It's 2am on the last night of Light Yagami's life, and he's still at his desk.
Everyone else is about to pretend to sleep. The apartment they've rented to be the new HQ is small, with only one bedroom, and room in it for two out of the four of them. They take turns to make do with the futon that folds away in the work area. In theory, there are two there; one is meant to be for Light to use, but he's managed on two or three hours a night, head folded on his arms, for ... how long now? Poisoned by Near's suspicions, the taskforce are no longer curious, but are actively seeking to destroy him—
Well, there's actively seeking to destroy him, and then there's Matsuda, the idiot, who offers a hesitant "Goodnight, Ide-san, Light-kun", before making his way out into the corridor, behind Aizawa. For his part, Aizawa had tried to take the lead again, as if he had the right. Light doesn't particularly mind; let him give orders, if he thinks it can save him. Let him turn at the door, and play at fellow feeling: "Everyone try and get some sleep. I mean you too, Light-kun."
Light had expected something like that; it's Aizawa's style to encourage the fools right into their graves. From beneath a raised eyebrow, he'd lied, as if he was surprised to be mentioned by the older man: "I will, Aizawa-san." Aizawa had nodded, as sombre as if he thinks Light might just finish them all in the night. As if he would. It could never be the perfect victory he's ready for, and besides, they wouldn't all fit on the scrap in his watch. Sometimes he's dreamed of it, though. These last couple of months, when the suspicion and pressure have peaked, he's daydreamed about getting a sheet of notepaper from Takada, who's dead now. Just one page. He could write them down, all of them, all the fellow officers whose names he knows. Heart attack. Texts his PIN for the investigation HQ safe to the taskforce mobile network before dying. It would be so easy and safe. Get the passcodes, pack a bag. Take back the notebook he already owns. Disappear. Start over in private, in the clouds.
Of course, he'd never do it. Why flee, when winning is just a matter of time?
He thinks he can be justifiably proud of the way his schedule hasn't impacted on his abilities. He's always surpassed the merely mortal, and now he's pushing his limits further still. He thrives on the pressure. Admittedly, after tomorrow, he plans to make time to sleep and sleep and sleep some more. A day or two, perhaps, once matters are in hand? He'll have time. As the lone survivor of the Kira investigation team, leave is apt to be shoehorned onto him, which he will, in the end, accept. Poor Intern Yagami, forced to sit at his desk and listen, while all the men he worked with died at Kira's hand. Light suspects he could get an early pension out of it if he was so inclined; as it happens, he's not, but nobody will ever ask why he was the only survivor. On paper, he's a graduate student, seconded to the taskforce at his father's request. He's never been authorised to work in the field, and what records exist of the meeting at the Yellow Box will be easily modified. This time around, the NPA's arcane hiring practices will be his alibi.
Ide has dropped down onto the futon, still in his clothes, pulling the quilt over his body and his face. He's always miserable about bedding down with Kira - well, he's always miserable about something, is Ide. With the others gone, he doesn't play at pretend politeness, just closes his eyes and is gone almost at once. Because Light still treats lesser mortals to the social graces, even now, he crosses the room and hits the dimmer switch. The room falls into shadow. Ide doesn't thank him, but then, Ide never speaks two words to Light if he can possibly avoid it. He also snores, mouth hanging open as if he's hoping to catch flies. The grotesque sounds make Light itch for the feel of paper, as so many things do. Hell, after an hour or two of whistling and churning, he's ready to walk over there and drop a pillow over the man's face. A floor pillow, made of lead.
Resting back in his chair, one arm on its back, Light looks out across the living space. It's cluttered, and the mess hurts his eyes. It's not that there isn't room in the corridor to lay the futon out. It's simply that at all hours, one or the other of them is supposed to be chaperoning Light, even if he's asleep. Even if they're asleep, for all the good it does. And none of the taskforce are getting a lot of sleep, by now. It's understandable; out of them all, Light's the only one not waiting to die - but it's also insulting. He knows the three of them intimately, by now - their daily routines, their sleeping habits, which don't differ so much from his own. He despises them all. It's not as if Kira is complicated; Light has cast human history, good and evil, into such relief that even a small child can comprehend it. But these mysteries continue to elude the taskforce - which is why, tomorrow afternoon, every single one of them will die.
You can tell so very much from how people sleep. Aizawa flips and flops, unable to settle, often sleeping as little as Light does, or less. Light knows that he dreams of his wife and his daughters, not because the man has been unwise enough to confide in him, but because he's heard him mutter their names. Eriko, Yumi and Takumi Aizawa: the names rest in Light's thoughts like their death warrants, because he has, on occasion, considered how best to use them against Aizawa himself. They're such an obvious fracture point. Would Aizawa sacrifice them, to defeat Kira? Light doesn't think he'd have it in him - and there's a distant quality to the contempt, like a prickle of itching powder inside his straitjacket, because when it came down to it Light hadn't had it in him, either. He'd had perfectly good reasons not to kill Soichiro and Sayu, and yet their lives had left a blotch on his splendid isolation. A stain, yes, that it had taken his father's death to erase. Indeed, Light's learned to be glad his father died when he did. With him gone, Kira can move freely. With him gone, Light can finish elevating himself to the heights he deserved all along.
All of his trials are as nothing, though, compared to what he's about to receive. Tomorrow is so close. His eye catches the world clock along the top of the right-hand display; it's 02:25 on the 28th in Tokyo, 11:25 on the 27th in Los Angeles. 19:25 in Winchester, England. Light can run the calculations in his head, and does it without thinking about it; the display is for the others - and from the bedroom, Aizawa's voice carries through the plasterboard: Matsuda, shut the hell up! Ide stirs, and Light pinpoints the sound to a particular point on the wall. Of course Matsuda's not sleeping tonight; he doesn't do well at the best of times. He thinks he should have been able to save Light's father, and, for all that Light knows lifespans are mostly set in stone, he's glad to let Matsuda's heart bleed a little longer before he breaks it for good. Not long after New Year, it had been Matsuda's turn on the living-room futon, and he'd wailed in his sleep, begging Chief Yagami to forgive him. Another of the many things Light doesn't realise is that, behind the frosty glare he'd given Matsuda, his face had been sheet-white.
For his own part, Light's convinced he would sleep like a baby, if he weren't so very caught up in contemplating the shining prize ahead of him, and checking over his plan for last-minute flaws and backdoors, so pleased with its neatly hemmed edges that he can't see the stitching gaping wide at the back. He'd asked Ryuk if he talked in his sleep once, for all the same reasons - he simply had too much to give away, with his mind out of gear at night. Ryuk had told him no, with an air of disappointment, and over the years Misa had confirmed it. So he's confident in his internal security, is Light; he's locked himself away behind a firewall of his own design. He doesn't know, and Aizawa and Matsuda and Ide haven't noticed, or haven't told him, that since his father's death he's begun to laugh, just sometimes, from his dreams. It's almost inaudible, in fits and starts, bright and broken all at once like bottleglass smashing in the wind.
He never once fell asleep at Takada's side to let her hear anything.
It's gone four, now. Nine hours to go, and Light's flying so high that sleep sounds a distinctly bad idea. The wheels of his chair are greased; they skate back across the carpet in near-silence. Light's path towards the kitchen is quieter still. Ryuk trails after him, as he did right at the start, then didn't for much, much longer, trailing Misa instead, and then didn't again, even though technically he haunts Light now, together with Mikami. Light flicks him a stare like petrified wood, and speaks almost under his breath, fully in character. "Why are you following me, shinigami?"
Ryuk offers his old roommate one of those unwinged shrugs that's more a float upwards than anything else, and watches Light with knowing eyes. He doesn't break the tableau either. "I don't know. I'm bored, that's all. You guys never do anything interesting."
Turning his back, Light opens the kitchen door. It's quiet, like the wheels of his chair; as a habitual eavesdropper, he makes sure all the doors in the apartment open silently. "Well, your boredom's not my concern. Read a book. Do some sudoku." He doesn't trouble himself to see whether Ryuk obeys. "Just don't bother me tonight."
He can't be putting up with Ryuk's tedious nonsense, not now, not on the very eve of his triumph, and he means the tonight as something of a reassurance for them both: tomorrow, I win. Tomorrow, things will be as they were again. I'll make them new again.Something about the promise sounds as hollow to Light as it does to Ryuk himself, but he can't see the way the shinigami contemplates the closed door.
There's barely enough room for one man in the tiny kitchen, and everything Light needs can be accessed from one central spot. It's not much different from his desk. Measuring out instant coffee with a precise shake of his hand, he tilts it into the mug. All the little brown space rocks fall to their deaths at his command, and he remembers the reports that had chimed up earlier, downloaded, filtered and summarised. It's amazing what two words will find you, these days. Search term: Kiyomi Takada.
"Lady Takada", really! As he presses the button to fill the mug, Light's lip curls into the hot water machine. He'd barely needed to work her at all; in the end, it had been a matter of appealing to her tremendous vanity, and promising her everything she wanted, in full awareness that it also happened to be what he wanted. But she hadn't been chosen the way that Light was; she hadn't put in such effort and sacrifice that, by now, that moment when the first notebook came to him only backs up his inborn right to rule. She'd been nothing but a selfish, spoiled woman, and she'd got what she deserved. He fixes his attention on the stream of water topping up the little machine, as if his scorn might bend it out of shape.
Kira's world is an excitable place, and the Internet is already full of conspiracy theories regarding Takada's death. Her worshippers, with typical stupidity, think her death a tragedy, and want to think they understand it. Takada was killed by agents of Sakura TV, in a literal ratings war. Takada was killed by fans of Misa-Misa, furious that she hadn't appeared on New Year's Eve. Closer to the donkey's tail, Takada's bodyguards were infiltrated by anti-Kira forces. They'd planned to use her to put pressure on Lord Kira (who'd almost laughed out loud at that one) - and so on, and so on. Light finds the stories utterly predictable, and having checked through them, he'd left them to that automatic summary. The regular news scans will be good enough. He wrote the data mining algorithms himself, and refines them regularly; there's no way they can fail.
As he heads quietly back to the desk that's been his shackle, a sepia-toned reflection floats uncomfortably on the surface of his mug. Ryuk is nowhere to be seen.
By 5am, he finds it ludicrous, the idea that he might have slept tonight. After all, how could he have even tried? It's not insomnia; until Near exposed him, he'd slept better as Kira than he ever had in his life. And it's not worry, the idea of which threatens to burst from his closely-controlled throat as a gurgle of sticky laughter. No, the reason he doesn't sleep, the reason he sits at his desk all night, camouflaged with the fouled shreds of L's career, is that he simply doesn't want to sleep. This, he tells himself, is no compulsion; it's a free choice, fairly made.
It had been so very different, once. He'd been a boy, once; a child, before he ascended past adulthood to glory, and to putting away childish things. That boy who'd picked up the death note had been so careful about so very much. He'd had to be; he'd had L on his tail, after all. I don't have time to waste, he'd said, cheerfully explaining his work ethic away to Ryuk, still painted with his joy in finally, finally having something to do that deserved him. It's important that I stay at the top of my class. If I don't get enough sleep, it'll affect my health and concentration.
That boy, Light suspects, would be rather horrified by the lifestyle he's grown into - but it's surprising what you can do, when you have to. Even before you consider his sleep patterns, his diet's gone to pieces, snatched snacks and takeaways half-ignored while he works. He hasn't exercised in months; hasn't had time. He's permanently wired on black coffee, which hits him harder than most because he doesn't allow himself anything stronger. He does nothing but deal with Near and the investigation team, with the enemies who watch him from almost every angle. Almost; they still can't get behind his face. An outside observer might think that Light's habits have imploded along with his sanity, but there are no outside observers here. They're all sleeping - and even if they weren't, they could prove nothing. Light's mouth lifts at one corner.
In theory, he's still running over the details of his plan. The computer screens outline him in a cyan glow, patterning him with the map of the world, and all its annotations, or with the graphic images the cleanup crews submitted. The perforated body in the street. The remains recovered from the church near Nagano. It had come as a surprise, the kidnapping; Near wants the afternoon's meeting as badly as Light does himself, and doesn't need to play elaborate tricks to get it. They want the same things, in the end; each of them wants to rub the other's face squarely in their defeat. How disgusting, to turn all of this into a game, as if none of Light's intricate perfections have had any deeper meaning. Well, Light will show Near the error of his ways. He can already see that pencil-sketched face waiting to be crushed, hear that nauseating electronic voice that he's hated from the start. Light will give Near just enough time to appreciate the depths of his failure, and then, through the words of command already written on an innocent hotel notepad, he will annihilate him.
Almost silent in the shadows, his fingers clack across the keyboard, and up comes the image of the Yellow Box warehouse. Light knows it inside out - its location, the other buildings that are adjacent to it on the wharf, their exits and entrances, their owners, their opening hours ... and the one entrance of the warehouse itself. Everything Mikami has done has proved that he can be counted on; even when he's used his own judgement and made mistakes, he's taken each direct order as if - well, as if it came from God himself, and why shouldn't he? Mikami will most certainly be there, and if some other unpredicted interference stops him showing up, there will be no harm done. Nobody there will be able to prove that Kira is Light Yagami, and all that will happen is that Near will be made to look the greatest of fools. He can already hear the taskforce's protests; he's already prepared his own disappointed words. How much longer do you expect us to wait, Near? This must be more than a little embarrassing for you.
5am ticks on to 5:30, then to six, but the sun doesn't rise; January mornings are all the same. Light has never minded them, the cold and the dark, though of late some of the long nights at his desk have let the cold through to his skin. Not tonight, though. Tonight, nothing can touch him. Tonight, he's a few short hours from transcendence. Oh, how long he's struggled and suffered and waited for this moment. The desk's not the same, the computers aren't the same, even the apartment isn't the same, yet the desk he works from,L's desk, has assumed a particular significance in his mind. It's boring. He pulls the strings of the world's police, with the USA more or less the only holdouts, until the SPK was proscribed. The work and the titles that L Lawliet gave his life for, the ones he died serving, have proved such a disappointment to Light - but he knows why. What defined L was his work as a detective. What defines Light, on the other hand ...
His lazy stare shifts to the window, to the artificial glow that creeps in from the busy world outside. What defines Light is that that's his world out there, taken, bought and paid for. He's taken it with his ability and his inspiration, and his coruscating vision. He's paid ten times over, with his willingness to take the nettle in his hand. He'd heard the call, but more than that, the call had heard him. It couldn't have ignored him. In the face of his brilliance, he knows the world never had the option of turning away.
In the monitor's glow, his face shines with avarice. The reflection holds his attention completely. He doesn't quite see the cruel chevron of his mouth, and he doesn't see himself as others would. To his own eye, he doesn't look warped, or broken, or twisted beyond recognition or redemption. To his own eye, he's beautiful. Can L see him, from where he is? It's a fanciful, middle-of-the-night thought. Light's sent more people to that nothingness he knows is beyond death than even he can count; he knows exactly how many he's killed himself, and if he saw them again, he'd know all their names. But the power passed from him almost at once, to Higuchi and to Misa, to Mikami and Takada, beyond counting or knowing. The official death count is "approximately 350,000"; Light thinks it's more like 300,000, but he can't tell. It's not significant. Each of them achieved more in death than they ever did in life, after all; they inclined the world towards perfection in its orbit. They each helped tilt it into Kira's grasp.
He's more than ready, he's been ready for six years, and the world's ready for him too, soft and ripe and hanging from the branch. All he has to do is reach out and take it. It's time to stop living in L's shadow and prepare to rule as Kira. He can feel the power building around him, resting across his shoulders as if he's sprouting wings. He wants to rise from his chair and dance to the roof on the tips of his toes. He wants to raise his arms to the sky and dare the stars to fall. It's time for the last traces of the old world to clear the way for the new, and for the glory of the coming of the Lord.
It's just gone seven by the time Aizawa emerges from the hell Matsuda made for him, the only one he'll ever know. Light has settled back into his shell. It's more difficult to seem harmless, with everyone knowing he's not, so paradoxically he doesn't try so much; the viper doesn't camouflage itself for the ants, after all. And as he comes down, an edge of depression is creeping in - an echo of Ryuk's boredom, a feeling that the things that make his life worthwhile are about to retreat again. He's been here before; he saw L die, L who'd been almost as much a serpent as Light himself, disguising it beneath layers of literalism and feigned naïvete and beneath those infuriating habits. L, who Light had put everything on the line to defeat; indeed, he'd put himself on the line. L, who had been the best the world could offer, and who Light had eventually, inevitably destroyed.
And when L had been gone - it had all been rather boring, hadn't it? But what's his alternative? He's not inviting Near around for tea; he's going to end him, and Light's not stupid enough to think losing can ever be a victory in itself. That sort of consolatory talk is for - well, it's for losers, not for him. Perhaps he'll give Near the opportunity to have that realisation? No, he thinks; best to get Near out of the way as quickly as he can. Relaying the description to Mikami had been easy. That one. Be sure to kill him first, and only then the rest. It's been too easy, really. At every turn, Near has been predictable - almost as much so as Mikami, in fact, who lives his whole life on schedule. Except for today. And he'll have his reward, won't he? He'll get to live out the rest of his life in the service of his living god. What more could anyone ask for?
As he gets up to hit the shower, Light pretends not to notice Aizawa's discomfort. The man looks like he just saw a cockroach scuttling for a dark corner; well, let him. They've never liked each other. Aizawa is too independent. He thinks for himself. He's hard to mislead, and he never liked Light, him and Ide, and Matsuda who as good as worships him already... he knows how things will go, from this moment on, and it will be such a relief to have all of them out of his hair at last. That discomfort is why Light pauses at the doorway, with his best innocent face on, with this friend of his father's who he's always loathed, and asks in a mild tone, "Did you sleep, Aizawa-san?" The subtext lies beneath his manner, in the regret around his mouth and the depth of his concern: Today, it will all be over. Today, I'm going to prove myself to you. Aizawa doesn't quite look at Light; instead, he shakes his head, and replies. "Not well. Tonight, perhaps. We'll see how it goes." And Light hears the hidden meaning just as clearly as if it was spoken. I hope so, Light-kun. I really do.
The corridor is dark, and nobody's there, and Light lets himself smile for real. It's just like Aizawa's love for his family. He wants to believe Light isn't Kira, not out of any particular liking or trust for Light, but out of his respect for Light's father. Just another of those serendipities Light's been touched by all along. It's just another way he'll always know that he's chosen, special, kissed by angels in his cradle.
With the quietest swoosh, he closes the bathroom door behind him.