(For Mistress Sayu: A mini future AU in which Mello, Matt and Near are, for once, totally in agreement: Kira must go. By any means necessary.)

Near looked at Mello. Facing him, Mello hunched over and munched ferociously on his chocolate bar. Matt appeared to be engrossed in his video game, and was in fact managing to keep a sceptical eye on both of them.

"Are we agreed?" Near said at last, twirling a lock of hair around his finger.

Mello nodded, somehow managing to look intimidating with his mouth bulging with half-chewed chocolate.

Matt paused his game and looked at them. "For the record, I still think this is a bad idea."

Mello glared at him. It was a very eloquent glare. It said, what the hell Matt? Remember your place as a good minion and support me in my suicidal idea. Matt gave him a flat stare that said I'm your friend, I'm on your side, of course I'll support you. Just remember that I was against this from the beginning.

"Okay," he sighed. "Let's get this over with."

Sitting in front of his computer, vaguely aware of the dawn lightening the sky outside, Yagami Light worked his way through the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension database.

"You're gonna need glasses," Ryuk said.

Light blinked, torn out of 'the zone' as Ryuk sneeringly put it. "What?"

"You're gonna need glasses, you keep staring at the computer in this sort of light."

Light tilted his head carefully from side to side, stretching tired muscles. "What would you know about human eyes?"

"Enough to know that they can be damaged," Ryuk said haughtily, feigning insult at Light's dismissive tone.

"Are you worried about me, Ryuk?" Light teased, covering a yawn as the shinigami scowled.

"Worried? Me? Are you delusional, Light?"

Light smiled, a lopsided expression very different to the emptily perfect smiles he gave other people. "If you say so, Ryuk," he said sleepily, turning back to the computer and preparing to shut it down.

Ryuk stretched himself out on Light's bed, and stared at the ceiling. "You could make the eye deal with me," he said absently. "No matter what the original state of the human's eyes, after making the deal they have a shinigami's vision. Y'know, perfect."

"You know what my response is going to be to that," Light said absently, standing up and carefully stretching the kinks out of abused muscles. "Really, Ryuk. Give it up." He swayed a little as a he staggered over to the bed, dropping to rest beside Ryuk's stationary body. It used to unnerve him, Ryuk's stillness, the unsettling understanding that he was anxious sleeping near him because Ryuk didn't breathe, his heart didn't beat, no part of him moved involuntarily. "G'night," he mumbled, curling up, vaguely aware of Ryuk's clawed fingers flicking at loose strands of hair falling into his face. He used to worry about that too, having those claws and heavy rings so close to his eyes.

"Good morning," Ryuk responded, grinning. "I'll wake you in an hour, yeah?"

When there was no response to his question save slow, even breathing, Ryuk assumed the answer was yes. He considered the human next to him carefully. It had been suspiciously calm for the past few days. Ryuk knew full well what that meant, and if Light weren't so tired he'd know what it meant too. Someone, somewhere, was planning something.

Ryuk couldn't wait.

When the NPA passed on a warning to quit or face the consequences signed M N & M, Light laughed. He sent a dismissive response, and then forgot all about it.

He would bitterly regret that.

"Look, I've already tried cracking his system. It's impossible; it's like, years ahead of its time!"

"Then the obvious conclusion," Near said, and was Matt imagining the 'you total moron' vibe to his voice? "Is to crack other systems. Think of the people whose good opinion Kira cares for, or at least, requires in order to function at the level that he does. Consider how best to damage that good opinion in the least possible time. I'm sure you will find a use for yourself somehow."

Matt glared, but his mind was already coming up with creative outlets for his skills that he'd never (seriously) considered before. He almost pitied Kira. Almost.

Light had been sitting outside the restaurant, staring into nothing, for three hours before the bowl of ice cream suddenly appeared in front of him.

He stared blankly at the sundae.

L nudged the bowl a little closer across the table, clearly believing that somehow ice cream would solve all his woes. When taken into consideration that L was the one making the gesture, it became a truly selfless (and totally misguided) attempt to cheer him up. Light buried his head in his hands.

"It's not that bad, Light-kun," L said, quite possibly the most bare-faced lie since a snake said 'I have absolutely no clue where they got the idea of eating that fruit'.

Light made a noise closely related to keening.

L patted him gingerly on the shoulder.

"Yes, there there, Light," Ryuk said. "It could have been worse."

"I assure you, they will be disciplined," L said, which was about as useful as a hot fudge sundae at making the situation better.

"You think this is funny!" Light accused, face still pressed into his hands. "You think it's absolutely hilarious!"

"A little," L admitted. "You must admit that ads popping up worldwide saying variations on 'L, let's do that again sometime, love Kira' are quite amusing, and at the very least, inventive."

Light lifted his head from his hands to stare silently at L for a long moment

L took a spoonful of ice cream as he studied Light's expression. "Ah," he said. "…That wasn't what you were so upset about?"

"Those little bastards," Light said.

Ryuk stared at the TV, and wondered if this was the sensation called 'dreaming' humans were always going on about. Ryuk didn't dream, but he watched a lot of TV, and he watched a lot of Light. He still couldn't tell most of the time if a character on TV was dreaming, but this just felt like something that would make Light hit his head against a wall in the futile hope of waking up from reality.

He looked at Light, finally asleep after hours curled up into a whimpering ball, ignoring every little bleeping noise from the phones or the computer that said someone was trying to contact him. He looked back at the TV.

"And when not investigating murders, I like to relax with the new, special edition Kira-endorsed range of adult funtime toys!"

He changed the channel and watched static for awhile.

Yeah, probably best not to tell Light about this.

Kira Advises US President To Shut The Hell Up!

Just Let Them Die, Kira Says Of Kidnapping

L Tops, Asserts Sex Expert

Light stared at the papers for a long moment.

"Uh, Light?" Ryuk asked nervously.

Light turned to look at Ryuk, expression utterly blank.

"Nothing!" Ryuk said quickly. "Nothing… uh. You okay…?"

"I'm fine," Light said vacantly. "Absolutely fine. Where's my Death Note?"

"Uh… you don't have a Death Note any more, Light. Remember?"

"Oh," Light said. "Right." He continued to stare blankly into space. "Ryuk," he said, five minutes later and probably completely unaware any time had passed at all. "May I borrow a pen and a piece of paper?"

"Sure, Light," Ryuk said hastily and had half torn a page out of his Death Note before he remembered just what a bad idea that was. "Wait a minute!"

"Ryuk." Light said, in a flat, dead tone Ryuk really didn't like.

"Hey, nothing would make me happier than to give you some paper," Ryuk said quickly, "but you know the only stuff I've got to hand is the wrong sort of thing to give you-"

"On the contrary," Light said flatly, "It's exactly the sort of thing to give me."

"Suicide isn't the answer, Light." Ryuk said, sounding almost worried.

"Who said anything about suicide?"

"I still can't let you have any."

"It'll be worth it," Light wheedled.

Ryuk was seriously tempted; Light had the best ideas about how to kill people in ridiculously inventive ways… but no, it was Ryuk's responsibility to keep Light in the human realm and as entertaining as possible for as long as he could. Sort of. He may have had to misinterpret a few things, but those were basically his orders, if you went strategically deaf at a few points.

"You'd forfeit," Ryuk said, without much hope it would dissuade him.

"It'd still be worth it, I assure you." Light said. He glared at the papers, something that reassured Ryuk a little, being the first sign of emotion he'd seen from Light since the headlines had first caught their eyes. "You know the worst thing about this?"

"Uh… 'L tops'…?"

"No… although that comes a close second…"

"'Kira endorses sex toys'?"

Light turned so fast Ryuk leapt backwards automatically and didn't even feel ashamed of the fact that he was essentially cowering from a human. "What!"

"Kira tells FBI to go to hell?" Ryuk corrected hurriedly.

"What the hell did you just say about sex toys?"

"Nothing! I got confused, that's all! I was watching the squishy parts channels on late-night TV last night, you know how it makes me laugh," Ryuk babbled.

Light continued to stare with great suspicion.

"You know, all the noises and contortionism and multiple names for body parts, and nobody actually seems to do the job they're hired to do, have you noticed that? "I'm here to fix your dishwasher," they say, and they never actually do, and I dunno why they want to put their-"

"Please don't talk any more," Light said. His suspicious expression had been slowly replaced with an utterly repulsed one. It was as if he'd left a mind game with L and run straight into Misa. The expressional transition was exactly the same, only slower.

Ryuk gratefully shut up.

"The problem," Light said, slowly and deliberately, obviously pretending for the sake of his sanity that Ryuk's account of his research into porn hadn't occurred, "Is that I can't even respond properly."

Ryuk felt he was probably missing something. "Why not? I'd have thought you'd jump at the chance to ruin L's reputation on a grand scale."

"But for once he didn't do anything!" Light said in an aggravated tone of voice, somewhere between indignant and insulted. "This is just low, and trying to get even by humiliating him for it would just be hitting the bottom and starting to dig."

"Oh," Ryuk said, thinking that was a remarkably fair-minded thought for Light, especially given that L was involved. He wondered if Light had noticed they'd missed their destination and were heading towards a bakery. "This means war, then?"

Light's smile was a savage, bitter thing that made the feathers on Ryuk's shoulders stand on end. "Oh yeah. This means war."

Matt looked at the box with the label 'Just A Friendly Warning' again. It had arrived a week late. He had a terrible feeling the contents would have been very different if its maker had waited just one more day before sending it. "…Mello?"


"My fortune cookie says 'your computer is slowly being destroyed by an irremediable virus'."

"Yeah, I know. Mine says 'you are so fucked'." He looked over at Near at the other end of the room, calmly putting the finishing touches to yet another puzzle. "How about you, Near?"

"'Prepare for death'."

"Nice. I'm starting to kinda like this guy."

Matt stared at them. "Neither of you are worried that he knows where we are, who we are, and that we're responsible for the tarnishing of his rep worldwide?"

"We already knew he knew about this place. You remember those stupid flirty presents to L."

"What was so flirty about a bunch of apples?"

"Even you ought to know the amount of symbolism in an apple, Matt. Also, a pair of handcuffs? Seriously?"

Matt still thought that was more likely to have been a remark on L's kinks rather than Kira's, but couldn't be bothered to rehash the whole argument and not speak to Mello for a month again. "I don't think you're paying attention to what I'm saying. What do you think L would do to you if you did this sort of thing to him?"

"But we didn't do anything to him," Mello said blankly.

Sometimes Matt wondered if maybe Mello had ended up in Wammy's House by beating up another kid and stealing their records. "What if he actually likes Kira's presents, ever thought of that?"

"Matt, he's not going to disown us because we pissed off Kira. He does it himself all the time."

Matt began to suspect Mello was deliberately missing the point.

"I believe Matt may be trying to say that 'pissing each other off' seems between L and Kira to be more about friendship than actual annoyance." Near paused. If Matt thought Near actually gave a damn about annoying Mello, he would have been suspicious and wondered why it was almost as if he was considering how he could make things worse. "And possibly the desire for sex."

Matt closed his eyes in something approaching despair as Mello spluttered and sought the correct words to express his anger.

"Consider." Near said. "The exchanges are ritual in nature, following an established and prescribed pattern. Both participants seem to be remarking on things known only by them, making it impossible to correctly hypothesise from outside observance as to the nature of the messages, ensuring privacy and that the connection can only exist between and be maintained by the two of them. This connection-"

"Shut the fuck up!" Mello yelled, stomping over to Near, probably to do something stupid or painful.

"Yes, a terrible thought, isn't it?" Near said blandly. "I know it is not very… nice… to think about L or Kira having sex-"

"Damn right," Mello growled. Matt wondered if his discomfort was from a child's perspective – a grown-up I hero-worship, having sex? Ewwww! – or from a far more worrying alternative.

Near nodded as if he was agreeing. Matt didn't like the sense of foreboding he had. "By all accounts it is a messy, poorly-coordinated business that is frequently uncomfortable, animalistic and potentially quite painful. However, it must involve pleasure somewhere or else nobody would pay any attention to the basic biological imperative, and given the frequency of contact between Kira and L and, as I have already mentioned, the intimate and exclusive nature of that contact-"


Matt winced. It was going to take forever to get rid of the bloodstains.

"Light-kun, may I ask why three of my potential heirs have turned up in multiple criminal databases for serious crimes ranging from terrorism to murder? Under their real names?"

"Hello, L, nice to see you, how are you this fine day, what have you been doing lately? You see how easy it is to be polite?"

L sighed. "Hello Light-kun," he repeated dully. "Nice to see you. How are you. I won't ask what you've been doing, since I already know."

"That's better," Light approved, and shoved the cake and coffee he'd ordered – just in case – towards L. "Now you can ask intrusive questions. We'll make you a functioning member of society yet."

L's scathing looks got better with age, it seemed. "Answer my question, Light-kun."

"Seriously, are you blaming me? After what those-"

"Please, Light-kun, don't make me kick you."

"Those. Little. …Children did?"

"You yourself are not out of your teens yet, Light-kun."

"At least I'm in them!"

"I believe Mello may be thirteen next year…"

"No, he won't," Light said flatly. "Because I'm going to kill him. I just know this mess was his idea."

"Really? Personally I'd have suspected Near."

Light frowned. "Seriously? I just figured Mello was the one with the unreasonable attachment and therefore jealousy issues, so…" he shrugged. It was one of those strangely informative and eloquent shrugs that meant whatever the other person wanted it to mean.

L nodded understandingly. "But Near is the one with ruthlessness necessary to see a threat and take steps to remove it without considering how it might harm the individual."

"This wasn't just ruthless, it was malevolent," Light said bitterly. "And I know a thing or two about malevolence."

"I'm sure."

"And worst of all, it was completely unnecessary! I was going to quit soon anyway!"

"Utterly un- what."

"You didn't think I'd be doing this job forever, did you?" Light said, with a disconcerted look at L's stunned expression.

L stared at him as if he'd suddenly started speaking gibberish. "What's wrong with this job?"

"I don't want to end up like you," Light said. There might have been a note of pity in his voice as he looked at L, but he had the utmost faith that L's ego would cushion him from the hurt anyone else would have felt. He sighed when L continued to look blank and disbelieving. "There's nothing wrong with being a detective, per se," he said patiently. "I just happen to have other things planned. Or did have, anyway." He scowled, stabbed disconsolately at his own long since cooled food.

"So… you have no plans to quit anymore?"

"What, and let them think they've won? No."

"But you now have the perfect opportunity," L pointed out, "And you know you're not quitting because of them…"

"But they don't," Light snapped, "They'll think they've succeeded in driving me off. Any attempt of mine to claim otherwise would just look like a very poor attempt to save face. My pride won't stand it."

L sipped his coffee and concealed his grin. Very poorly.

"You needn't look so smug," Light snarled, stabbing a finger in L's direction. "I'm still quitting, it's just going to be on my terms, dammit."

"Whatever you say, Kira-kun," L said. He tilted his head and smiled. Light blinked, stunned out his anger, which was probably the idea. When he'd finally managed to stop reacting to L's passes, L had quickly found other ways to irritate him, and Light had almost forgotten just how uncomfortable and disconcerting the brain-breaking idea of sex and L was.

"I – no – you – that – what?" Okay, so he'd completely forgotten how disconcerting the thought of L as a sexual being was.

L's grin became, if possible, even more smug.

"…I'm still not legal, you pervert."

"Actually," L said, and Light's brain slowed to a near halt with horror, "the age of consent here-"

"You are not a sex tourist," Light snapped. "And I'm not a – I'm not for sale, alright? You can't pay enough for me to have sex with you."

"You vastly underestimate my resources," L said.

"I'm clearly vastly underestimating your perversion," Light said, heading dangerously towards being unnerved to the point of uselessness. "I don't get it. I'm good-looking, sure, and give me another two or three years I'll agree with you that everyone should want me, but right now – what is wrong with you?"

"It's the eyes," L said, with all the appearance of absolute sincerity. "How expressive they are. Perhaps it is that you are aesthetically pleasing in a way that transcends cultural borders – something about the way your body is proportioned and how your facial features are balanced and aligned…"

"Oh god," Light said, and tried to remember when he'd been able to consider his looks a good thing. He knew (or fervently hoped) that L's sexual interest was a pretence designed to freak him out. Unfortunately, knowing this didn't make it any less effective. "L, please, can we get back to discussing which one of your brats I should be trying to kill?"

"If you like," L said indifferently. "Though I believe I may have a better idea…"

"It's a very neat solution," Light admitted grudgingly to Ryuk as they walked home. "He gets to give them a reward of sorts at the same time that he allows me to punish them. I am so impressed I may forgive him for the sexual harassment." He threw an apple into the air, unconcerned about the possibility of needing to catch it again.

"…Seriously?" Ryuk said, picking apple pips from between his teeth.

"God, no." Light rolled his eyes. "I am traumatised, deeply traumatised. He should be paying for my therapy."

"There are no therapists, Light, who could possibly deal with you and your problems."

"…I thought you liked my problems," Light said. "Not that I have any." He considered that statement and added a correction. "…That I see as problems."

"You're going to spend a lot of time and effort repairing your reputation just so you can quit with dignity." Ryuk said. "Even I know there's something seriously messed up about that. Light, you need help."

"…Your epiphanies, Ryuk. How often do they occur, once a century? I thought you knew I was seriously messed up, I thought that was my attraction for you."

"Nah, it's how pretty you are," Ryuk joked, performing a momentary but creditable imitation of L. "Your damaged mind, that's just a bonus."

"Excuse me?" Light demanded, outraged. "My mind is not damaged!"

"Oh, I get it," Ryuk said, a note of realisation in his voice. "This is that human thing about being really careful not to offend anyone, isn't it? Your mind isn't 'damaged', it's 'differently abled' or something, right? 'Cause it works perfectly, just in all the wrong ways."

"I have no idea what you mean by that," Light said stiffly. "I am brilliant, and you know it."

"Is someone feeling inferior?" Ryuk mocked, and took a second apple from Light's pocket.

"It is very difficult to maintain a healthy sense of superiority in the sort of circumstances L insists upon creating." Light said carefully. "Not impossible, mind you, but difficult."

"Three years and you'll be eighteen, Light."

"…Thank you, Ryuk. I had no idea that was how old I would be until you said that. All these years, the art of recognising the day I was born has simply eluded me."

Some days, it was a safe bet to say Ryuk understood perfectly why Rem had wanted to kill Light the moment she met him. "You'll be eighteen," Ryuk repeated with strained patience. "You'll no longer be at a disadvantage. He won't be able to unnerve you with inappropriate advances any more."

"…That displays an understanding of human culture, society and morality that I thought was quite beyond your grasp," Light said, staring at him. "Are you telling me you actually understand that there's something wrong with an adult human making sexual advances towards a child?"

Ryuk thought about it. "Uh, yeah…?" he said doubtfully after a long moment. "I don't get half the stuff that has you flinching-"

"I don't flinch."

"-but I'm pretty sure I sort of get it."

"…You still can't tell the difference between willing and unwilling, can you?"

"Nope. And since that seems to be the whole problem with it…" He shrugged. "You don't make it easy, either. I mean-"

"No," Light said firmly. "No more about your foray into porn, I beg you. Remember, there are no therapists."

"Oh yeah, that's right…" Ryuk remembered. "I oughta try and take care that you don't get even more messed up than you already are."

Light smiled brightly. "Messed up? Me?" His smile widened impossibly as Ryuk made an odd movement with his wings and propelled himself backwards. "Whatever gave you that idea?"

"…There's no point, is there?"

"Absolutely none," Light affirmed. "Come on, Ryuk, if I was any more twisted I'd just sit in a corner laughing manically. You're just lucky I happen to balance perfectly on the line between functional and non-functional crazy-awesome."

Ryuk stared at him for a long moment. "You know what, Light? L's good for you."

"He is not!" Light hissed, looking utterly nauseated at the idea.

Ryuk ignored him. "He keeps you in check. The minute he leaves you're all 'I am God!' and that's funny, but nowhere near as fun."

"…Enough. Ryuk, we're going home. We're going to make sure those brats get what they deserve. Jokes about my mental state are off limits until you can look at an apple without turning into a crazed junkie. And if you watch porn, never, ever tell me about it, okay? I don't want to hear it. It would be of absolutely no interest to me even if you weren't involved."

"I begin to suspect that by human standards, you're something of a freak."

Light gave a heavy sigh of exhaustion and exasperation. He resolutely did not say the appropriate words, 'God, why me?'

Somewhere, probably eating cake, L was grinning, he just knew it.

"I have a bad feeling about this," Matt said.

"L is letting us investigate a case," Mello said. "L! I mean, pity it's not on our own, but still…"

"Of course it would not be on our own," Near said, with a disdainful glance at Mello, and Matt knew he definitely wasn't imagining the 'you moron' thing this time.

"I heard Watari tell Roger L spent a week talking Kira out of killing us," he said gloomily.

"Matt, this is the most awesome thing in the history of awesome things," Mello said, as sternly as possible considering how many times he was using the word awesome. "Don't fucking spoil it."

"You don't find this just the tiniest bit suspicious?"

"Matt, have I told you lately that you're just a tiniest bit paranoid?"

"Mello," Matt said fiercely, "There is no way Kira's held his own with L for as long as he has by being easy-going and letting a bunch of kids discredit him."

Near actually bothered to raise his head and look in Matt's general direction. "If you are so concerned over Kira's possible reprisals, why did you undertake the task in the first place?"

Matt stared at him. "Uh, hello? You pretty much forced me to! And you still haven't given me back my Game Boy!"

"Boys," Roger said with strained patience as he led them into the room where L's computer waited. Maybe Matt was paranoid, because he could have sworn Roger looked almost pitying as he shook his head and left them without a backward glance. And… hang on, why were there two computers…?

"Welcome," L said.

Matt was going to tease Mello about hyperventilating later. It would only be a little exaggeration, after all.

"Hello," Near said, obviously understanding that L expected some sort of acknowledgement and that it wasn't going to be forthcoming from Mello or Matt.

That was a sigh from L, definitely. "Roger has explained to you the case and the rules you are expected to abide by while investigating?"

A trio of nods, some more enthusiastic than others.

"You cannot be expected to work on this case without guidance. Unfortunately, I am too busy currently to supervise you."

There was a pause. Matt wondered if Mello and Near were feeling the same creeping sensation of terror that he was.

"Let me introduce your colleague in this endeavour."

The screen of the other computer flickered on. The letters that formed Kira's name rearranged themselves momentarily into a grinning face.