Lullaby (for the New World Order)
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Not mine.

AN: Post-series. Loosely inspired by the Matthew Good Band song of the same name. Probably vaguely AU.

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When it's all over, finished in a warehouse and the open pages of a Note that isn't theirs, they raid his belongings. Matsuda is the one to rifle through them, stomach churning and eyes half-blurred, holding each item up for Near to inspect and then ignore.

When he finds the handcuffs, tucked away in a small box near the back of his desk, it's all he can do not to throw them across the room and be quietly, miserably sick, because he was right all along, wasn't he?

And then he does throw it, viciously, watching with vindictive eyes as it clatters and falls open against the foot of Near's chair.

When he's through seeing red, he stares at Near, folding his way down to the floor, pale fingertips flitting along the silver links of the chain, then deftly plucking a neatly-folded sheet of paper from beneath the tangled metal. He hadn't seen it in his rage, but now Near unfolds it and simply stares for several long minutes before flipping it around for the rest of the crowding investigators to see.

It's an old Yotsuba report, but seeing it makes it hurt to breathe somehow, because in the middle of one drowsy afternoon, L had had a wandering pencil, and in the upper left corner, had doodled a sketch of Light-that-was, all airy pencil and delicate lines, quiet and serious, a dark gleam that might have been madness in his eyes and the hint of a rueful smile on his lips - and he remembers, now, Light's startled blink and his sudden laughter, the way he had reached over and stolen the paper, then hovered over the paper for an hour and a half before presenting it back to L, the other corner filled with a precise sketch of the detective, arms folded across his knees and staring eerily, a hint of an ethereal smile curling his lips. Together, he remembers, staring, they'd drawn the chain binding them together, each starting on his own half of the paper and meeting in the middle, an odd joining of delicate sketch and photo-perfect precision.

He looks at it now in Near's hands, and jumps back with a bitten-off curse when the boy's eyes narrow and he tears the paper in half with a vicious, violent motion that makes them all jump back and exchange terrified glances.

All of the SPK is staring, and he knows that he is too, but Near is holding the drawing of L to his chest and staring thoughtfully down at where the other half has fallen, small and frail, to crumple on the carpet. He picks it up a few moments later, and they continue searching, but the little slips of paper remain on his lap the entire time.

Later, long after night falls, they burn it all.

Matsuda, more than a little bit drunk, eyes blurring, glances over at Near, then has to squint over the glare of the flames to make sure he's not seeing things.

There's no expression on his face, but he's staring into the fire with something like fascination. In one hand, he holds a chocolate bar, half-eaten, but the other hand is curled by his throat, slim fingers gripping a thin cord that Matsuda's never seen before. He gets up, staggers over, and squints at him again - it wins him a half-second's glance, and he figures that's invitation enough to plop down beside him.

"Whassat?" He leans over and gives it a tug, sloppy and insolent in the face of his world ending, in waking from a lie to discover that everything has changed and he never could have stopped it, anyway.

Near startles, and his hand closes over a heavy locket, the thin metal surprisingly warm under his fingertips. When he flips it open, he just stares blankly, not sure what he's supposed to think, or if he's supposed to think at all.

The alcohol and the exhaustion are making it hard to see, but the pretty little sketch of Light-that-was and the crisp drawing of L-that-was are enough to blur his vision until all he can see is the flicker of flames in the darkness and Near, a ghost painted in red and white and shadow.

He remembers a fight, and he remembers a smile, and he remembers thinking that they would have been wonderful friends if they would only stop arguing all the time.

Near pushes his hand away, pressing the locket back against his chest in a move that would have been defensive if anyone else had done it. "Don't," he says softly, and pulls away when Matsuda leans over him again.

"Why?" he hisses, half-lost in memory, "Why them both?" Brilliant, frozen L, and Light, burning just as brightly, and they'd died for it, and the pain of could-have-been would-never-have-been is making the alcohol in his stomach turn.

Maybe it's the stress or the sake, but Near finally looks his age when he closes his eyes and breathes in slowly, still clutching his locket like a talisman.

When his eyes open again, his gaze is clear and dark. "L," he whispers, so faintly Matsuda has to strain to hear him, "is the name of god in the lips and hearts of Wammy's children."

Then he slides forward, nearly to the point of tipping into the fire, and carefully pulls the chain up over his head. He stares at it as it dangles, swaying hypnotically, the silver turning it gold and filagree in the flickering light.

Pretty lies, he thinks idly, pretty faces and pretty minds and he died so sweetly, does that mean he won?

The chain droops lower, flames tickling the bottom edge, and he watches through heavy lidded-eyes and wonders if he's crying.

It's beautiful, he thinks, they were beautiful once, but they weren't, but he still has to stifle a gasp when Near bites his lip, closes his eyes, and drops the locket into the fire. The chocolate bar comes next, and then a handheld video game that he hadn't noticed before, hitting the flames with an angry hiss and the stench of burnt metal and plastic. He stands there for several long moments, and through the haze of his own misery, Matsuda wonders if he's really shaking or if he's seeing things that aren't there.

When Near turns back to Matsuda, his gaze is placid, but so empty that it makes him shiver despite the nearness of the fire.

"All of our gods are dead now," he whispers, and pads softly away, from the fire and the celebration and the rest of the investigators, the ones who followed the right L and the ones who didn't.

Despite the heat and nearness of the others, the night is dark and very cold, and he tilts his face to his knees and quietly begins to cry.

There's nothing to wake up for tomorrow.

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