So this came to me in the middle of school and wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it. It's probably the most unpolished thing I will ever post. I also don't feel like dividing it into seperate chapters, so it's also the longest single chapter. The poor Wammy boys are probably sooooo OOC it isn't funny...

I do not own the joy that is Death Note, because I am not smart enough to have created it. Spoilers for Chapter 58/Episode 25, the ones that most want to pretend never happened. Also spoilers for L's real name, all you people who don't know it. Now, behold what I was working on when I should have been doing schoolwork!

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Light looked upon his captive with a small, satisfied smirk. The great detective L, helplessly bound wrist and ankle to the wooden cross, dangling crucified before God's eyes. He had long since given up struggling, hanging limply from the ropes that bound him. His sleeves were stiff with dried blood from the rope rubbing his skin raw, and his hair hung dead around his face. His eyes were closed, whether in sleep or an attempt to forget his surroundings, Light didn't know. He stalked across the room, looking at L for a moment before speaking.

"Does it hurt?" he asked mockingly. L's obsidian eyes opened just a bit, and he let out a shuddering breath. Light smiled maliciously. "It seems it does." He reached up, cupping L's face gently in his palm. L flinched away from the contact, trying to turn his face aside, but it was no use. He was at Light's mercy. Light gently caressed his cheek, murmuring softly, "Shall we take you down, L?"

L whimpered. Hating himself, he nodded faintly. It hurt. There was nothing else to be said. Nothing could be gained by refusing, by staying here like this. Light chuckled, undoing the bindings on his ankles, then moving on to his wrists. L collapsed like a rag doll, and, laughing, Light scooped him into his arms.

L wanted to struggle. He truly did. But after his confinement he was too weak. He was forced to let the other do whatever he chose.

Light took him to what appeared to be a bedroom, setting the detective down on the bed and moving to rummage through a cabinet. L was confused and wary, but too weak to really move. Light came back bearing a bottle, a cloth, and a roll of gauze, sitting down beside L and seizing his feet. L thought about kicking him, but Light merely began to dab antiseptic on the raw skin of his ankles. He wrapped each wound in a crisp piece of gauze, moving on to L's almost-bleeding wrists.

When his wounds were tended, L watched Light warily, frightened of what the other would do now. Light stared ahead, at the wall, and spoke.

"I do not want to kill you, L. I want you to understand." he said softly. L made a soft noise of protest, which Light ignored. "Sleep, L. You will not be harmed." And Light left the room, accompanied by the distinct sound of a lock being shut. L sighed, curling up under the covers of the surprisingly comfortable bed, wondering why he was still alive. He slipped into unconsciousness despite himself, afraid that Kira would return while he slept and…

L awoke some time later. The darkness of the room had not ebbed, which led him to believe it was very early. Three, maybe four in the morning at the latest. He shifted beneath the blanket, wincing at the uncomfortable sensation of the dried blood on his clothes. At least his wrists and ankles didn't hurt.

He heard the door being unlocked, and immediately tensed. He forced himself to relax, closing his eyes and feigning sleep. But he could sense Light standing over him, looking down at him. He heard the self-proclaimed 'god' whisper, to himself obviously, "My only equal, from my only enemy… What caused this to be this way?" Light stood there a moment longer, before leaving the room and locking the door again. L remained silent long after he was gone, pondering what he had heard.

The next time he awoke, it was morning. L sat up, rubbing sleep from his eyes, and looked around. This room was effectively blank. A bed, a chest of drawers, a mirror, one other door that led to a bathroom… L sighed, curling up back under the covers. Normally he wouldn't lie around in bed, but there was nothing else to do.

Light came in, a small tray in his hands. A bowl of oatmeal, tea, a spoon, and the sugar bowl rested upon it. Light set it down on the dresser and asked, "Are you hungry, L?"

L blinked at him, taking in the hot breakfast and the casual demeanor of his captor, and asked softly, "Do you mean this?"

"Mean what?"

"This kindness." L said quietly. "You bother to bring me breakfast and treat me kindly, after leaving me tied to a cross for nearly two weeks. It is only natural that I would distrust you."

"Certainly." Light said, bringing over the tray. "However, I have expressed that it is my wish for you to remain alive. You need to eat, L."

L took the offered tray, spooning unnecessary amounts of sugar into both tea and oatmeal. He picked up a spoonful of oatmeal, lifting it to his lips before pausing and looking up at Light. His eyes were sad as he whispered, "Poisoned?" He knew about the Death Note, but a small part of him believed that Light would rather kill him on his own, without hiding behind the feeble papers.

Light smiled, an odd gleam in his eyes. "Only if you want it to be." He frowned then, saying softly, "How pitiful you are, L, without your cases and your power and your freedom… What will you do now that I hold the power?"

L stared silently at the spoon, before taking a bite of the oatmeal. It was sweet, and he could taste the cinnamon in it. Delicious in spite of everything, and he hadn't eaten in days. He finished the bowl in less than two minutes, then picked up the tea and took a careful sip. Light stood, waiting for an answer that didn't appear to be forthcoming. Finally, he said in a low voice, "That is what you will do, isn't it? You will surrender."

L's eyes remained on the cup of tea in his hands. "What happened to the rest of the investigation team?" he asked, his voice equally quiet. He probably already knew, but to hear it from Kira's own lips…

"They are dead." Light said, a hint of a smile in his words. "Killed by Kira. A pity, but… No one dares oppose me now." L stared into his tea, then looked up, about to ask something else, but Light beat him to it. "Yes, Watari too. You are alone, L."

L said nothing, taking another sip of tea, and then whispered in a dead voice, "Yes. There is nothing left, is there, Light-kun? You should have let Rem-san kill me."

Light smirked, taking the empty bowl of oatmeal. "No, L. As I said, you will eventually see that it is pointless to fight me, pointless to think that you could have avoided it. I will show you my world, and you will see what a grand one it is." He swept out of the room, leaving L to stare at the locked door between him and potential freedom. He couldn't help but think, even though on the surface he felt that Light was fighting a losing battle… Deep down, maybe he truly believed that he would be forced to yield to the brunet. Maybe he would eventually see things Kira's way…

The gods of the world make the rules. You will be defeated by my fake rules, and die for the sin of defying me…

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L was staring into the mirror, trying to remember what felt so familiar, when Light returned, seemingly angered this time. He held up a cell phone, forcing it into L's line of sight and demanding, "What is this?"

L peered at it curiously. A timer was ticking down, reading 1d13h10m5s. His eyes widened just a touch, as he realized what must have occurred. Watari had lived long enough to activate the timer. It would let those closest to him know that L was dead. Watari had expected Light to kill L. Quite frankly, L had, too.

"I do not know, Light-kun. Is that my phone?"

"Yes!" Light snapped. "Why is it counting down?"

L tilted his head to one side, lifting his thumb to his lips. "Maybe Watari programmed it to self-destruct." he suggested blandly. Light didn't know the significance of this counter. If L himself was trapped, perhaps his successors would have better luck. Perhaps, if they learned he was still alive…

Light threw the phone to the floor, smashing it beneath the heel of his shoe. "No tricks, L. You can still die, you know." He stormed from the room, and L went back to watching the mirror, gazing at the glass from beneath strands of raven hair. The destruction of the phone would not stop the counter. Wammy's House would know of his 'death' and make the necessary preparations. Light Yagami would not win.

As he continued to stare, Light returned, asking the detective bitterly, "What is so interesting about that mirror?"

L turned cold eyes on him, saying softly, yet sharply, "I finally remember who you remind me of, Light-kun. You remind me of Beyond."

"Beyond?" Light asked, confused.

"Beyond Birthday was a child who was to succeed me in my career as a detective. An heir, if you will. But he was never content to be my equal, and sit on the sidelines. He set out to become the perfect criminal, and thus surpass the perfect detective." L blinked at his semi-stunned captor, smiling a bit. "You are the same, Light-kun. You weren't content that we were equal. You had to win. And even now, after you've won, you won't consider it true victory unless I believe in your ideals. You and Beyond and I… We share many traits."

Light scowled. Angrily, he hissed, "But I am not a criminal, L. I am the god of the world, bringing justice to the people. I am a hero."

"You are Lucifer, believing you could create better justice than God. Now you are naught but a fallen angel, ruling over Hell."

"Are you calling yourself God, L? Is that it?"

"No. If God creates absolute justice, I am merely a servant. A true angel, if you will." He looked up at Light innocently, smiling. "And there lies the difference between you and me, Light-kun."

He expected the punch; anticipated it, actually, and was already moving to counter when Light's fist struck his face. He darted down, his foot connecting with Light's ribs and sending the young man sailing backwards. Light was on his feet in an instant, storming forwards again. He grabbed L before the detective had a chance to react, using height and weight advantage to pin the other to the wall. L struggled, but to no avail.

"Never forget, L…" Light hissed dangerously, and for a second, L was afraid. This wasn't Light. This was Kira, in all his evil. He stared into Light's eyes worriedly as the 'god' continued, "I control your fate right now. Your life and future are in my hands, to do with as I please." Gentle fingers brushed against L's chin, before wrapping brutally around his throat. "You are mine."

L gasped, struggling to breathe. Light let go, and L's own hands flew to his neck, probing the skin and wincing at bruises he knew were forming. Light was staring at him with an odd look in his eyes, before turning and leaving the room yet again. He muttered angrily as he left, "Why… Why… Why don't I just kill you?"

And L had no answer. He couldn't figure out why Light hadn't killed him. Now that the investigation was over, there was no one to oppose the boy, so L's death would be irrelevant. But he had thought that maybe Light would want to see him dead, just for the simple thrill of victory.

But Light couldn't kill him with the Death Note. He didn't know L's real name. Maybe that was it. Maybe the Yagami boy didn't want to see what REAL murder felt like. For the only way to kill L now was with his own hands. He would have to watch the life fade from L's eyes, rather than hiding a mile, a country, an entire half-world away.

Light Yagami. You are afraid. You are afraid of the truth, you are afraid of what murder really is. And most of all, you are afraid to give me the satisfaction of knowing that I was right all along. And… perhaps… There is something more there too. Perhaps you do not truly wish to kill your first and only friend…

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"What do you mean L's dead!?!" the blond-headed boy yelled, his eyes wide and horrified. He stared across the desk at Roger, the man who was in charge when Mr. Wammy was gone with L, and his hands curled into fists. "He can't be dead… He's L, for godsakes!"

"Mello…" Roger said quietly, trying to pacify the fifteen-year-old. "I'm sorry, but…"

"L was the only one who cared…" Mello hissed. "He was our family… He was everything…"

"Mello…" The tiny voice caused Mello to look down. Thirteen-year-old Near sat on the floor, one leg curled to his chest as he clutched his puzzle. Blank white, with an elegant black L in the corner, Near hugged it to his chest desperately. He looked up at Mello, tears in his eyes, and whispered, "Stop. Please…"

"Near…" Mello knelt beside him. "I'm sorry, I just…" He looked up at Roger. "Thanks for telling us. We're going back to our rooms now." He helped Near to his feet, and they walked out together. However, instead of returning to their rooms like he had said, they went to Matt's room, finding the redhead playing A Link to the Past on his Gameboy.

He looked up upon seeing the two come in, asking worriedly, "What did Roger want?"

Mello sighed, watching Near as the boy tipped his puzzle all over the floor and began again. "L is dead, Matt." He could feel tears beginning in his own eyes, but refused to let them show. "Kira killed him." Matt's reaction was as expected. Disbelief, followed by anger, followed by sorrow. The other children had no idea. To them, L was a goal to work towards. Simply the world's greatest detective and nothing more. But to Near, Mello, and Matt; first, second, and third in line to succeed him, he was so much greater. He was their idol, he was their friend, he was their father, he was their big brother. He was their closest family besides each other. And now he was gone.

Mello watched Near putting the puzzle together, the white-haired boy somehow having managed to get hold of a large white teddy bear, at least half his own size. He remembered these toys. Their last Christmas with L, two years ago. He had given Near the bear and puzzle, telling him to remember him even when he wasn't around. Shortly after, he had left for Japan, and the Kira case. Last Christmas had passed by without him, and now…

"What do we do?" Matt whispered helplessly. "What can anyone do?" His game lay forgotten beside him. Near looked up, then stood unsteadily and went back out the door. Matt and Mello followed him, confused. Near went straight back to Roger, cutting right to the point and demanding in a quiet voice, "I want L's laptop."

Roger stared at him in disbelief. "Near…"

"I want it. I don't care who has it. Bring it to me. It is my right." Near said, new tears glittering in his eyes. Roger, who didn't know how to cope with crying children, only nodded.

"It's in the custody of the Japanese police, I would guess. Evidence. I'll see what I can do, Near." Near nodded as well, and left again.

Mello and Matt were in awe. "Near, why? Why the laptop?"

"I want to know who he thought Kira was. If we could find who killed him…" Near murmured. "Justice will be served."

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Light paced his room, growling. Why, WHY, why couldn't he just kill that irritating detective?!? Sure, he didn't know his name, but there were other ways. Poison in his food, a knife between his ribs, a gun to his temple… So why?

Maybe it was because, somewhere deep down, he was truly selfish. Even if it would help him make the world a better place, he was unwilling to give up the only equal he'd ever had. L was the only challenge he had ever faced. Without him, it was almost…

Too easy.

Breaking the detective would be much more amusing than simply killing him. Eventually L would be forced to see that Kira was a necessity in the world, and would just give in. But really, the nerve of him! To compare Light to a childish criminal, with a stupid name, no less! And then to go on and imply that he was the devil, instead of the God he truly was? What was L's problem? Couldn't he see that he had lost?

Light had imprisoned him, tying him up crucified to show him that he had no hope of defiance. Yet L still stayed the same as ever, if a bit more subdued. It was a kind of depression so well-hidden that it almost wasn't there. That didn't suit Light's purposes at all. He wanted L depressed, angry, terrified… whatever it took. Any kind of reaction, as long as he felt something!

Light suddenly smirked. Make L think he was going to die. That would get a reaction. Just like he had done to him when he had lost his memories. L had hoped that Light would kill his father to avoid his own death, and thus reveal himself as Kira. Well, let's see if threat of death will make L reveal emotion.

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A few days later, it was raining across both Europe and Japan, according to the weather report. Near was curled in his room, laptop in front of him, going through the files. He glanced up at the droplets running down his window, somehow feeling sad at the sight, as if the rain were the tears he could no longer shed. He looked back at the glowing screen, frowning. The message contained had been simple, but effective. L had suspected Light Yagami as Kira. Near smirked happily. All that was left was to go to Japan.

He watched the message another time, smile slipping away to be replaced with deep sadness.

"…And should this ever reach them, I just want Mello and Near and Matt to know that I'm sorry. That I love them. That I didn't want to leave them. Please, you three… I'm sorry."

Near sniffled once, climbing off the bed to go find Mello and Matt. They needed to see this.

He discovered the two standing out in the yard, staring up into the rain. Mello was either crying, or had rain running down his face; Near couldn't tell. Matt's arms were around the older, his goggles obscuring the view of his eyes. Near raised his umbrella, venturing out and going up to the two older boys. "Mello, Matt… You need to see something."

They followed him in, wrapping up in fluffy towels, and watched the message. When it was over, all three were silent.

"Guess we're going to Japan." Matt offered, to break the silence. Mello nodded silently.

"We will find Light Yagami. And he will pay. We will avenge L if it's the last thing we do." Near whispered. All three hurried to find Roger, to let him know of their decision.

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Light returned to L's room, seeing the detective curled up in bed even though it was three in the afternoon.

"L? Are you asleep? It's mid-afternoon."

L sat up, blinking sleepily. "I have no concept of time, Light-kun. No window. No clock. I sleep because there is nothing else to do." He smiled, and Light noticed with surprise that the dark circles under his eyes had faded a bit.

"Interesting." Light said. "If you weren't so damn skinny, someone might think you were healthy."

"Light-kun finds my eating habits amusing?" One thumb was carefully raised to his lips to be chewed on absently.

"Light-kun wonders why you don't just die of sugar overdose, and why you are perpetually trying to eat your own thumb." Light snapped back. L actually grinned at the comment.

"So you do want me to die."

"Maybe."

"But you don't want to do it yourself."

"Shut up."

"You're scared without your notebook."

"Shut up!"

"But you…" L never got to finish, for Light had actually grabbed him and was holding a knife to his throat.

"Goddamnit L, I swear that I will slit your throat NOW if you don't stop." Light growled, shaking the detective by the fistful of shirt he held.

L had paled to even whiter than his normal tone, though his face remained calm. "Light-kun, let go of me." He managed to keep his voice even, even though worry danced in his eyes. "Do not do this."

"Why the hell not?" Light demanded. "This was everything that I worked towards for over a year! Having you dead and out of my way! And every time, something was there to screw it up!" The knife shook in his hand.

"Light, please…" L whispered, unable to keep real fear from his voice this time.

Light shook his head. So the bastard can be afraid after all. "Why should I listen? The only time I ever listened led to this!"

L finally realized what he was saying. Somehow, in that moment in the rain when Light claimed he couldn't hear the bells, he had heard something else. He had heard that which, deep in his heart, L wanted, wished for, craved more than anything.

Do not kill me tonight. Please, just let me live.

L blinked, then murmured softly, "How did this happen? You never did tell me how you got me here."

Light took a breath, seemingly to calm himself, and almost smirked. "Rem killed Watari, and was supposed to kill you, but I stopped her. I took the Death Note you had taken from Higuchi and wrote everyone else's name. They were too distracted by the idea that something had happened to Watari to even notice. Then it was a simple matter to take out a hidden needle full of sedative, with something extra for slight amnesia, and knock you out cold. The rest, as they say, is history." He lowered the knife, putting it back in his pocket, and looked away. "Would your precious Beyond have allowed you to live, L?"

L flinched noticeably. "Beyond didn't want to kill me. He wanted to defeat me."

"As do I…" Light muttered. Yet again, he left L with questions he wasn't sure he could answer. L watched him leave, getting up and walking absently over to the mirror. Staring at his own reflection, he chewed on his thumb thoughtfully, thinking to himself.

Ah, Beyond… you didn't want to kill me. You wanted me to chase, but never find you, for the rest of my life. But I'm sure you wouldn't have complained to being able to defeat me in this manner as well. L looked around the near-empty room. What can I do?

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Roger had been thoroughly displeased by the idea of a thirteen-year-old, a fourteen-year-old, and a fifteen-year-old going to Japan by themselves, but after Mello had yelled at him and Near had explained it more than once and Matt had at last lost his temper and thrown a paperweight on Roger's desk through the window, he agreed. So, the three boys found themselves on the soonest flight to Japan that they could. Upon landing, they found a hotel that didn't question their age and settled in.

"So what do we need to do?" Matt asked Near, who was sitting with his bear, thinking.

Near pondered a moment. He counted backwards in his head, finally saying, "L died on the fifth of November. About three weeks ago. We need to figure out what happened at the Kira Case headquarters that day. We need to find out what happened, and if they found any bodies." He glanced up. "Matt? Can you find me the names of anyone who might know what happened? Maybe the chief of police, or something?"

"Sure." Matt nodded. He set his Game Boy down, going to the computer at the desk and turning it on. Near looked at Mello.

"Mello, we need to go over these files again. We need to know everything we can about Light Yagami."

Mello sat down next to Near, pulling the computer into his lap. "From what I saw, he seems like an honor-roll pretty-boy. Useless." He took a bite of chocolate. "But if L suspected him, there had to be a reason."

Several hours later, the Japanese director of police was seated in his office when he received a direct phone call. That didn't happen often. All phone calls went to his secretary first. He answered it, saying in a gruff voice, "Who are you? How did you get this number?"

"I am N." spoke the voice on the other end, computer-distorted. "I am sorry to bother you, Director, but I require answers."

"N? Are you…?"

"I am the successor to L. L is dead, and we are searching for why. Do you recall the fifth of November?"

The director thought a moment. "Yes. Many of my best agents died. They had been working with L on the case."

"Do you have their names?"

"Yes."

"Did you find all of their bodies?"

"The building was on fire, and it was difficult, but yes, I believe so." the director said. "Aizawa, Ide, Matsuda, Mogi, Chief Yagami… Also, a man we identified as Quillsh Wammy that we believe was Watari, and Chief Yagami's son, Light."

The voice on the other end was silent a moment. "Light Yagami?" The computerized voice held doubt.

"Yes. He was caught in the flames and badly burned. Practically unrecognizable. But we have medical confirmation that it was indeed Light Yagami." The director wondered why this "N" was so interested in the Chief's son.

"May I speak with this doctor?" N inquired blandly.

"I'm afraid he died a few days after the incident. Kira probably killed him because of his association with the incident." the director explained.

"Very well, then. There were no other bodies?" The voice of N sounded bothered.

"No. Why?"

"I was merely asking. Thank you, Director. That was… most helpful." There was a click as the line disconnected, and the director stared at his phone in disbelief. What the hell?

Near shut L's laptop, glancing at Mello and Matt.

"Light Yagami is alive." he said firmly.

Matt nodded in agreement. "He probably paid off that doctor to tell them that whoever's body it happened to be was Light Yagami. It was probably someone else that he killed. Then, afterwards, he killed the doctor…"

"…because what the doctor knew could be used to incriminate Yagami as Kira!" Mello finished. Near smirked, Mello grinned, and Matt laughed aloud.

"Got him." Matt proclaimed. "All we need to know is where he's hiding, and we can bring him down."

"Another thing…" Near whispered. Both of the older boys looked at him, before realizing what he was thinking. They stared at each other in silence for a long moment, each unwilling to voice the hope that had suddenly bloomed. Near finally sighed, and said in a small voice, "L was not dead when the building burned. It is safe to assume Light Yagami took him."

Mello blinked. "But we don't know what's happened to him since then… Yagami could have killed him after that."

"Then there are two options." Near said softly, but dangerously. "We find Light Yagami and rescue our big brother, or we find Light Yagami and avenge our brother's death. It all comes down to what has happened these past three weeks."

Mello shot Near a look. "By the way, why did you tell the director that you were the successor to L? We all are, not just you!"

"He wouldn't have listened otherwise, and I didn't want him to know how many of us there are. Kira could find out." Near said calmly, ignoring Mello's outburst. Mello raged silently, going over to flop on the sofa and eat his chocolate bar while seething. Matt grinned, assuming they were done, and resumed playing Game Boy. He was one dungeon away from saving Princess Zelda and the entire damn world, and did not want to wait. All that was left was to find the bastard, after all.

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God how he wanted to kill L and be done with it! Light couldn't figure out his reasoning for leaving the eccentric detective alive, but it was frustrating him to no end. He was sitting in a chair by L's bed, watching the detective sleep. At least it was a normal time, this time. That didn't excuse Light being up at four in the morning, but in his own mind, he had a good reason. He stared at L, noting the even breathing and relaxed expression that indicated that he was truly asleep, and again glanced at the knife in his hand. How easy it would be! To simply slide the blade between his ribs, into his heart. He didn't even have to wake up. Or to slash his wrists, and leave him to bleed to death. Light wanted to laugh. He'd gotten out of far tougher situations than this. He'd tricked the FBI, Naomi Misora… Hell, he'd even tricked L! And now, when the easiest part lay right in front of him… he couldn't do it.

He reached out, letting the point of the knife rest gently against L's side, settling into the faint division between ribs. Easy…

"Kira…?" L murmured faintly, shifting in his sleep. He frowned into the pillow. Light jerked the knife back, but the other didn't wake. L turned over, lying on his stomach and hugging the pillow. He began to chew on the corner of it, mumbling distortedly, "Marshmallow…"

Light bit back a sharp laugh. How odd L's dreams were, if they could go from Kira to marshmallows in less than thirty seconds. He replaced the knife against L's back, staring as the tip snagged his shirt slightly. L shifted again, mumbling something inaudible before pausing. His eyes still closed, he whispered, "If you want to kill me, Kira-kun… Do it."

Light dropped the knife in surprise. L didn't move, though it now lay harmlessly on his back. He didn't try to reach it, or make any attempt to get up. Light delicately retrieved the knife, staring at L. L's obsidian eyes opened halfway, and he smiled sadly.

"Go on, then. It's what you wanted…" he murmured, closing his eyes again. Light couldn't believe it. Everything he'd ever wanted, here in front of him. L had surrendered. L had given up the hope of escape. L had accepted the fact that he was going to die. And yet… Light paused, calculating. If…

"L." he said quietly, fingering the edge of the knife. "Do you want to die?"

"There is nothing left for me to live for." L whispered. "You have killed Watari. You have destroyed the investigation. You plan to keep me here, where I will never see my family, my little brothers, ever again…" And while the notion that L had family was intriguing to Light, he let L continue, "If I am to spend what remains of my life here, it should be as short as possible, right, Light-kun? The sooner you no longer need to worry about me… "

"You believe that death would be better than this?" Light asked. L nodded faintly.

"Anything would be better than knowing how badly I lost."

Light stared at him in amazement. Everything had come to this moment, and yet, when the moment was here, L all but begged for death. Light looked from the knife in his hands to L, the other's eyes closed and face blank, and smirked. He tucked the knife away in a pocket and said coldly, "Then I will not kill you."

L's eyes flew open, and he stared at Light in horror. Light smirked in return, getting up to leave. "Go back to sleep, L."

L sat straight up in bed, his eyes a mix of relief and horror, but mostly pure, burning anger. "You are a hypocrite, Yagami-kun. You punish criminals to spare the innocent and make the world a better place, so you say. Well, you leave free the worst criminal of all! A kidnapper and torturer, hurting another for no more reason than that the individual stood against him and held a different belief! Denying him freedom in any form!"

"Freedom? Is that what you see it as?" Light laughed. "An escape from this prison?" The fury on L's face was just purely comical. "Well then, I can't let you out, can I?"

"Yagami-kun!" L yelled. Light's eyes narrowed.

"WHAT, L? Do you honestly think that I would kill you, when that's what you want???" Light demanded. "Mercy for my worst enemy? No!" He stormed back across the room, seizing the front of L's shirt. "Torture? Maybe! Maybe you'll wake up tomorrow back on that cross!"

L paled, and Light left, laughing wickedly. The detective sat back on the bed, slumping in defeat. There was nothing in this room he could use as a weapon, a lockpick, anything. His only hope was his little brothers.

Near, Mello, Matt…If you're out there, please…

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"Hmm… This is the place!" Near said. He pointed at the image of the building that had appeared on the computer screen. "It was rented out indefinitely by a man who gave his name as Ryuzaki Ryuga."

"Hideki Ryuga!" Matt exclaimed in comprehension.

"Ryuzaki Rue." Mello said bitterly.

"He certainly couldn't give his name as Light Yagami, since Light Yagami is supposed to be dead. So he stole pieces of L's aliases." Near said. "I think we've got him."

"We need a plan." Matt said. Mello said nothing, deep in thought, before looking up to regard them with his green eyes.

"I have an idea, but you might not like it." Mello said. He mumbled something that sounded like, Get the bastard using Ryuzaki's name…

"Mello?" Near was genuinely curious this time. "Why does that name bother you so much?" Mello looked up, his lip curling in disgust.

"I was eight or nine when I knew him. His real name was Beyond Birthday, but he went by Ryuzaki Rue outside of Wammy's House. He was about a year younger than L, and he was next in line to succeed him, after we lost A." He frowned. "He could have been L's twin, though they weren't related. But Beyond wasn't happy being second. He couldn't be the perfect detective with L around, so he tried to be the perfect criminal instead. L caught him in L.A. and locked him up, and started using Ryuzaki as one of his own aliases." Mello paused, staring into nothing for a moment before his eyes widened almost imperceptibly. "If Light Yagami is Kira, then he is responsible for the death of Beyond Birthday."

Near and Matt stared. Matt had been at Wammy's longest, but he had never met the elusive Beyond Birthday. Beyond had spent his time holed up in his room a lot before A died, and had left shortly after. He had run away, something that had never happened in the history of Wammy's House.

Near blinked a bit, finally asking in a soft voice, "What is your plan, Mello?"

"Here." Mello said, leaning close to explain in a hushed voice. When he was through, Matt said slowly, "That's incredibly dangerous. Who…?"

"I will." Near said. "I'd be least suspicious. He doesn't know us, after all, and from looks alone…"

"All right…" It was a reluctant agreement, but they all knew that there was no other way.

About an hour later, they stood on the walk in front of the building, looking up at the seemingly innocent structure and knowing the evil that lurked within.

"Near, are you sure?" Matt asked softly, gripping the younger boy's shoulder lightly. Near nodded, looking from Matt to Mello determinedly.

"If I find him, he'll find the bug on me and destroy it. If the bug is destroyed, wait a half hour and come in after me." Near reviewed the plan methodically out loud. "If I find L…"

"But Near…" Mello said, concerned despite himself. "What if Kira kills you before we get in there?"

"He doesn't know my name, and I doubt he will kill me himself. A murdered child will raise police suspicions." Near said, but his voice trembled slightly. Matt squeezed his shoulder, smiling reassuringly.

"Go get him, Near. We're counting on you."

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L was chipping his initial into the peeling paint on the wall when he heard the crash. He stood, hearing Light yelling obscenities from the next room, and wondered what was going on. Footsteps stormed through the building, followed by the unmistakable sound of shouting, but it was too muffled to make out the words properly. The footsteps returned, and Light walked in dragging the last person L expected to see. His eyes widened, but he said nothing.

Light shoved the boy forward, hissing, "This child tells me he's searching for his big brother. He knocked over a coat rack in the hall downstairs. He was wearing a bug. What have you done, L?" Light's voice was low and dangerous.

Near's eyes were wide. So this was Kira. But he stared at his big brother, and was happier than he could have ever been. L was alive. He had been right. L took a step forward, holding out his arms. "Light-kun, let go of him. Please."

Light released his grip on Near's arm, and the white-haired boy stumbled forward into L's embrace. L hugged him tightly, whispering, "What are you doing here, Near?"

Near clung to him. "Looking for you. We figured out you were here. I wouldn't let Mello and Matt put themselves in danger. They didn't come." Half-truth. Near wasn't lying, not really.

L looked back up at Light, who was watching with a barely-concealed smirk. "Apparently my little brother found it appropriate to come looking for me." he said quietly. "He is very bright, and was probably wearing the bug to record any information he happened upon, to be analyzed later. He has said that my other brothers did not come with him, and I believe him. They would not have allowed him into a potentially dangerous situation like this alone if they were here."

Light frowned. "Very well. He will not be allowed to leave. If you try anything, he will die first, L." He left and locked them in again. Near hugged L tightly around the waist.

"We knew you didn't die in the building, but we were scared he had killed you after…" he whispered.

L hushed him, asking in a soft whisper, "Mello and Matt are here, aren't they?"

"Yes. They're coming in a half-hour to get me, because he destroyed the bug. But they don't know you're here too."

L smiled. "Knowing them, they will shoot first and ask questions later. We just might get out of this alive."

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It was twenty minutes before Light returned. He smiled in an almost kindly fashion, saying only, "Near, your name was? Come here a moment."

Near glanced at L, who looked slightly worried, before hesitantly stepping forward. Logic dictated that he should stay away from the murderer, but there was really no other choice, and they didn't know what Kira would do if they refused him.

Light raised an eyebrow as he came closer, reaching out and taking his arm in a tight hold. Near tried to pull away on reflex, but froze as a knife pressed to his neck. It was the very knife Light had used to threaten L with, just a short time ago.

L's eyes had gone wider than Light had believed possible, and the horror in them seemed to drown everything else out. Light chuckled, saying with a smirk, "Here we have it, L. Checkmate."

"Light-kun, do not stoop to the level of threatening innocent children." L said, his bland voice barely hiding the fear he felt. "It is not becoming of someone who claims to stand for Justice."

"Shut up, L." Light said. He chuckled wickedly. "One of you is going to die today. Tell me your name, and I will free the boy. He will be allowed to leave unharmed. Refuse, and I will kill him, and you will remain locked away here to starve to death. I won't come back again."

Near, to his credit, stayed perfectly calm, but his eyes were wide with shock and fear. L looked from Light to Near, and back again, seemingly frozen in the moment. He took a deep breath, saying softly, "Light-kun, you want my name to write in the Death Note. You don't want to kill me yourself. Why, then, should I believe that you will kill a child who has done no wrong?"

Light actually laughed. Not a wicked chuckle, or some sort of insane laughter, but a true, amused laugh. He smiled at L, shaking his head. "Don't you understand? I'm past that. I finally came to the realization that if I wanted to be God, truly, I could fear nothing. I don't want your name for the Death Note. I want to be able to call you by your name when I kill you."

Near visibly tensed, and both child and mentor paled to chalk-white. L's eyes were bigger than any normal person should ever be able to achieve. This was it. There was no way out. He couldn't stall much longer, and if he told Light his name, the boy would kill him. But if he didn't… Near…

"My name…" L breathed softly. "My name, Light-kun… My name is L Lawliet."

Light looked incredulous. "L is your actual first name?"

"Yes, Light-kun. L Lawliet." Lawliet. It felt good to say it out loud, for the first time in god only knows how long of not being able to even think it. Lawliet. Lawliet. LawlietLawlietLawliet…

Light smirked. "Well then, L Lawliet… You are going to die." He seemed about to say something else, when the door burst open and Matt stood there, cigarette in mouth and gun in hand.

"Let him GO, you ass." Matt said, at first only seeing Light and Near. Then his eyes fell on L, and he drew a sharp breath. "L!"

"Matt!" Near cried. Matt could see in his wide onyx eyes the question he didn't dare ask out loud: Where is Mello?

"He's here…" Matt murmured, both in amazement over L being alive, and in response to Near's unspoken question. He looked up at Light again, hatred burning in his eyes as he pulled up his goggles to rest against his forehead. "Did you hear me? Let him go."

Light gripped the knife tighter. "Put the gun down, or I'll kill him."

Matt glared back. "I'll drop the gun if you let him go."

Light pondered a moment. Slowly, he removed the knife from in front of Near's neck. Matt lowered the gun. Near ran to L, and Matt dropped the gun and went to them as well, kicking the weapon out the door as he went. He embraced both, before turning back to face Light.

"Now what?" he said, a laugh in his voice.

Light smiled. "Now L will die, and maybe you as well, simply for being so irritating." He brandished the knife lazily. "You have no defense."

A soft click sounded from the doorway. Light turned to find a blond boy, holding both Matt's gun and a second gun, and managed to gasp, "What?!?"

"Mello…" L said softly.

Mello stared at Light. He raised both guns, tipping one slightly to the right. "Yagami…" he said slowly. "You kidnapped our big brother, and threatened to kill him. You threatened Near. I can't forgive you for that." Matt, seeing Mello's actions, grabbed Near around the shoulders and L by the arm and dragged them out of the way, to the right.

L realized what Mello was going to do. "Mello, no. Let the law…"

"I'm sorry, L. But I can't listen to you this time." Mello hissed. He aimed, firing only two shots. Both were fatal, but were just enough that he wouldn't die quickly. He would be in pain for at least a few minutes.

L walked over to Light, kneeling over the fallen angel, who had tried to surpass a true God.

"Light-kun." he said softly. "I didn't want you to be Kira. I meant what I said. You were my first and only friend."

Light's eyes were clouded with pain, but they softened somewhat. "L Lawliet… I never would have guessed…" He shuddered slightly. "I think… I think you were my only friend as well. Even when I… hated you. Even when I wanted… to win." His eyes closed. "I wanted a perfect world… L… Was that so much to ask…?"

"It wasn't your place, Light-kun." L reached out and brushed some of his chestnut hair out of his eyes. "I'm sorry it came to this."

"Yeah…" Light breathed. He took a final, shuddering breath and was still.

L stood, looking over at Mello, Matt, and Near. Standing, he opened his arms, and all three raced forward to hug him. Near latched onto his waist, Mello his ribs, and Matt his left arm. He ruffled Near's hair lightly with his free hand, asking, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah…" Near murmured against L's stomach. "I'm fine."

"You're alive…" Mello said, still almost disbelieving.

"I wouldn't be if it weren't for you three." L said. "That was unbelievably brave."

"We couldn't let him kill you." Mello replied. "It was Near's idea."

"It was Mello's plan to get in here."

"It was Matt's idea to have me wait."

L listened to them going back and forth for a minute, then laughed softly. "And it was my idea to make all three of you my successors, and have you work together."

"Really!?!" Three excited voices erupted at once, and L smiled fondly. "Yes. Come on, let's go home."

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Several weeks later found L at Wammy's House, sitting around with his three brothers. Mello and Matt were playing Mario Kart, and Near was curled against L's side, reading. L himself was going over the case notes of a new case. Erald Coil would have no problem with it. He set the sheaf of papers down, glancing around the room. Matt was laughing as Mello finally defeated him on a course; the hardest one, Rainbow Road, no less. Near was completely absorbed in his book.

Roger hadn't been too mad. In fact, he had been ecstatic to learn that L was still alive. There had been no punishment for the three's reckless actions. L had decided that, since Watari was dead, he would stay at Wammy's House. He set up a secure number for callers, and asked Roger to serve as the new Watari. He vowed to Mello, Near, and Matt that he wouldn't leave again, unless a case demanded it.

L closed his eyes, allowing his mind to drift to the Kira Case. He finally understood Light Yagami's fatal mistake, mere weeks ago. He may have been L's first and only friend, but these boys were L's family, and there was nothing on this earth that mattered more than that. Not Light, not even Justice.

It was getting late, and L was amused to see that Near had gone to sleep against him. Mello and Matt climbed onto the couch on his other side, getting comfortable as well.

"We're glad you're staying here, L." they said sleepily.

L smiled.

"Yes." he said, completely honest. "I am too."

DNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDNDN

So there we have it. Was it crap?

Everyone who has heard of, knows, or loves Beyond Birthday, high five! He's such a loveable psychopath. (smiley)

This was probably spawned from my love of L, and the unfairness of his death. What did L have, truly? His job, Watari, Mello, Near, Matt, and his "first and only friend". Light took all of that. He wrecked the investigation, he got Watari killed, and he ultimately betrayed the person who saw him as a friend. So unfair to my L-kun...

Eight thousand words. Damn. I'm shocked.
Li