You laugh at my grammar and the words I use
You laugh at my clothing
And I'm glad that one of us finds this amusing
Because I certainly don't
He avoided mirrors, he avoided medicine, he avoided humanity as if it were a plague. Jack with eyes of blue mist and hair of fallen leaves, Jack whose gaze pierced into one's soul, Jack who wore old fashioned suits, who read dictionaries with difficulty, with aggravation and frustration. Jack who failed to pass over the flame twice, Jack who dared not jump again, Jack who was wary, Jack who was frightened, Jack who hated the space between birth and death.
The name of the country had changed, the lines on the map had changed; he had no idea where he was in the world, what language he had grown up speaking. Jack was lost without a guide, without a map—the Northern Star was lost under the buildings which scraped against the night sky. The Shinigami found him every other lifetime, showing up when least expected. Jack did not expect his presence. Jack expected no one. He expected nothing from the world, an angel without wings, eternity etched in his mind, Jack threw the magic beans into the fire and watched them burn.
Coffee no longer tasted the same. It had lost its bitterness amid the whirl of time; its black center containing nothing but a lie. He avoided food, the haunting taste of drugs not lost upon his mind. He sat, reading foreign words with a frown etched between on his brown.
And yet it was in a café that he saw the detective, or what had once been the detective. He had turned into a woman, his raven locks becoming golden and his dark eyes lightening to a sea-grey. Her pale hands were tanned, holding a tattered copy of a book written far too long ago, a book written by his own hand—Alexander's ink stained hand.
"That's an odd book to be reading," Jack commented, sliding into the empty seat across from her. The grey eyes lifted, a spark of irritation surfacing from their winter depths. Jack let an icy smile stretch across his pale features, the corners of his blue eyes crinkling in amusement. Jack would know—his hands had once been ink-stained. Lifetimes ago, he had held that book's manuscript in his hands. It was not a kind tale.
It slandered humanity's name; with Kira's faith in men, it showed their weakness; it tarnished the name of justice. It was not kind to humanity, but it was far worse to women, women who manipulated without success, women who sought nothing but the touch of a god, women like Misa and Takada. Women who sacrificed everything and gained nothing, women he had burned alive, women who had killed themselves after his departure.
"It's a good book." It was not the voice Jack expected; the detective's cold monotone had disappeared with his midnight eyes. Blunt as ever, her words kept Jack smiling, kept his fingers inching towards the candle's flame, calculating the risk of being burnt.
"A dark tale," he murmured, his icy eyes filled with memories of blood, of masks and bullets, of the betrayal Light Yagami had felt, the sheer injustice—but then, Light Yagami had been young. Jack was much older, Jack was much wiser; Jack knew the candle's tricks well. His fingers still showed the burns.
"Yes, but justice wins in the end—good conquers evil." She smiled that childish smile he remembered from different lips. "Isn't it ironic, how a book centered on moral corruption ends happily?"
Jack's grin became feral. He felt his hand twitch in the absence of a fountain pen; he felt his mind searching for a Shinigami's black Note. "Ah, but my dear, you look at it from Near's angle—Kira falls and the world is saved. Yes, I suppose that is a happy ending, isn't it? But it was Kira who attempted to save humanity. However misguided his efforts may have seemed, he did try, and he failed. If Kira failed, then humanity must have failed as well. Humanity left him to rot because it didn't know what to do with him—it didn't know what grave to place him in, so it left him to bleed to death."
"But Near was the representation of justice. He was justice's symbol incarnate. Justice prevailed and murder was condemned." Childish and stubborn, she closed the battered novel so she could better pin him down, to declare herself champion, that pride which had lead to his death.
"Neither of them were justice. They were men who called themselves justice—L was no more morally correct than Kira. Both called themselves gods and both died for it. They both called themselves justice; you seem to disregard that fact. Humanity condemned him for trying… it was not good that won, it was humanity, and what is that in the end but failure and corruption?" Jack's fingers curled around the mug of coffee; his pale eyes found the black pool, filled with the blood that had once stained his hands as he ran out of the warehouse, panting, dying, lying on that frozen staircase, his eyes filled with the setting sun. How far from heaven he had seemed, the sunlight stroking his face—how far from that utopia he had imagined.
"Hmph. You condemn humanity rather easily. You yourself are just as human as the rest of us, after all—who are you to slander our name?"
Jack laughed at her words, carelessly thrown into the air. Who was Kira to clean society, who was Light to bother trying, who was he to call himself God? Who was Jack to jump the flame? "Only in the flesh."
It was Jack's wit that attracted her attention; it was his eccentric clothing and his odd speech mannerisms; it was his dark smile that spoke of things long since past. Jack did not have the heart to say no. He saw no reason to deny her, to cast her off as he had done so many. They met on occasion in a crowded café, or in a moonlit park. Bickering and laughing, they would saunter down the gravel path, a cup of coffee in her hand, a fountain pen hiding in his, his cold smile alight beneath the street lamps.
He admired the way she had blossomed in her freedom without Watari's rule over her shoulders, without the spoils of victory, without the petty battles between good and evil. Her mind was far less twisted, her eyes far less baleful; she was not after his soul, merely his company. She was not bent on his secrets; she observed them. She craved their truth, but she would not break him for it. She would watch with her sea-grey eyes the way his hands moved upon a notebook's pale skin, the way he would shudder slightly as he ate his food, still wary of poison from lifetimes past. Her calculating expression was passive, a mental note, but not a reverent search, not the relentless eyes he remembered.
She moved in with him after two years, inspecting his apartment with curiosity, wondering at the stacks of outdated textbooks and the piles of dictionaries, seemingly odd hobbies which ruled his working day the organized chaos of his workspace.
("Why are there gears of a watch on your desk?" she asked one day, picking up a small cog delicately between her tanned fingers. Jack hesitated before answering, organizing his materials to give her the space she needed to live.
"God is a watchmaker. He is precise and he is distant. It is as if we are nothing but a single cog in a great watch. I sought to foil God—I took apart his watch, I unraveled his world, just as he has unraveled mine."
She laughed, another joke—Jack in his jester's garb, dancing in the ragged clothes of a faded monarchy, Jack who believed in gods of death and reincarnation, Jack who believed in a ruthless God, Jack who lived for nothing, not even for himself.)
She discovered amid the piles of books and drawings that his income consisted of a series of what he called odd jobs. The blueprints still littered his apartment, and she had no problem recognizing a good few of them.
"You designed the war memorial?" Her grey eyes examined the blueprint with fervor, tracing the chalky lines with her fingers, too many questions in her eyes. Jack of all trades, king of all arts, master of all tools—Jack nodded slowly, watching the awe on her face.
There had been war, of course, in his lifetimes. Faust had spent many a night trapped in a basement, listening to the alarms wail in the night, a peaceful smile on his face. He remembered the bombs, the guns, the blood as they sent civilians to their deaths. Yes, Jack knew of war. Faust had not survived a bombing; Jack's calloused hands created his tombstone, marking the spot where Faust departed from the earth, lost amid the whirl of stars and smoke.
"That was a long time ago." Jack's hands, the hands of a thief, the hands of a murderer, the hands of a monster, the hands of an illusionist, had sketched those lines years before. Jack was a liar. He had been born lying, he would end his days lying; Jack was a lie and he lived like one, surviving on kernels of truth. "I needed the money—it seemed like a good idea at the time. Paid well."
Jack was a liar. His painted face contained not a hint of truth and she loved him for it. She loved the flicker of the candle's flame in his eyes, the magic beans in his hands, the shadow of death hiding beneath his pale eyes. She loved his watchmaker's mind, his painted wings, his ink-stained hands—she loved the lies he told her with his winter smile.
She once mistook it for love.
"I want to meet your family," she said one evening as they sat in the apartment, her sipping at coffee while he whittled away at the workings of the universe, his mind far from the dark apartment and the smell of coffee, his eyes lost in a fog of memories.
The fountain pen stalled. "No." The scratching restarted at a more fervent pace, his peace of mind lost in the demand of the childish woman. He could feel their time ending; Jack could feel their companionship slipping through his hands like grains of sand, a sigh on his lips as they were lost once more to the innumerable folds of time, lost amid the great tapestry, never to be found again.
"Jack, you're being childish, I want to meet them." Stubborn, prideful, unyielding. Her curiosity had waited five years and now it was walking the last mile; all Jack could do was watch in vain, his silver tongue silent. "I know they exist. Don't call yourself an orphan, Jack. I want to meet them."
Want. Was there any word greater for humanity? Want, not even simple enough to be need. Jack scoffed at want. He had wanted, once—he had wanted justice, he had wanted power, he had wanted so many things, but he had received nothing from fates spinning hands. Want—why should he have given in to such a word? Jack, who had wanted for so many things; Jack, who had been denied every time he asked; Jack, whose lies matched the weaving of the watchmaker who condemned him, the same fabric that tangled their lives.
The candle's flame was burning slowly, the wick disappearing, the wax dripping down the sides of the candle. Time was running out; the smoke fogged his eyes; he no longer had an option of jumping. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick…
The flames burned the soles of his bare feet, the stars shone just out of his reach, flickering into darkness as he fell from the candle's edge.
My world unravels
In threads of scarlet
Spinning away from my fingers
Like a puppet's dangling strings
See how my stitches have come undone….
They smiled, they laughed, they cooed over him as if he were some oversized doll. Jack acted well, his masks painted by his own eternal hand, perfected by ages of use. She frowned, confused, disoriented; she had come looking for answers and she had not found them.
She had found the shards of another cracked mirror, a different set of painted lies, a tapestry far different from the one he had shown her. Her grey eyes showed nothing, but he could see the tensing of her hands, the hesitation in her laughter, the way her grey eyes would lock on his, attempting to dissect his true shape from the madness he had created.
Jack trusted no one, least of all the people who had raised him, the people who were liable to poison him and destroy him. Jack humored them because he had no choice, because he feared what lengths they would push him to. Their love would lead to their deaths, and Jack's hands were far from the clean pages of a Death Note. It was a small thing; he had spun so many lies, so what was one more?
Her words freed themselves only in the silence of the streets, away from the forced laughter and fake smiles, away from the window to his childhood, away from the road he had sketched for himself—a birth too many. He still dreamed about that Armageddon sky, that bleeding sunset that should have been the end, the beginning he shouldn't have recalled. Never had he seen a sky so red.
"They don't know you at all, Jack." Her voice seemed to match the bank of clouds covering the stars, a smoke clouding his vision of the scarlet sky and the bleeding rain.
"And that is the answer. It is more than I have ever shown anyone. Can you be content with that?" Jack was weary, his feet blistered and bruised, his wings melted into a pool at his feet, wax and feathers caught in the candle's dwindling flame.
"Content? You ask me to be content with a lie?" Her anger tasted of a candle wax, of the golden feathers lying at his feet, her grey eyes blazing like the sun. The ribbon was fraying, the grains of sand were being blown away, and there was nothing he could do but watch.
"I am a lie." He whispered the words. The ambiguity of truth—he hated truth. It was too often double edged, weaving in on itself, contradicting itself, a paradox far too lethal to be spoken aloud… a lie that spoke of a truth unheard of, not meant to be heard by human ears.
She ignored him, her eyes straying to the city lights sparkling in the distance, society's beckoning call. "You speak Japanese in your sleep." Her mind was wandering past him, already preparing to leave him behind. What could he do? "I looked up what you said one time. You talked about gods of death and apples; you called me Lawliet. You always call me Lawliet in your sleep—you say it as if you were afraid of me. I wonder, do you even know my real name?"
He said nothing. She did not want another lie, she did not want his words—because they always twisted themselves into deceit. It was his nature to hide himself. His silence spoke far more truth than his words ever had. The detective had never realized that; even as the bells had chimed and the skies had flooded, he had not realized the weight of Light's silence.
"I once thought you were brilliant, and I suppose you are, but you reach beyond brilliance…. I sometimes wonder if you're human. Even now, I can't tell. I doubt anyone can tell, no matter how many years they spend by your side. You have fooled the world, Jack."
"All but you." He never could get past the detective's midnight eyes, past that sharp intellect that had ended hundreds of criminals before him. Merciless as death, L took no survivors. L was far more ruthless than Kira had ever been, and even now her grey eyes seemed to reflect the past she had forgotten.
She said nothing, her grey eyes a dark dreamless night, the glow of computer screens trapped in their depths. His world slipped like fog through his fingertips, and there was nothing he could do. What is a mere lie capable of? It could not avert the flow of time; it could not prevent her from leaving.
She left the next day. She left with the night, flying off at the first glimmer of daylight, fleeing from light. He watched the rest of the sunrise alone, refusing to look at his reflection in the cruel glass, refusing to see his pale skin and bloodshot eyes, his auburn hair and thin face.
Jack did not believe in betrayal, he did not believe in justice, he did not believe in love—he believed in nothing. Jack closed his eyes against the image of her retreating figure. He closed his eyes against the laughing Shinigami; he closed his eyes against humanity. Jack had been abandoned all his life. He had always been left forgotten on the beaten path, watching the horde move beyond him, move past him—a wilting blossom of amaranth, dying in his immortality, left trampled and forgotten.
The gears of a watch still littered his desk, the silver innards sliding between every open surface, screaming to be put back together. His pale hands fingered their ragged edges, his eyes watching as he put it back together, his mind encompassing the watch's organs, a smile on his face.
Jack died with the smell of smoke and candle wax, the world engulfed in darkness, his breath doing nothing to dispel the shadows. Jack died, gears of a watch on a desk, burns on the soles of his feet.
You think I am not justified
You stare at me as if I am a demon
As if I am a monster
No monster can see in the dark as well as I can
No monster can understand the silence as well as I can
No monster has watched this world rot as I have
I am no monster
The streets were cold beneath his feet. A layer of ice stretched between him and the pavement; a cloud of fog spun from his breath. He stood by the side of the building, an orphan, an outcast, one of the forgotten children. The humans passed him by, busy with their own troubles, their own lives—too busy to see the orphan with the eyes of gold.
He did not ask for alms. He asked for nothing. The orphan expected nothing from them, just as he expected nothing from the divine. They were as immovable and unchangeable as the earth he now tread upon. How is the wind to talk to the mountain? Even screaming would not move it.
He saw pity in their eyes and smiled, because the orphan knew it meant nothing. Their pity meant nothing to him, just as his pity meant nothing to them. He pitied them. The nameless orphan, he pitied them for being human. The orphan smiled, whistling a tune, watching as the sky turned dark in the winter sky. They ignored him, but sometimes they pretended they saw his ragged clothing. They would place a morsel of food in his hands and ask him to be thankful, be grateful for the food they brought him, for the future they promised him, for the lies they gave him.
The orphan waited in the open streets, waited for death to pass by once again. So many times death had passed him by; so many times his cold fingers had clasped around the orphan's wrist, stealing his name from him. So many names, too many to remember.
The orphan much preferred being nameless, ignored by the mass of humanity that crawled past him daily. He much preferred being left on the fringes of the world, looking through the stained glass to see a horde of unfamiliar faces, their eyes so young, so hopeful, so naïve. It made the orphan smile.
The Shinigami said there was something wrong with his soul. His jagged grin grew at the thought of the orphan's soul eroded by the hands of time, crumbling away into the sea. The design was too intricate—the memories couldn't be removed; they couldn't be taken from him. The innards of a watch—the memories were the heart. Pull it out, and the system collapsed.
The orphan dangled his feet in the gutter, a frown on his ragged, childish features. He struck a match, watching as the flame dwindled into nothingness. He reached for a third match. So rapidly they died—much too quickly for the orphan. The flame burned far too brightly. It would have to be dimmed. A fourth match in his hand, the death god reflected in the flame, laughing down at the silent orphan.
The orphan did not need words. He knew perfectly well there was something different about his soul—that the cogs meshed too perfectly, that it was far too intricate to be tinkered with. Justice, the orphan had once believed in justice, and what was retribution but irony… the irony that burned the matches to his pale, starved fingers? Punishment. He had condemned men to death, so the gods had condemned him with eternal life.
Yes, the orphan could understand revenge.
The uncut strings of fate, a crimson thread dangling from the tapestry, growing longer with each strenuous lifetime, lengthening with each burnt match discarded at his feet, extending with each name he donned, each mask he created, each lie he told.
The orphan could understand misery.
Time moved in cycles. It revolved around a clock face in an interval of forty seconds. Birth, life, death—the orphan knew them well. He knew the mob of people who struggled by him, he knew the Shinigami that flew off on ravens' wings. The orphan knew the world, even as he sat on the side of the road, watching the matches burn to death.
The orphan could understand disappointment.
And so the orphan waited, his golden eyes locked on the flame dancing between his fingertips—his last match, fading into the darkness.
The orphan could understand death.
The world is a great watch
And I, its watchmaker
I turn the gears and place the cogs
I turn the hour hand
Your world dances to my whims
You are but my puppet
My poor, deluded puppet
The man stood before him, the man that had once been the detective, the man had once been the lover, the friend, the enemy, the victim, the deceiver—the man who had been so many things stood before his throne, his midnight eyes boiling in madness, a dying flame burning away in his fingers.
The god of two faces grinned. Monster, they called him; angel, they called him. This one man was no different. This one bleeding, dying man was no different than the rest, but Ianus wanted this. He wanted his revenge, he wanted his death, he wanted his eyes to see the destruction he had caused—a door closing shot upon humanity, one last glimpse at their fate.
They had not fared well against the Four Horsemen. Ianus had seen to that. He would have no survivors, no miracles in his war. His eyes would not endure the sight of their indifferent gazes any longer; he would have their blood. Their world had burned so easily, as if it had been waiting for him. All those lifetimes ago, they had been waiting for his hand to strike the match.
War. Pollution. Famine. Death. Red, white, black, they rode from the heavens at his will, calling him their master, the son of their fallen god. He had wanted to laugh at them for that. It had been many lifetimes since anyone had been fool enough to call him divine. There had been no Rapture, there had been no mercy—there had been nothing but his chess pieces laid across the world.
Everything became his in a single instant—all the world belonged in his eternal fingertips, finally his. Kira was nothing compared to what he was now; Kira was an amateur compared to the power and ruthlessness he now owned. Humanity taught him cruelty and he learned it well. The world hung on his whims and he laughed, because it was the justice he no longer believed in, the revenge placed within his reach when it was too late, far too late to make up for the suffering he had endured.
Ianus watched as the man attempted to discern his two faces, watching for the true one to emerge—but he couldn't find it. The man seemed desperate, watching for the truth in his eyes. He couldn't see the face. The god of doorways wondered when the fool would realize that he truly possessed both faces, and that both were a part of the illusion he had created. Ianus was born of a thousand shifting faces, a thousand different names, a thousand different nations.
Ianus was humanity, he was death—he was the god of doorways both in and out of life, the god of two faces. The man had fallen to his knees, his crooked bones giving way to the pain, falling beneath the rush of blood. His dark eyes looked upon the throne in horror, betrayal hidden within their depths. Ianus smiled.
"Why? Why did you do this to us?" he asked, his voice almost silent among the bones of the dead—the bones of Light's dead, floating across the river of blood, burned to ashes in the rain of fire that had consumed the great towers.
Why? There were so many answers he could give to the man, the bleeding rebel who had fought too poorly, who had struggled too hard, the man who had failed his people. Revenge, to show the world how Icarus felt as he plummeted from the sun, wax and feathers still aloft in the sky. Pity, because he couldn't watch them struggle forth any longer in their overcrowded cities. Weariness, because he couldn't force himself to move for them any longer. Hatred, because he saw only a dim reflection of himself in their eyes. Curiosity, because he wanted to know what the river of blood would taste like. So many reasons, so many faces—Ianus wore them all.
"Your God told me to." The god of masks smiled at the memory, the moment when the pieces fit together, when the last grain of sand fell through the hourglass, when the eternal life seemed to stretch before him and he could see the pattern, the complex web that stretched beyond his own lifetime, and he understood. He remembered laughing, relieved; the immortal man was relieved that his time was ending.
The horsemen had followed the Revelation. The world had been divided beneath his fingers—the sky turned red with the blood that would flow, and he breathed in the smell of death, longing for it. The world had promised him so many things, and it had denied him every one of them until now.
"You're a liar." Lies, the detective had always focused on the lies, as if it changed things. The lies meant nothing. The truth had always been there. The lies were merely a face, a mask to be changed at will. The lies were a kindness, the lies were a mercy—the detective would have died at the sight of the truth.
"You have called me such before." The god of doorways was amused by the rage on the man's face, the indignant rage boiling in his eyes, the last stand of a dying people. "You know, I'm perversely glad that it was you who found me. It could have been anyone who approached my throne, demanding the justice you believed existed."
Glad that it would be the detective to destroy the anti-Christ, glad that it would be the detective to see his last face, glad that it would be the detective to hear his final words. After all, who else had deserved such an honor?
He once had a vision that L was standing over his grave, watching him bleed to death, watching his heart give out. And he had smiled because he knew it wasn't real. Only when he had truly become a god, only when he had the power of the heavens at his will, only then did he make the vision a reality.
"Not as glad as I am."
Ianus laughed even as the bullet ripped through his chest. He crowed at the foolishness of the man, laughing while the blood poured out of his chest, laughing as the life stalked out of his veins, laughing in the silence of the kingdom of death.
He smiled at the shaking man, his white mask stained with a human's blood. His own crimson blood dripped down his fingers; a vision of a yellow ware house haunted his sight. He saw a child wearing the L's death mask, wearing the stolen face of justice, the blood piling underneath his feet, the ticking of his watch.
A notebook was falling. His hand reached out for it in the grass—its black cover was so inviting, so familiar….
The pale blue eyes reflected in the clockwork, his fingers white as death, turning the silver instrument over in his hands, the labyrinth mind scheming….
The starving child reflected in the yellow marble eyes, his hands shaking from cold, the horde shoving past, blind to his presence….
An apple tossed into his hand, a smile on his lips, the world at his feet….
The bullets in his heart, the lack of breath in his lungs, his vision fading into darkness, a man, limping forward, the gun clutched in his hands as he struggled atop the black throne….
Death. It was so very familiar.
Author's note: Well, that was very long and drawn out. But it was fun. The last section in case anyone was confused as it was incredibly vague. Light became the anti-christ hence the four horsemen god telling him to kill everyone, the fire, yeah that's where that one came from.
Thanks to my beta scourge who must have hated me for giving her an eighteen page one-shot. (now that I think about it I really should split this up into two sections). Thanks to readers whoever you are. And thanks to people who click that review button at the bottom of the page.