It seems very long ago now, but the last time Light saw L, he was doing the same thing. Long hair pouring over dark eyes averted in somber melancholy, he was tending to Light, the boy's feet still wet in his hands, and they both knew what was to come—but Light was his only friend.

Please don't kill me.

Light, too, had averted his gaze, because he thrived on self-control, and the sacrifice of his personal feelings was but part of the discipline he kept when he set out to establish justice.

Light blinks.

He is slowly consumed with terrifying, uncomfortable feelings. Is this real? Did all this really happen? Are they really—

The more he thinks, the more his fear is replaced with anger. That's right - he failed. Near won. He and Mikami messed up somehow, and then everything fell apart and that little bastard, Near, patronizingly said that he wasn't going to kill Light but rather lock him away where nobody could reach him.

Then they shot him – oh—oh, God, he thinks he can still feel how much it hurt, that's when he really felt he was going to lose it, it was pain the likes of which he had never felt before.

Near.

When L notices Light's hand sliding across the mattress in the general direction of the dresser, his fingers come tight on his wrist.

"No."

Light looks up – but L doesn't release his hold.

"There are still two of these things down in the human world," he says, quietly gazing at Light.

But Light is disoriented, really, and quite in shock, and it isn't yet time—

L allows him to take it after all, and Light flips through it; all the pages are blank. A new start. Another chance, he thinks, I can still win, I can still bring justice to this world—

"Starting with Near!" he exclaims aloud, and now L takes the notebook from him.

"Yagami-kun," he says quite seriously, holding the thing out of Light's reach as the younger boy grits his teeth in agitation, "do you know what you and I have in common?"

Light remains silent, eyes darting toward him.

"I think you probably need some time to recover, but this is important. Please try to concentrate."

Silence.

It's useless; Light is overtaken enough by rage to go into a fit, and L watches him, holding the notebook.

Light glares, and he's shaking with rage in a way he never dared show L before, but now that doesn't matter and he really isn't quite all there—but he manages to think enough to tell L that

"That death note belongs to me."

L does not blink. His eyes dart toward the notebook in his hand and then back at Light.

"True enough," he replies, "but I still urge you to think about this. You and me. We died the same way."

There is a flash of confusion in Light's eyes.

What does…?

And then he goes pale.

L is right. Technically, Light was not the one who killed him.

"So you understand," L says quietly, "You and me, and Watari—we were all killed by death gods."

Light's face is expressionless for several moments.

Is he really…?

How did he…?

No matter how hard he tries, he can't remember what happened.

I was killed by a death god?

Could it be that—

His eyes go big.

"…Ryuk…!"

Light is stunned. This is entirely surreal to him, and, for several minutes, he cannot process a single thought.

"That's right," he murmurs when he finds his voice at last, "that's right…" A long time ago, Ryuk had said to him that when Light dies, he will be the one to—

There is silence as L allows Light to think about this. He does not return the notebook and continues holding it out of his reach. Far from consoling him, he stares at him without expression and without emotion, waiting for the thoughts to come together despite the shock.

Light struggles to think. Think! Okay. Okay. You died. You're dead. Because Ryuk wrote your name in his death note. Okay. But why? Why did Ryuk—

Would he have bled to death otherwise? Would he have died in prison? Ryuk wouldn't do it out of compassion – he never took sides. No, it was probably because Ryuk wanted entertainment and if Light was caught, then the show was over.

The show is over? It isn't over. So long as I have a death note, it isn't over! It's even easier now, because now they can't catch me!

L watches as the corners of Light's mouth begin to curve upward in satisfaction, but they stop there. No, think – there's something else at play. Think. Focus! You were both killed by death gods. L knows. L knows that Rem killed him.

So they were killed by death gods. But why is that important?

Long eyelashes come down over brown eyes as Light understands at last.

"You're here, too," he says, and L nods slowly.

"But that doesn't make sense," Light continues, "only humans who used a death note become shinigami."

"This is true," L replies, and Light understands that L has had enough time to think about this in the years following his death, and so Light realizes that—

"So you're still around even though you aren't a death god."

L nods.

So if I killed Near, then he will also—

"But it doesn't matter if Near will still be around the way you are," Light points out, "don't you see? If he's alive, then he's in the way of—"

While it was obvious that L has known with certainty for some time that Light was Kira, Light has never outright admitted this to him before, and he is simultaneously overcome with both astonishment and understanding at L's unwavering gentleness despite it all. There had been no question in L's mind that Kira is evil and Kira must be stopped, but there was nevertheless no question in L's mind that he and Light were very much alike, and while each of them viewed justice differently, they were, in essence, identical in their desire for justice, as well as in their passion for the game and inherent curiosity in solving problems.

Even now that neither of them is part of the human world, they both continue to long for justice there.

"In a way, this is truly admirable," L says quietly, now putting the notebook on the floor beside him, "you're doing this to win—but you're also doing this as a kind of sacrifice."

They never sat down to speak of this directly, and Light is reluctant to do so.

"How did you know," he says very quietly, "how did you know that Rem…?"

They are both quiet for some time, and Light can see that there is deep sadness in L's eyes.

"I suspected that some of the rules in the notebook were false," he says quietly, "there is nothing to suggest that the shinigami was necessarily telling the truth. Or that you weren't in on this together."

Dark eyes roll up to gaze at Light again.

"Watari died of a heart attack. It was then that—"

And L grows quiet.

That I knew I was next to—

Light swallows dryly. No. Don't get emotional. That's how all the idiots screw up.

Strangely enough, however, now that he has become a genuine death god, the encompassing sense of sadistic pleasure that sometimes came with the ability to kill has somehow waned, and he finds that even his hatred for Near stems not from malice but from the infuriating knowledge that at last he has been defeated.

But strangest of all is the fact that instead of the infuriating hatred he felt for L for so long and the genuine enjoyment he remembers when at last he held him dead in his arms, more than anything he feels a disconcerting sense of mutual understanding now that they have both suffered a blow at the same hand.

They are both dead now, and while Light has control over the human world with the death note, it becomes clear to him that L is at a disadvantage in this regard, or he might have done something during the years following his death.

Light begins to wonder, then, whether L had taken care of him following his death not from altruism but rather to make sure that he doesn't use his new death note.

His eyes narrow in anger.

"Give me back my notebook," he hisses, and he tries to stand and shove L out of the way, but he falls astonished to the floor, overcome suddenly with a wave of pain.

Very slowly, L kneels at his side. He slides his hands under Light's arms and carefully lifts him up and back into bed, and suddenly it hurts, everything hurts, and Light is suddenly overwhelmed and angry and confused and none of it is over, Near won and Matsuuda shot him and Ryuk really wrote his name in his death note and now he's dead, and like he felt for the first time in his life when, not long before he died, he lay on the warehouse floor suddenly wishing for help and companionship from Misa or Kiyomi, he is utterly alone and terrified, completely terrified.

L does not show emotion very often, either. When, raw and human, he knelt before Light all those years ago and humbly asked if he might, please, for one moment, look beyond the race and beyond the game and try to remember that they are human, that they are friends, that, undoubtedly, they both want to live, Light understood, and, faced with emotion so devastatingly raw, he looked away, fighting for discipline.

We are alike, you and I.

When faced with the reality of his own death, Light was so far overcome with terror that, for all his discipline, he had come utterly undone—

Misa, where are you? Takada? Anyone…?

Still now, overwhelmed and frozen with shock, he falls terrified into L's arms.

Without a word, L draws him closer, and, gazing down somberly, he runs his fingers through the soft locks of Light's hair.

"You understand now," he says quietly, "you understand what it means to die."

And, really, L is his only friend.

To be continued…