Written for the Fireplace Alliance's Song Challenge - use a line from a song as a focus for the story. The song I chose was "God Diva", by Ali Project. The line I picked is "The tragicomedy of demise", which struck me as quite a Death Note-worthy line to use.
Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note. You can tell because I like L, dammit!
"Maybe it wasn't exactly like L..."
"No...and anyway Near...you are L."
He spent the next week systematically dismantling the L-shaped tarot card towers, and those words continued to bother him all the while. Of course Near was L now, and so his time was never spent idle; though he had no interest in solving the case, he still had a eye on the NPA's pursuit of the Cheap Kira, the C-Kira. It was a short pursuit; Near found the last unnatural heart attack death days before the Japanese police force noticed it. C-Kira never resurfaced, mostly because he was dead and no one else could find the Death Note he'd been using. It was pathetic.
He left the largest L-tower for last. Near didn't have any other pressing cases at the moment; Kira's lasting impact was unlikely to fade soon, and what crimes that did occur were localized, minor, and otherwise insignificant. It was troublesome; Near's thoughts had to go in circles if there was no other place to direct them. And since he was thinking in circles, Lester's words continued to bother him.
It wasn't until Near was in the midst of dismantling the last L-tower that he began analyzing why the phrase was bothering him. It had to be...because he didn't feel like L. Near felt like he always had. Even when facing down Kira – the real Kira, Yagami Light – Near hadn't felt particularly L-ish. Of course, how would one define feeling like L? Near had no idea, which was a strange rarity for him.
When Near had finally forced a confession out of the maddened Yagami Light, that crazed mass murderer, he had felt something like muted elation for a moment. Mostly, he remembered feeling disgusted, especially as Yagami Light immediately tried to convince the gathered investigative teams that Kira's existence was good and necessary. The whole thing had been a prime example of the stupid rationale of a childish mind. L had died at this man's doing? Yagami Light had even managed to stain L with his pathetic behavior. Throwing a tantrum just because he'd lost, just because Near, with Mello's aid, had cheated in their little game?
Of course Near had cheated! The point wasn't to play with honor, with dignity, with throwing yourself into a gambit with everything on the line - the point of playing was that someone had to win, and they had to win unquestionably.
The research Near had done on the Kira Investigation, the testimonies he had gotten from Aizawa-san, Matsuda-san, Ide-san, and Mogi-san...the whole thing would have been quite sad if it hadn't been so laughable. The problem was that Yagami Light had assumed, right from the beginning, that he and L were in a winner-take-all contest with no holds barred – and that both sides would play their part with honor. Losing meaning that you were wrong, winning meaning that you were righteous.
Such a thought process...it was quite the same sort of one that would make a man believe that murdering wrongdoers was correct and good. It was so very Japanese. And such thought processes had hampered the case at every turn. Reality, on the other hand, was not so forgiving.
If Yagami Light was such a wise and clever foe, Near had always wondered, why had he never considered the idea that L would have set up a dead man switch? Throwing one's life away for nothing and sacrificing yourself to achieve your goal were two different things; if L lost to Kira, L had fully intended to reset his side of the board while Kira was declaring victory. It had worked brilliantly; Kira had gotten complacent and stupider, thinking he had won just because L was dead.
L is dead; long live L.
Of course, Near would not have been victorious if not for Mello. Perhaps that was a contributing factor in why Near did not feel like L; Near's victory over Kira would never have happened if Mello had not done what he had done. Mello had died, but by dying he had secured Near's victory for him. Didn't that mean that Mello had won in the end?
Near paused in his dismantling, twirling one of his long locks of hair around a finger in contemplation. Mello had won...that meant that Mello had earned the right to be L after all. Then again, it was something of a shared victory. Mello had ended up dying before his labors bore fruit in the form of Kira's capture. If not for Near, it would have been the hollow victory L had received when Kira murdered him; victory without proof. If there wasn't proof, could you really say there had been a victory? Who was to know?
Near frowned. Then he reached into the carefully assembled card stack and pulled cards out at random until the entire structure collapsed in a messy heap.
Who was to know that L was dead? There was a sort of irony in that, wasn't there? When Near himself died, there would be another L to replace him. The Wammy House still existed for that purpose; one day Near would be the one spying through a laptop's lens and answering questions through a computer's screen, one day Near would find the child – or children – with the nasty looks in their eyes that L had approved of. One day Near would be the one setting a dead man switch, and one day Near would be the one who wouldn't live to come back and turn it off...
He brushed the tarot cards away until there was a clear space on the floor in front of him. Then, with delicate motions, Near picked up two cards and began reassembling the giant L-tower. One day there would be someone else in his place, contemplating whether or not they felt like they were L, really and truly. But the sad, sweet irony of it all was this:
L is dead; long live L.