Epilogue: Aftermath

"Hello, my name is Taro Kagami, room number 315. I await a package, it was sent two days ago. Could you please check if it has arrived?"

"Of course, wait a minute, sir." The girl at the reception desk turned to the row of guests' boxes and searched for the room number. "Here you are." Her hand fished into one of them and produced an A5 brown envelope. She put it on the counter before him.

"Thanks." The guy, a strange-looking, messy young man in a trench coat, took the package, granting her a reserved smile, and went to the elevator, slouching.

He locked the door and leaned against it, ripping the envelope open. He looked inside and smiled. The thin black-covered notebook was tucked safely into the bedding of bubble wrap. He moved to the table, where a fireproof container was prepared. On the cupboard next to the window sat a bowl of apples, but it didn't look like there were any fewer of them than yesterday, when he'd brought them here. And why had he done it in the first place? He still couldn't understand.

Carefully, he slid the notebook into the container, holding the envelope by its corners and never touching the contents. He glanced at the cover. The inscription was different, written in some strange letters he'd never seen before. Perhaps it wasn't even any of the earthly alphabets.

He reached into his pocket and produced a lighter. Feeling a cramp in his stomach, he brought it to the Death Note. So it was the end, once and for all. His relief was mingled with a strange melancholy. Somehow the finality of what he was about to do made him sad.

And at this very moment the corner of his eye caught a movement. He gulped and raised his eyes, already knowing what he would see. An apple floated in the air above the bowl. Then, with a juicy crunch, one third of it disappeared.

The decision was instant. His hand was reaching to the black cover before he had time to think about it.

"Hello, Ryuk," he said, placing his fingers on the surface of the paper. A black-clad, grinning creature materialized before his eyes. He couldn't help a little shiver that ran down his spine. As much as he was prepared, seeing a shinigami was not something that happened every day. This one looked completely different than Rem. That surprised him, but he decided not to dwell on it. It was propped on top of the cupboard, next to the bowl, and was just swallowing the rest of the apple.

"Hi there," it said. He said. L reminded himself that Light talked of Ryuk as of a male. "Thanks for the apples."

"You're welcome," he answered.

Ryuk continued grinning and reached for another fruit. Ryuzaki felt his brows rise at the deity's cool attitude. What was it, some shinigami punk?

"So," a bite, "are you really going to destroy this?"

"That is what I intend to do. Will you try to stop me?"

"Nah, I don't have to protect this thing, so go ahead if you want. However," Ryuk waved an apple-armed hand, "perhaps you'd like to keep it."

L's brows rose again. Such a light-headed arrogance… "No, thank you."

"You sure? You'd be a great user."

"Yes, I am sure."

"Pity." Ryuk tried to pout, but with his constantly grinning face it didn't work too well. "I had so much fun watching you and Light. I'd like to see some more."

That made his surprise grow to amazement. "So, that's what it was for you? Fun?"

A shrug. "You don't talk about morality with a shinigami. If you only saw our world, you'd understand."

"Why aren't you stopping me then? If it's only the matter of your fun, you wouldn't be helping anyone."

Ryuk chuckled, apparently finding it ironic that L had suggested something like this.

"Nah, it wouldn't be funny at all," he said. The last bite of the second apple disappeared in his massive jaws, and he took his time to chew, before he continued. "I like nice endings, they make me feel sated. And this is one of them. Messing with it would spoil the fun. As it is, I can go back home and relish it for a while."

"Well," L murmured wryly, "when you decide you need entertainment again, I hope you will choose another playground."

Ryuk's skinny body shook in a particularly strong fit of chuckles. "We'll see, we'll see."

L waited patiently for the laughter to end.

"Tell me one more thing, Ryuk," he said then. "Will I lose my memories about meeting with you, now that I touched the notebook?"

"You won't lose your memories about killing with the notebook you didn't own and you won't lose your memories about the notebook you owned, but never used. That's how it works, so no."

"Thank you, that settles it. Well, then, if you will excuse me, shinigami-san—" He closed the lighter to the notebook again.

"Sure thing. Do your job." Ryuk grabbed the bowl of apples; then suddenly a pair of long leathery wings grew from his back, and he floated into the air. "It was nice to talk to you anyway."

Ryuzaki decided not to answer the pleasantry and simply torched the Death Note's corner. Without the gasoline the flame was small and the fire slid through the notebook slowly, eating it gradually.

"And by the by," Ryuk offered, "have fun with Light."

L cast him a last glance. He was sure that the shinigami winked at him knowingly, before shooting right through the closed window. He stared dumbfounded at the spot where the deity had disappeared. Could it mean that… Oh well, he shrugged off his surprise, in the end who cared?

He waited for the notebook to burn completely, then threw the ashes into the trash can. Somehow the melancholy was gone. Somehow he only now felt the full power of satisfaction. Was it the impact of the Death Note or the meeting with the shinigami, which he – he admitted it finally – hoped for? Well, it didn't matter either. He took a deep contented breath and left the room, not looking back.

"Eeek!" Misa whined. "Why do we have to go with him? Can't he leave us alone?"

"I thought we'd agreed on that, Misa. You said you don't mind Ryuzaki going with us."

"Maybe I didn't mind then, but I do now," the girl stuck out her lip unhappily and a little too dramatically to take her seriously. "It's really outrageous, Light, that you chose this… queer over me."

Ryuzaki turned his head away and pretended to watch someone on the pavement across the street. Light stifled the urge to roll his eyes.

"I am meeting with you, aren't I? You know the deal. If you want me to meet with you, you have to accept Ryuzaki. Sometimes we will go out without him, but not very often. And besides, put yourself in his position. He has to accept you too. And he isn't complaining."

L turned to them swiftly and flashed Misa a grin. "In fact, Misa-san, I am glad that you join us sometimes. I appreciate your company very much."

She was positively boiling now. She stopped, stamping her wedge-heeled shoe. "It's because you're getting the better part of it! And I have to tolerate a man glued to my Light! You are male, Ryuzaki, that's perverted!"

"Stereotypes, stereotypes," L hummed.

Light did roll his eyes eventually. Why had he agreed to this? He remembered that talk he had with L a few days ago.

"I really think you shouldn't break up with Misa. The girl loves you madly. She'll be devastated."

"So? I don't love her! I don't even have anything in common with her. Besides, I'm with you now. How do you imagine me going out with her?"

Ryuzaki shrugged. "You can meet her as a friend… you can even pretend a bit to be her boyfriend. It will put her in good mood. I am tolerant, you know. I won't even mind if you kiss her sometimes. Come on, Light, you like her."

"I don't. She is stupid." In the back of his mind Light knew that he was sulking like a kid, but he didn't care.

Ryuzaki waved a finger in front of him. "No, she isn't. She is not half as stupid as she seems and you know it. She showed it many times during the Kira case. And you do like her."

Light felt that he was breaking. "Oh, well, maybe a little."

"See?" L grinned at him. "No reason to make the girl unhappy. Besides, she might be helpful to us. She is a great actress; it could come in handy to be on good terms with her."

Light folded his arms on his chest. "So, that's what you are up to, you snake!"

Ryuzaki pursed his lips, while his eyes went to stare at the ceiling. "Well, partly. But I really think it's bad to throw her away like that."

In effect, Light had to endure Misa's company from time to time… quite often actually. And he had to be careful not to speak about Kira with her, as the girl was kept blissfully ignorant to the part she and Light had once played. Strangely enough, she took his relationship with Ryuzaki quite easily. Probably because she believed he would dump the detective for her soon. Well, let her, that was not going to happen.

They got to the café and took a table for three. Ryuzaki announced that he was buying, and soon a big piece of cake landed in front of each of them.

"Besides," L continued, "Misa said she was my friend. Aren't you enjoying meeting with a friend, Misa-Misa?"

Misa was poking her cake with a fork. "Misa can't be a friend of someone who stole her boyfriend. I really thought it would end once you took off those stupid cuffs. But instead of being here with Light alone, as would be right, I have to put up with you."

Light watched her silently while she argued with L. Of course, she wasn't happy about the situation, but it was clear that she wasn't as unhappy as she claimed to be. Actually, he decided, the pout she threw at L was somewhat coquettish. L pouted as well.

"Does that mean that Misa-Misa doesn't like me anymore?" He batted his oversized eyes at her comically.

Misa winced and kept wincing for a long moment. Then she sighed.

"Well, yeah, maybe I do. A little." Then she aimed a finger at him. "But don't you even start to think that if I'm dating Light, I'm dating you too. Oh no! That should never even cross your mind."

Ryuzaki's face turned miserable at one moment and the next, it was wickedly thoughtful. He stuck a thumb between his lips and leaned to her a little. "It didn't. Actually, it crossed your mind, Misa-san."

Misa puffed offendedly and Light sighed, shifting his gaze from her to Ryuzaki and back. He just knew life wasn't going to be easy for him in who knew how long.

This concludes the alternative story of the Death Note (version B)

Author's note: I also wrote a short afterword, explaining some whys and wherefores of this story – especially why there are two versions of it, and why do I like the second version better. If you care to read it, you will find it in my LJ: http:// czmadzia.livejournal. com/19754.html (minus spaces), titled The Killer in You – Behind the Lines.