Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note.
When I opened my eyes, I was alone. There was no L. About that, I wasn't in the least surprised. He didn't belong in Hell.
Which is where I had to be, right? Because I was clearly somewhere, so I hadn't just ceased to exist. Surely this wasn't Heaven. What alternative did that leave?
Also, it was dark. Darker than anything I had ever known, and I had once been in a cave where they turned the lights out.
As the darkness pressed in around me, I found that I was able to sit down, and so I sat.
It could have been years that I sat there, but I never felt hungry or thirsty or hot or cold or tired.
So maybe it was Nothingness, except that the souls didn't turn into it, we just went to it. Nothing to do, nothing to see or hear or feel... an eternity to think. Alone. In the dark.
Then, suddenly, a white piece of paper fluttered down, directly onto my hands. It was the first thing I had seen in an unmarked amount of time, and ignoring the physics of needing light to see, it almost hurt my eyes.
There were Japanese words on the piece of paper.
"You really messed up, didn't you?"
Curiously, I looked up in the direction from which the paper had fallen, but as before there was only darkness. Where had it come from?
I looked down at the paper again, and it seemed to have more words than it'd had before, although I wasn't sure they hadn't been there before.
"What do you have to say for yourself?"
Was I supposed to answer that out loud? Was I supposed to write something down? Although, actually, I'd had enough of writing on objects that fall from the sky for this lifetime.
"I..." I stopped.
No. There was no justification for what I had done. There's no reason, no reason, to kill so many thousands of people. Not to make the world a better place. Not as a mercy. Not because I was fucking bored.
"Nothing," I said finally. "I have nothing to say. I can't justify what I did."
The paper definitely had more words now. Probably. Or had I just not noticed the next few lines, before?
"You could have changed the world without the Death Note. You could have met L Lawliet some other way, and joined him. If you two had worked together, you could have done what you did without killing so many people."
I was silent.
"Do you understand?" suddenly appeared on the page. What was the deal with this thing?
"Yes," I whispered to no one.
"You'll return, uncontrolled, to the moment before you turned around to go back for the notebook. You'll have all your memories of your previous life until you walk away. If you pick it up, you will retain the memories."
"Wait, what? I'm going back?"
"Choose well, Light Yagami."
So it wasn't optional, I realized as the world I remembered slowly painted itself into existence around me.
As the voice had said- there I stood.
In the yard of my high school, in front of that little black notebook. That damn notebook, that had given me the power to do so many terrible things. So many things that had seemed right...
But it wasn't about the power anymore, or fixing the world, if I had ever really believed in that. If I walked away from the Death Note now, I'd forget all of it. I'd go back, truly, to being Light Yagami, high school student extraordinaire, about to get accepted to the best University in Japan with perfect scores on my entrance exams without studying.
And I'd forget Ryuuzaki. With him gone, my memories of him were all I had left.
I realized with a jolt that he was alive in this world. This time around. I knew Ryuuzaki's name- maybe I could track him down... we could fall in love again. I knew where Wammy's House was. I wouldn't have to use the notebook, just hold it. The addiction wasn't so bad; I could deal with it. As an added bonus, picking it up would prevent anyone else from getting it...
I took a step toward the notebook. I didn't want to forget him. According to the paper, if I picked up the Death Note, I wouldn't lose my memories of the first time around. I could do it all again, but do it right.
He and I had speculated about it once. Whether or not we would have met, let alone have fallen in love, if I hadn't been Kira. He said it was possible...
But it wasn't a guarantee. As sure as I was that he would be in my life no matter what life I chose, there was no guarantee. If I didn't pick up the notebook, I may not end up even joining the Investigation. Assuming, that is, that someone else picked it up and went Kira with it as effectively as I had, causing there to be a Kira Investigation Team and a need to call in The Great and Powerful L...
But I could pick it up, not use it, and find him.
Except for one very simple fact: I didn't have any self-control when it came to the Death Note. I didn't know what I would do, and I wasn't stronger than it.
So... I could pick it up, remember Ryuuzaki, find him, and hope for the best in relation to tens of thousands of lives, or I could walk away. I could back away, forget it all. Forget him. Maybe never even meet him.
I turned around slowly, my back to the notebook that had caused so much... shit.
Yes, I loved Ryuuzaki. More than anything.
And because of that, I couldn't pick it up and risk doing it all again. Killing him again.
Even if we never met this time around, he'd be out there. I wouldn't remember, but that would be okay. He'd live a full life, solving cases left and right. Maybe he'd find someone to love, who loved him as much as I did. Maybe it would be a woman, and he'd have a family...
Just... happiness. I wanted the one I loved to be happy. That wasn't a crime anywhere.
And so I would forget, and hope that I'd still meet him, somehow.
I took a step away from the notebook and immediately got a headache. It was incredibly strange, feeling myself forgetting. Feeling my head empty out a bit.
Trying to remember what I had forgotten, I realized that I didn't remember the date on which I had found the notebook. That day's date, incidentally.
I took another step, feeling my mind lighten even more. I found I could stand up straighter.
Another step, more facts sliding from my mind. I was forgetting faster and faster. I started to repeat some things to myself, things that would be important to remember to prevent another disaster like all of this had been.
Kira. Death Note. Ryuk. Rem. Eyes. Misa. Ryuuzaki.
Kira. Death Note. Ryuk. Eyes. Misa. Ryuuzaki.
Kira. Death Note. Ryuk. Eyes. Ryuuzaki.
Kira. Death Note. Ryuk. Ryuuzaki.
I was walking faster now, afraid that I'd give in and go back. It was a terrifying thing, knowing I was forgetting, when so much of my life had revolved around my mind and my perfect memory.
But I took another step.
Kira. Death Note. Ryuuzaki.
Death Note. Ryuuzaki.
Now I paused. This was my last chance to turn around. I knew I had to keep walking, but I wasn't positive why. But I knew about Ryuuzaki, and I knew that he could die if I didn't move forward, so I started repeating things about him to myself. I wanted to hold onto him as long as I could, even if I wasn't sure why.
Eyes. Smile. Love. Sex. Brilliance. Quirks.
I walked on.
Eyes. Love. Sex. Brilliance. Quirks.
I forced myself to keep going. I knew my mental checklist was diminishing, and there was a blur on my mind's image of his lips. I must have forgotten his lips. Had I loved his lips?
Eyes. Love. Brilliance. Quirks.
Heavy feet, like cement.
Love. Brilliance. Quirks.
I was losing him, piece by piece. Again. At least, I was pretty sure it was again.
I knew I loved him, I knew he was a genius, I knew I was missing a lot of the things that made him, him. But I still remembered him... remembered who he was and the fact that I felt about him more strongly than anyone...
After this, I may lose him forever.
I took a deep breath and kept walking.
...Where was I going? I blinked and looked around, disoriented for some reason. I was somewhere I'd never been, as far as I knew. Was I supposed to be meeting a girl (or, you know, a guy, which would explain why I was so far away from where my father might see me) or something? How had I gotten here? Was I far away from home? I didn't have a lot of money on me, not enough for a long train ride, at least...
I shook my head. That's right. I had been going to visit the University I was studying to get into. I kind of wished I remembered what I had been thinking about that could make me forget such a thing- it must have been fascinating, because I was totally bewildered for a moment.
Inwardly laughing it off, I adjusted my direction and found that I was actually quite close to my destination.
I stared up at the huge building in a mix of confidence, excitement, and hope. This was the hardest college in the country. It was possible... possible... that it might be hard enough for me. What I wanted more than anything else was a challenge, and if this school couldn't provide it... Well, I'd probably lose my mind with boredom. Maybe there would be other people there up to my intellectual level. Someone to have a real conversation with. I mean, I loved my family and everything, but they certainly weren't up to my level.
Feeling unstoppable, I strode to the campus coffee shop, right next to the tennis court, where I would be able to see the college. There was something appealing about the thought of sipping black coffee and looking up at the place that may or may not change my life. Give me something to live for, instead of just... living.
I forced that thought out of my head. I didn't need to go down that road again. Whenever I let my mind wander there, I ended up with a date, thinking that maybe they'd be able to distract me for a while. It always got messy because they tended to actually like, and I didn't need any drama right before entrance exams. Not that I intended to study at all. But my parents needed to think I did. What would they do if they knew how smart I really was?
I thought about this as I made my way to the back of the coffee shop. The walls were all windows there, and it faced the school. I wondered if they did that on purpose. The thought boosted my expectations slightly: maybe it was as symbolic to other people as it was to me. If people had gone out of their way to build a spot that made possible the pastime of gazing at the school longingly, then there had to be other people like me, right?
A little voice- the voice in me that was always right and knew it- told me to push my hopes right back down.
I noticed suddenly that there was someone already sitting at the table I'd been heading for. As I approached, I saw that he was terribly sloppy, and the obsessive-compulsive part of me had a small seizure. I repressed it and, for some reason I couldn't imagine, slid into the booth, facing the stranger. He didn't look up at me.
"Um... hey," I said awkwardly. Awkwardly? Since when was Light Yagami awkward? Never.
He was putting sugar cubes into a cup of coffee, three at a time, hunched over it like it was incomparably important to him. I nearly had a heart attack when he actually took a sip of what must have been a coffee- flavored sugar paste. I half expected him to go into insulin shock and hit the floor convulsing, but he appeared unphased, at least what I could see of him.
Oh, but he was watching me through that black mop of hair. Clever. Was he a student here?
As if reading my mind, or reading me, he looked up. I was caught off-guard by his eyes. They were darker and deeper than I had ever seen on any person before, and strangely... blank. 'Unreadable' might be a better description, because he clearly didn't appear thoughtless.
From the slight downward curve of his lips, however, I could tell that he had been sitting there, frowning at his coffee and his surroundings, for a long time.
He blinked and a thought shot through my mind, or really more of a syllable. "Re...?" I said it aloud for reasons I didn't understand, but when I did his head jerked up all the way and he stared at me. His dark eyes burned into me, and it was like he could see straight through my skin. Something about that gaze was familiar, but I knew for a fact that no one had ever looked at me that way before.
I almost shied away from the dissecting stare, but I reminded myself that I wasn't a coward and held his gaze. Besides, it was impossible that he really could see into me. My defenses were impenetrable. My own parents couldn't tell when something was wrong or how I truly felt about something, so how could a stranger?
So I stared right back at him and waited for him to say something in response.
"Hello," he replied finally, bottomless eyes searching. His frown deepened.
"Not to intrude," I said in my most charming and polite voice, "but you appear to be upset about something."
He looked surprised that I could tell that something was wrong. He was like me, then- a fantastic actor with something to hide and a face that people couldn't read. Maybe he could see through me, then.
"Yes, I..." He paused, obviously unfamiliar with not instantly knowing how to respond. "I came here about twenty minutes ago, certain that I had left something behind. But I don't remember coming here in the first place, which is certainly a prerequisite for leaving something behind. And, generally speaking, I do not carry anything around with me." He stopped and frowned again, annoyed, I could tell, that he had just told me all of that.
I laughed at his expression. "Don't worry, I'm not a serial killer. And that hardly counts as personal information."
He looked at me for a long moment, then decided I was telling the truth. "How did you know my name?" he asked after a good minute where we just stared at each other. He seemed to be as fascinated by me as I was by him.
"I..." That caught me off-guard. "I didn't. I just had the syllable 'Re' stuck in my head when I saw you. I don't even know why I sat down. I-" I was rambling. I stopped myself and shrugged. Let him fill in the blank with whatever he wanted me to say.
But he kept staring at me. "You, what?"
"I... just sat. Is your name Rei?"
"Ryuuzaki," he said, bringing his thumb to his mouth to chew on his fingernail.
"I'm applying to this school," I informed him suddenly. "Are you a student here?"
"No." He tugged on his bottom lip, thoughtful, looking at me. "But I believe that I will apply as well," he said, the thought obviously having just occurred to him.
For reasons I didn't understand, this made me immensely excited. "Hey, we might have a class together," I said, friendly and controlled again.
He perked up a bit, if 'perked up' was a good word for slouching slightly less in his seat. I noticed then that his legs were pulled up to his chest. Weirdo. "Are you familiar with a Soichiro Yagami?" he asked politely.
"Very. He's my father. Do you know him?"
"I know of him. One could say that I work with the police."
"Oh, the NPA? I've helped them solve a few cases in the past. In fact, I'm studying to become a police officer. Are you a detective?"
He smiled, as if at some inside joke. "Yes, I am."
That explained a lot about his appearance, actually. He was somehow both forgettable and memorable- like you would never notice him just walking by, but if you talked to him you'd never get him out of your head.
"I have heard stories about you," he said monotonously. "The cases you solved- you didn't help the police solve them, you solved them yourself. They were cases that the NPA could not solve. Not child's play. You did not volunteer- they resorted to you."
I smiled in a way that I hoped came across as mysterious. "You're right."
Suddenly he said, "Would you be opposed to participating in a simple test of your deductive reasoning abilities? It requires only conversation. We would not have to leave this cafe- we could get cake."
"I don't care for cake," I replied warily (he stared at me like I was a madman), "but I'd love to take the test, and you're free to get cake even if I don't."
"Very well," he said agreeably.
He ordered himself a slice of strawberry cake. As the waitress walked away, he returned his attention to me.
"Light-kun. I place before you a note, many years old, that was found near the body of a dead man. What do you make of it?"
He put the piece of paper in front of me, then withdrew both hands and placed them on his knees. He watched me closely.
I looked intently at the paper, letting my mind whirr. It was a normal scrap of paper, torn at the bottom, no signs of blood or anything else on it. It read, very simply, 'A does not equal L,' except, I noted, that the 'does not equal' was the mathematical symbol.
"Is this the complete note? The tear-away, I mean. Did you remove it or was it found this way?"
"This is the way it was found," he supplied without hesitation.
I looked at the note again. It was clear to me, but I gave myself some time to come up with an alternate idea. When my brain presented nothing, I answered.
"It's a suicide note," I said simply.
He leaned forward a bit. "Interesting. By what logic?"
"It's fairly straightforward." I pointed at the 'A,' and then the 'L.' "I think these are abbreviations for names. I think this person, either 'A' or 'L,' was tired of being compared to the other. I'm gonna go ahead and say that 'L' is the dead man- if he was depressed enough to kill himself, he would probably put his name second. They may have been twins, although suicide might be a bit of an extreme reaction to that. Anyway, 'L' was either in a hurry, very into math, or both, because he used the 'does not equal' sign instead of simply writing 'I am not A.'"
"Very good, Light-kun," he mumbled, taking the note back and shoving it unceremoniously into his pocket. "You were correct about a greater portion of that than one could expect you to be."
I leaned back in my seat, smug. "Thank you, Ryuuzaki." Then it occurred to me. "But not all of it?"
"No," he said with a small, approving smile. "Not all of it."
His beautiful dark eyes made my breath catch in my throat, and I had to look away or I would blush.
"Hey, um," I said, awkward again. "There's a tennis court. Right outside here. Do you play?"
"It's a challenge then," I said solemnly. "A challenge which I will win."
"We shall see," he said sagely, endless eyes glinting.
For a moment I worried what I had gotten myself into.
"Well, you can finish your cake and then..." I looked at his plate and it was already gone. The test hadn't been that long- he must have eaten it extremely quickly while I was distracted.
"I am already finished," he said cheerfully, and climbed out of his seat.
I followed him to the tennis court. Neither of us had tennis-appropriate shoes or clothes, so I just took off my school uniform jacket and draped it over a bench. Normally that would have appalled me, but today, for whatever reason, it didn't even occur to me to freak out about it. I rolled up my sleeves and rented two tennis rackets from a man behind a counter. I passed one to Ryuuzaki, who accepted it with two long, pale fingers.
He was much better at the sport than I expected, which I discovered as he returned my serve, sending the ball slamming into the court without any sign of effort. It bounced wildly but I managed to continue the game without getting my face smashed in.
"Light-kun," he said a few minutes later as he bounced the ball, preparing for his own serve. "That scar on your right wrist. Tell me about it, if you would."
It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about. I was so used to it that I didn't even think about it anymore. "I've had it as long as I can remember," I replied, returning the serve with a grunt of effort. "Unfortunately, there's no story behind it."
"That is interesting, Light-kun. I have a matching scar on my left wrist."
"How'd you get it?"
"I suppose I was born with it," he answered, monotone again.
I scored on him for the second time. I probably would have won, too, had I not lost my balance, slipped, and fallen on my knee.
"Dammit!" I cursed, limping over to the bench where I had tossed my jacket. My uniform pants were destroyed, and I rolled them up to assess the damage to my skin. It was going to be a very nasty bruise, and it was also cut down the center of the already blackening area. "Ow!" I accused no one in particular.
"Are you all right, Light-kun?" he asked, calmly coming towards me.
"Yeah," I said, annoyed. "But I banged my knee. Let me sit out for a minute until it stops throbbing and bleeding."
He fished around in his apparently endless pockets, producing a Band-Aid. He removed the little slips of backing and placed them carelessly on the bench next to me. Awkwardly, without asking, he kneeled down in front of me and adhered the bandage to my knee.
Then he leaned down to kiss it.
"What are you doing?" I demanded, pulling my knee away, succeeding only in hurting myself more.
He looked up at me blankly through his hair, then straightened up ("straight" being a relative term- he straightened up into a slouch). "Is that not customary? I have never put a bandage on another person before, but I have been told that it is customary to 'kiss it better' once one has done so."
Any other day, that would have creeped me out, and most likely would have pissed me off, too.
That day was not any other day.
I don't know what made that day different, but that day, I grabbed him by his baggy, white shirt. That day, I stood up, not letting him move when he tried to step back. That day, I took his face in both my hands and pressed my lips to his.
And that day, for the first time in my life, I felt... normal. Like a normal person. Not lonely, not bored, not empty. This was right, this was what I was supposed to be doing, and this was strangely, tantalizingly familiar, and I understood with a strange misty remembrance that I'd never really know why.
And that day, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, Ryuuzaki didn't pull away.