxi?”
“No, I have a car...”
“Thought you would. Listen, this phone’s gonna quit on me any time now, and I don’t have the charger. See you at midnight, all right? Later.”
Matt heard the beep of the disconnected line before he could take the cigarette out of his mouth and protest. He pulled the phone away and glared at the Unknown Number message. That arrogant fuck! To think he could just call Matt up out of the blue like that after blowing him off at the Institute—hell, he hadn’t tried to contact Matt once in over four years, and now he thought he could just show up and live with him? Well fuck that!
With the line broken and Mello’s phone turned off or dead, the little red dot marking his location had disappeared as well. Matt hacked into the airline system again and rerouted the flight information to his locator, then stood up, stretched, and looked around. He’d been working on that damn virus for the better part of two days now, and his apartment showed it. It was a shame that Skiar had died before he could deliver it to him. It was a pretty hefty corruption program, and they’d settled on a fairly high price, so Matt had been hoping he could—
Wait. L.A. Mello’s flight. His familiarity with Skiar. The recent barrage of orders from that area.
He sucked the last of his final cigarette into his lungs and kicked his lumpy cushion furiously, growling when it tumbled into his collection of videogame consoles, scattering them with a plastic clatter. “Fuck!”
“You were using me, you fuck!”
Most of Mello’s face was obscured by his curiously untamed hair and a pair of large, borderline-gaudy sunglasses, but the portion Matt could see twisted into a broad grin at the sound of his voice. He picked himself up off the two low plastic chairs he’d been sprawled across and slung his duffel bag over his right shoulder, studying Matt out of the corner of his eye.
“You’ve gotten taller.”
“And you’ve gotten even more impossible to deal with, you smug son of a bitch!” Matt snapped. “Just when the fuck were you planning to tell me you were in America?”
He couldn’t be sure, but he thought Mello was eyeing him in mild confusion. “I thought you’d have figured that out yourself by now.”
“Oh, as if you gave me any place to look. You’re a goddam ghost and you know it. So Skiar was what, some dud you hired from off the street? Don’t even try to tell me you didn’t know he had mafia connections.”
“His mafia connections were the reason I hired him. Didn’t you say you had a car? Where’d you put it?” He started looking up and down the street, but there were only taxis and shuttle buses lining the curb in both directions.
Matt frowned, annoyed. “In the garage, where the fuck do you think? Stop dodging my questions.”
“Then stop asking such stupid ones,” Mello snapped back. “Come on, I just spent the last eight hours sitting on my ass behind some crying baby. I need to get the fuck away from people for a while.”
Matt glared at him. Mello stared blankly back, the glare of the harsh street lights on his glasses making it impossible to read his eyes. Finally, Matt huffed and led him to the dull grey door that led to the temporary parking garage. He’d parked a few flights up, where it was a little cheaper. A little.
“How long are you planning to stay here?” he asked when they reached his floor, and the deafening footsteps the stairwell created had died away.
“Well why’d you come, then?” Was he panting? Since when had soccer-savvy Mello been out of shape?
“Had a few things to do here.”
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with.”
Matt spun around and jabbed an accusatory finger at a startled Mello’s abnormally shiny, leather-clad chest and, ignoring the protesting clink of his rosary, growled, “Look, you can just forget about that shit right now, you hear me? I’m not playing your super secret spy games anymore. You called me up and you asked for my help, so if you want it, you’re gonna have to be straight with me. I won’t cry myself to sleep at the thought of flipping your ass out on the street.”
“Back off, Matt,” Mello warned icily, the skin below those hideous glasses abnormally pale, but Matt was sick and tired of catering to his every whim.
“Not this time, Mello. You’ve had me programming some pretty dangerous shit for you for months now, and I want to know what the hell you’re planning to do with it.”
“Forget about the fucking software,” Mello growled, “and back the fuck off. My coming to New York has nothing to do with you or your shit.”
“Then leave me the fuck out of it,” Matt snapped. Mello glared at him, his unusually shaggy hair falling to cover most of his face, but Matt wasn’t about to back down. Mello’s wild antics and nearly uncontrollable behavior may have been enough to awe Matt into submission back when they were kids, but now he recognized Mello to be nothing more than a manipulative jerk, one who hadn’t thought twice about abandoning everyone who’d looked up to him as soon as the opportunity presented itself, and Matt wasn’t having it. It’d been bad enough when Mello had left him behind back there without even saying goodbye, but Matt had gotten over it. The world was a big place, after all, and he figured Mello had joined L in Japan to help with the Kira investigation. This new knowledge, though, that Mello had not only been in America, but that he had been keeping track of Matt as well, was unforgivable and extremely uncomfortable. The very idea of allowing himself to be used like that again made Matt shake with indignation.
“I am not a toy,” he hissed angrily, aware that the concrete garage threw his voice all over the walls. “You can’t just play with me and then stick me up on some shelf to take down again later. I’m not stupid, I’m not gullible, and I’m not some little star struck kid. I don’t need you, and you obviously don’t need me; you never did. So fuck off.”
He spun on his heel and stomped down a row of cars, annoyed at the way Mello was able to get under his skin like that, and struggled not to shake at the furious gaze he was sure Mello was aiming at his back. Enough was enough, he reminded himself. He’d had an inkling that Mello had only been planning to crash at his place long enough to take care of some business before taking off from under Matt's nose and disappearing again, and he wasn’t about to loan himself out to the bastard. If he needed a place to stay then he was bloody well capable of finding one on his own.
Did he really expect Matt to just roll over and make room for him as if the last four years had never happened? What an arrogant prick! Well Matt had his own life now, and while he knew it wasn’t the best, it certainly worked for him, and he’d be damned if he was going to allow Mello to waltz in and make a mess of it again. Bastard had probably expected Matt to be overwhelmed with happiness at the chance to see him again. Ugh. The thought made him nauseous.
“Matt. Hang on a second.”
Matt wasn’t about to heel like some dog. He ignored the echo of footsteps behind him and dug his keys out of his pocket, then pointed them at the deep, rust red Mustang sticking a little out of the parking space just ahead of him. He’d hit Mello with his fucking car door if he had to, but he’d be damned if he was ever gonna take that bastard home with him.
“Dammit, Matt, would you knock it off already? Look at me a minute.” An expensive leather glove latched onto his arm. Matt broke its grip and turned around angrily—
“Leave me alone, you son of a—”
—only to freeze as his eyes fell on the raw, red flesh over Mello’s left eye as Mello slowly tugged off his sunglasses. His expression looked pained as he slid the metal across the wound. It stretched, Matt could now see, from the bridge of his nose—Christ, did it really take up the entire left side of his face? He swallowed, appalled. He’d simply assumed that California had corrupted Mello’s sense of fashion, he hadn’t actually thought that...that...
“All my toys are dead, Matt. I thought you knew that I never thought of you as one. If I did, I don’t think either of us would be here right now.”
Matt stared, speechless, until Mello finally looked away and slipped his sunglasses back on. “There are some pretty dangerous people after me,” he said quietly, “and I just need a place to stay, all right? I figured I could trust you.”
His eyes met Matt's over the sunglasses for a split second, and Matt broke out of his startled daze long enough to remember that they were in a parking garage in New York City at one in the morning, and that Mello’s clothes were screaming to be stolen. He nodded weakly at the passenger side of the car and used the time it took for Mello to work his way over there to pull out a cigarette. His hand shook as he struggled to light it.
“Jesus fucking Christ.”