Apples Equals Cyanide Equals Light
"I can't – I can't – I can't do this any more!" Pens and papers crash to the floor, the man is gasping, choking, weeping. "I – I thought I could do it," he says desperately.
"And you could," the shinigami points out indifferently, looking at his haggard face.
"I'm a murderer," he says, like that should mean something to a creature that lives on death. "I can't do this any more," he whispers, and writes a name – his own – on the open notebook on the desk.
The shinigami picks up the notebook with a sigh and attaches it to his belt before flying away, leaving a corpse behind him.
Ryuk is so bored.
Ryuk has 'lost' his notebook in the human world six times. He can't remember how long he's been doing it but the first time – and it really was an accident that first time – writing was the province of poets, priests and scribes.
He has without fail retrieved his notebook within three months at most.
The first one was interesting – he couldn't read, for a start, and Ryuk had been very amused as he watched him copy the meaningless hieroglyphics over people's heads without understanding how they spelt a name – but the rest…
It is always interesting to see how a human will use a Death Note, but they are, Ryuk has discovered, too fragile. Frail and ultimately unimaginative, and they think far too much of killing. Eventually, no matter what they tell themselves when they pick the Note up, they crush themselves under the weight of their guilt.
Ryuk is very, very bored.
Ryuk spots him, the human that is going to relieve him of the terrible burden of his boredom, walking down a busy street in Edo – no, they call it Tokyo now, don't they? Ryuk is wondering vaguely what will happen if he writes down a Japanese name using the Roman alphabet, or if he uses the correct kanji but puts the first name before the family, and that is when he sees him.
Ryuk has grown adept – just a little, not enough for scorn – at reading human expressions. He has ample experience in being able to judge when a human is finally going to break and write their own name down. But anybody with the tiniest bit of knowledge would know what Yagami Light is thinking. It's written all over his face – I am so bored.
Yagami smiles though, and the boredom seems to be gone even though it lingers in his eyes, and everybody, everybody around him is fooled, even his family, and Ryuk knows that family is something important to humans, supposed to be something important.
The minute he is alone the human shuts his eyes and goes very still, like a shinigami will after a few centuries when names are no longer enough, nor gambling or gossip.
Ryuk is entranced.
This one is a keeper, Ryuk decides, watching the human Yagami Light sleepwalk through his life. Ryuk thinks this one... this one might just get it.
But. But, you can never know for sure, not until they have the notebook, just what a human is made of. He's not risking his own this time, just in case.
Ryuk drops Sidoh's notebook outside Yagami Light's school, during a class Ryuk knows nobody pays attention to, a class that teaches the language Ryuk has written his rules in. The other humans will talk to each other, about each other. They'll doze or look at magazines with naked humans in them. Yagami Light will do none of those things and look out the window.
And outside the notebook falls and Yagami Light straightens ever so slightly, eyes narrowing on the book, and he has something – something in his expression, and Ryuk knows he's caught him.
This human, yes, this human might be interesting.
This human, it turns out, is made of silk and steel.
He screams when Ryuk first talks to him – a lot of humans have – and then he laughs – none of the humans Ryuk met before did that. Already he is something different.
Then he turns the Death Note around and Ryuk realises just how different this one is.
Delighted, he floats closer. This one talks of justice, of godhood and criminals. Ryuk doesn't care. Gods are boring and justice is something that only humans could think actually mattered. The names are spread before Ryuk in neat rows, hundreds in five days, and this is better than Ryuk ever dared to hope.
"I was… bored too," Yagami says, and Ryuk knows then the truth of Yagami Light. He will tell himself he does it for justice and other such ridiculous human concepts but really he did it to escape his boredom. Ryuk can understand that.
"The Death Note is the bond between the human Yagami Light and the shinigami Ryuk," he says and Yagami murmurs, 'the bond', and Ryuk actually has to remind himself not to care.
Yagami becomes Light the first time he buys him an apple and the flesh crunches beneath his teeth and floods his mouth with juice in the most perfect way since Ryuk first started being bored. Light smiles at him, and Ryuk, who is devoting himself to learning Light's face, the better to read his complex, twisted thoughts, sees amusement and disdain and perhaps something another human once told him was called understanding.
This human – this human – who will laugh at a shinigami, who will sneer at a shinigami, this human, Ryuk bets he tastes like apples, he's that perfect.
"Did you know," Light murmurs, and tells him just about every myth humans have ever told about apples. Ryuk nods along, tells him when time and memory has altered the fruit in question and watches Light smile, avid for knowledge, for things that have stuck in Ryuk's mind that are of no worth to any shinigami, things he has remembered in spite of their uselessness. The expression on Alexander's face when he realised that for him there was no more world to conquer. The patterns Caesar's blood made against the forum floor, the sound the first firework made as it killed its maker.
He picks the apple seeds out, crushes them in his hands and laps the residue up. It tastes very faintly of something bitter and Light tells him it's a poison called cyanide, one that has no antidote. Ryuk laughs, realising that with those words he'll never think of apples without thinking of Light.
"Ryuk," Light says one day as they walk home, where Light will kill time and people until nine o'clock and then do his homework, "how do shinigami–" he pauses, tries to approach the topic delicately, like Ryuk cares. "How are shinigami born?"
There's no rule against talking about the shinigami realm or its inhabitants; it's merely assumed that no human would ever ask. "They're not born," Ryuk says, chuckling. "They're killed."
Light raises an eyebrow, asking him to elaborate.
"They have to be killed by another god of death."
"There must be a lot of them, then," Light murmurs, very rare puzzlement crossing his features.
"Nah," Ryuk says, smiling. He wonders if other humans would call the look sinister, because Light only smiles wryly back. "There are other conditions. Maybe you'll figure them out."
Humans move all the time in this new era, running everywhere, making machines that can move even faster, hurrying to their deaths. Sometimes Ryuk wishes they'd stop. After awhile the constant buzz of activity becomes a drone, everything washes out and becomes dull and grey again.
They aren't satisfied with moving faster either, they have to change themselves all the time – clothes and styles and hair and makeup, this way, that way, as if eventually they'll find something that will make everything okay. It's all a bit overwhelming.
Shinigami bodies are tough, desiccated – Midora perhaps the exception, heavy and fleshy, or Nu, a constant shiver of blinking eyes – and like the realm they inhabit they rarely change. A new shinigami will, seeking something they can't grasp any more, dressing themselves in skulls and bones and chains, feathers and torn cloth – memories of action with the motive excised. Once they've settled their look, though, they don't change again.
Ryuk's newest accessory is his earring, forty years old, designed and made by a puzzled and unhappy woman named Mei Ling, who couldn't understand the language that named her. She wrote three names in Ryuk's notebook: her father, her boss, and her unfaithful lover. The other earring was in her hand when she walked out into New York's busy traffic.
The second newest of his human adornments is one of his rings, heavy and ornate, a century and a half old by at least one human calendar. He'd quickly grown bored of the English lord it originally belonged to and had gotten ten times the entertainment out of his death than anything he'd done in his life. Humans make such a fuss about sex; Ryuk just can't understand it (although he suspects half the outrage was about the piece of furniture that was being used at the time, it apparently being a terrible breach of manners to misuse a billiards table in such a way).
By shinigami standards Ryuk is positively vain.
Light is an island of still amidst the constant change of the human realm, calm and serene and moving at his own pace, at a shinigami's pace. Ryuk thinks he might be different from the other humans this way because his mind moves so fast even the human world slows to a crawl beside it. When he thinks about it, it makes him dizzy, like a human trying to stare into the sun. Or like he thinks looking at the sun makes humans dizzy. Ryuk can look all he wants and never be blinded.
Light is very beautiful.
Humans think this and Ryuk agrees. The humans are talking about the shape of Light's face, the distance between his eyes, the balance between nose and lips and chin, the way Light moves, and the way he will smile and joke, and convince them that he cares about nothing more than their happiness.
Shinigami have different standards.
Ryuk is talking about the way Light will write names, the curve of his arm, the minimalist movements of his fingers, the steady, unrelenting perfection of his letters and characters developing across the page.
He might also be talking about the way Light knows other humans and crawls into their heads and knows exactly how to make them do things for him (tell him their dreams, their jobs, their habits, their names – goodbye, Raye Penber, farewell Misora Naomi).
He might also be talking about the way Light smiles as he leans back from the Death Note and turns out the light to go to bed, where he'll sleep and Ryuk will watch him, making sure his entertainment doesn't stop breathing in the night. Humans are very fragile – even this one, who burns bright and hot in Ryuk's vision like the very first fire humans ever made. He's just making sure he lasts; Ryuk can't go back to being bored.
Ryuk has never had to tell himself not to care about a human. He no longer has to tell himself not to care about Light either, but that's different, just like everything else about Yagami Light is different to every other human Ryuk has ever met and killed.
Ryuk doesn't have to tell himself not to care about Light because he knows him. Caring for Light would be three steps from loving him and loving him would be like a human loving a cobra, holding it close and expecting it not to bite them. It would be like throwing every emotion that ever existed into a black hole and then expecting it to give something back. Ryuk is a shinigami and he doesn't need Rem's little story about Gelus to know that caring about Light would be the stupidest thing he could ever do.
And Rem dares to sneer at him, when she looks at the twittering little blonde thing – Amane Misa, and Ryuk plans on writing her name one day, when Rem is gone, just to prove a point – like she's something.
Light is something. Light isn't like other humans – humans like Misa – rushing all over the place, rushing everywhere, doing nothing. No, Light is deadly-still, but not shinigami-still, not quite. If shinigami had reapers, Light is what they'd be. Everything is weighed and decided only after the scales tip. Light sees through people – and shinigami – in ways Ryuk never could, even with his eyes. Ryuk doesn't care about Light but he's pretty sure that if there were ever a human actually worth some shinigami dying for, it would be him.
What Rem sees in Misa Ryuk will never understand. He says nothing, snickering only a little as he watches Rem threaten, not knowing it's the worst thing she could possibly do. Shinigami don't have death warrants but Rem's managed to sign hers nonetheless. He hopes he's there when it happens, the moment Rem looks at Light and realises he's killed her, and worse, she gave him the means herself.
He chuckles, and Light tilts his head and smiles, and oh, Ryuk knows it's stupid, but he loves him a little then anyway.
L – L – L. It's like magnets, Ryuk decides. The closer he and Light get to each other, the more they repel each other. In some other world, a world where Light never picked up Ryuk's Death Note, a world where Ryuk is not Light's constant companion, they might be the right polarities, they'd snap towards each other, pulled by the force that keeps the world turning, and they'd never be parted without some serious effort.
Ryuk watches Light, watches L, smiles savagely at him over Light's shoulder, watching the numbers fall every time Light takes a step closer.
In this world Light is Ryuk's human and Ryuk knows Light better than L ever will. He's not proud of that fact, he's not pleased that he sees Light better than Light's own equal and anchor – he's delighted, because Yagami Light is a creature that comes along once every thousand years or so and there's no need for two Ls in this time and place.
And then there's no need for even one.
"It's too quiet," Light says, staring at the dark ceiling in his new apartment. Ryuk looks at him, at the way the moon touches his face, at the way Light's eyes are dark and shadowed and no longer flame quite so bright.
The thing Ryuk knows best about humans is the expression they get when they're going to write their own name down.
"It's too quiet," Light repeats, and Ryuk understands that he's talking about how he's never slept in a place where there wasn't someone else sleeping a room away, that he's grown used to L's presence at his back, that he's feeling the absence of L like he's carved something out of himself.
Ryuk settles beside him on the bed, and is unsurprised when Light pushes at him half-heartedly. He chuckles and refuses to move. Light rolls away and presents his back. Ryuk isn't surprised in the slightest that he falls asleep within the hour, next to a shinigami with a Death Note and a pen close to hand.
Light is the poison in the heart of the apple, the steel beneath the silk scabbard – of course he'll fall asleep with a death god in his bed.
The fire in Light's eyes. It's going out. Light isn't like the other humans. He'll never deliberately write his own name, he'll never consciously feel that the weight of his deeds has become too much for him. It's going to take years rather than weeks, but he'll lose himself to Kira and he'll turn a blind eye to things he'd watch if L were around; he's going to fall and Ryuk is going to watch him. He's sure that Light will do the typical breakdown in a way Ryuk's never seen before, just like everything else.
He does. It's huge and horrific and magnificent, and then he turns to Ryuk and he begs, and Ryuk obliges him.
After all, he promised he would one day write Light's name down. Ryuk doesn't normally keep his promises – or at least, not in any manner a human would recognise as 'fair' – but this once he'll do exactly what he said he would.
When Ryuk told Light he would kill him it was his version of a thank you, because the only situation Ryuk would ever do it in would be if Light could not escape. A situation where Light would be captured and all the reasons for watching him would be taken away.
Light had thought Ryuk's wings might be worth half his life and Ryuk thinks they might have been too. If he had wings, he could fly away with Ryuk, and Ryuk would be free of boredom forever. The loss almost isn't worth it. Almost.
He digs his long fingers through the body's wounds, ignoring the yelping from the humans, and removes the bullets. When he gets back to the shinigami realm he'll find something to string them on.
The new shinigami's face is marble – literally – blank as snow, no expression at all save for the small amused quirk at one corner of his mouth that will never go away. Bone folds together across his chest like a suit with a ragged wound over the heart. He looks at Ryuk with brilliant red eyes and asks him about the stained bullets tied at equal distances into his hair like the points of a crown.
Ryuk asks the shinigami his name.
"Kira," says the shinigami, and watches impassively as Ryuk howls with laughter.