by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Not mine.

AN: Post-series. Spoilers, speculation, and the usual.

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This isn't what he expected the afterlife to be like, and when you get right down to it, he's kind of annoyed by that, but he supposes it could be worse. It's kind of like that strange foreign film, with the waiting room, but unlike there, the people here aren't stuck, though all are strange, and nothing is ever constant.

Except for the secretary, who looks as though he's been there for ages, and who has a most annoying habit of balancing a pencil on his nose during those brief periods of boredom that occur in between the crush of incoming souls.

Light Yagami does not sigh and scratch his nose, because even if he's dead, he's still got his dignity, and if he's going to sit here and be bored for eternity - irony, he decides, tastes like rotten apples - he's not going to lower himself to childish pursuits or even throw himself against the wall in an attempt to break the monotony. He's stronger than that, so he sits, and he waits, and he watches as they flow through. He's vaguely reminded of hospitals, and birthday parties, and funerals - most people who wander in come in as confused and disoriented as he did, but more often than not they're swept up, either by long-lost family members eager to welcome them home, or a convenient demon to drag them off to hell.

For lack of anything else to do - stupid stupid stupid useless rules - he's started categorizing them, the young and the innocent and the old and the jaded, and they all fit a pattern, coming in screaming or serene and leaving in joy or torment. He's seen children tucked into loving arms, seen scum dragged to the flames where they belong, and watched a martyr glow with the innocent delight of the just. He's annoyed at himself for being shocked the first time he sees soulmates reunited - after all he's been through, he should know better, and it's a sweet, pretty sight, even the ones that killed one another - souls recognize souls, and even if they've never met in life, the connection is still there in death. He likes families the best, he decides, families that lived through hard times and persevered, families that welcome newcomers with glad cries and open arms. These are good people, the kind of people who deserve a better world, and at least here, they've got one. He likes watching lovers reunited, likes watching long-lost friends greet one another, and likes watching beloved pets welcome their owners back where they belong. Justice is here, and he's proud of what he's done, and he will never repent because what he's done is right, and here's the proof.

He laughs every time the gates of Hell swing open. It's so perfectly fitting, the truth of it all plain and clear, and heaven on Earth would be the echo of this that he tried so hard to create. So what if he's stuck here? Everyone else has someone to go to, a lover or a friend or a mother, but he has no one and needs no one, never has, so in this, at least, he is content, even if he does have to stop himself from climbing the walls sometimes in sheer boredom. Everyone and everything moves on, but he watches - isn't that the duty of a benevolent god?

Everyone is transient except for himself and the secretary, whose job mainly seems to consist of giving directions: heaven and hell aren't in places, exactly, and there seem to be an awful lot of different versions of them, but he supposes that's the way it should be, to each his own and all that ridiculous rot. His personal own is here, ever-watching, ever-frozen, ever-useless, and it chafes on him more than he's willing to admit. If he ever sees Ryuk again, he's going to find a way to destroy all the apples on the Earth and everywhere else for the rest of eternity. A virus, that would be best, to rot them away from the inside and pass along the genes to the next generation.

But for now, he sits, and he waits, and he watches. His mother, when she comes, is tragic and beautiful, age sliding off her until she's a young woman once again, and he accepts her embrace with detached formality, even as he watches the worry in her eyes grow. It's the proper thing to do, and he's always been perfect, and even if he doesn't love her, he smiles when his father rushes out to greet her, sweeps her off her feet and twirls her around. His father nods to him, and he knows that the wound is too deep, too soon, but it doesn't bother him at all. There's eternity left, after all, and he gives them a reassurance that he'll be fine - it's hard not to be, just sitting here, and maybe he'll smile when he meets Sayu again.

But Matsuda comes next, and doesn't look at him, disappearing into a knot of friends and family almost as soon as he steps through the doors. Others come and go even more quickly, vanishing into heaven or hell, and he ignores them as supremely unimportant as they are - Misa looks at him sadly, but then she's gone too, and he doesn't know or care where.

When Sayu comes, she's older and lovely, with a sort of quiet wisdom glowing in her eyes, and he lets her hug him before releasing her into the arms of their parents, and the young man he long ago recognized as her lover. He gives them a smile when they go, and he knows he won't see them again, not until Sayu's children die, and even then, he won't be noticed. That's all right too - trappings of an old life, an old self, and they just don't matter anymore. Nothing does, and it's annoying, to have nothing to do, to simply wait and watch and wait and then watch some more. But still, he's done what he set out to do, and the world he left behind was better than the world he was born in, so he can relax now, stretch out his limbs and lounge, and he does, because he can, but keeps himself collected and neat, if only for the sake of his own sanity.

Light's lips part in a snarl of hate when Near pads in, silent and childish and tugging at his hair, and looks at him with quiet, empty eyes. Near smiles once, a faint, satisfied twitch of pale lips, and Light finds himself quietly astonished when a riot of color streaks past his vision, and Near is crushed beneath the combined weight of Watari, Matt, and Mello, each greeting him in a way that leaves the pale boy (sliding down in age, younger and younger, until he's a child again) distinctly uncomfortable and stiffly awkward.

His whole being freezes and burns when he feels L brush by, and he's almost sickened with disgust the moment he realizes what the prickling feeling in the place that used to be his heart means.

Gods have a vicious, cruel sense of humor, and he doesn't have to open his eyes to see the casual, careless greeting L offers his heir, or the faint glow of happiness that Near radiates in his presence - nearly eclipsed by the blinding light of Mello's adoration, the warm silvery strength of Watari, Matt's indifferent delight, and if he could bite his lip, he would relish the taste of blood on his tongue. They're an awkward, hopeless bunch, useless all alone, but sharp and brilliant and familiar, and every one of them burns with the clear cold flame he's crossed his arms against, trying to crush it back down inside, to kill it all over again as he thought he'd done so very long ago, when the sound of his breathing finally went silent.

He knows he cannot love, and he knows he never has, but once upon a time, he had a friend who wasn't a friend, a match who wasn't a match, an enemy who wasn't quite perfect enough to be perfect, and he had been absolutely, rapturously joyous the day he had died.

They're shuffling away now, a brilliant mismatched group of malformed, maladjusted souls, and he wants to scream at them, laugh at them, scorn them for their uselessness, but why bother? They'll be gone soon enough, and things will go back to normal, and even if he's bored again, the flame in his chest will finally die.

It doesn't quite come as a surprise when L kicks him in the face as a greeting, and he's already halfway through the return punch when he registers the startlement of the others - silly fools one and all, and not a one of them knows - but then his world dissolves into an infinite expanse of pale, cold blue, and there is nothing but ripping and snarling and tearing and being torn in return, and when it all ends in a rush of soundless emptiness, he stares into the endless dark eyes of his soulmate and hates him with every fiber of his being.

L gives him an aimless little smile and gnaws on his thumb, and he sits back, sullen and resentful about his own traitorous happiness - he's not bored anymore, of course not, how could he be? - and it's truly and deeply unfair that this has happened to him, a god who should be above all others, especially this one, the most deeply flawed and therefore the most lovely of all mortals.

They sit and stare at one another for a very long time - or maybe it's no time at all - and the cold flame in his chest has leapt into an inferno, bright and blinding and surrounding and drowning both of them together, the way it couldn't have been, the way it should have been, and he's not sure which he despises more deeply, the possibility or having it ripped away before it could form.

"I laughed when you died." It's the truth, because there's no point in lying anymore, and there's too much and absolutely nothing to say.

"I laughed when you did," L replies, and he knows, of course, because what else would he have done? Triumph is triumph, and they're even again, even though he's certain that he's the one who won, because L died in his arms and he died without an enemy to hold him.

It's quiet for a long time, and he just watches him, and is watched in return. He likes the attention, has always reveled in it, and it's L watching him, and that is the most interesting thing of all. This is familiar and foreign all at once, and he's aggravated and amused to note that nothing has changed, nothing at all, not even the crumbs on his shirt. His eyes are empty as ever, dark as forever, and he hates the reflection of himself that he is, hates the knowledge that he is L reflected, and hates their shared knowledge of who and what they are.

"I have to go," L says after what's probably been half of forever, and he's truly and deeply annoyed by that, because he's suddenly sure that unless he starts believing very hard in reincarnation, he'll never see him again, and though that's a blissfully wonderful thought, it's also awful and terrible because he'll be bored again and there will be no end to that boredom. In the end, it's a simple decision, so he stands up formally, like the best friends they were and are and will never be, and reaches out and shakes his hand. L wrinkles his nose and extracts his palm gingerly, wiping it on his pants, and he rolls his eyes, already half-regretting the decision he's already sure he's made.

"Don't be late." And he doesn't have to explain, because that would be simple and boring, and L is anything but that.

"Don't kill anyone before I get there," L tells him, and Light steps forward again and reaches out and crushes him warm and close, determined to remember this, the feel of this, the searing heat and brightness of blinding, freezing flame, and it is not love, and it is not friendship, but it is his, and it always will be. L doesn't cling back, just brushes a hand loosely down his back, and he hates that he is possessed in return, hates that he's bound to this creature for the rest of all of forever, but he hates boredom even more than he hates L, so he allows it.

Then he steps back, and L shuffles away, and that is the end of that. He has a new goal, now, and he's quietly delighted by the idea - at least he won't be bored anymore, even if it takes him a century or two to figure things out.

- - -

Sixty-eight years later, he tilts his head and glances surreptitiously up at the strange, pale boy folded up on the bench. The boy tilts his head and looks back at him, and he turns a little and stares, transfixed, into eyes that are blacker than the night sky beyond the stars.

Wordlessly, he clambers up on the bench beside him, and for a while they watch the rest of the schoolchildren in their group splash around with the holographic paint. Then they pick up their own brushes, and by the end of the day, their disparate portrait of two-faced Justice is the talk of the colony.

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