Rating: T

Spoilers: Episode 25 - alternate events

Summary: A rash decision by L saves his life and leads to Light's capture. L, however, is unwilling to relinquish his kindred spirit to the police, and has other plans to make Kira atone for his crimes.

A King in Check

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. -Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein

Light Yagami wasn't L's friend. L didn't have friends. A friendship required trust, alliance and understanding - there was none of that between he and the auburn-haired adolescent. Even if they weren't sworn enemies, the detective still would have never seriously exposed his vulnerable side to him. Friendships were risky and unnecessary. They set one up for betrayal and confusion, and they offered no benefits that he cared about. This was the way that he, L, the world's greatest private investigator, thought. He knew that this was also the way that Light Yagami, who was Kira, the world's greatest mass-murderer thought. Outwardly they would pretend, for the sake of acting acceptably in front of the Japanese task force, as well as for the opportunity to witness the other slip up. Inwardly it was entirely professional. They had accepted this from one another, and it suited both of their plots just fine.

But though the opinion was entirely irrelevant and he would, without fail, act as such, L was almost seventy-four percent certain that Light was his most favorite human. The detective wouldn't have seriously brought it up to his rival, that might be detrimental, but there was truth to his fondness. Why shouldn't there be? Light Yagami was brilliantly minded. In fact, L thought, there was a chance that Light was even more brilliant than he was. In their deductions, they often came up with similar theories and conclusions. And though Light had a higher percentage of a chance of being incorrect or slipping up when he was under pressure, the detective had a sinking feeling that the younger boy might be able to analyze more thoroughly and reach resolutions more rapidly.

This gem of a mind had been a precious asset, L found out, during the reign of the third Kira. Handcuffed together, they worked side by side, each one making up for the flaws of the other. Together, they could process information like a technologically-advanced supercomputer. At first, it annoyed the loner-by-nature-and-choice detective to be forced to work with a partner, but gradually he was filled with a surprising zeal, and he grew accustomed to it. The competitive nature between Light and L lead to the inevitable application of additional willpower and the stubbornness to not give up, even when the situation seemed like a lost cause.

"Ryuuzaki, what will we do now?" that very boy asked, his stern, amber eyes flickering with something entirely unreadable. It was a good question. Now that Higuchi had been caught, it should have been a matter of finding everything out about the Death Notes that they could, and then tracking down the original Kira. Unfortunately, Higuchi, the man who probably knew all of the answers, was cold and dead. A heart attack inconveniently struck him down as he was being arrested.

"I want to wait for the next batch of criminals to die," L answered, narrowing his eyes with irritation at memory of the suspicious and untimely death of the third Kira. "We don't have a lead anymore, but we know that there's a Kira still out there. That has to be the one who killed Higuchi. So all we can do is wait and try to find a pattern in the new victims. We have his notebook, too, so at least we know the rules that have to be followed."

Light shrugged in agreement, his face blank except for the determined curve of his eyebrows. Up until a few days ago, Light had been L's prime suspect, prisoner by a five-foot-long handcuff. Now that they had found a Death Note, a nonsensical rule about 'thirteen days' eliminated the rational possibility of Light ever being Kira.

Of course, he was Kira, rational or not. L simply knew this with unexplainable faith. He also knew that he had been outsmarted, because what feeble evidence that he had was trampled upon by Light's cleverness. That damned teenager was able to plan a thousand moves in advance, moving his chess pawns with an elaborate pipework of intentions. Now that Kira had fortified his position, he would move in for the kill. A perfect defense was a good offense, after all. The irony was that L had told Light this almost a year ago, the first time that they had played tennis together and sized each other up.

So really, what will we do now? translated into what will you do now? Obviously, the detective never tell his facetious companion what was on his mind. L understood that one wrong move would spring the trap, and he would become the dessert in Kira's victorious jaws. Initially, he had been overcome with rapid depression at the destruction of his reasoning behind his suspicions and the death of the one who might have clarification. But standing next to his proud enemy had, in the end, strengthened his resolve. He wouldn't let some murdering, idealistic eighteen-year-old defeat him. Light must have deliberated over the detective's probable moves long in advance, which meant that Light would be waiting for him to do what was expected. And what was expected? The only way to avoid elimination was to think like L.

It was strange that he was trying to decide what he himself would logically do in this situation. He sat by a row of humming computers, chewing his thumb and ignoring the chatter of the task force. Light would know that he was dissatisfied with what the murder notebook revealed - its cruel list of rules that denied accuracy to L's theories, barred him from limiting Light's freedoms any longer on grounds of suspicion. Light knew that L knew. So he would assume that L wouldn't just give up on the hypothesis that he had constructed a year ago, he would test his theory. He would assume that L would test the notebook. As far as L was concerned, this was confirmation enough that the rule was one hundred percent false.

"I think I know what I'll do, Light-kun," he announced, glancing over. That translated to I know what I won't do. And by doing that, maybe he would have found the loophole in that brilliant scheme. The stakes had become too high to fall now, and no force - not Shinigami, not murder notebooks, not friendship would stop him from bringing Kira to the blind eyes of justice.

Every true genius is bound to be naive. -Friedrich Schiller

Ide and Mogi died the next day.

For a split second, L was horrified and saddened as he saw them convulse and fall on the sidewalk through the video camera, moments after stepping out of the police car. But then, on an instant cue, L's emotions clicked off. His personal feelings dissipated and his critical, logical mind took over in the way that he had been trained. After all, one did not survive for very long if one abdicated control of lethal situations. Because of this understanding, L next deduced that Light wouldn't want the two police officers to die. It was risky and entirely sloppy, not his style at all, and yielded him no stable benefits. Which lead L to believe that Light hadn't done this at all. L squinted into the monitor to see a black notebook fall from nowhere into a pile of gray ash. Another cursed Death Note - had that flicker of movement been Rem the Shinigami?

L was also able to discern that because of the harsh sacrifice of these two police officers, he now had a lead.

"Oh dear God!" Soichiro Yagami, the father of Light, cried out. "I... I can't believe it!"

No, of course Soichiro couldn't believe it. No one believed that Light was Kira - it was their blind love that got in the way. L's eyes darted toward the youth in question - he also stood, staring. His lips were constricted into a thin line, and eyes that met every criteria for anxiety betrayed him when they were lit with red fire. To an investigator like L, his face said in clear words that this was not going according to his plan.

Not letting things go according to Light's plan was all L had dared think to accomplish. But he was ambitious, and hoped for much more.

Earlier that day, L had decided to do something that Light wouldn't suspect him of doing - he announced plans of leaving Tokyo. After the Higuchi incident it would now be obvious that L was stationed in Japan, he had said, and the new Kira would take advantage of that. A few minutes later, Matsuda came back with a printout of Kira's newest victims. L then declared that if he were to die today, Light and Misa must be Kira. The task force was mortified, reminding him that this was impossible, and demanded that he leave them alone, the poor youths who had face oh-so-much psychological trauma already. To which L shrugged and suggested one last final surprise visit to Misa, and a search of her apartment, before he left Japan. Just in case, because now they knew to look for Death Notes, and oh, please stay in the building during this time, Light-kun. Just in case.

That Death Note on the sidewalk had to belong to Rem. It didn't take much contemplation to assume that Rem had been acting to halt some movement - and the only logical explanation was that she didn't want the police to find another Death Note. "Someone, please go retrieve that notebook," L commanded without expression. "Also, I want to know what happened to Rem."

"What?! But Ryuuzaki!" Matsuda wailed. "Kira's watching!"

"I'm sixty-eight percent certain that it's Rem's notebook," he answered definitely, though really his certainty was much higher. "That would mean it's another 'Death Note'. And I'm one hundred perfect sure that if it just sits on the sidewalk, something worse will happen."

Critical analysis didn't leave much time for mourning.

L didn't know what part of the actions he had taken had triggered this particular scenario, but his murky objective was becoming clear. Light's genuine surprise and fear at Ide and Mogi's heart attacks proved that he did have some level of control, for why else would it be unexpected? To L, this meant that the thirteen day rule was definitely false, because testing it would have been the logical move... and then would Rem have killed him instead? In the time that they had known her, Rem had been reluctant to talk about the rules of the Death Note, and answered in short, quick words only. She didn't want humans to know the truth, it seemed. Either way, if Light did have a level on control, this also meant that somehow, Light had killed Higuchi.

If Light could use the Shinigami as a tool, even though they were clearly unruly, was that how he did it? But no, up until this point, Rem had been with Higuchi. There had to be some way to find out... should he spend time examining the data?

No. Investigation would have to be immediate, before Light could prepare. If L gave him enough time, that adolescent would run through every possible scenario and arrange for himself a fortunate outcome, and that was the last thing that he wanted. Only through rash movements can you outwit someone more meticulous than you are.

The edgy look in Light's forced expression assured L that the pawns were set in a window of opportunity, and there was a two percent chance that he could perhaps put Kira's king in 'check'.

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality during times of moral crisis. -Dante Alighieri

Everything had been reduced to chaos. Soichiro Yagami was yelling on his yell phone, and Aizawa and Matsuda were screaming their own opinions. Aiber and Wedy were in the corner, swearing fiercely at one another and occasionally at L - L's initial plan had been to send Wedy into Misa's house, in which case it seemed that she would be the dead one right now. Only Light and L sat in silence on the couches. Light's chin rested on his hands, elbows in his knees as he tried to hide the paranoia that was very clear to the investigator. L watched everyone else carefully, until the noise had died down somewhat.

"Yagami-san... Aizawa-san, and Matsuda-san, too," L said quietly. "It's your duty to explain the deaths of Mogi-san and Ide-san to the police. Please tell them everything that you feel the need to, only please exclude the fact that I am here now, as well as this location. Be careful as well, because the real Kira is still out there."

Soichiro nodded, looking as though he hadn't slept in months even though the tragic event had only happened an hour ago. "I will take responsibility for it. We will go to the station and... explain what needs to be explained. Come on, Light."

To initiate the climax of the battle of wits, all the key players had to be present. Especially the enemy mastermind. "Yagami-san, leave your son here. Unless you want the police knowing that I suspected him of being Kira. I'm afraid that such a thing would take more explaining than you'll want to do, and with tensions so high, it will also be bad for Light-kun."

Their eyes flickered and met. L had moved the first pawn to Light's disadvantage. It baited the next move:

"It's alright, Dad. I'll stay here." He was controlling his breathing into an unperplexed, steady movement. He knew that his opponent was going to test him, but he was still confident in his defenses.

So the officers that still had their lives left, and out the window L could see the police car whirring with screeching sirens down the street. That noise was the gong declaring a lethal duel, a clashing of blades. This left the room empty of everyone except for L, Light, Aiber and Wedy, and then there was Watari over in the security room. These would be the pieces on the chess board, and the game was about to begin.

There was a silence for a moment as the two youths sat on the couches, opposite from one another, debating their next moves. Aiber hovered over them, and Wedy leaned against the wall.

Finally, L spoke. The best defense is a strong offense. "Light-kun, I have an interesting theory concerning the Kira case."

"You do? And what's that?" He looked up in the perfect calculated gaze of idle curiosity, expertly mixed in with wearing-down disconcert, credited to their comrades' death. It was a legitimate concoction of appropriateness, nothing that should have been suspicious at all. But it was.

L didn't meet that gaze, he just stared ahead as he rested his chin on his upright knees. "The new Kira is the same as the original Kira. And there is a good possibility that it could be you."

"...What?" Light looked surprised, as if caught off guard, and then sighed in exasperation. "Are you still convinced, after everything, that I'm Kira?"

"My theory stems from the fact that Higuchi died so immediately. Misa wasn't there to see him, but Light-kun was. The event wasn't being broadcast on live television, so no one outside of the police would even know about it. Assuming that Light Yagami was once a Kira, and went in a dormant state during long imprisonment, he could have reawaken as the only one who would know instantly to eliminate evidence."

"How would I have killed Higuchi?" Light asked, laughing a little, but it was a very controlled and planned out sound. "Oh, I remember. I was holding that Death Note at that time, too! I suppose that I understand why you came up with this theory, then. Maybe I can dispel your suspicions. Let's look and see if Higuchi's name is written down right now." He stood up, walking toward the table.

As expected. Now to move another chess piece in the offense: "Aiber, apprehend him, please. Kira shouldn't be touching the murder notebook."

In three seconds, Aiber had run forward across the playing board, the shape of the detective's own alias with two squares up, one square to the left. The burly con-artist grabbed Light's elbows and twisted them behind his back in an iron-lock hold. It was the first check of the white King, but not yet binding enough, so the other chess master could still retaliate. Light put on a face of innocent confusion, and he wasn't resisting in order to uphold his act. "Can you please be serious, Ryuuzaki? Let me go please, Aiber, this is just Ryuuzaki's dumb joke."

L had moved forward a knight and taken Light's rook - his ability to move. That was one strike more. Light had responded by moving his Bishop - playing the card of innocence once again. That bishop was a fierce player, given indefinite movement through the diagonals of the squares, and if L couldn't find what he was looking for that would be his downfall. He countered it with a second knight: "Wedy, if Light-kun was hiding a Death Note on him, where would it be?"

The professional burglar waltzed over to Light, who was suddenly very still. Perhaps an act of perceived compliance. Wedy tossed her head and lifted her sunglasses on her blonde head. She then put her hands on his shoulders and slid them down, pressing the loose fabric against his skin as she searched him. Shirt, empty. Pants, empty. Nothing in the pockets at all.

"Alright, now are you satisfied, Ryuuzaki?" the bishop spoke, attacking again with a show guiltlessness.

Wedy then moved behind Light, weaving herself between Aiber's arms. The thief lingered there for a second, her probing hands checking everywhere one more time. Then, she unhooked Light's wristwatch. "This is pretty," she commented, holding it up into the light and squinting as she determined the monetary value. "Rather expensive for a middle-class boy like yourself."

"I didn't steal it," Light responded calmly, rolling his eyes for extra effect. "My father gave it to me as a present."

L did recall that Light always wore this bronze watch, and for apparently the legit reason of sentimental value. It could have been excusable. He glowered at the adolescent through the raven locks of hair that fell haphazardly over his own eyes - and then an idea dawned upon him. Was it possible...? "Wedy, does that watch... unfold somehow?"

Immediately, Light tensed. He could tell because very suddenly he was too calm, which was entirely deceptive. With that, he knew it to be true. Light's king was in check again.

"Sure. These types have little compartments where you can adjust the clockwork, if you want. It connects to the knobs that set the time." She tinkered with it, as to prove her point. "Hardly big enough to hold a notebook, though." Then she, finished, pulling out the little bronze tray from under the numbered plate. "It can't hold anything, just ...just a... scrap of paper?"

There were two hearts that suddenly stopped beating. One was Light's, whose color had drained from his face, leaving something ashen and in disbelief, something that was too shocked to even tremble. The second was L, who was also too shocked to speak, because the chances were at less than two percent that he would stumble across any blunder of Light Yagami's. Momentarily, everything was completely surreal. It was the dreams that L had when he slept, and the nightmares of Light's.

"Kyosuke Higuchi," Wedy read out loud, interrupting the deathly silence.


And suddenly, everything was alive again. Light's eyes widened and twitched as the full effect of the situation hit him like a sledgehammer. Calm became disbelief, disbelief turned frantic, and then there was terrified denial.

"What the hell is this?" he shouted, trying to tear away from Aiber's heavy grip, which had tightened. "You're full of it, Ryuuzaki! You're so upset that you lost your lead that now you're framing me! I don't know anything about this! Let go!"

Critical analysis leaves little room for mourning.

"Watari!" L jumped to his feet and yelled into the security speakers. "Bring handcuffs, please!"

"This isn't true! There has to be a reasonable explanation!" Hyserically, he twisted and writhed. "Ryuuzaki, listen! I didn't have my watch while I was in solitary confinement. Kira could have known! He could have planted evidence! It's inconclusive! You said yourself, I lost my memory if I was ever Kira!"

"It doesn't matter what you remember. You're Kira, and with my evidence, you will be convicted as such."

Light broke free of Aiber's hold, dashing away. He ran to the black notebook that lay on the counter, a panick-stricken fear drenching his face. Probably habitual more than voluntary, he clutched the Death Note like a frightened child with a favorite blanket, backing up.

"Light-kun's memory has returned?" L asked accusingly, approaching him. "Like I thought. Perhaps this time, he will be able to give us the answers that we need to end this all for good, and ensure that there is never another Kira again."

"Stay back!" he cried out with horrified desperation.

"Or what?" L challenged, almost overcome with his own repressed emotions. "You'll write my name in there? Aiber's? Wedy's? Watari's? You don't know our real names. It would be better for you to fall with grace and accept your defeat." L had reached Light, and he stood right in front of him, holding a heavy stare. "The reasonable course of action for you is to surrender and cooperate. Don't waste your energy in denial."

Light lost his breath - a ragged, wretched sound as if his lungs were wracked with shards of glass. Then, as if in response, he tried to keep playing chess even though his king was taken: he folded his shaking fingers into a fist and lunged forward at his enemy, like venomous snake springing forth.

L turned his face to receive less sting for the blow. He stepped back to gain distance, and immediately dropped his upper body, planting his palms on the ground. His right leg shot up, exploding like a canon, and his heel caught under Light's jaw. Light recoiled, and turned out of firing range for L's kicks. He sidestepped to L's ribs, and he dropped his weight, arms shooting forward and grabbing at L's throat to choke him.

There was a moment when their eyes, one a fiery amber and the other charcoaled ebony, locked in hatred.

Hatred is a useless concept that distorts neutral judgment. Something, L conjectured, that was not much different from love.

Because he couldn't wrench away Light's claw-like fingers that clamped into his throat, cutting off his source of air, L pressed his feet against the floor and pushed himself backwards. This movement caused Light to fall forward, and then L turned through the weak points between his fingers. While doing this, he clasped on to Light's hands and jerked one completely off. Without a second thought, he concentrated both of his free limbs on this hand. One wrapped around the palm, the other seized a few fingers, and he pushed them backwards with a sudden force that a sickening crack was heard as the thin bones broke.

Light howled like a feral cat in pain, withdrawing the damaged hand. He seemed almost delirious in a berserk craze - logical thinking was a thing of the past. He swung his good fist forward, smashing into L. As the fist connected with his cheek, L responded by grabbing this one too, meaning to give it the same treatment.

They were interrupted by the large and muscled Aiber, who had run to them and grabbed Light by the shoulders. He wrapped his hand under the youth's flailing arms, hauling him off of L. His voice was cordial and mocking as he held the youth back. "Calm down, kiddo, there's three of us here against just you, so you're only hurting yourself. Make that four! Hello, Watari."

The presence of the old man bearing handcuffs hardly sedated the wild look in Light's eyes. L watched him fastidiously as he stood up and wiped the blood from his lip that must have broken during the brunette's attacks. "Wedy, help Aiber hold him. Watari, go ahead. Let's make this the end of Kira."

L felt no sympathy at Light's terror. He felt nothing as they folded his arms behind his back, and Watari tightly clamped on the shackles. There was nothing in his mind except for mild irritation when his rival continued to toss and struggle, as if escape was still an option. The fact that he was acting so uncoordinated was proof that Light knew he had lost, and to L he was reduced to the status of a hopelessly defeated common criminal. In fact, it made him angry. Light was more quick-witted than he, where was the retaliation? The counter-move?

But there was no counter-move. None, because this situation was the result of a rash, uncalculated stroke of luck. They had been two stags running in the same rhythm, breathing in same tempo. When Light began to speed up to his inevitable victory, L decided to stop and turn the other way altogether. Because he couldn't outrun Light. He admitted it freely. Light was faster. He just stumbled over a stone in his path.

Justice will prevail.

"You're wrong in doing this!" Light screamed, wrestling violently against the restraining cuffs and hands. "You're wrong, you don't understand! The world is-"

"Don't try to talk your way out of this-"


It was desperate pleading that reminded L of when Light must have lost his memories. Begging him to let him out of imprisonment, begging his father not to shoot him. L was entirely resistant to such a tactic, and he knew that Light wasn't an innocent. So why did it vex him even more that he was again speaking sincerely? Why did he find himself furious instead of rejoicing at this victory?

"Please, Ryuuzaki!" Eyes that had captivated many a pawn during his reign gazed upon him with that false sincerity, those facetious promises and lies of a better world. "You know me better than anyone. You have to understand!"

L looked upon Light, who had been slammed down humbly to his knees by heavy hands on his shoulders. The detective's face was of stony indifference. "I understand that you are a mass murderer. I have all the faith that I need for my convictions. Justice cannot be dealt by individuals who act as gods over humanity, there is nothing more fallible. It is more correct to place belief in an established system of law, and punish the evil mercilessly."

"Then punish yourself!"

"I'm not going to argue with a captured criminal," L said dispassionately to mask the annoyance that he felt. "And believe me, Kira, you can consider yourself captured." He approached Light, grabbing his auburn hair tightly. For a moment he gazed down at the prisoner, at the scalp which encased the most precious brain in the world. And then he curled his fist and smashed it into that brilliant, foolish head, hitting at the crack of gunfire. Light's eyes closed as he fell into immediate unconsciousness.

Wedy whistled under her breath, standing up next to the limp body. "You impress me as much as ever, L. I almost thought that you'd let him off the hook since he's your friend. But you do put work above everything else, eh? You aren't the world's greatest detective for nothing."

L didn't have an answer to that. He also stood, tucking his hands into his jeans' pockets. "Aiber, Wedy, please don't mention this to anyone. Not even the police, though since you aren't law-abiding citizens that shouldn't be a problem. Please act as though nothing has happened."

"What do you want done with him?" Watari asked, his mildly wrinkled face distorted into concern that awaited orders.

"I need some time to work out the details. Take him to a holding cell, where the task force won't run across him. Wedy, I want you to search Misa's apartment. Don't worry, I believe Rem is dead now, as strange as it sounds for a Shinigami, and it's likely she who killed Ide and Mogi. There is probably a Death Note to be found with Misa. The police will arrest her there as Kira."

The instructions felt dull, like the feeling during the last few moves of a Solitaire game when one already has achieved victory, and had to clean up the last of the cards. L couldn't take his eyes off of Light as Aiber picked him up in his arms and carried him away like a rag-doll.

It is not yet clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value. -Stephen William Hawking

The chaos hadn't died down, even two days later. L had claimed ignorance when Soichiro Yagami had inquired as to the whereabouts of his son, and said simply that Light had left not long after the police had, after saying that there was something that he wanted to check out. Soichiro believed the excuse, for Light was unruly and acted upon his own decisions, but it still made the Chief furious when there wasn't a return within 24 hours. He had contacted the police station and sent out a missing person warrant. L let this be, though he wryly noted that a father missed his son who was no further than thirteen floors below him. It wouldn't be long before the man became obsessive enough to hinder L's plans, and questioned him further. In which case, he might not lie.

Critical analysis leaves little room for mourning.

"I'll contact Interpol about receiving Light, Ryuuzaki," Watari said. "Misa's in prison on further suspicion of being Kira, and we have three Death Notes - Higuchi's, Misa's, and Rem's. They will be coming to get her soon enough. But she's a pawn and useless without the mastermind."

"No," L replied automatically. He sat, deep in thought, next to a bowl of chocolate chips. Occasionally he picked one up, holding it between two fingers, and injected it under his tongue, feeling the chocolate melt until it was reduced to brown liquid.

"If it's Soichiro you're worried about for when he finds out the truth about his son, then it's something he'll have to face eventually. You can't take responsibility for his feelings. The only obligation you have is to your job."

"It's not that," he answered, not looking at the only man in the world that he was allowed to trust. His eyes were instead on the candy, and this time he grabbed a handful of the delicacies. "I've been contemplating my next move for these passed two days, and all factors considered - the government is admittedly infallible, too, and following the original plan could be detrimental."

Watari paused, gazing at L with old eyes. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that I don't want the world to have anything more to do with the Death Notes. They are a murder weapon of enormous scale, no different from an atomic bomb, and I regret their very existence. Kira has become a plague, and to defeat it entirely, I have to go to the source - and that is the notebooks and the knowledge of them. If I turn them over to Interpol, some police group might become the next Kira. It's injustice to judge as quickly as the notebook kills, but if the government is doing it, how could I convict them? Even if I burn the weapons now, if I give them Light they will just torture the answers out of him anyway."

Watari didn't answer. He sipped his coffee instead, letting L continue.

"Instead I'll create the scenario where Kira has disappeared completely. With Misa, Light and the Death Notes out of the picture, the judgments will end."

"Interpol won't be satisfied with such a thing," Watari argued, but gently. "Kira will be on a high priority list until they have proof of immobilization, and if they don't get that, faith in L will dissipate."

"They will. I'm giving them Misa. I'll tell them that she's Kira, and I'll give them evidence. I'll leave out the bit about the notebooks. They'll believe me, especially since the killings are going to stop anyhow."

"Doesn't that defeat your previous point? Give them Light instead, he's more likely to resist torture for longer, and smart enough to lie."

L shook his head, ignoring the rock that felt as though it were sitting in his stomach. "No. I believe that Misa lost her memory once, and voluntarily so. She will definitely do it again if she's protecting Light."

Watari nodded, a small bob of his head. He cleared his throat, which meant that he was holding back his personal opinion. "Then we'll burn the notebooks and privately execute Light. The rules say that the notebooks shouldn't be destroyed, but I agree with you that such a rule is too convenient for Light, and likely also false."

There is something peculiar about neutrality. When one is one hundred percent neutral and logical, the inevitable victories that one achieves taste dull and lifeless.

"Does Kira really deserve such a merciful death?" L finally said, more of a statement than a question. "To kill him now would make a martyr out of him for his supposed holy crusade. In his death he would complete his undeserved role as a Messiah. I don't want him to die thinking that he was righteous. Instead I'll do what I said that I'd do a year ago - I'm going to show him what true justice is."

Watari looked as though he wanted to argue and say something, but he probably knew that L wouldn't listen. L had finally reached a concrete decision, and he meant to act upon it. No, it didn't make sense, because every second that Light Yagami was alive was a second closer to his own potential defeat. But if he was going to win, then he wanted a victory. A real victory.

"So what will you do, Ryuuzaki?" Watari finally asked when L was lost in thought.

He would be doing something that he never would have expected. Who knew that this one case, even if it was the most difficult to date, would have such an impact on him? L hadn't lost his fierce drive to conquer evil, that was ever-present inside of him. So that was it: he was going to conquer. That, and he didn't want to relinquish his kindred spirit to his doom. Not yet, anyway.

Injustice is relatively easy to bear. What stings is justice. -Henry Louis Mencken

It was ironic that Light was imprisoned under L's investigation again, because in the past a single imprisonment was all it took. This time, however, Light was confined in the binding chair that had once held Misa Amane, in a holding cell on one of the lower floors of the headquarters building. The entire area was a tribute to modern technology's concept of high security - special access codes were required just to enter the floor. More access codes were called for to enter the hallway with rows of cells lining it left and right. And finally, an access code and a key card were needed to enter the thick, steel door to the room that held the world's most deadly serial killer. And everywhere, there were video cameras that only Watari could watch.

Yes, L thought, as he walked through the hallway that lead to Light's prison. It would all be wrapped up soon. During Light's unconsciousness, they had seated him on the heavy, steel chair. His arms had been lifted above his head and they were handcuffed in place there along the back of the apparatus. His broken fingers hadn't been more than loosely bandaged, and the now fully awake youth tugged at his arms, probably subconsciously from the stinging pain. There were leather straps around his waist and his ankles, preventing much movement at all. The excessive restraints weren't necessary, L admitted to himself, because it wasn't impossible to physically overpower Light. Once in the safety of the cell, further limitation of movement was entirely a psychological affliction to encourage cooperation. That was why the culprit had been kept in complete solitude for the past two days, without any food or water.

When L approached his cell, Light's downcast eyes perked upward. His face was pale, and dark circles under his eyes blended with the bruises that garnished his expression. His dry, cracked lips parted slightly, hesitating before any words came out. He watched as his enemy opened the door with a smooth motion, and then in a weak voice, void of moisture, he said, "It's inconclusive. I'm not Kira."

"You're still saying that?" L asked, raising his black eyebrows, but he supposed that it would be only natural. Most criminals seemed to deny their crimes when L caught them, even though he was never wrong and they knew it.

"I didn't make a confession before, either," he insisted, those hardened amber eyes never leaving L's. "I was only distraught at the evidence planted against me."

L shook his head slightly, rejecting Light's attempts at wavering his resolve.

"What, you're going to give up? When the real Kira is somewhere out there?" Light said with forced disbelief, which really didn't have the fully intended effect, because he looked scared and tired. "This isn't like L at all, to finish a case when it's not for certain!"

"It's for certain," L said simply, stating the obvious that they both knew. "I'd prefer that you stop pretending, because there is something that I would like to discuss with you."

Light's face twisted into something even more desperate and pathetic. "Ryuuzaki, you have to believe me! I'm not Kira!"

The detective raised one hand from his pocket, and Light flinched, as if expecting L to hit him again. But instead, he brought his thumbnail to his mouth, clicking it against his teeth as he spoke. "Light-kun doesn't fully comprehend this situation. It doesn't matter any longer what you say or deny, because I have all the evidence that I need. I am L - this means that on my word, Interpol will take you as Kira, and so will sixty-three separate countries, without a second thought. It's enough that I know that you're Kira. Also, with Misa also incarcerated, my guess is that criminals might actually stop dying this time. Suffice to say, I'm uninterested in your denial."

Light's eyes widened under his shaggy, tousled brown hair, and he pulled aggressively against the chains above him. Despite his efforts, the chains did not budge and his hands remained suspended above him.

"I'm not here for a confession. Please take note that if I give you to Interpol, they won't be looking for a confession, either. You're an international criminal responsible for mass murder on a phenomenal scale. What they will be looking for is answers and explanations. They will not care about why you did it. All they want to know is how. Light-kun may tighten his lips initially, but what is his level of pain tolerance, I wonder?"

Again, the panicked prisoner strained at the handcuffs. Unfortunately for him, the density of soft human skin was proven inferior to steel, and they offered him no freedom. Indeed, it would be his wrists that broke before the restraints did.

"I don't understand why this surprises you. You're highly intelligent, and I would have thought that you would have considered the consequences of your actions, as you considered the consequences of every other move you made. Do not think that I'm bluffing either. There would be no trial and no defense for you. You would be tortured until you are rendered useless, and then you would die by private execution. That's how it always is with terrorists. It's what they didn't tell you on the public news station that you so often frequented."

Light's pale face, beaded with perspiration, suddenly flushed. His wild eyes rapidly dawned with passion. "Kira is no terrorist!" His voice shook, and he caught his breath to continue. "I never once killed uselessly, Ryuuzaki! Never! I knew that killing was a crime, but it was the only way! No one was doing anything! People were content to sit and watch the world rot, because they don't have the motivation or the willpower to make a change! But I can. I can change the world, and I'll carry the burden of the sin! Get rid of the rotten people, and then there will be only kind ones left. Then people will never have to be afraid to walk the streets at night! No one will have to be afraid anymore! That's not terrorism at all!"

L was quiet for a moment, studying Light's features as the youth realized that the words had actually left his mouth. Two days of not eating or drinking can indeed lead to rash decisions and words. As intended.

Light swallowed, knowing it was too late to withdraw his admission. "Don't you see? You're a detective who deals with all kinds of atrocious crimes. You want to stop crime too, don't you? If you loved the world like I do, you would have done the same thing in my position."

The investigator sucked on his knuckle for a few seconds before answering, gnawing slightly on the skin. Then he spoke. "Your argument is irrelevant, because the hypothetical is not reality. This is reality." At that, he leaned forward and grabbed one of Light's trembling wrists, shaking it slightly to emphasize the handcuff. Then he let go. "We're both idealists, but the difference between you and I is that I'm less of an idiot. The government calls my side justice, and that's ultimately the deciding factor. I'm curious, how long did you think that Kira would last?"

The brunette glared, hot amber fire. "You bastard... you don't care about the world. All you care about is winning!"

The detective shrugged, ignoring the irritation that he suddenly felt. "No. I care about the world. I just believe that no one should have the power that you had, because it is corrupting and miserable. More than anything, it is fallible, and even if Light's intentions are good he is still doing an evil act. This is what I believe." After surmising, he added, "Also, it's unbeneficial for you to be impolite. I'm the one in charge of whether or not you are breathing."

The response was a wretched, pained laugh. "It hardly matters now, right? They're coming to get me, and I can't have much time before I die. Damn it, I can't believe that for a moment back then I was actually regretting that you were going to die. Did you know that, L? You were supposed to die. Rem was going to kill you."

L was forced to hesitation. He had already guessed that the meticulous Light had planned his downfall, and he had been in a very near check-mate. Something else in the words prodded at his conscience... Light was going to regret it? "Don't flatter yourself, Kira. Interpol isn't coming to get you. Now we're going to discuss the reason why I came to see you in the first place."

"What?" Honest surprise submerged his vocalization. "Who is, then?"

"It's inconvenient for me if any big organization learns all that there is to know about the Death Notes. I believe that if more people know about them, the chances that there will one day be another Kira will increase. Especially with Light Yagami's knowledge on record. In order to defeat Kira, I have to defeat the Death Notes themselves until this whole thing is just a bad dream to awake from. That's why I'm not submitting you to anyone. Only when Kira is erased can L have won."

Light's pupils minimized as his cheeks lost their color. His voice was a ragged whisper as he reached the rational deduction. "S-so you're just going to kill me now, right?"

"That would be the logical thing to do. I could kill Light Yagami and it would all be over definitely. He is the most dangerous Kira, in fact the most dangerous thing in the world if he has his murder weapon." L stopped momentarily to watch Light, who was something between frozen in fear and squirming with anticipation. "But why should I let him die so easily? That would be merciful, and I promised him punishment. The first time that I spoke to you, I vowed to show you true justice."

"Torturing me isn't justice!"

"No, I wouldn't do such an unrefined thing without a sensible, unbiased purpose in mind. Instead, your punishment can be redemption." He stared at Light through harsh eyes. "To show you justice, the only thing I can do is to make you serve it. The Kira case is closed, so I'm going to relocate. You will come with me and work with me to solve cases, similar to how we caught Higuchi. I'll give you the chance to use your intellect for a correct purpose. Not that you can ever fully atone for your previous atrocities, but if you want to regain your humanity then you could make an effort."

Light's irises flickered as he took in what the raven-haired man was saying. Then he grunted out a segment of laughter in disbelief, and a retort that sounded choked. "Work with you? Why would the great, anti-social L offer such a thing?"

"Because you were useful before. It seems like a shame to let a sharp mind go to waste, but even more so I'm reluctant to give you a martyr's death when you don't deserve to be a Messiah. This is my conclusion after critical analysis. If you refuse, I will simply lock you somewhere where you'll never see the light of day again, in a place you'll never leave, and no one will know where you are except for me. It's simple - if you aren't going to compensate, then the world has no use for you and you can rot."

L almost expected Light to hiss out his negation. He was a stubborn youth, and probably furious enough to let the hell he was holding back loose. But Light's eyes were on the floor again as he thought, and his features were empty of malice. When he raised his head again to meet L's gaze, he said, "You do misunderstand me, no matter what you say. Everything that I've done, I've done to stop crime in order to make the world a better place. If you're giving me the opportunity to continue my dream, then that's an opportunity that I'm glad to take. The Death Note was only one of many methods. I can take yours, too."

The detective's mouth unhinged in surprise. He had been expecting more of a fight. After all, this was Light Yagami... no, of course. L realized then what Light was probably thinking about. "Don't fall into misunderstandings, Light-kun. In the place that we go, there won't be any escape for you. You still won't leave captivity until your own funeral, no matter what stunt you pull. Even if you discard your memories again and are brought back to innocence. In my eyes, someone as brilliant as Light Yagami is the most dangerous thing in the world if he has a Death Note, and I will never allow a way for him to touch one again."

Light's lips tightened into a thin line, but he did not say anything. Though he was still shaking slightly, his eyes had recovered their composure and they fiercely made their declaration. L knew full well that it wouldn't matter how much he warned Light. He would without a doubt try to find his murder weapon again, even if it took him years and years. He might never believe that he had been wrong.

L knew that he should follow logic and wisdom, and kill him here to end it all. He also knew that he wouldn't be doing such a thing, and this fact worried him.

-TBC . . .

Author's Notes:

1. I hope that the quotes aren't distracting... I wanted a new way to separate time lines, and for some reason they felt really appropriate. Every quote will reflect the text it is by, in some form or another, or the story as a whole.

2. I'd like to update this, because I have an idea of where I want it to go - but at the same time it feels okay as a one-shot to me.

3. Interpol - International Criminal Police Organization

4. The big question - will this be shounen-ai? I'm not telling. (I don't know.)

I hope you enjoyed! But if you did... I have several fics to update, so this one may not get attention soon. If you didn't, no worries! Thanks for reading! -Serria