to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human

prose and stand before you speechless and intel-

ligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet con-

fessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm

of thought in his naked and endless head,

the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown,

yet putting down here what might be left to say

in time come after death,

and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in

the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the

suffering of America's naked mind for love into

an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone

cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio

with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered

out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand


Mr Finch turns over in bed, and the first thing he sees is, as usual, the mask on his bedside table.

He couldn't catch the man, but then, he didn't want to. So he walked for him instead, and that is enough for him. He is a part of the new government and he is more at peace than he has ever been in his entire life.

Chapter Twenty Two

May 30th

The Hague

The Netherlands

There'll be a two hour break, announces someone near the judge, and Near sighs in relief, reaching to straighten his tie, then wraps his fingers through his hair. He's been wanting to all afternoon, but fiddling while presenting his case would demonstrate nervousness, which is something he cannot afford. For all that Adam Sutler is guilty, he is still a powerful man, and Near cannot present his case with anything less than impeccability.

Even if he could get away with it, he feels like it would be wrong. It would be unfair to Gordon, for one thing, and to everyone else who died, and most of all to Evey. She sits in the back of the courtroom every day, he can feel her eyes on him. They don't speak, he doesn't acknowledge her presence, but he knows she's there.

Near ducks into the washroom before the reporters can corner him, and nearly starts at the sight of himself. He's in a dark blue suit, and a dark patterned tie. His hair is trimmed fashionably, and is out of his eyes. He still looks far too young to be doing this; the council for the defense attorney is grey haired and prestigious.

But L insisted, and when have any of them ever denied L anything he wanted? And besides, he's going to be twenty soon. It doesn't hurt for him to do some growing up. He washes his hands, and then his face, and towels it off carefully, before turning to head back out into the hall.

The most important evidence by far was Delia's journal, and try as they might to cast doubt upon it, everyone in the room felt how important it was as Near explained it, page by page. The little red book, and the photographs Mello took, projected up on the wall, of mass graves and destroyed buildings, of empty cells and restraints, and cracked tiles in showering rooms.

No one takes kindly to concentration camps, and even Sutler, with his damnable cockiness and irritating poise had flinched.

At least, Near still thought, it wasn't Creedy giving testimony. The man's body had been found in the aftermath of what people were already calling 'the revolution.' Near was more than a little bit glad to hear he wouldn't have to let the man off for what he'd done. He was most certainly not going to tell L that, of course. But then, L probably knew, he usually tended to.

He knew it was coming, but it was still somehow surprising to be confronted by the multitude of flashbulbs, the moment he stepped out into the hallway.

"Mister Gordon," Nathan Gordon, was the name he practiced law under, he hadn't asked Evey what she thought about it, but he didn't really think it was her right to say yes or no, so it didn't trouble him too much, "How's the case going?"

"Very well, thank you, Miss Miller," he replies, with a faultlessly polite smile. The reporter blushes, the others around her laugh and more cameras go off. He has become known for remembering the names of the people who harass him. It proves a lot more difficult to follow someone who asks you politely and by name not to.

He also indulges them by stopping to answer their questions occasionally. Now, he supposes is as good a time as any.

"I have five minutes, ladies and gentlemen, but then I really do need some lunch." He lets a little bit of his distress show and gets an easy laugh from them. Mello has not stopped teasing him about his hidden charisma since the whole trial began. Near replied, very calmly, that knowing what to do was very simple, and it was only a question of doing it.

"You are in the employ of the infamous L?" a man asks him, and Near resists the urge to roll his eyes. They've been over this.

"L cooperated in this investigation, so of course we overlap to some degree. A lot of the evidence I present he gathered, but my work here is nothing to do with his organization, aside from the help he gave us." And this is even true. The two branches are technically separate, Near just happens to be a part of both of them, and to essentially do whatever L wants him to, ninety nine percent of the time.

Oh well, the press don't need to know this.

"Have you ever had face to face contact with L?" another reporter asks, excitedly. Ever since Kira, the detective's name has become a rather public one, and a source of great interest to a lot of people. Near just smiles in the direction of that reporter, in a wistful way.

"I don't think I'm that good a lawyer, Mr Jameson."

Truthfully, a couple of years ago, he would never have imagined himself capable of this sort of thing. But they all laugh, again, and the sound reassures him.

"What do you think about the allegations against L?" someone asks, and he blinks in their direction, this time in real consternation.

"I'm not familiar with them," he admits, letting his voice sound a little bit curious. He can't betray too much, technically he has no real position on L, but as Near he wants to know very badly.

"That L is playing God by interfering in country politics, and that he's no better than Kira."

Near lets that one wash over him for a long, startled moment. It's hard, because it's close enough to the truth that he knows L has wondered about it, worried about it, tossed and turned it over in his mind.

"I don't mean to resort to emotional hits to win my arguments," he begins slowly, "but I... let me say this. I haven't presented our entire case yet, but I have prepared it. And whatever people think, I am grateful. A lot of people have died, and more would have. I know that L had nothing to do with the revolution that took place, but it's because of his or her work that we're able to prosecute the ex-Chancellor today."

Reporters around him are writing furiously. When did he get this good at sounding so pathetically normal?

"I for one see nothing wrong with that. Well then." He makes his hasty escape.

Someone follows him up the hallway towards the cafeteria, and he turns to ask them to leave, with a little bit more irritation in his face. But it turns out it's Evey.

Well, he deflates almost immediately, of course, and smiles at her.

"You're really scary," is the first thing she says, pushing her hair over her shoulder, nervously. Near blinks at her, a little bit owlishly, but he does know what she means.

"You were always so young looking," she tries to explain, and he cuts her off with a short nod.

"I know. I do need to eat, Evey." Her face falls. It's been months, and he can tell she's nervous. "But if you'd like to join me you're welcome."

She does. They walk side by side down the hall, and even though he acts taller, his legs are still a little shorter than hers, and he still has to look up a bit to meet her eyes.

"You seem so different," she observes, as he pulls out the chair for her at the lunch table, brusque and gentlemanly, because this is the world he needs to live in now. It sounds like it sort of frightens her. It frightens him too, a lot of the time, but he's a genius, isn't he? And if L can be captured by a terrorist for a year, and if Matt can drive around shooting things up and if Mello can help blow up parliament, then surely he can play his part, too.

Her smile turns a lot more open when his fingers curl back into his hair while he orders.

Well, he's not sorry.

These sorts of things take forever. Major international trials always do and always will, especially when the media is involved. This means hours of work for Near every day for weeks and then months.

L hobbles through the first part of the case on crutches, making life miserable for everyone around him by moving at terrible, suicidal high speeds. He is out of the habit of asking people to bring him sweets, and for the first time they all wish that he would.

Mello says he's going to break more than his ankle, and Matt threatens to drug his tea until he agrees to go live in Wammy's, because they at least have an elevator and his apartment has stairs up the front steps that he almost topples down once or twice. He does, but doesn't sleep in the room he shared with Light.

He starts solving cases the way you play with a rubix cube. Absently and constantly, with the news on in the background, following England and the Netherlands, for any sign of either Near or... well. It's good for him, he knows, he can feel. He's in desperate need of the rest, and even he has noticed that his health has become poor, recently. He starts sleeping on and off, at Matt's steadfast insistence, and lets them make him eat 'real food' on occasion.

"You can't turn thirty and expect to go on year long crusades toppling totalitarian states and breaking bones and not sleeping or eating and still just bounce back," Matt explains, firmly, "None of us are fifteen any more."

Only they could be twenty and past their prime. What a strange subculture they inhabit.

Near writes.

V, obviously, doesn't.

L wishes the cast would come off faster, and then decides abruptly he can't wait any more, and one day is on a plane back to England, without telling Matt or Mello or Near where he's going. He doesn't need to, it's pretty easy to guess.

V follows the case too, watching Near and reflecting on the fact that he is the one he never really got to know. He watches for signs of L, and finds him, here and there. He steers his new government into power, and starts the ball rolling very nicely if he says so himself. He tends his roses.

Matt and Mello race each other to their birthdays, and Mello wins again. They fly to the Netherlands to spend the day with Near, walking and laughing through foreign streets, old and finally being young.

Finch becomes a powerful government official. He insists on establishing the new government as a democracy. V wishes he'd had a chance to meet him, he thinks he might have liked the man. He's assassinated in late September by militant protesters, sparking outcry in all of England. The man who replaces him is another honest one, who was his assistant for a long time, and who Matt once punched in a news station. At the memorial, he talks about causes, and how when a man is a part of an idea, he lives forever.

Evey stays on in the Netherlands most of the time. She starts stammering and blushing around Near a lot, who's fairly sure he isn't interested and doesn't make a move, but does think about it sometimes. She's beautiful, and he's aware that biologically he's at a point where his body... but he doesn't say anything and she eventually goes back to Wammy's.

L moves back into his apartment in London, and waits patiently for a sign. V will send him one, he thinks, hopes, prays, knows. He must know he's here.

V does, but the whole ending was too... not right for him to go rushing to L right away. He doesn't think he's ever going to, to be honest, until finally, he reads 1984. It's both wonderful and disappointing, and beautiful and frightening and it reduces him to helpless, irrational tears in the darkness of his stifling sanctuary.

L gets the message less than a day later. He isn't sure if he's glad, or just nervous, or curious as to why it took so long. The paper is slipped underneath his door, and bending to pick it up with a broken ankle is an irritating ordeal to say the least, but he makes do.

Under the spreading chestnut tree,

When will that be?

It names a date, in four days time.

And if Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements, and L wanted to know when V would pay him and the answer was when he grew rich at the bells of shoreditch, then when will that be will be I do not know, says the big bell of Bow. L's brain goes off like scattershot fireworks in all directions, and he has to eat an entire box of sugary cereal over the course of three hours spent curled up on his couch watching Basil Rathbone before he can think straight.

The Great Bell of Bow is the bell of the church of St Mary-le-Bow, which is just off Cheapside, in London. V could probably have just knocked here, and L would have let him in, but then, L sort of owes V a tremendous amount, and if V wants to play the game in riddles that they both know the answer to, then who is he to complain?

It isn't difficult to travel through London. He passes various masked people in the streets, most of them with V's face still, worn like a fashionable article of clothing; the latest in a style of hats. L, maskless and slouched and barefoot and foreign, stands out some, and he gets an odd look or two, because no matter how big the explosion was, some things do not change overnight. But not enough for him to be stopped.

This time, when he gets to the church, V is there first. L sees him sitting the moment he comes in, facing the altar, more as if in repose than in prayer. Belying his restful appearance, V inclines his head the instant L hobbles into the room. He is ever watchful, and his hearing is still as acute as ever.

L moves in, making his way slowly, and then V stands and turns and L gives him a wild, mad, giddy grin of blinding, unexpected joy, thankfulness, regret, hope, childishness, mutual understanding, frustration and a thousand other things all at once that make V bark out a sharp, relieved laugh.

"Near's winning," is the first thing the detective says, crossing the room in easy strides. He looks a little older, V can't help but notice.

"I know," he replies, "he's good. You must be very proud. Your foot is broken?"

"You did leave me on the ceiling," L reminds him, "I wasn't going to stay up there."

V forgot, of course, to factor in L's suicidal determination when he played out how the evening would go.

"I read—" V starts to say, and L nods, because he knows what the chestnut tree was a reference to. He thinks of Winston and Julia's final meeting, of them looking at each other, and both knowing that they have sold each other out.

"Thank you." He never got a chance to say this, before, with the blood and chloroform and bombs. "And I'm glad that you were right."

"I am sorry about your ankle," V replies, a little bit ruefully, and L knows that he is at least in part forgiven for stealing V's prize, even though it came as a gift. He wonders if he should admit to accidentally knocking himself out. But it's too embarrassing to even think about.

Maybe much, much later.

"What are you going to do now?" V asks, gloved hand curling around the back of one of the wooden seats. The bells above them begin to ring; it's one am. L waits for the tolling to stop before he answers.

"That depends on whether you mind company." V's fingers tap out a rhythm. L can tell he's imagining the piano.

"Yours?" V questions, "For how long?"

L shrugs. A surprisingly awkward affair with the crutches and all. He can be L from anywhere. Secret chambers underneath London are included.

"Alright," replies V, "then we'd best be off."

Simple as that, well, as simple as a year's fight can be, they go.