I was going to finish the last chapter of Double or Nothing. But I have a cold and apparently that doesn't encourage my mind to produce humor and romance. However – angst is no problem at all. Enjoy. Or not.
Thanks very much to recipe for insanity (aka The Flash) for beta-reading this so rapidly. I barely had time to blink! :)
SPOILERS: all of the manga/anime
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Death Note or its characters. I only own this story.
"I want to see him." Near's word is law now. He's the new L and they can't argue with him, though they might wonder why.
The case is over, solved. Near has plenty of other responsibilities and a whole heap of paperwork to get through. Why should he want to waste time staring at the lifeless body of his fallen rival? Perhaps they think he wants to gloat over Yagami Light's corpse. Near doesn't care. Let them think what they like.
The desire to look once more at Yagami's face began when he was sorting through L's things. His personal items, it could be said, though there was nothing personal about most of it. Notes on the case, cryptic comments on other cases he'd been involved in at the same time as he was hunting Kira. Files on his suspects, the one on Light immense compared to any of the others.
Near had opened this file, curious as to when it was that L had begun to seriously suspect the respectable University student. He read through the dead detective's précis of Light's background with interest. Yagami was – had been – supremely intelligent, on a par with L himself. A pinnacle Near knew he could never aspire to, though he was close.
He sighed as he fanned a drift of photos across the bed L had slept in and looked up, staring around the room. They'd lived here together. L had chained the boy to his wrist and shared his life with him for months. An odd thing to do, Near considered. Surely there were more efficient methods of observing a suspect?
Near had already been through the other rooms. Seen the cups they drank from, the plates they ate off, a whole stack of meticulously washed ice-cream containers, some still filled with dried beans and rice and flour. Cake tins and baking trays in a profusion of sizes. A jar of pickled ginger. A half-filled bottle of some strawberry body wash in the shower.
Glancing back down at the photos, he was struck suddenly by a change in them. He turned them over, noting the dates written on the backs. The first ones had obviously been taken by one of L's operatives, watching the Yagami boy; apart from some older ones, perhaps gleaned from family albums. Round about the time when Yagami had been released from confinement, the photos changed. Near wasn't at all sure why L needed photos of his suspect at that time, since he knew very well what he looked like and had him under 24 hour camera surveillance. But the enigmatic man had obviously thought photos were a necessity for some reason.
Here was Yagami, eating sushi. Here again, looking up from a book, a look of faint surprise on his face, half smiling. Here he was in his pyjamas, laughing now, pointing at – the camera? The man behind the camera?
Near shrugged and picked up the next photo. Yagami sleeping. His daytime persona, which the young detective's knowledge of the man knew to be guarded and controlled, was gone. He slept spreadeagled, arms everywhere, covers pulled down and his pyjama top unfastened. His skin looked slick, his face flushed, as if he'd been exercising or – Near felt a shiver run down his back.
He put the photo down and pushed it away from him, but was unable to rid himself so easily of the suspicions that now infested his mind. Turning his attention back to the folder, he tipped out the rest of the papers and discovered the reason for the photos. Picked up the sheets that had fallen out from behind the back of the case-notes and examined them.
Some of the drawings were recognisable as being taken from the photos he'd seen. Some were other poses, perhaps drawn from life, perhaps from photos that had been destroyed as being too – compromising. Yes, that was a good word for this. L's integrity as an impartial upholder of the law would certainly have been compromised if anyone else had seen these.
The boy, lovingly sketched, sprawled naked on the same bed Near now sat upon. Stood, still naked, in the bathroom doorway, looking over his shoulder, a seductive come-hither suggestion in his expression, in his posture. Stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around himself, an open and startlingly happy smile on his face that Near would never have expected to see there. Relaxed in the bath, eyes closed, hands laying loosely on his abdomen.
Near's head bent closer, lifting one sheet of paper after another, unable to stop, to look away. The sketches became more and more explicit as he paged through them, Light on the bed, on a chair, lying on the rug, his poses enticing, tempting. Light touching himself, his hands straying over his body, teasing the most intimate parts of his admittedly gorgeous person, his face inviting the onlooker to do the same.
The last picture was slightly different. Not one figure, but two. Or at least, one and part of another one. A pair of legs, clad in baggy jeans, bare feet sticking out from their base. The owner of the feet was sitting in a chair, and the boy, Light, knelt beside it Japanese fashion, dressed in a robe or kimono. He bent forward, hair disordered and falling over his face, but it was possible to see his lips, pressed to one of those naked feet.
The pictures were also dated and the young albino added up the numbers, working out that this last one was sketched the day before the team arrested Higuchi. The day before they recovered the Death Note.
Near put down the drawing, but didn't take his eyes off it. His mind spinning, calculating and considering. It was obvious from all of this that L and his suspect had enjoyed a very different relationship to the one everyone might have presumed they had. They had been – close. Intimate. They were lovers, he told himself and shuddered again, for a reason he had no way to explain.
He put the papers carefully away in the folder, which he tucked under his arm to take with him. Nobody else was ever going to see that. Nobody else would know L's secret, his fall from grace. Near heaved a sigh, unsure as to what he thought or felt about any of this. Conscious only of questions and two in particular.
Staring again at the empty bed, its occupants now both dead, he wondered, in an unusually whimsical way for his pragmatic mind, what it had seen and heard. What secrets had been whispered under its covers; what promises had been made.
Now, standing in the room where they've laid Yagami, searched his body and left him, he waves the others away. Waits until they close the door behind them and steps over to the table the killer lies on, inglorious and alone.
He pulls back the sheet that covers Kira's face and looks down. The young man's face is composed and peaceful in death, unmarked by the memories of his countless murders. Near pictures him alive. Smiling, as he'd smiled in the photos and drawings L had made of him. Imagines him naked, vital, L and he together, their flesh entwined, everything forgotten but their – closeness.
"Why?" He speaks to the blank face, expecting no answer. Why had L become involved with this murderer? How had he been beguiled, bedazzled by this madman who thought he was a God?
He knows more about L Lawliet now than he ever did before. Knowledge gleaned from the surviving NPA members that worked with the world's greatest detective. Especially from Matsuda, whose distress and need to talk Near has shamelessly exploited for answers.
"Why…" the pale youth murmurs again
Near had wanted to capture Yagami, hadn't wanted him dead; but like so many events in the confusion that was the Kira case, that hadn't gone as planned. Now he's left with questions that will probably never have answers. Like this one.
Despite what everyone he's worked with seems to think, Near is not emotionless. He simply has nothing to expend his emotions on. Given that everyone he's ever met who has been potentially able to understand and deal with him is dead, he's never likely to. There's no one left to whom he might turn for closeness or friendship or even the exhilarating rivalry of two matched minds at war with one another.
Mello, with his anger, his guns, his leather and chocolate fetishes. His refusal to compromise, his over-compensation for his pretty looks.
Matt, as withdrawn as Near himself, but in a more socially acceptable way. Occasionally sticking his head out from the tortoise-shell of his inhibitions to display his brilliance and sardonic wit.
Yagami Light, Kira, the enemy. Subtle and possessed of a convoluted intelligence that thrilled Near even as he worked to defeat it.
And L himself. Near considers the words Matsuda has applied to the mysterious detective, some willingly, some with hesitation, in a spirit of not wishing to speak ill of the dead. Cold, logical, selfish, self-absorbed, uninvolved, peculiar, arrogant and rude are some of them. Near's question has not been answered by his close interrogation of Matsuda, not by any means. Why would a man with such a – a difficult nature, suddenly throw aside his reserve, his aversion to social contact and his professional ethics and count the world well lost?
He shakes his head and stares down at Yagami's impenetrably beautiful face. Cold and still, far from the smiling, enticing, passionate boy of the photos, of the drawings. The shining, irresistible youth who had flashed like a meteor across the dark night of L's sky, scorching and burning everything he touched, consuming the detective in his incandescent fire. He asks his other question.
"What went wrong?"
There's no answer. Near isn't superstitious and he doesn't expect the dead to speak to him. But he wants to know. The drawing, the last drawing he looked at, shows Light kneeling at L's feet. Kissing his feet, for God's sake, and if that isn't some kind of symbolic gesture, then Near doesn't know what is. Adoration. An acknowledgement of the detective's possession of his exquisite suspect. Love.
Just over a week later, L was dead and Kira reigned in duplicitous sovereignty. What went wrong? This love, so touchingly and wordlessly spoken in those damning and revealing pictures, had, in a few short days, shrivelled and withered into nothing.
Near thinks of the Death Notes, locked away, harmless. What power do they truly have? How had L and Light's undeniable rapport, a bond that had drawn them together despite the unfortunate circumstances of their meeting, been rendered into ashes by that power?
He replaces the sheet over his defeated rival's face and steps away. He's L now. He has work to do, contacts to reinforce, cases to solve. It's what he's always aspired to and now he has it. So why does he feel, for the first time in his life, that it may not be enough?