Cry Wolf: hax pax max Deus adimax
The ink was dark against the prisoner's skin, as if all the light had been drained from the letter. It clung to him like a motherless child, lost in the winter streets, desperate for a hint of the warmth it once had. But the nights were cold and the prisoner was tired; his hearths were gone, the fires had dimmed, and the snow wore on, falling silently from the sky. Cut of the tiniest crystal, they had fallen upon him, eating away his golden skin with their cold white touch, melting in his scarlet eyes, turning his pounding heart to stone.
The gothic letter stole his light from him, stole his name, his very existence. It was the punishment for those with the sun's blisters upon their fingertips, those with the ink of the devil still stained upon their hands—a reminder, a retribution, petty vengeance; it was a hungry orphan with eyes of the raven left to starve in the streets, not even a box of matches to keep him warm. Its claws raked into his flesh, tearing into the scars that stretched across the skin of his back. The agony was still memorable, even as it continued to cling, drawing blood from his still skin.
The white room ached of winter chill, not even an illusion of warmth within it. The prison cell held no pretenses. The prisoner spun his own illusions, wove his own fabrications.
His breath slowed; the gothic L tightened its grip upon his skin, stooped outline hardly recognizable in its original clarity, lost as it was in a sea of jagged scars, edges fading away beneath the ropes of poorly-healed flesh. The walls watched as his heart slowed, as his breath all but disappeared; they watched as his scarlet eyes closed and his pale skin turned cold. He heard the distant footsteps, heard the whispers as the group hurried toward his cell. His mind went still.
The funeral bells began their tolling, and the snow seemed to stop, suspended in the air, each flake's descent halted by the sound of the church bells. They saw the death of a great man, unheard and unsung, the silent requiem, the dirge from the strings of the broken violin… the fiddler's final song playing softly in the distance, stalling the snow in midair—waiting for the clock to strike midnight, waiting in the stillness. Only the gothic letter screamed, clinging as always, alien to the stillness—a lost and foreign child whose screams rattled the clock tower and made harmony with the dissonant ringing of the bells.
The memories floated past, desperate to be tampered with, to be analyzed, to bring life to his still thoughts. He watched their parade with wearied eyes—bright and colorful, (so much red) they seemed to glow in the darkness. The human agony, the divine retribution, the inhuman glory, the mortal sacrifices… he had been the beacon of hope shining like the sun. The intervention of the gods, he was deus ex machina, he was the great flood to wipe sin from the earth, the plagues sent from heaven. He had once been a god—but divinity had long since vanished, leaving nothing the caricature of Justice's face seared into his back like a petulant child. The mark of defeat, blacker than night, burned into his golden flesh—it burned, this revenge of the man with the raven's eyes. This deformation, this, the act the twisted man had blatantly mislabeled as justice, this, the triumphant fear in his eyes when he told the prisoner that Light would never forget what Kira had done.
The cell door opened. Footsteps sounded loudly in the snow-covered silence, pounding against the floor, each shuffle crushing like an avalanche. One set sounded familiar, evenly placed—like the metronome that kept the bell's tolls in place, slow and confident, as if they had the entire world kneeling before them and time strung between their fingertips. Then others filled the room, so nosy and loud in the painful stillness, their eyes searching desperately, watching the walls in contempt.
"Here lies our dead man." The voice was far too young, physically, for those footsteps, for those cool tones, cold as the dwindling snowfall that covered him so well, blunt words ringing like the striking of the bells, but so easily lost among their noise. "No other would have an L branded into his back."
"A corpse is a corpse. Even if it's our corpse, it's still going to smell like hell in another day." Just as young a voice, reckless and filled with the youthful nature that had been absent in the girl's. His words sounded far too brazen for the stillness of his white cell, the fabricated silence that the prisoner himself had created so long ago—so different from the agony that had stained his clothes red with blood, the immortal blood that had belonged to the god of death.
A calloused hand roughly grabbed the corpse's wrists, waiting for the heartbeat that would whisper too softly, far too softly for any human's ears. "Cold as death, too. No heartbeat. Fresh dead, very freshly dead. Couple hours, tops."
The corpse was shoved away as if in disgust. Kira smiled his silent statue's smile; to see it was to die, for no mortal could ever live with such a memory. Kira—to look at him was to go blind. Kira, the tempter of Icarus, the bringer of destruction, the angel who hid his face behind the porcelain mask, ink dripping from his fingers like the blood that would have stained a human's hands. So innocent he had appeared, only because they had not known how to look. So many masks he wore, golden, crimson, white as the death he delivered… the wingless angel, locked in a prison cell waiting to break loose. Light Yagami was simply another mask to be used, to be placed upon his shifting features at the right moment.
"Ironic, is it not, that our father, the god of our existence, should be found dead upon a prison floor, forgotten by all but us, who turn to him only in desperation—only to find his cold and decaying corpse besieged by rigor mortis. He has been dead to us long before this, for it is only when we truly need to find his beating heart that we realize this: God is dead; we have branded our sins upon his back, and the weight of them has turned him into ash." The arrogant voice spoke louder than the first two, far more self-assured, and in a mind to say so. The voice reminded him of L—not the L he had known, but the L that had appeared before the task force, so blindingly arrogant, shielding his inner thoughts from them with his self assurance.
"Goddamn you, porky. All this way for nothing but a dead body—and you knew, you bastard." The heaviest footsteps started again, faster than the other two, trapped by the white walls that loomed above them, trapped by the merciless gaze of the distorted L. "But no, you're far too high and mighty to stoop low enough to tell us. Then you'd miss the opportunity to rub it in our faces, wouldn't you? Because why would we listen to your bullshit if the proof wasn't right in front of us. God is dead. God has always been dead. I don't care if Light Yagami is dead. I don't care if you care whether he's dead or not; it makes no difference to me, or to the fact that I could kill you if I really wanted to. Don't tempt me, fat boy."
The philosopher shouted his reply, as if the volume of his words would support them even as they disintegrated into sand, slipping through the gaps in his outstretched fingers. "We turned him into a god, this mortal being whose expiration date was printed on his forehead—and look what it has done to him. We hid him away from the world, trapped him in this empty cage; we stole his divinity from him in the hopes that it would shine as bright and mercilessly as it had for him. We killed our own god; we were the death of our own salvation, and now we do not even bother to bury him beneath the earth, but leave him in his cell to rot. An unmarked grave for an unremembered god."
Oh, but Kira was very much remembered. After all, that was what the L was for—the reminder, the etched words upon his grave, a marker for what he was so the world would not forget. The people may have forgotten his name, they may have forgotten the sound of his laughter echoing through their streets, but they still felt the weight of his shadow. They still cowered in his streets (they had remained his streets even with his disappearance). Even hidden behind the white walls, they felt him waiting to return to them, their fallen god. How could they dare to forget his baleful scarlet gaze, peering from behind the eyes of the porcelain mask? What foolish mortal could dare themselves to forget him? Cast aside, thrown away, but never forgotten. The detective had insured that long ago.
But they were young and they were fools. They did not recognize such things as obvious as that. The silly children were the ones who would be surprised by his return, surprised by the blood he would spill and at the lengths to which he would ascend to reach his goal. These were the fools that ignored his presence as they would a stray wind or the sound of funeral bells. The snow fell despite of them; the bells tolled, though they would not listen.
"He lies." It was the first voice, the voice made of crystal, no human inflection to taint it. Her footsteps sounded clear against the floor, echoing through his memories; her boot kicked at his side. She turned him over. His crimson eyes flew open to meet her dragon's gaze. "God is an illusionist, after all."
A pair of golden stars… a glimpse of the heaven he might have created was stored within her youthful eyes. Her face was his face, a glimpse into the past, into the future that might have been. He felt his heart stammer to life at the sight of his own stony reflection gazing down at him in her youthful face, the blonde hair falling about her like the halo he had lacked. She was the vision L had not seen, the mortal angel that he could have been, the god he might have ascended to—all contained within her golden eyes. Heaven's light was far too cold, lacking that mortal fire that had once burned within his soul, the divine light so altered by the mortal realm it passed through.
The philosopher gaped, shoving the girl out of the way; she stood slowly, her dragon's eyes still locked on the prisoner's own, seeking the outlines of the god's flesh beneath the porcelain mask. "Ce n'est pas possible," the man blurted, and the dragon's golden eyes glared, the bandaged man turned, chuckling in disgust at the philosopher's overblown pretense of phrase, "—he had to have held his breath for five minutes! And his heartbeat, even a war-obsessed rogue could perceive a heartbeat…." A man far taller than the other two—but stocky and broad next to their wispy frames, his face filled out rather than sculpted—his dark brown eyes wide with shock.
Kira said nothing, bided his time. Patience drew out the sound of the bells tolling in the distance, watching the ravens in flight, their dark eyes watching him, their feathers so easily turned white. A raven to a dove. Kira felt himself laugh at the power of the illusion. Kira, who sold his wings long ago; Kira, who sold his humanity; Kira, who had nothing but the L on his back. Kira was waiting for power to come to him.
"It means he's in shape, pig-head. Look at his build—the man must've been doing pushups for the last thirty-sum years, just to ward off the boredom of the wait. On a battlefield there are many corpses; on a battlefield they are ignored and overlooked. No one has the bullets to waste on a man who's already dead. In a building, people want to get the corpse out, bury it, burn it, get it out of the cell. Humans are disgusted with their own mortality. Look at piggy here—can't even stare at our heavenly father without gagging. The liar hoped we'd drag it out of the cell, and then he'd shove a knife in our guts and walk out the front door." This boy was bulkily muscled, but not bulkily so, looking leaner than the philosopher but far more built than the girl. His face was harsh and jeering, his cheeks far too hollow—the face of one who cared nothing for his appearance. The hair was far too long, covering his eyes from view. Scars covered his bare arms, lacing around him like badly-woven bandages. He frowned as he looked down upon the pale god of death.
Three arrogant children who dared to disturb the dragon's rest—one who stole his eyes and face as if it were a mask to be worn, one who wore face-paint of blood and whose scars seemed too delicate for his harsh features, one whose words spoke far too often and whose mind struggled far behind the others'. Three children in the demon's lair, still believing in the miracle of youth that would save them from his eyes of scarlet.
"It doesn't matter." The reflection spoke not to them but the walls that watched them so eagerly. She ignored her companions as easily as they ignored her. They did not see her fallen splendor, the starlight still burning brightly in her demon's eyes; they did not see her stillness behind the black suit; they could not see her golden mask. "We found what we were looking for."
He did not struggle beneath the chloroform, though he could. Instead, he chose to wait and see what the children had planned, the children who thought themselves more powerful than the gods. His eyes closed once more upon them, smiling as he did so. He fell limp and unyielding into their arms.
The boy stood in the silent streets. Out of breath, out of sight, he waited. He crouched in the shadows, the sweat dripping down his face, as he listened for the clock to chime. Behind his closed eyes he saw the face of his mother, weeping, screaming, cursing his name, telling him to get out. A coward, he was a coward as he crouched out of sight, out of hearing, out of mind, watching the crowded streets as the people walked past—the people who loathed him, the people who would kill him if they knew, kill him if they saw his face.
His mother who wanted nothing more than for him to disappear, who wished for not even a reminder of him left in her home—his mother who hated him. Humanity that wanted him to die, wanted him to be burned alive—the humanity he now had to leave. He heard their footsteps, unaware of his presence, unaware of his cowardice and his fear. His heart beat like a drum, fast and out of rhythm; his eyes watched their beaten sneakers and business shoes.
They had come for him; he had always known that they would come for him, one day. He had hoped they would forget. There were rumors that they sometimes did. After all, they couldn't concern themselves with everyone. They might have left him alone; they might have overlooked him so he could hide safely in the cracks. But he was not so lucky. He had never been so lucky as that. He had nowhere to run, nowhere to go, nowhere left in the world to hide. If he stayed in the city, the people would kill him. He was a threat now; he could no longer be ignored. They had more than one reason to kill him when the gods were after his hide. But if he left, if he left, they would track him down, they would find him—and what would they do to him?
He could run, but how long until they caught him? How long until he would look into their grinning eyes? Coward, damned, demon, child of the god—there were so many names for him, now that they had found him, and each brought death in their wake. His breath was ragged; he had run across the city, only to crouch in the shadows staring at the border, the border made to keep things out. Once he climbed that fence, he would never come back. They didn't care if you left sanctuary; it was only when you wanted back in that they shot you, that they killed you.
His mother's eyes, burning in their tears… her screams as she slapped him to the floor. Monster, he was the little monster that had destroyed her. She had never wanted him. No one had ever wanted him. He was a plague, a disease sent by the callous gods whose eyes never reached the common people. Vermin, she called him, watching as he slunk into the room, too big for the rat poison but too small for the pyre—the immortal vermin.
Cold iron stared back at him from the fence. No one looked at it, no one went near it—it was too painful to look outside and see the wilderness that hadn't been there twenty years ago, the cold, forbidding wilderness that stared at him with its sharp, beady eyes.
There were bruises on his back from where the belt buckle had hit, tainted black from the pain. He hadn't asked for forgiveness—what was the point? The belt would have come down anyway. The vermin did not ask for forgiveness. Who wanted to forgive a rat for being a rat? His legs were sore from running. He had been running all night; the stars had been so cold and lifeless, blotted out by the city lights. He wiped his nose and watched the cold iron glint in the sunlight.
No one would stop him, no one would call after him, and no one would watch him run off into the wild, legs carrying him far from civilization. No one would blink an eye at his departure. He would be forgotten instantly, so easily, would be nothing but a dull memory of a boy clambering over the fence into the world beyond, a boy left to starve and rot to death.
He stood, looking exactly like the fallen angel from which he had been created. His auburn hair seemed to burn in the sunlight; his golden skin was dusted with bruises—he, the son of Icarus reaching out for the sun. He sprinted, a streak of sunlight against the pavement, the fallen god running in terror from the demons he had banished. Cruel smile far from his lips, he clambered over the fence, coaxing the people to stop and stare. Their eyes widened in fear at the sight of him, of his recognizable stance—the son of god come to slay them all, sprinting over their fence without a glance backwards.
The cripple was nothing but a shadow in the corner—perfect posture, empty face, grey eyes that said nothing behind his midnight hair. Only his leg, the twisted limb, kept the attention from his motionless eyes. This deformity warped the foundation of the being—grotesque statue, slanted posture, limping walk, grey eyes that saw everything and said nothing. His hands sat folded on his lap as he watched the debate. His statue's gaze locked on their forms, colorless—he was the wraith dressed in white, the angel of death, the crippled shadow.
His grey eyes passed over them all, love, war, death, wisdom, until it settled on the newcomer, the old man with the tattered dress pants and the skin as pale as a winter morning before the light of the sun had tainted the horizon—white but for the shadows inked across his flesh. The man was far older than the others, and looked immortal despite the age. No expression crossed his face; a dullness claimed his amber eyes that seemed out of place. The man sat, looking nowhere, watching everything out of the corners of his eyes, facing forward, dangling his hands at his sides—perfect posture, gnarled form.
The others ignored him, their minds dwelling on far more pressing matters than the shade of his mask. The cripple did not move from his corner, but rather leaned back into it, watching from the darkness. His grey eyes were two stars that peered out from behind the night. A white shadow, he watched with rapt attention.
"He doesn't look very powerful—doesn't even look like he's living. You sure you didn't find a comatose moron instead of the Light Yagami we were seeking?" The man spoke from the end of the table, assessing the old man with casual indifference, blue eyes moving from him to the three who had brought him. War, Wisdom, and Wrath each sat staring back at the self-proclaimed king who lounged upon his throne.
War shrugged, not bothering with the façade of interest. He only acted when it suited him, when there would be blood on his dark skin and the flesh of corpses beneath his feet. He acted out of self-interest—only nothing more, nothing less. "Do you really care if his brain is functioning? He's the right man. It's the right genes. That's all that really matters. Pig-headed thinks it's a sign from god; I don't care whether he's living or dead." War leaned back in his chair with a bored expression, caged by the walls surrounding him. He was so much more at home on the battlefields, where the blood could soak through his skin.
"Areson is blunt, as always. From a practical standpoint, we only need his genes; it's the genes that contain the power, not the intelligence he possesses now. Our god is an idiot who drools in his chair, staring at nothing. He does not speak, he does not listen; he does not even look at us. But he is omnipotent none the less—a dead god is just as useful as a living one. Or at least, our god of death appears to be." The stocky man looked at his dark-skinned brother, glaring at him through thick square-rimmed glasses, contempt and disregard for his companions evident in his tone.
Wrath's golden eyes met the cripple's, dissecting his still gaze from the shadows. Her gaze shifted to the prisoner sitting beside her, the man made of winter and blood. She said nothing. She did not speak unless necessary; she preferred her silence to the wasted noise of useless words. The golden dragon did not need to speak. Her threat was evident.
"Yes, I suppose you're right." The man lounged like a king, his eyes straying over his people as if amused. He sighed, placing his hands behind his head. They were young gods who ruled their world at a distance respectable for any divine creature, and acting as king, the red-headed man with the blue eyes watched them all. The cripple said nothing.
"Thanks for bringing him straight to us. After all, the grateful brother shares his spoils." The king smiled a brilliant smile. He lied—the red headed king lied through his teeth. He met their eyes, War, Wrath, Wisdom, and Death. His blue eyes searched their depths, seeking the truth they concealed so well from him.
The dark-skinned rogue smiled, sensing the tension among his peers. His scars danced across his flesh, lacing up and down his skin like a flowing robe fit for a king. His laughter reverberated silently throughout the hall, floating through the ears of all who dared to listen. Blood would be on his hands soon enough.
The philosopher glared, his cheeks burning behind the poorly-kept beard, his thoughts displayed for the world to see. So easily offended, so engulfed by his pride, so self-assured and weak. The philosopher righted his posture, appearing taller; the world ignored him. They saw through his masks of power, they saw through his confidence—they saw the poor boy beneath who was falling so behind his brothers. The cripple saw the truth behind those thick-rimmed glasses.
The dragon looked through nothingness, her eyes far from the piercing blue stare of the self-proclaimed king. Her golden eyes displayed nothing—only the hellfire that consumed them, shedding a light upon the world so easily mistaken for heaven's light. She revealed nothing, her eyes telling a story woven in strands of sunlight, too bright to be seen by man.
Greedy children, consumed by their avarice—they would tear each other apart for the power left in the statue, the old man sculpted of winter sunsets with Justice's corpse on his back. They longed for the power they had been raised to believe in; the first generation longed for the power they had been promised growing up in the streets, poor, starving, hatred in their eyes, the government feeding them lies.
They believed those lies. They wanted the power they had been offered, they wanted his blood, they wanted his progeny, they wanted his legacy. They remembered the days when there had been many of them, crowded together, staring up at the men with hope in their eyes. They remembered the wars and the death; they remembered the desire burned into their childish souls.
The crippled shadow watched the tension build, wondering at the lust in their eyes. His grey eyes watched the waves of hatred as they stared at their enemies and brothers seated beside them. They each knew—the power laid in the statue, in the man they each called father. The child who owned the statue held dominion over all. The cripple sank back into the shadows, his eyes closed, a smile on his lips. His foolish brothers.
"Let the cripple keep him." The starlight spoke, her voice clear as thunder, deafening the silence. Their heads turned to see her golden eyes burning inward. "The cripple has no chance at power; it will be a place to store him."
To keep him while it is decided who truly deserved to win, to stow him away while the blood spilt from the sky like rain. The cripple—to them he didn't even have a name. He was an object to be referred to in need. They needed him but they did not respect him; they saw his crooked leg and sneered.
The shadow stood. He limped forward, toward the statue, toward the dragon.
"Of course. I would be honored." He bowed his head, the anger far from his features—the features of the white shadow with hair as black as a raven, grey eyes dull with the feelings he refused to acknowledge. The golden eyes of the dragon stared at him. Cold as hoarfrost, her gaze pierced through his flesh; he felt the smile hidden behind her golden mask.
He grabbed the arm of the statue, dragging him out the doors to the world beyond the eyes of the gods, where they might wait for the freedom that only death could bring them. The war brewed behind their backs; the shadow walked with death in his hands.
Carni's Note: As you can guess, this is AU, so AU that it deserves a small explanation here so you don't immediately throw this out the window. Basically, all of those characters are Light's children through an experimental disaster concocted while Light rotted in prison. Yes, we thought it was ridiculous, too. That's why this was going to be a crack fic… until the politics caught up with it and we realized that we could work with this. A post-apocalypse fic, if you will.
The first chapter is always the worst.
Scourge's Note: And… that said, it doesn't really explain anything. This is AU in that same-world way, not in that we've-put-them-on-Mars-in-year-fifteen-hundred way. The plot progresses similarly as the original Death Note, but L is the successful force in the battle of wills, at which point everything diverges and gets seriously screwy. Within the body of this piece, L does show up, Naomi does show up… more will probably reveal their faces.
Um. If any of you twitched awkwardly when you read the "his heart stammered to life" bit, we're here to assure you that that was a literal he-just-stopped-holding-his-breath stammer to life, not a figurative he-fell-deeply-in-love stammer to life. Normally, we'd assume that the readers would be able to figure this out… but as this is fanfiction, and fanfiction tries to make everything into romance. We refuse to change that line just because there's potential that our readers are perverts.
Also, I feel like defending the name choice of Voltaire to you, because I'm sure half of the readers who recognized the name hit Alt F4 as soon as they read it. This is not us attempting to be witty and deep by naming our character after a historical philosopher figure; this is us writing a character that is ridiculous. He chose the name for himself. All your ego are belong to him. Enough said.
Alllsssooo, on the subject of the bit up at the top… "hax pax…" et cetera is a pseudo-Latin phrase once used by conjurers/magicians to ensnare their watchers' attention. Sort of a "and let your eyes be blinded" statement. Just so you know. …Because Carni said we couldn't use the cool abstract phrases symbolizing deceit unless I explained them.
Disclaimer: We do not own Death Note. The fans are probably better off that way.