Like a storm or a wildfire, Mello was both beautiful and dangerous, and she couldn't look away. Halle/Mello.
I've become impossible
Holding on to when
When everything seemed to matter more
The two of us,
All used and beaten up
Watching fate as it flows down the path we
You and me,
We're in this together now
None of them can stop us now
We will make it through somehow
-- Nine Inch Nails, "We're in this Together
Halle Lidner was very good at her job. She'd had to work hard to make it to her position, but there was nothing else she'd rather do. Her family had resisted at first, asking her if she couldn't choose a safer profession, such as a lawyer, if she really wanted to protect justice. There were many reasons she'd chosen to become a spy, and she told her family some of them, but not least of all was the sense of danger. There was something thrilling about putting her life on the line every day, although she was aware of the fact that she could be killed. Something in her personality loved the art of deception and subterfuge, of those things hidden in the shadows.
She liked order, too. She'd read a theory that crime was a necessary part of society, but she wasn't sure how she felt about that. Criminals were fairly easy to understand, and after a while even the most elusive of serial killers seemed rather predictable. The more criminals she helped to put away, perhaps the more stable society would become. But America had its fair share of thieves and murderers, so her task seemed like a never-ending one.
But then Kira came along, and everything stopped making sense. A criminal--for he was still very much a murderer, no matter who his victims were--who refused to be caught, and she'd seen the resolve of even her most steadfast colleagues falter. He paid the U.S. a rather large amount of attention, and she'd found that criminals she'd helped to put away or who they happened to be pursuing were dropping like flies.
She hated Kira for trying to steal the role of justice. It wasn't his place to bypass due process, she was convinced of this. He (or she, Halle supposed, but something about the criminal's processes struck her as very male) was just as wrong as those whom he killed. Yet he received ever-growing support, and soon it began to seem like she was the one on the side of evil, at least in the public opinion.
Patterns and figures: her tricks of the trade. She still wonders sometimes what it was about her that had caused Near to pick her to be on his side. At first the successor to L had seemed like an impossibility, a character out of a particularly strange detective novel. He didn't seem quite real, a teenage boy devoid of color and surrounded by countless toys and puppets. And yet she was supposed to trust him, to believe that somewhere beneath those pale, cold eyes lay the most impressive brain the world had ever known, besides that of the first L. His childhood must not have been normal, she decided the first day, as he drew faces on finger puppets with a marker. It was more creepy than cute, and somehow she couldn't quite let herself trust him.
So perhaps that was why, when a blond-haired kid appeared on her doorstep saying he knew how to catch Kira, she listened. At first she had just thought he might be a dropout with too much time on his hands, though his anti-Kira stance was fairly unusual for a young person. But he knew about Near, and despite the look in his eyes that wasn't quite sane, he seemed pretty sharp.
Or maybe it was because of his eyes that she said she'd think over his offer Maybe Halle was tired of logic and reason, numbers and figures. Either way, something made her go behind the SPK's back to consider helping this kid with the weird fashion sense (where'd the money come from for all that leather, anyway?), and she was hoping she wouldn't be disappointed. She'd take any help she could get, if it meant putting Kira behind bars—or, preferably, on death row. That the help came from a strange, and not quite legal, place didn't surprise her. Nothing was the way it should be in this new world anymore.
Out of all the things she could have asked, when he first appeared, the only one that he seemed likely to answer was about his name. He'd hesitated for a moment, and she wondered if it was because he worried that she might tell Near. "Mello," he said. "And that's without a 'W'." It couldn't have been his real name, but she didn't expect anything more. And maybe it was better not to know. Names were powerful things, as Kira proved to the world. She gave the kid her cell phone number, though he didn't return the favor, and then he was gone. It was such a strange and unlikely encounter that for a while she wasn't sure if he was real or just a product of her dreams.
It was only a few days later that she heard his name again, though this time it was from Near. Mello had grown up with Near at a boarding school in England, and currently he was involved with the mafia. It was difficult to hide the shock on her face in front of Near. She had been right about Mello knowing Near, but that such a skinny runt had gotten on the mafia's good side was unbelievable. Just who had she decided to help?
"Just how dangerous could a kid be, anyway?" Gevanni asked, looking at the sketch that Near had managed to obtain from the boarding school. Near slowly looked up at him, the expression in his eyes difficult to read.
"Very, Mr. Gevanni. Don't underestimate Mello." He looked down again, and a shadow of something like uncertainty crossed his face. "Even I have trouble predicting what he might do."
Later that night, her cell phone rang. Unknown caller. She felt her pulse quicken.
"Yes?" She was pleased that her voice at least didn't shake.
"Halle Lidner ," the voice on the line said, and there was no mistaking that tone. "I hope you've thought about my offer."
"I have," she said. "But I'll need good reason to help a criminal."
There was a crackle, as if he had bitten something, and then he said, "How about this? I have the notebook. I don't think I need to spell it out for you."
He knew her name, and her face. No doubt Near was already aware of the fact that he'd gotten the notebook.
"So you're resorting to threats," she said. She turned her head briefly and looked into the mirror across from the couch where she sat. If she were to die here, how long would it take before someone found her? Worse yet, what if she was manipulated before her death, as she’d heard that someone with the notebook could do?
"You seem like a smart woman," he replied. "And catching Kira is the most important thing, right?"
She sighed. "You don't need to threaten me. I don't like what you're doing, but I'm not going to stop you."
"Good." Halle could hear the smirk in his voice. "It looks like for now we have the same goals. Keep your phone on."
The line was disconnected, and she let herself breathe again. Why had he come to her first? Could he have known about her uncle? Either way, she hoped she wouldn't regret this.
And the next day, most of her colleagues were dead. Near didn't even have to say it for her to know. So he spared me, she thought, trying to stay calm. I guess he thought I'd be more useful alive than dead. It was a foolish show of strength, and whatever she thought of those men, they were her teammates. Clearly he wanted Near to know he was serious, that this wasn't a game. He wasn't afraid to use the notebook, and they’d better realize that fact.
"We need to stop him," she said, though a part of her knew she was a traitor. Whatever the cost... Wasn't that what even Near had said about catching Kira? But helping a murderer seemed like a dangerous action to take.
It didn't surprise her that he called again that day.
"Was that really necessary?" she asked, her voice tight. "They were good men." There was a moment's pause.
"I did what I had to do," he replied. Then, his voice lower, "I'm sure you understand my situation."
"Why the mafia? Can you tell me that?"
There was another pause, and she wondered if he was moving out of the range of anyone's hearing, into another room perhaps. "These guys don't mean anything to me. Their contacts are useful, and they have the manpower to do what I want."
In spite of herself, she was almost impressed that someone like him had managed to get to the top of the mafia. Then she thought of all the murder and crime he'd have done on his way, and frowned. She was still working for the U.S. government, after all.
"Enough about that," Mello said impatiently. "Do you remember your promise?"
She shifted on her bed. "I do, but--why me? Why did you approach me first?"
There was a crackling sound, which she now knew meant he'd taken a bite of chocolate. Maybe the caffeine helped him think. "I liked the look in your eyes. They're a bit like mine."
Halle couldn't help a sound of puzzlement coming from her lips. It seemed like such a strange reason to risk exposure for.
He laughed, faintly, and she suddenly felt cold. "I'm sure you'll prove me right, Lidner."
SPK was determined to find the mafia hideout and recover the notebook. Several members had been followed and they had discovered what they believed was the correct building. A group of combat-ready FBI agents were sent in, only to be devastated by a supernatural trap. In that time, also, Near revealed that he believed the second L might be Kira. Halle wasn't sure what to think of that. Behind the stylistic "L" that was supposed to stand for justice and sanity in the world, behind that synthetic voice--could that person really be a mass murderer?
After the failure of the FBI to capture the notebook, members of the Japanese police agreed to go in. Halle was a little skeptical, especially since she doubted a foreign country's police force could do in America what the FBI could not. Then again, they had been tracking Kira the longest, and even managed not to be killed by him after over six years. She supposed they might have a chance.
What she heard next shocked her. The mafia hideout had blown up. She felt conflicting emotions. Was Mello alive? Did he have the notebook? When they finally received word from the Japanese police, they learned that the chief had died, though he'd been able to hold onto the notebook even as he lost consciousness. Mello's body had not been found in the wreckage. How foolish, she thought. He must be insane. Yet he managed to pull off those kidnappings...
Near was convinced that no body meant Mello was still alive. And he believed that, if any of them were to be contacted, Halle would be the one he'd go for. He'd said it was because she seemed the weakest, and she wondered if that was the real reason Mello had approached her that night. She wasn't sure which she preferred. Yet Near planned on putting cameras in her apartment and keeping a microphone on her, so she'd have to figure out a way to speak to Mello, if he really was alive, without SPK overhearing. And she knew that he would come, if he were able.
As she walked down the dark streets approaching her building that night, she couldn't help feeling nervous. Who knew what almost being blown up would do to a person's reason? She didn't think he would kill her, but she wasn't willing to put her trust in someone like him just yet. Even so, she felt vulnerable for the first time in a long while. He didn't look particularly strong, but... She shook her head to clear the thoughts away. It would do no good to worry needlessly.
She knew the moment she stepped through the door that someone was there. A brief glimpse of blond hair and a pistol aimed at her head (well, what did she expect?), and she made a gesture for him to be silent. His eyes widened in surprise--with a bar of chocolate halfway to his lips--but he didn't speak. And he didn't stop pointing the gun at her, either.
After making a remark through the microphone that she'd be taking a shower, she laid it on the floor and walked through her bedroom into the bathroom. Halle was surprised at how easy it was to pretend he wasn't there. She still felt nervous, but she'd decided that she was too important for him to kill. He'd probably just want to get information from her. Her heart was still quick in her chest, but she'd handled worse situations than this. A scared little boy: that was all he was.
The bathroom door shut behind her, and she allowed herself to finally turn toward him.
"God, you look awful," she said. A quarter of his face was covered in third-degree burns, and she winced just to imagine how that must have felt.
"I'm still alive," he hissed, glaring at her. Such a pretty face--she wondered if it hurt his vanity to have a mark he couldn't hide.
"After the explosion," she said, as she began to undo her buttons, "we searched the patient records of all hospitals in the area, but no one matching your description was in any of them."
His face was turned away from her (to give her privacy, perhaps?) and his hair covered his eyes, but his voice betrayed his annoyance. "I'm not stupid. I had a place to go." He took another bite of chocolate, the hand holding the pistol relaxed at his side.
"You don't need me to tell you that you've got a hell of a lot of luck on your side." He continued chewing in silence. She wasn't sure if she was trying to provoke him, or if she was hoping he would tell her more about what happened to himself.
The rest of her clothes slipped off, and she stepped into the shower. It was daring of her, she realized, but she wasn't the type of woman to be self-conscious about her body. Besides, she didn't know if he even liked women. And she doubted he was the type to try anything.
"Put those on my bed for me, will you?" she asked as she turned the hot water on. There was a moment of silence, then she heard the bathroom door open. A few seconds later, it shut again, and she heard his boots tapping on the tiled floor as he came back inside. He probably just threw them in a heap somewhere.
The room was filled with nothing but the sound of the steady stream of water hitting her skin. Her shampoo was orange-scented, and normally the smell refreshed her, but tonight it just made her feel sick.
Mello finally spoke up again, sounding a little annoyed. "I didn't think you were really going to take a shower." She laughed.
"Don't tell me you're shy, Mello," she replied, snapping open the top on her body wash.
"As if!" he said harshly. "It was brave, that's all." Halle supposed he meant it as a compliment. "And," he continued, "you didn't seem surprised when I showed up. I hardly had to threaten you."
"Should I be scared? It's not like I really have a choice either way."
"No, you don’t," he said firmly. "But it makes things easier for me if you cooperate."
She looked at his silhouette through the curtain. "I know some things that might interest you..."
Although he had looked away when she undressed, he didn't seem to have the same qualms about watching her put her clothes back on. Halle supposed he wanted to make sure she didn't hide a weapon or microphone in them. His right hand had the gun pointed at her halfheartedly, and his left held the chocolate bar to his mouth. As she pulled her blouse on again, she caught his eyes with her own. Something about them, about him, was different. His expression was determined, and though she still saw a gleam of danger in the blue shade of his eyes, maybe the explosion had changed him. She hadn't noticed before, but he seemed a little more cautious. His voice had lost that superior taunt that had irritated and drew her in when she spoke to him over the phone.
And she knew why he hadn't been too bothered by her being naked in front of him. It was his upcoming meeting with Near that had preoccupied his thoughts. Whatever had occurred between the two of them, she didn't know, but it seemed like a petty and insecure preoccupation.
She doubted he even saw her.