Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note, and I make no profit from writing about it.

AN: The bunny just wouldn't go away… Someone on dn yaoi on Live Journal asked me to write a sequel and I ended up writing this. It also ended up as a challenge to myself: how well can I write a Fic about someone without them actually being in it?

Penance

By Evandar

Matsuda had to admit that he had been lucky. Being involved in the Kira case had lost him his job when the NPA stopped supporting the case, but after it was over; he had been welcomed back with open arms and heralded as one of their top detectives. He was their chief representative at Interpol now, and had had to field questions about L's appearance every day since his return to the force.

Soichiro Yagami had not been so lucky. His son had been Kira, and his career was ruined because of it. Members of the NPA remembered him as a good and dedicated officer behind closed doors, but both in public and private they had to wonder what had gone wrong to turn Yagami's son Light into the most dangerous mass murderer that the world had ever seen.

Kira though, had started to fade into myth, and it was only those who had known Light personally, who cared enough to remember the boy as he had been before the Death Note. Vigilante's and fanatics haunted Light's grave site, praying to the boy they regarded as a god to continue his judgement on the world.

Matsuda had seen them, and they sickened him.

But a new murderer was gaining infamy in Tokyo (admittedly not the world) and there were theories on the internet that it was Kira working through the body of another to continue his 'noble work'.

"Sycophants," Matsuda muttered as he scanned over one of the pages in the case folder.

He knew personally the fear of being killed by Kira. He knew the power that Kira had had at his disposal. He had seen and touched the Death Note, and he still saw the shinigami Rem from time to time. Kira had been terrifying, but he had regretted his actions.

Matsuda wasn't stupid. He had seen the way that Light and L would look at each other when they thought that no one was watching. They had been in love; and Matsuda knew that L was the reason why Light had repented. It was ironic, really. The most famous detective in the world and the most feared murderer in the world had only had eyes for each other.

But that had been two years ago, and L had, as far as Matsuda knew, moved on. He had heard through Interpol, of L's latest cases; one in England around a year after Light's execution, and more recently, a case in America. Matsuda hoped against hope that this new case he was working on would bring L back to Japan, where he would be able to work with the super-detective once more – even see him if he was lucky.

He closed his computer down and stretched before grabbing his jacket and leaving his office. Just before he turned the light off at the door he caught sight of a photograph pinned to the wall. It was of him and the Yagami family that had been taken at Soichiro Yagami's fiftieth birthday celebration. In it, Light had his arm wrapped around his sister's shoulders and was laughing at something.

"I still can't believe it, Light," Matsuda murmured. "I still can't believe that you were really evil."

He shook his head, snapped the light off and left. Shutting his door firmly on the picture of Light Yagami and his thoughts of a boy he had admired.

LLLL

(one month later)

Mello flipped through the case files on the Tokyo Ripper, as he was being called by the general public, and took a bite out of his chocolate bar. It wasn't that the victims interested him in any particular way, or even the murderer for that matter – it was a pretty run-of-the-mill case that he was sure the NPA could solve without his help, eventually.

No, he had to admit – even if it was only to himself – that he was using this case as an excuse to look for his predecessor.

Ryuzaki had disappeared just over one year ago on the first anniversary of Kira's execution, leaving a fifteen year old Mello behind to do his job. According to Watari, he had been heading to Japan, and flight records showed that he had made it to Tokyo airport. Ryuzaki had been the best L since the chain of super-detectives had started, and Mello knew that he had little chance of finding him if Ryuzaki did not want to be found.

"Light is waiting for me."

"Kira…" Mello murmured. "What was he to you, Ryuzaki?"

Mello sighed and flipped the folder closed. He was going to reveal his face to the homicide team from the NPA who were working on the Tokyo Ripper case in just a few minutes. He knew that one member of the team, a detective called Matsuda, had worked on the Kira case with Ryuzaki, and he was hoping to question the man about Light Yagami's relationship with a man he had regarded as an older brother.

He had promised Near that he would come back with results, and he would not break his word. Not to him.

There was a knock at the door and Mello waved Watari towards it. He heard the man give a soft snort of amusement behind him, and Mello smiled slightly. He knew he wasn't Ryuzaki; knew that he was too different from him, but he knew that Watari loved him just as he was, just like he did all the children from Wammy House.

The sound of people entering the room and greeting Watari reverently as L reached Mello's ears and made him smile. He knew that he was far from their expectations, and that he looked and acted very little like how a super-detective 'should'. Near told him frequently that he dressed like a child prostitute, but that was irrelevant right now.

He used one boot-clad foot to turn his swivel chair around to face the detectives. There were seven of them, including Matsuda, and they all looked up at him in shock. They clearly hadn't realised that he was there.

"I am L," he said by way of greeting. Looks of surprise turned to amazement and scepticism in a matter of seconds after his announcement. Mello rolled his eyes and took another bite out of his chocolate.

"Take a seat," he said. "But first, turn off all electrical equipment and place it on that table. Watari will check it for bugs."

"You don't trust us," one of them said. Mello smirked at him.

"I trust you enough to show you my face," Mello replied.

There were mutterings, but Mello ignored them; the men were doing what he had told them to, whether they liked it or not. One, a man with floppy black hair and dark eyes, was looking at him suspiciously. Mello instantly recognised him from his file as Matsuda.

'He wants to know where Ryuzaki is,' Mello thought, snapping off another piece of chocolate with his teeth. 'But it's not like I can tell him. Damn it, Ryuzaki, why do I have to clean up after you?'

The detectives sat in the seats he had indicated and watched him silently as he ate his chocolate. Mello watched them right back, resting his head on one hand as he swung himself in his chair gently.

"The press reports this Ripper as the return of Kira," Mello said quite calmly after a moment's silence. "They are wrong. There are no similarities between the two cases, other than that the perpetrator is most likely from this city.

"The Tokyo Ripper is like most other serial killers. He has a comfort zone, in which he no doubt lives. He loathes people like those he is killing. There is also a possible motive of revenge behind the deaths. He kills sometime during the early hours of the morning and has no professional ability with knives."

"So if this case is so simple, why did you show yourself to us?" one of the detectives, this one a woman, asked.

Mello grinned at her. "I have my reasons."

The look on her face told him that she did not appreciate his attitude, but Mello didn't care. He was not doing this to make himself popular; he was doing this to find his 'brother'.

'She probably has a younger brother around my age,' he thought. 'So the 'stroppy teenager' act or my arrogance does not wash with her. She's too young for it to be a son.'

"I don't have to tell you," he said quietly. "Just trust that they are not sinister."

She snorted and looked away. Trust. None of them trusted him. Matsuda would have done, if he were Ryuzaki, but he was not and Matsuda wanted to know what had happened to the detective he no doubt admired.

LLLL

Who was this guy?

Matsuda didn't take his eyes off the foreign youth sitting opposite him in the swivel chair. He was short and thin and clothed entirely in black leather; a material that Ryuzaki wouldn't have been seen dead in. He had shoulder length strawberry-blonde hair and copper coloured eyes. He was beautiful in an exotic sort of way.

He was very unlike Ryuzaki.

But there was that look. There was that same intelligent, calculating determination that shone in his eyes that was exactly the same as the look in Ryuzaki's.

"While in these rooms, I would rather that you did not call me 'L'," the boy said. "You can call me Mello."

Mello.

It was definitely another code name. Definitely. So…like Ryuzaki, Mello didn't trust them enough to give them his real name. In Ryuzaki it had been understandable; Kira had been able to kill with the knowledge of just a name and a face, but with Mello Matsuda could not excuse it.

He wasn't even trying to be likeable - if anything; it was almost as if he wanted them to hate him. He said he had reasons for getting involved in such a 'simple' case. Matsuda really had to wonder what those reasons were. Were they something to do with Ryuzaki?

He had to talk to Mello privately. He had to know what had happened to Ryuzaki. There had to be a reason for his replacement as L.

He stiffened when he realised that Mello was looking directly at him as he spoke, calmly going through the case as if brutal murders meant nothing to him. Mello spoke with his hands; Matsuda noticed, or rather, one of his hands, as the other stayed supporting his head. But despite his apparent animation, his coppery eyes were dull with boredom. Matsuda felt anger build up inside of him; Ryuzaki would never have pretended like this.

When the meeting was over, Mello called him back. Takami, the one female detective working on the case, shot Matsuda a small smile as she left.

'Of course,' Matsuda thought. 'They never met Ryuzaki. They don't know that I've never worked with this guy before. But…what does he want?'

"Perhaps, Matsuda-san, it would be more beneficial to the case if you did not constantly regard me with suspicion," Mello said from behind him. "You are supposed to have worked with me in person before, you know."

"I know that," Matsuda said through gritted teeth. Did Mello really think he was that stupid?

He turned to face the boy again, but he had moved from his chair and was standing by a door that led further into the large hotel suite he'd been put up in.

"Come on," Mello said. "I want to talk to you."

LLLL

What passed as a living room for the hotel suite was a large plush room decorated in reds and burnished gold, with pieces of highly polished antique furniture reflecting the light from the chandelier. It was decadent and beautiful in a stately sort of way, and it suited Mello perfectly. The boy didn't seem to care though as he sat down on a rococo style chaise-lounge and removed his boots before sprawling out and waving Matsuda towards a seat.

Unseen, Watari rolled his eyes at Mello's behaviour. Mello was certainly making an impression on the Japanese detective, but it was not a good one.

Watari knew that Matsuda was thinking about how at home and how too comfortable Mello looked in this over-the-top, foppish room, but Watari knew better. Watari knew that Mello would much rather be in his room at The Wammy House, watching Near completing puzzles while pretending to read. Mello just had an ability to integrate himself into any environment and look like he belonged there. That ability often led to him doing stupid things like infiltrating criminal organisations to get to the bottom of a case.

Matsuda sat awkwardly in one of the many decorative chairs and looked like he would much rather be in the reception area where Mello had spoken to the other detectives about the case. He was looking around the room curiously, but he never moved his head enough to remove Mello from his line of sight. His eyes fell on the one picture of Ryuzaki in existence; one of him with two young boys, one of whom was obviously a younger Mello. The other…Matsuda didn't recognise.

"Ryuzaki wasn't the first L you know," Mello said after a while, turning his head to look directly at Matsuda. "And I will not be the last. L is really a chain of individuals, all with an above average IQ and an affinity for solving crime. All of them have been orphans and none of them have lived more than forty years. Each L throughout history has chosen an heir to take his place after his death. Any questions?"

"Ryuzaki is…dead?" Matsuda asked. He felt numb. The thought of Ryuzaki dead just didn't fit. The strange young man had been too real for him to just die. He had faced down Kira! He couldn't die in obscurity only to be replaced by some brat.

Mello flexed his sock-covered toes and sighed before rolling onto his side so that he could look more directly at Matsuda.

"I have no idea," he admitted.

Matsuda blinked. "What do you mean you have no idea?" he demanded.

"I mean that I don't know," Mello said, giving him a patronising look. He sighed again. "Ryuzaki disappeared without a trace two years ago. His last words to Watari were that I should take over and that Light Yagami was waiting for him. Flight details reveal that Ryuzaki did come to Japan, but past that, there is nothing."

Matsuda was silent. He looked at the photograph on the table next to Mello again and wondered at it. He had never seen Ryuzaki look that human before, if he discounted the glimpse of him that he had caught as Ryuzaki had left Light's execution. He had been crying then, but in the photo he was laughing. Human. Ryuzaki had been human. It was hard to remember that at times when he looked back on his days in the Kira task force.

Matsuda looked back at Mello, to find the boy watching him intently.

"You came here because you want to find him," Matsuda said after a moment. "You aren't interested in this case in the slightest, you just want to know what happened to Ryuzaki."

"Correct," Mello said shortly.

"What was he to you?" Matsuda asked.

Mello shifted slightly. "He was like an older brother to me," he admitted. "A brother, an idol, a whole world… I knew that I would have to take over from him one day, but I never expected him to step down because of a murderer."

"Light was more than just a murderer, Mello-san," Matsuda murmured. "He was Kira. He was a child genius just like you and Ryuzaki. He was delusional and he had a God-complex, but he was brave and intelligent and he…"

Matsuda stopped himself. He had been about to admit something that only his instinct told him was correct. But, could his instinct be right on this? Soichiro Yagami had once told him to always trust his instinct but he hadn't realised that his own son was Kira until after Ryuzaki had made them listen to the tape. Instinct was fallible because it was human.

"He was what, Matsuda-san?" Mello asked. His voice was quiet, but it demanded that Matsuda tell him immediately.

"He was in love with Ryuzaki."

Mello went wide-eyed and very still. In the corner of the room, Watari stopped breathing. Seconds seemed to drag out as time slowed in the room, then Mello moved very quickly, very suddenly. He crossed over to the French windows that looked out over a large balcony and wrapped his arms around his waist.

"Did he ever admit it?" he asked.

"No," Matsuda answered, staring at the young man. "He didn't even say it in his confession, but it was there. He…he had been planning to get close enough to Ryuzaki to learn his name so that he could kill him, and his plan almost worked."

"Almost?"

"He couldn't go through with it. He gave up his own life and confessed to being Kira so that he didn't have to kill Ryuzaki. He wanted him to live."

"I see," Mello said softly.

"You…you didn't know about the confession, did you?" Matsuda said after a while.

Mello shook his head. "It was missing from the case files," he said. "Ryuzaki must have destroyed all evidence of it before he left."

"Why would he do that?" Matsuda asked. "Those files were important to the case!"

"I'm not sure," Mello lied. He knew why. He knew deep down that no matter how little he liked the idea; Ryuzaki had fallen for his own nemesis. L and Kira: the perfect couple. Mello smothered the laughter that bubbled up inside of him. He had suspected it, of course, when he had realised that the case files were incomplete, but he hadn't wanted to believe.

What was worse, he knew that if it had been him in Ryuzaki's position, and Near in Light Yagami's, then he would have done the exact same thing.

LLLL

(two weeks later)

The Tokyo Ripper case had been solved without much fuss, and the Japanese newspapers were once again singing the praises of the NPA and the mysterious L. For the NPA detectives it was just another job well done, but for Mello it was something a little different. The NPA had kept a copy of the transcript of Light Yagami's confession. He had lost count of how many times he had read it, and cried over the helpless situation his 'older brother' must have found himself in. He had called Near, who was still in England, after the first time just so that he could hear the other boy's voice telling him to calm down.

Near had guessed too.

Mello wasn't alone when he went to visit Light Yagami's grave; Near had travelled over to be with him. There were the usual Kira fanatics gathered around and praying for him to come back and free their world from wickedness. Mello resisted the urge to scream at them, and instead grasped Near's hand tightly. They were fools; no matter what power the Death Note had given Yagami, he had still just been a too idealistic teenage boy.

There weren't many of them there, and most of them were female. They had probably seen pictures of Yagami in the newspaper and fallen for his good looks as well as his apparent sense of 'justice'. They stared at Mello and Near as they approached the grave.

They were an odd pair; one a leather-clad rebel, the other white-haired and childlike. The other children at The Wammy House had always commented on it.

Mello released Near's hand and knelt on the ground. From his bag he pulled two sticks of incense and a lighter. He was silent as he lit them and blew out the flames so that the sticks smouldered. It was only when they were secured in front of the grave marker that he spoke.

"One of those is for our brother, you bastard," he said quietly. Near placed his hand gently on the small of Mello's back, and Mello leaned into the touch gratefully. "So take care of him, wherever he is."

A slight breeze blew, ruffling the two boys' hair and filling their noses with the pungent smell of the incense. They turned and left the graveyard together. They said nothing: they had already said their goodbyes.

End