A/N: Well, this is the last of it! XD Thanks very much to everybody who read, reviewed, and enjoyed! :)
Please don't complain if the ending isn't what you wanted - we didn't decide based on what we "wanted," either, and certainly not on based on how we wanted Phantom of the Opera to end. We decided based on what we thought would realistically happen with these Death Note characters in this situation. Are we clear? XD
Begs the frightening question what we'll write Richelle for Christmas... O_o
The smile that slithered onto the lips of the monster was a truly terrifying one.
"Ah," he breathed. "It would appear that we have a visitor. We ought to show him in, don't you think?"
No, L's mind was insisting frantically. No, go away, go back, get to safety, save yourself—
But the red-eyed fiend was already moving towards the other room, and he scrambled after, hoping desperately that there was something, anything he could do to stop whatever was about to happen.
The plush carpet snared his feet, sending him tumbling to that strange mixture of sand and beads and fine rug once again. Scrambling to his feet, he heard splashing, a shout, and then a cry that petered off into frail silence.
His heart seized, and the maliciousness of the carpet couldn't hold him this time.
But he was too late.
A noose curled possessively around Light's pale neck, the thick rope woven in and around him and the iron bars of the portcullis holding him fast. He was soaked to the skin, shirt draping limply over his tensed body, his wrists bound on either side of him, his eyes wide but unrepentant. In amongst the anger and the agony, L detected a potent hint of fear.
The creature stood back, drenched as well, holding in one delicate hand the other end of the rope. A red-eyed gaze passed over L, a cold smile lit dreadful lips, and that brilliantly musical hand yanked hard on the rope.
Light managed another strangled cry.
"Don't!" L implored. "Please!" He knew that a show of fear and affection for Light most likely wasn't the best way to win his captor's sympathy, but he was desperate for something, anything that would help, anything that would loosen the rope around that defenseless neck.
"Please what?" the monster asked, red eyes glinting in a smirk.
"Let him go," L begged. "He's never done you any harm."
Thin lips curled into a sardonic smile.
"On the contrary, my innocent one." Another tug on the rope; another strangled gasp from Light. "He has done me a great deal of harm."
"I have," L countered desperately, moving forward, his hands out as if he was begging for something tangible - and attainable. "I'm the one who's hurt you; I'm the one who pledged my allegiance to you only to forsake you as soon as—"
The creature sighed dismissively and pulled harder. Something like a sob escaped Light's throat.
Dark water sloshing around his legs, slowing him, as if he was running in a dream, L finally reached the creature, grabbed its arm, sought its fingers, trying desperately to pry them off of the rope—
"Please, you can't; he's innocent in this; take me—"
A sharp hand cracked across his cheek, shoving him aside, and he slipped, falling heedlessly into the water, scrabbling to find the dark surface where it was broken by the flickering orange of the endless candles. He broke it, gasping, his hair trailing into his eyes, and looked hopelessly up at his tormentor.
"Take me instead," he whispered.
Slowly, L's tutor turned merciless crimson eyes on him.
"If I take you," the creature promised, "it will be forever, L Lawliet. Think about it. His life… or yours. Which will you choose? To let him die, or to save him by pledging yourself to me for the rest of your life?"
"Don't do it!" Light gasped abruptly. "I'm not worth that; don't agree to it!"
L was silent. Then, slowly, he lifted his eyes to meet the scarlet ones that were watching him steadily.
"Your life must have been terrible," he murmured. He took a step closer, then another, then another. "But you're not alone." He stepped closer again, drawing in a deep breath. "And you never will be."
Gently, he pressed his lips to his tutor's.
Saturated fabric scraped against its own kind, cold fingertips laid their damp ovals on his cheeks, and the released rope slapped wetly against the rippled mirror of the lake.
The mouth against his ate at him hungrily, the creature devouring him pulsing with a dark desperation and a wild, pent desire suddenly released. It seemed to savor his submission, wet fingers squirming into his wet hair, tangling themselves, trapping him, the other hand closing tightly around his arm. There was no escape now. Ever.
After a cold, dank eternity, the creature drew back, red eyes sparking, the candles' flames reflected in them - their yellow lights blurring, halo-like, around L's face where it, too, swam in the mirror of the endless eyes.
L brought a hand to his chest, his heart thumping urgently against his curled fingers through the wet fabric of his shirt. He could hear the lapping of the water around his legs, his own soft panting, and, distantly, Light's shallow and horrified breaths.
And then the monster lifted both hands to his neck, fingers curling around his jaw, slipping through his damp hair, holding his head in place, and he felt their mouths being crushed together again.
But this time, he was ready.
In curled fingers he cradled a ring, a broken chain, and the contents of the vial that had slipped with a delicate plink into the water eddying around his knees. He balanced the thorn between two fingers of his right hand, and then he raised that hand, flattened it against his tutor's, his angel's, his monster's neck and plunged the point of the thorn into the largest vein.
A startled breath passed through lips joined with his, viselike hands released him momentarily, and the creature before him took a step back, surprise giving way to confusion as tears began to run down L's face, confusion giving way to dawning realization as cold numbness began to wind its way swiftly through veins and along nerves.
"Poison," whispered the most beautiful voice L had ever heard.
"Poison," L whispered back, unable to distinguish the rivulets of water coursing from his hair from the tears drizzling from the corners of his eyes.
One last harmony - one last song. The ragged breathing matching his, then slowing; the soft scrape of wet fabric against the stone wall; the clatter of a candelabra as a weakening arm collided with its base; the hiss of its candles extinguished suddenly by the irrevocable power of the water they met, wax splattering like blood.
A soft splash as boots lost traction; even softer counterparts as limbs churned. A faint burbling as the velvet cloak caught air, floated momentarily, and then sank slowly into the wet.
The song died, leaving nothing but the unsteady breathing of two young men.
The Phantom was dead.
Unseeing, L stumbled through the shallow water to the portcullis. His fingers were half-numb with cold and his eyes were blurred with tears, so it took him a few moments to untie the knots binding Light's hands. When his fingers brushed skin, when they touched, those hands felt warm, and he concentrated on that, on the warmth, and blocked out all the other thoughts.
The music was gone.
Finally, the damp rope yielded, and Light staggered free with a gasp, pulling the noose from around his neck.
L stood dumbly to the side, shivering, his mind darting furtively back to cold fingers and a wet kiss, two wet kisses, a thousand miseries and triumphs encapsulated in a moment that threatened to tear him to shreds.
If it succeeded, he would bleed a far-too-familiar color.
Then Light pitched the rope away and threw both arms tightly around L and, ignoring his trembling, ignoring his misgivings, ignoring the taint of monstrosity still clinging to his lips, kissed him, gently but soundly, with a softness and an uncertainty legitimized by the overwhelming love that ran below them.
- - - - -
"Thank God!" When the two emerged into the wreckage of the theater, Mello was as pale as his companion, and for once, he wasn't smirking. Near, too, looked relieved - it appeared that Monsieur Wammy had been forcibly preventing the two from rushing down into the theater's depths to help.
"What happened?" Mello demanded - but Light put a finger to his lips and shook his head.
For a moment, there was silence as the reality of the situation sank softly in, and then the blond boy spoke again - quietly this time.
"What now?" he asked.
"Now?" Monsieur Wammy remarked, setting a hand gently on the shoulder of L's that Light wasn't already claiming. "Now we go on. Now we rebuild, and we put on plays, and we show people the most wonderful operas of their lives. It's what we do, and it's what we are."
L nodded faintly, not quite sure whether the heaviness in his chest was misery or hope. Could they really rebuild? Could they really go on? Could they—
"Of course," Mello was saying, "to bring people in, we'll have to make sure everyone knows that one of the star and the sponsor are sleeping together. There's nothing like scandal for publicity."
"But we're not sleeping together," Light pointed out, cheeks slightly pink and eyes narrowed faintly in a frown.
"Not yet you're not," Mello affirmed cheerfully. "But you will be."
Light angled an eyebrow. "Are you going to be monitoring our habits closely in the future?" he inquired archly.
Mello winked. "Can't say I'd mind, if you've got a closet available, though joining in would probably be more fun."
Light looked slightly ill. "I beg to differ."
Mello winked again, at L this time. "Make 'im beg to differ," he suggested, punctuating the point with a gentle elbow to the ribs.
L smiled weakly.
"Come on," Mello encouraged. "Cheer up. You look as though you've seen a ghost. Ow, Near, what was that f— I mean… shit. Oops. Sorry, L…"
L couldn't help it. He started to laugh quietly, and, hesitantly, the others joined in, each voice different and distinguishable. A new kind of melody. Perhaps the music wasn't gone after all; perhaps it had just changed.
"Mello, I'd like you to meet my friend Tact," somebody was saying. "I know you two are strangers, but you could at least greet him. Say hello, Tact…"
Hello, new beginning, L thought.
"Hello?" someone else was asking him. "L?"
What a wonderful word, L thought. What a wonderful way to begin something new. He looked up and smiled.