In a small featureless room is hidden the world's greatest secret.
L looks through the thin wire mesh of the window and might feel pity for it, if he didn't regard it as entirely deserving of the fate that has befallen it.
Statue still, eyes empty and unfocussed, Kira smiles.
Every newspaper spread the story; a man and a woman, names unknown, tried in private hearings and convicted of being Kira and the second Kira. The woman, the second Kira, sentenced to the gentle punishment of life imprisonment.
(Light made it excruciatingly clear to L that if he sentenced Misa to death he also sentenced himself. Sometimes he wishes he hadn't said anything. Sometimes he wonders how she is.)
The man, Kira, sentenced to death.
(What a beautiful lie for the ignorant masses, and how he wishes he had been.)
When it came down to it, Light chose his friend, chose L over his Justice. He knew he should have listened to Kira when L told him that he would not be executed but sent to a psychiatric hospital.
(Welcome to Arkham, the nurse who greeted him had joked, smiling, and Light had automatically started revising his escape plans to accommodate the fact that he was somewhere in America without papers or passport, and it took him three interminable weeks to stop moving stop talking stop planning helplessly.)
At his secret trial that did not happen Aizawa said, may god have mercy on your soul.
At his secret trial that did not happen (at least, not like the world imagines) Light laughed until he was gasping for air and the task force looked more fearful than infuriated.
Anything was better than screaming.
Strychnine is a poison. It has no colour and is a crystalline powder with a bitter taste – one of the most bitter in the world. It is a component of the dog button plant that has fruit that resembles small oranges. The ash grey seeds contain the most poison. Ingested, the first symptoms are a stiff neck and face, followed by muscular convulsions and eventual death through asphyxia or sheer exhaustion.
Defeat, Light thinks, is strychnine.
Kira is not defeated. Light conceded the main game, certainly, but Kira is still playing, petty and pointless as the field now open to him is. Light has been defeated, has fallen and broken. Light is only human.
The bitter poison taste is merely – merely! – humiliation, and there is an antidote.
Kira will not let the taste of humiliation become the taste of defeat.
The room is ten paces, wall to wall. There is a bed, a toilet and a sink. Everything is white, white, white, and once he could have described everything to the last minuscule detail, from the size of the single window in the north wall to the number of potential tools to be culled from the bolted furniture.
There's no point, so he doesn't. He catalogues everything anyway because he can't stop.
He is not tortured. The antiseptic smell of the medical wing provokes no learned response. He feels no fear when he hears the distinctive clicking of the doctor's shoes against the shining scrubbed floor. His scars, fresh and pink against his slowly whitening skin, are not made with surgical instruments.
Kira sits cross-legged on Light's bed, head bowed as it never was even when he confessed, eyes half-closed as he contemplates the thin sliver of monotonous non-colour beneath his eyelids. He thinks fleetingly of L, so self-righteously white.
(It will not be long until I send you to die.)
But it is, because the game is over for Yagami Light, and yet he is still alive, withering away anonymously in the indifferent care of L's chosen institution. Death he could handle, he expected, but this? Oh, L knows just how to hurt. Kira would admire it, if it weren't him, if he wasn't watching his own sanity splinter as the universe shrinks around him to four blank walls, the world leached of everything that made it worth killing for.
This wasn't how the game was supposed to go, they'd both known from the beginning that the stakes for the unwary, the foolish misstep, was death.
Living with failure was not part of the plan.
"Why?" L says, black eyes like clenched fists, ready to hit. His hands are open. "Why did you give up?"
Light laughs open-mouthed and breathless. He closes his eyes for a second, a flicker of thin skin across his deadly gaze, lifts his head and smiles Kira's razor-bladed smile and mouths the word why back to L, over and over. L's open hands close and clench.
Idiot, Kira says pleasantly.
Of course you don't know, Light says, the words tinged seven different colours (hate, anger, grief, amusement, acceptance, exasperation and something he no longer admits to feeling).
"Tell me," he hisses. It's hard to believe Light ever thought L's eyes were black, he decides. L's eyes are a thunderstorm.
Just who do you think you are, Light asks incredulously.
God, answers Kira, and circles his scarred wrist to see if his action is replicated. It is.
"You won't ever get out of here," L says after a moment. The silence would be oppressive to anyone else, but they are both adept at carrying the weight and silence of secrets.
Are you threatening me? Kira wonders, and lets the question show fleetingly on his face.
What else can you possibly do to me? Light says. Light thinks that defeat is bitter on his tongue, defeat is strychnine, because L is a person to Light, not an object an obstacle an opposing chess player, and what L has done to Light is unforgivable. What L has done to Kira was all they expected.
L takes a breath. Light wonders if it shakes with rage or frustration. "Why are you still here," L asks, and it takes Light an embarrassingly long minute to realise he's talking to Ryuk.
"Who, me?" Ryuk flips himself the right way up and leans close enough to L that he could probably see himself reflected in Ryuk's yellow eyes. "It's the rules. The shinigami must stay with the owner of the notebook until the day they die."
"But the notebook is in my possession," L demurs, and Light, staring blankly at the long line of his throat, smiles darkly.
"You're just looking after it," Ryuk says. "Light's still the owner. There are three ways you could take ownership, though, if you want it so badly." He reaches out, places a clawed finger an inch away from L's eye. "Don't see why you would, you can still use it to kill without owning it."
"Weeeell. If you kill Light with the notebook, you become the owner. If Light dies and you're the first to touch the notebook afterwards, you become the owner. And if Light hasn't touched it or killed anyone with it in 490 days he'll lose his memory and his ownership and if you're the first to touch it you become the owner. There."
They stare at each other for a long time, Ryuk and L, and Light stares at L's throat and imagines the blood throbbing there.
"Don't even think about killing Light." Ryuk warns. "I've already promised; his name is going down in my notebook."
Light detects something a little like anger in L's expression, but the thought is ludicrous so he drops his gaze once more and tries to remember the names of the muscles in the neck. "I would never," he says, and Light thinks he might hate L then.
"No?" Ryuk says with surprise too genuine to be real. "You'd be doing him a favour. Oh wait…" he sniggers, closing his clawed hands about L's head, bringing his face in close enough to see the tiny creases in Ryuk's leathery skin. "…that's why you won't, isn't it?" he throws his head back and laughs, flinging L away like rotten apple core.
L looks over to Light, and if Light concentrates his can see the tiny red lines where Ryuk has held him, tiny red lines that begin to waver and slip, little droplets of blood beginning their slow descent from Ryuk's claw marks down L's face to pool in the hollow of his throat.
Light closes his eyes and shuts L out of the world. After two hours of stillness, L leaves.
How to Use: The person in possession of the DEATH NOTE is possessed by a god of death, its original owner, until they die.
Light is still the owner of two notebooks, one buried beneath the earth with a corner missing, Kira's defiant fuck you to the part of him that had been so foolish as to give himself up to L's non-existent mercy.
On full-moon nights the room is lit up eerie and blue and empty like his life. Kira buries himself deep. Light twitches helplessly, aborted movements spilling from him like apples from trees, like poison from a snake's fangs. But patient K7193 is catatonic.
Ryuk wraps his elongated limbs around him. Light closes his eyes and presses himself tight against the centre of the universe, breathing deeply the scent of spoiled fruit and dry bone, dust and distance.
Face buried against a shinigami's shoulder, Light dreams Kira's dreams.
Kira knows the rules of the Death Note inside out, forwards, backwards, upside down and every which way he can possibly imagine. Kira knows the Death Note intimately. For Kira, sex is the palest echo of the stroke of pen against paper, his lover's heartbeat a poor imitation of a clock's ticking – his mind whites out with the sound of bodies hitting the floor.
Kira is not human. That is why he is caged like an animal. Kira is not a Death God. There is nothing of Ryuk's indifference in Kira's killing.
Kira dreams of scenarios, possibilities, things that could happen if his mind were not spiralling down into places that served no purpose. Kira dreams of the wind in his overlong hair, the earth beneath his bare feet. Kira dreams of the Note in his hands, the smell of paper that feels like skin as he hugs it to him as he would once have held his little sister after a nightmare. Kira does not dream of pens but daggers – needles – quills – names written with blood that smells like L, like sugar and strychnine.
Name after name after name. The human body contains nine pints of blood.
Alone in the ashes of the world he would laugh with Ryuk. What he would do with L he still doesn't know. He hasn't yet been able to conceive of something ruthless enough to equal what L did with his own victory. But he is the human a shinigami could take lessons from. He's seen L in action. He'll think of something.
I hate you, Light thinks, staring at him through the wired mesh of the door's window. The words are unfamiliar; they taste like ink and fit in his mouth in his mind like a rotten apple core, they flash notebook-black across the inside of his mind, his labyrinthine mind that is unravelling day by day.
I hate you, Light thinks. Light thinks it. Kira merely nods in agreement. The part of him he didn't know he had until he met L flickers, dims, goes out. For the first time he understands that Kira has nothing – nothing – on him when it comes to hating L.
"I just want to understand," L lies.
Light shakes his head, and it hurts, the twist of muscles, the ache of his unbalanced mind filling his heavy skull. He doesn't say anything. There aren't any words. Light's breathtaking silver tongue, L might as well have cut it out when he sentenced him to this institution instead of killing him as the rules of their game demanded. There wasn't supposed to be an alternative.
L broke the rules, and this is one of the few things Kira has left to deny him.
L's hands, curled tight and furious, skin stretched white over bone. "Talk to me," he demands, and Light says nothing, stares at him blankly as if he wonders what this emotional creature has to do with him and his little world. "Damn you, Kira," L whispers, spinning away and walking at a pace one step removed from a run, and Light finds the emotional reserves to be insulted that he thinks Kira is the only part of Light capable of petty resistance.
"Damn you, L," Light whispers when L is long gone, but his voice is raspy and broken and less than a whisper. Light who had a liar's voice, slick and beautiful and oh-so charming. He couldn't stand for L to hear it and know for certain just how much damage he has done.
Ryuk cackles softly from where he sits cross-legged on the ceiling. Light's eyes drift to the notebook strapped to his leg. Ryuk follows his gaze and laughs louder. Too quick, he tells Ryuk with the tilt of his head, the loosening of his body, the blankness of his eyes. Far too quick.
Apple-starved eyes meet dead human ones in silent accord.
There was a prince, a little night god. And he had everything. He was denied nothing. Even Death bowed to him.
But there was one thing the prince did not have, and one person who did not bow.
Entranced, the prince drew closer and closer. Too close. The man who would not bow and held the only thing the prince did not have, turned, thrust a knife into his heart.
Down fell the prince.
Time passes, time crawls, time becomes something to endure. Kira remembers how it stretched out before him, so finite, something he had to outrun in his attempt to reshape the imperfect world to his high standards.
Ryuk twists, turns, whines with black lips drawn back from needle sharp teeth. "Apple," he pants against Light's ear as he reaches out and scores a fresh set of lines down Light's body, crossways from left shoulder to right hip.
Light pretends not to know that Ryuk is well over his apple withdrawal, that he is in that halfway stage where he is 'clean' of his addiction, but would fall if the opportunity were available.
Ryuk pretends not to know that Light arcs into his touch, desperate for the reassurance that someone other than himself exists in this drab white world.
Light pretends not to know Ryuk enjoys touching him, scarring him – seeing his reaction, the way his body will put itself back together slowly with infinite patience. It's not as interesting as before, naturally, but there's no longer a visible outlet for Ryuk to watch Light's vast death-obsessed mind through.
Ryuk pretends he does it to see how Light can hurt and heal, not to keep Light from sinking so far into himself he can no longer find his way out again.
The nurses treat his injuries but no notes are made regarding self-mutilation. They like Patient K7193, who was polite and charming, if withdrawn, when he was first admitted. Anna, the nurse he last spoke to, made them swear not to write what he dreams of. None of them want him to get the wrong kind of attention from the directors, poor lamb, and medical records have an odd tendency to go missing anyway.
"I don't know why I keep coming here," L admits on his seventh visit.
Kira thinks L is being deliberately obtuse. Of course he knows why he comes – he keeps coming back to Light because his victory is empty, because Light gave up the game, and he needs to crack Light's bones between his teeth and suck the marrow before he'll be even remotely satisfied with his 'win'.
"Why won't you talk?"
Kira smiles, a gentle curving of the lips that ought to belong to Light, and his eyes glitter. Desperation chases helplessness chases fury across L's blank face.
Light hasn't been around for a while. The blank walls, the bolted furniture. His mind running faster and faster to nowhere, spinning round and round, cataloguing everything to no purpose simply for something to do. Always the knowledge that L has done this to him is buried in his skin like the glass shards of his sanity.
Kira can take it. L is nothing personal to Kira. Kira thrives on the challenge, the feel of L's mind threaded in things that have no relevance, the feel of L's mind, trying to break him. Kira is stronger than Light.
The one time he wasn't -
Well. Look where he was.
"I-" L begins and then closes his mouth and doesn't finish.
Are you sorry? wonders Kira, smelling weakness like a shark smells blood. He turns away so Light doesn't see it.
Light had never been especially connected to his body. He took care of it the way he would anything, groomed it to sleek empty perfection because his body too was a weapon in his arsenal, just as his mind was, and it made no sense to sharpen one and let the superficial, socially important other rust. His looks were something he used, his body merely an organic machine he could manipulate according to his will, the same as he would use a calculator, a computer. It was just something to keep his vast mind in.
Now he cannot escape it. He feels the heaviness of his limbs, feels his skin like paper, his blood like ink, his scars like calligraphy. His eyes like empty mirrors.
His formerly beautiful, terribly perfect human body. He cannot escape it. He catalogues it instead, the one thing in his stable unchanging world that is capable of variation. Fascinating, the bones beneath his skin, how starkly visible they now are; fascinating, the texture of his skin, the ache in his atrophying muscles, the winding scars made by a creature that epitomises all Light once was. Fascinating, depressing, there's little difference.
How thou art fallen, O Lucifer son of the morning!
Light. Written with the kanji for night, god and moon. Light, pronounced like the English word that has nineteen meanings and countless synonyms.
The suns bursting into glorious furious life within his hands. His shadow deepening darkening under his own brilliant presence.
L has taken colour and texture and sound and taste from him, his perfect world ashes in his mouth. Everything is so flat, everything is so empty, it's all so grey, and when he was killing the world was bright and brilliant, and how could he possibly – why did Light choose L over that?
This is the answer to the fall: the one thing the prince did not have was love. The person who would not bow was L.
There. Wasn't that obvious?
When Ryuk leaves early one morning, Light feels himself break – finally – feels himself splinter, shatter. At midday he stops hoping and weeps silently and helplessly, face pressed against the cold wall, hating himself for the scalding tears against his cheeks.
Kira, god of the new world, same as the old.
Ryuk returns in the middle of the night (a night, because Light couldn't tell how much time had passed), several sheets of innocuous lined paper clutched in his fist. "Thought you might like at least part of your property back," he says innocently as Light laughs until he begins to choke, bringing up thin bile that burns his throat.
He wonders if Ryuk's sudden exploitation of loopholes has anything to do with the fact that nearly 490 days have passed since he last touched either notebook, last killed, that he is two weeks away from losing his ownership and his memory.
And how that would destroy him, to wake confined and helpless and confused, completely unknowing of why he was caged, to wake and not realise just how much further he could fall with unwitting protests to everyone who passed of his innocence, of not understanding, of not being Kira, who died over a year ago.
He thinks of L, of the notebook still under his lock and key, remembers Misa, and might laugh if only he could remember why.
"Do something interesting," Ryuk says, grin widening impossibly as he offers a pen.
Light's dreams are filled with colour, with a vividness that is so unlike the place he inhabits when awake. This is how he knows he's dreaming Kira. Kira dreams in colour; Light's dreams are whisper-thin and faded sepia. They crumble before Kira's vibrancy, just as his life did.
"Time's nearly up, Light." Ryuk says quietly, and Light blinks once to acknowledge Ryuk's statement. He's kept careful count of the days, they both have.
How to Use XII: If you lose the DEATH NOTE or have it stolen, you will lose its ownership unless you retrieve it within 490 days.
"What do you think they'll do?" Ryuk wonders, and pulls a loose feather from his shoulder. "When they discover they have Kira in their institution? That's the first thing you'll do, right? Start protesting that you're not Kira? And…" he adds, twisting the knife in deeper, like it matters any more, "…it'll be true, won't it? You won't be Kira then, you'll just be Light, punished for something you didn't do, broken into itsy little pieces for something you don't remember."
"It's almost shinigami-like in its cruelty," Light agrees in his broken voice, eyebrows rising, smile twisting, body centring to express approval of L's unmitigated cruelty.
"Nah, it's human," Ryuk points out. "All we do is kill you."
"That's right," Light sighs. "When will you do it, Ryuk?"
Ryuk does not ask what Light is talking about. He unbuckles the notebook strapped to his waist and opens it, turns it around to show its crisp pages to Light, careful not to accidentally touch him with it.
Yagami Light, it says, heart attack. Dies on the 28th of February 2006.
He presses pen to paper and the world is full of light.