Disclaimer: As before, and as always, I don't own Death Note or any of these characters. I just play around with them, and it helps me function. Quotes: Hogfather, Terry Pratchett; 'Asleep' by the Smiths; The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling; The Hollow Men by T S Elliot.

Note: I haven't written anything in a really long time, considering how regularly I used to update. Hopefully this marks the beginning of a return to writing, because I do miss this stuff, I just haven't been able to get my head into it. Here's an idea I've wanted to write about for a while. Let me know what you think, if you can spare a few minutes. And I hope you all truly enjoy and have a very nice day. Warnings for some spoilers, some foul language, and general talk of death. If anyone still out there is still interested in reading what I put out, and reads this - thank you.

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There Among The Ashes

-

"That's life master."
But I'm not.
"I meant this is how it's supposed to go, master."
No. You mean this is how it goes.

-

Sing me to sleep, sing me to sleep
And then leave me alone
Don't try to wake me in the morning
Cos I will be gone

-

This is the hour of pride and power...

-

It is the hour of night-time - that gap in between one day and the next, the lost and sacred space between the changing of the clocks – when there is very little to do except sit, powerlessly, and become terrified of all the things that may come to pass.

Tonight a boy is scared. No, he is not just scared, he is petrified – his heart leaps into his mouth, his chest contracts. He tries to sleep, tosses, turns, gets up, walks to the window, tries to sleep again. His hair sticks up with sweat, and he's been running his hands through it, distracted, anxious, every few minutes. He drags a hand down his face, feeling the warmth of his own skin – noticing it, amazed by it, hearing each and every one of his breaths.

He listens to his heartbeat, eerily echoing in the darkness and muffled noise. He shivers, but the apartment isn't all that cold. Threads of cotton loose in his clothes brush against his body and he is achingly, terribly aware of each and every one.

He is afraid of dying.

Dying – dying! Something so far off for a kid his age, something so stupid – something no nineteen year old should find himself kept awake by, something so inevitable and distant...

Tonight, though, it's not so distant. Tonight – tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight he's sure of it. Tonight he's sure it's the end of the line.

Tonight he is sure that tomorrow he is going to die.

It's a risky plan, Matt knows. Of course it is. All of Mello's plans are risky in the extreme – and they always produce the best results, explosively, insanely, screeching through the intellect and mind games being played out on a four-year board, tearing up the pieces and roaring through in a blaze of gold, tumbling into some chaotic, impossible success.

They work, that's the weird part. And this plan is no different – crazy, sure, dangerous – naturally. But Matt's just – he's got this feeling, as stupid as it sounds, just this weird sensation that this is it. This is the last night sky he's going to see, the last set of clouds and the last star, set in the distance, away from the city smog.

He paces a while. He walks back to his bed, exhaustion eating through his limbs. His hand is on his sheets when he shudders, violently, suddenly, and turns away. He can't sleep. Can't stand the thought of lying down, the heaviness on his chest, the closeness of his throat, the risk of his breathing stopping just a few hours before –

He can't sleep. He goes to the window, flips the catch, and pushes it open.

It's January, and it's freezing. There's not much wind but the air is cold, viciously cold, and seeps in through the window as soon as Matt opens it. Matt loves it as much as he hates it. It brings up the hairs on his arms, sends a jolt of ice up his spine. It makes his breath catch and his limbs tremble, and God damn if this isn't what it's like to be alive.

God, Matt loves being alive. It sounds so dumb – even in his head – to form a thought like that: 'I love being alive'. Mental. But it doesn't matter, because no one can see inside his head, and if he can't think what he wants to think now, he's probably never even going to get the chance.

Thinking – there's so much of it left to do! Matt's never been like Near or Mello, eating up information and knowledge like it's the best thing on the market, but now, he thinks he can see some of the magic of it: the magic of clear, crystal understanding, all the facts in the world at your fingertips, ready to be played together, woven into a tapestry, played like a piano, weaved and wound round the universe until it dances to your tune. He gets it, he thinks, why they – why Near, especially – devoured books the way they did, quoted off the most random facts. Knowing, just knowing about the world – knowing things Matt couldn't even conceive of having existed – was so vivid, so real...

All he's ever been is the sharp brain, and the hacker. Matt's smart and he knows it – and he's a cut above the rest of the Wammy's house. But he also knows he's a good cut below Near and Mello, that he's never had that desperation to know things. He'd never understood it, never understood what Mello had told him once when he'd asked him –

"Mello, how come you want to know so much right now? I mean, you've got your whole life, yeah?"

"Don't be stupid, Matt. Anything could happen any day, and then think of all the stuff I wouldn't know!"

"But if something happens, like, I dunno, you die, what's it going to matter that you know it?"

"I'll know I knew it. That's what's going to matter. I'll know I understood all this stuff before I go."

It had sounded silly at the time. And just a little bit, it still does. There's so much more to do with your final few hours, Matt thinks, than reading a book and learning some stuff. But he understands it, too, because there's so much to know...

And it's all academic now really, because they don't have anything in the apartment Matt could read anyway. The night air is getting colder, and he wants to go back inside. But every time he turns back towards the apartment, makes to close the window, the same awful, cloying sense of finality and blackness clutches at him, thin fingers scrambling for a scrap of his soul.

He sits by the window for a long time, just staring out. He thinks about a lot of things. He thinks about Near and about Mello. He thinks about L and Kira, and he thinks about a girl he knew once, with long hair and the prettiest smile in the world. He thinks about beer and about fish and chips in Wolverhampton on a field trip when he was nine, and he thinks about cigarettes. He thinks about pollution and global warming and whether reason or emotion should be the key deciding factor in human decisions.

And then he thinks about Mello again.

And then he doesn't think about much at all.

When light starts to prick the darkness through with shimmering holes, Matt thinks maybe he should write something down. Because at the end, he guesses someone will be left alive. Kira, maybe. Near, probably. Not him. And definitely not Mello. So maybe he should write something down.

He knows Mello has. Mello didn't let him see it at first, hid it away, but then eventually he gave up and read it out to Matt. The story about Beyond Birthday. Matt had heard bits of it, but never the full story, never almost-straight-from-the-horse's-mouth. So he'd listened, slack jawed, interrupting way too much, scoffing at Mello's overly-artistic way of putting it down, dodging his friend's half-assed punches. He'd listened, and he'd loved it.

That was what Mello'd put down. It wasn't really about him, Matt guesses. Maybe Matt shouldn't write stuff about himself either. Maybe that'd be dangerous, writing about Wammy's and stuff. Maybe it's just dumb.

Matt opens a tattered notepad, sits at it with a pencil for a bit. Doesn't know what to say, still can't get around the fact that he feels ridiculous even contemplating it. Outside, the sky is getting a bit brighter, and Matt remembers one night when he and Mello had run away from the school to go camping. They'd gotten soaked through and burnt all their food, and barely got any sleep, and had been thrilled to pieces that they'd managed to do it. They'd traipsed back to Wammy's in the early dawn light, rose sunbeams kissing the dew, shoes dangling over their shoulders and socks lost somewhere in a river a long way away, and the whole world silent except for their giggling and chattering.

They'd been as good as lynched by Roger, of course. But that hadn't mattered then and it doesn't matter now.

Matt starts to write. The sun comes up a little more, dawn changing into day, and gradually, slowly, the city starts to come to life, starting at the middle and moving outwards. Cars creep along the roads, people with jobs to go to and the rest of their lives to lead. Matt's sort of run out of time on that front.

After a time, he stops writing and looks at what he's got. It's nothing. It's a few childhood experiences, some thoughts, some rants, a few ideas about the way he's lived his life. A few regrets. A couple of secrets. He thinks it's like someone got a book about his life and snatched a few paragraphs at random, and taped them onto a page together. Random, rambling and pointless, and Matt smiles a little to himself. It was a stupid idea anyway and he doesn't care. He's got a thousand more stories to tell, a thousand ideas that could probably revolutionise the world. He's got a lot more secrets that he hasn't told yet.

It doesn't matter. There isn't time. He doesn't care. What's said is said, and what isn't – he's keeping to himself. He folds up the paper, wraps it in a blank sheet, goes to write a name on it. He pauses halfway through writing 'Mello', stops, and realises what he's doing.

Because Mello's always been the only person he's ever split his heart with, ever offered his soul to. He doesn't think it would be right to just go off sharing it with someone else now, or with the world.

He scribbles out the name. Writes "So what" on the paper cover. Drops it on the floor. Stretches his arms.

Nervous energy is coiled up through him; he's wired. He hasn't slept, and now he doesn't need to. An old line drifts into his mind – plenty of time to sleep when you're dead. Damn straight. He's got a good few hours left yet, and damn if he's going to waste them. The world is out there. God – the world! So big, so full of everything...so much disaster, so much anger, clashing all the time with every shard of love, every glimpse of hope. Every orphan countered with a rich kid or three, every marriage with a matricide. The sky covered with a dash of smoke, a dash of morning light and a lot of screams, thrown high to the heavens. A whole ball of insanity and futility and madness and glory and wonder and everything under the sun is here to be had...

It's God damn beautiful, Matt thinks. The most God damn beautiful thing in existence and he's going to miss out on the rest of it.

His heart is still beating hard, almost erratically, in his chest. His mouth is a little dry and his hands fumble over his cigarette pack. He's got six left. Will that be enough? He thinks it over, rations them over the next few hours in his mind. But then he thinks that if he does go through more, there aren't really that many long term effects he's going to suffer from. He digs out another pack – his last one, bought last night before the shops shut – and slips it into his pocket. He's going to smoke them all, he decides, every single one, and he's going to damn well enjoy it.

Matt hopes it isn't Kira who gets him. Hopes it's not a Death Note. Most of the abject terror has left him now, leaving a horrified emptiness and unspeakable dread, but a distinct calmness. At the thought of that, though, the terror returns, like an invisible hand round his heart, choking the life out of him from the inside. And he knows that having a heart attack is going to be much, much worse than that. So he hopes it's not Kira who gets him.

Matt, he kind of hopes it's guns. Guns he can deal with. Bullets hurt like hell, and they tear you to pieces from the outside. That's how he wants to go out. Hurting and bleeding and nothing clean at all, making as much damn mess as possible, not just one more to notch up on the Kira sheet.

Matt wants to make a fucking scene, and he's damn well going to if he can.

Mello's going to wake up soon. Matt kicks the "So what" papers under a table. Someone will find them. Someday. Maybe. He doesn't care. It doesn't matter.

No one's really going to remember him.

He might as well not have been here at all.

Mello...Mello's the same really. Mello's the fire and the ice and the raging winds and the only whirlpool no ship can steer clear of. But in the end, he's still this kid who's burning himself up, ripping himself apart with his own rage and brilliance, and no one's going to remember him, either, except as a foot note to Kira and L. Mello, he's always going to be second, and that will probably kill him more than being forgotten ever would.

Matt won't forget Mello. Not in death or anything else. Mello's something else, he really is. Mello's the kind of guy you meet once and remember, the kind you give your life up for just because being around them means you get a chance to taste that fire, catch that furious excitement off them, live life just for one second in the same blazing, reckless way they do. And Matt's sold himself to that, he's going out with it. Matt's made that choice a long time ago.

But he's still afraid of dying. Still, after everything is said and done, after all the rationalisation and the making peace with the world, he's still just nineteen and he still just doesn't want to die. He could leave, right now, walk out the door, turn his back on this and just get out. Just live. It wouldn't be that big a deal. It would just be a shift...one thing into another.

Matt knows he won't do it. Part of it is being too much of a chickenshit too, part of it is not wanting to abandon Mello, part of it is some fucked up romantic notion of glory.

And part of it, just a tiny part, is a little voice in the back of his head, chuckling to itself, rolling its shoulders, taking a drag on cigarette, and saying, with a shrug, "Oh well, what the hell."

Got to die some way, he thinks. Least he gets to go out with a bang. It's still going out, he's still dying before he hits twenty, he's still living some fucked up movie script of a life...

But them's the breaks. So scared shitless, trembling with nerves and strung out from a lack of sleep, Matt starts the last day of his life.

-

This is the way
This is the way
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

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