"You haven't answered yet," said the shadow. "Will you choose to be as you were?"

Scarecrow let out a lifeless laugh, as if he were already dead. He was injured, he was losing blood. "Heh…" For a moment, he stared at the person, a child, before him, the 'sinister bubble', as it had dubbed itself. The figure began to blur further, its dark silhouette beginning to blend with the background as if it would ultimately stretch and burst with a tiny pop, barely audible to Scarecrow's fading senses. "Promise you won't vanish on me, shinigami?"

The figure tilted its head to the side, to a three-quarters position. Scarecrow could see the blur warp just slightly, probably raising its cheek in a grin. He couldn't see its face properly. "Aren't you the one in danger of vanishing on me?"

"Hmph… you got me there," Scarecrow said weakly, attempting to place his hand over one of his many wounds. He could not move it, for all of his effort. The pain caused by the blows the assassin had inflicted was beginning to wane. Scarecrow knew he didn't have much time left at all. "So yes… judge me," he finished.

"Then speak," said the shinigami, turning to look right into Scarecrow's dilating pupils. "A judge cannot announce his verdict until the defendant gives his testimony."

"…as I told you…" he said. "I died in the place of a girl. She wasn't a regular thirteen-year-old girl. Biologically, at least." Scarecrow shut his eyes for a moment, thinking of her. Nagi Kirima. . "No… She… Nagi… wasn't normal in any way."

His eyelids flew open. Scarecrow felt as if he shut his eyes for too long, he'd never open them. He was probably right. He'd never receive his judgment at the hands of Death before him if he passed now.

And he'd pass soon, regardless of whether his eyes were opened or closed. Everything was numbing at an alarming rate. Scarecrow knew that he was almost dead, he knew he was right there on the brink. Although he still managed to spit out words, he was a corpse.

The shinigami nodded its head slightly. "Love, perhaps?"

Scarecrow somehow managed to let out a few loud laughs, his diaphragm's spasms hitting his injured organs. This sent a new shockwave of pain through his body. The painkillers he'd used as a sedative had worn off long ago. The sensation shot through his dying body in a way he'd never thought it could possibly feel to someone that was as far down the road of death as he was.

But he could feel the pain. It was proof he was still there. Proof that he was not yet a lifeless cadaver, that he still had something in him, something that could continue to speak as he lay there prone in the street behind a crematorium.

"Love? You're joking," he said. "If you want to, you can call it that… but it was more like pity. It's just… I knew she had such great potential. That she was special. If I were just a little more naïve, I'd think that she could save the world when she grew up. I wanted her to save the world.

"But she couldn't. She was confined to the hospital with something no doctor knew how to treat, something no patient knew how to deal with in peace and serenity. Something entirely new. She had no idea what was going on. No one did. For all those people knew, she could be in the morgue the next day."

Scarecrow was surprised at how much he was talking. It hurt to talk, and Scarecrow wondered if he was even comprehensible to the shadow he stared up at. Although he could not see its eyes, he could feel its gaze, feel its attentiveness. A shinigami, Scarecrow figured, should be able to understand a dying man's words.

"So she wanted me to be the superhero. She wanted me to fight for right and justice, for me to go out and save the world. She wanted me to live out that dream. I think she'd want anyone to do it, but… but she chose me," Scarecrow said. "Me, of all people. An artificially made human whose job it was to turn people… people like her… over to the Towa Organization so they could be put on a dissection table and have their livers weighed by some guys in white coats. How pathetic."

Scarecrow felt tears well up in his eyes. He was beginning to cry. It's me that's pathetic, he thought. How lame. How unbelievably lame he was, crying as he lay in a pool of his own blood.

"She… she thought I was a detective," he said. "I was, on a superficial level…. But she thought that was all I was… Purely heroic. That I, Detective Shinpei Kuroda, only fought for the side of good, solving crimes and helping people. She probably thought that I was the perfect type of guy to call himself a superhero. She didn't think I was Scarecrow, an agent for a secret organization whose job it was to hand her into a lab where her corpse would be cut up for research like she was some sort of test animal," Scarecrow said.

"But you didn't let that happen, did you?" the shadow asked.

"N-no…" Scarecrow replied. "I broke into one of those labs, and I stole something, a medicine of sorts, that'd act like a vaccine for her evolution. And I administered it to her in her hospital room as she slept. I didn't even know if it would work. But I have to keep thinking that it will. Otherwise it'd all be useless.

"Then the assassin they sent caught up with me," he said. "And here I am, bleeding in the street as I spill my heart out to what's probably only an illusion. I told you I was lame. And I'm stupid, too. I knew deep down that I wouldn't live through this, but I went and stole the serum anyways. "

"So why did you do it, then?" asked the shinigami. "Do you value her life over your own?"

"No… I don't think so… I… I…" Scarecrow felt a tugging in his chest, one he knew wasn't associated with his dying body. He felt like he was going to explode. "I just couldn't stand the idea of her laying on a table with her chest cut open! And… and if I just pretended I hadn't noticed anything unusual about her… I couldn't stand the sight of her wasting the rest of her days in that hospital, realizing her dream and begging someone else to live it out!" Scarecrow said, his tears finally running down his cheeks.

"She knew what was right, what to stand for. Something I, the idiot who talked of being a superhero, wanted to but could never do! And I couldn't let someone like her die or wither away to nothing! And I… I… wa…" Scarecrow felt his voice fading as he weakened, he felt his body giving in to death, the feeling of which he had tried to ignore as he gave his last 'testimony' to his last judge, the shinigami.

"I wanted to give her the chance to do what she wanted," Scarecrow said weakly. He wasn't crying anymore. "I wanted her to be free to be a hero, the freedom that I, as a Towa agent, could never have. I wanted her to be the hero for me."

The shadow leaned in closer to Scarecrow. "Are you finished?" it asked. The voice was not impatient, merely inquisitive.

"Yeah… finished is the word for it. Finished with it all. Pass your judgment, shinigami," said Scarecrow resolutely. His voice was not as strong as he beleived it to be, but there was a firmness to his tone. He'd laid his heart bare. He knew why he was dying, and he was ready to die. No more regret, he thought. "I'm ready for my sentence," he said, the corners of his lips curving upward just slightly.

"Then I have my verdict," the shinigami said, its androgynous voice grim and formal.

"Let's hear it then… I've held on this long… but I might 'disappear' any moment…" Scarecrow said.

It seemed like there was no one else existing in the whole world to Scarecrow at the moment but himself and the shingami. And Nagi, asleep peacefully in the hospital far away. Nagi, who would awake to a new life that she could do anything she wanted with. Nagi, who Scarecrow knew would be a hero someday.

The shadow spoke. "What have you said that incriminates you, agent Scarecrow?" it asked. "Do you expect punishment for saving a life, Detective Shinpei Kuroda? Do you expect retribution for giving life, superhero?"

"Superhero…" Scarecrow murmured. "I like that," he said. His grin widened automatically, although his expiring body could barely oblige.

Scarecrow felt something grasp the cloak on his back, which pulled away as the shinigami made its retreat. The blur slung the cloak over its shoulders and seemed to disappear into the morning light. How unfitting for a shadow.

It was dawn, Scarecrow thought, but he knew it was dusk for him, past even sunset. He knew it was time for him to die.

"Good luck, Nagi," he muttered contentedly, the smile still on his pale face. "I did my job. It's your turn. Next time we see each other, I know you'll be there. You'll be a hero."

All passed into darkness as Scarecrow's dusk faded to night.

Of course the first line of Boogiepop's dialogue is taken from the book, as is that 'heh'.

As soon as I read the novel, I thought that I wanted to write a fic about Scarecrow being judged by Boogiepop. It took me this long (and a fic by my friend on the same topic… he took it in a different direction, though) to write it.

…did Scarecrow take too long to die?

Disclaimer: I OWN NOTHING. Not Scarecrow. Not Boogiepop. Not Nagi. Not the topic. Just the words.

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