Summary: Light discovers the mysteries of the afterlife – and who's been waiting there for him for five years.
Light's body shot bolt upright as he let out a yell, and his eyes snapped open. At first he saw nothing but a solid wall, and wildly guessed that he'd somehow ended up inside a prison cell. Was he still alive? Why was he sitting on the floor? Had he somehow ended up back inside the cell he'd occupied during the Kira Investigation? But why was he-
"Stand up slowly and walk to the desk."
Light's neck cracked as he whipped his head around. At a small desk, a rather pudgy man in a light blue dress shirt and black slacks was looking at him sleepily. His fingers were poised on a keyboard, which wasn't connected to a computer monitor or a hard drive of any kind. Light stared at him for a full five seconds, unable to wrap his head around what was going on.
Seeing Light's confused expression, the man heaved a sigh, raised his hands off the keyboard and repeated the command while using Japanese Sign Language, "Stand – up – and – come – here-"
"Um, I'm not deaf," Light interrupted cautiously.
The man did not look very appreciative. "Fine, then, get over here already. If you sit there too long someone's going to fall on you."
Light scrambled to his feet. As he stood up, he noticed immediately that his clothes were still ripped and bloody from the bullet wounds he'd suffered before he died. Bewildered, he hurried over to the man for an explanation.
"Excuse me, could you tell me where exactly-"
"State your religion."
"Your religion," the man said, sounding more than a little irritated with Light. He seemed to suspect that Light was hard of hearing after all.
"Uh…" Light was having difficulty getting his bearings, but he sought to answer the man's persistence before trying to get more information. "Shinto. I guess." Made sense, since he'd spent his last years on Earth dealing with a shinigami on a regular basis. The man typed it into the keyboard.
"And your name?"
"Light Yagami. Sir, where exactly-?"
The man's fingers froze on the keys. His small, piggish eyes darted up to Light's perplexed face and he stared at him suspiciously. "Did you just say 'Light Yagami?'"
"Yeah, I did. Sir, could you tell me how I-?"
"It's about goddamn time you showed up."
"What?" Light asked. But instead of answering him, the man heaved his bulk up from his seat and took a few steps toward the closed door to his right. Turning the handle, he swung it open and yelled into the hallway, "Hey, Sakuma! We've finally got Light Yagami here! C'mere and get him quick, I've got another one coming in thirty seconds!"
"He's really here?" The voice sounded surprised. Light grew only more confused when a thirty-something year old man appeared in the doorway, wearing a green sports jacket and jeans.
Sakuma's eyes swept over Light. "So this is him, huh?" He noticed Light's expression and offered him a sympathetic smile. "Sorry. I'm sure you're pretty confused. Don't worry though, everyone is when they get here."
"But where is 'here'?" Light demanded in exasperation. Sakuma looked much more mild mannered than the man at the desk. Perhaps he would be able to answer Light's questions.
Sakuma smiled. "Well, you're in Japan Check In Room Number 23 at The Airport."
"That's right. This is where we tell you where to go once you've died."
"So I am dead." Light couldn't keep the disappointment out of his voice. For a few minutes, he'd been clinging to the hope that he was still alive, which meant that maybe Near hadn't outsmarted him after all. But there had been those gun wounds…
Sakuma nodded. "Yes, you're dead. Now, if you'd please come with me, we need to clear the room before the next person arrives."
"…okay." Light glanced around uncertainly before following Sakuma out of the room. Upon exiting, Light found himself in a dimly let hallway with grayish-blue carpeting on all four sides. He heard Sakuma close the door behind them.
"Sorry about Kobayashi. He's been on the same job for the past sixty years, so he gets cranky pretty easily."
"It's all right," Light said quickly. "But can you please explain what's going on? Why is this place called 'The Airport'? And what do you mean you're going to tell me where to go?"
"Well, you see," Sakuma said as the hallway began a slight ascent, "The Airport is the place everyone goes when they first die, and then after they've checked in and gotten their ticket, they go to their designated gate and board the plane that takes them to their Afterlife destination."
"Their Afterlife destination?"
"The flights are organized by religion," Sakuma explained. "Since Earth has so many different religions, the Airport is designed to help everyone get to the correct Afterlife. It functions to keep things organized. And usually when people are first asked what their religion is, they're too confused to lie about it so they answer truthfully. Then we print them their ticket and send them on their way."
Light was slowly beginning to understand. But just barely. "So then if everyone who dies comes here first, how big is this place?"
Sakuma said lightly, "Oh, I'd probably say half the size of Planet Earth. Give or take a few miles."
So much for understanding. Sakuma glanced sideways at him and elaborated, "Since you're Japanese you've been automatically transferred to the Japan Wing, so you won't have to go very far to get to your gate. And we have an excellent subway system for long distances. We'll have to use it to get to J-Central anyway. That's the middle of the Japan Wing," he added for Light's benefit. "That's where I'm taking you right now." Light nodded slowly. They walked in silence for a moment while Light tried to correctly phrase his next question.
Suddenly, the floor became flat again, and within the next ten steps they had emerged from the hallway. Light's eyes grew wide with shock. He would never have dreamed that such a place like this existed.
The impossibly high ceiling was made of clear glass, from which poured the light from a brilliant blue sky. Thousands of people were shuffling around each other, ranging in age from old ladies to newborn babies being pushed in strollers. Light could see the signs that marked each gate, clearly stating the religion in Japanese, English, and a few other Asian and European languages. The people sitting at the gates looked nervous. Almost everyone was clutching a color-coded ticket in their hand, as if they were afraid someone would steal it from them. A voice over the intercom announced that the flight for Japanese Christians was now boarding.
"Should be a quiet flight," Sakuma said with a chuckle. He told Light, "We've got to go down the escalator. We should be able to catch the next train."
"Right," Light said faintly. He let Sakuma lead the way while his eyes darted in every direction. An elderly man was sitting in a chair at a gate marked "Atheist" and crying shamelessly. Light was a bit disturbed.
"So the planes take people to the Afterlife that's in their religion?" he asked Sakuma.
Sakuma nodded. "That's it. Christians get the flight that takes them to Heaven, Muslims are taken back to their graves to sleep peacefully-"
"So then what if you don't believe in anything?" Light asked, thinking of the crying man.
"Then you simply cease to exist. You board the plane and it disappears into nothingness."
Light felt his stomach clench in fear at the thought. No wonder the man had been upset – or maybe he was just sad because he was dead. Or maybe he'd left someone on Earth behind.
By this time they had stepped off the escalator and were headed toward the open doors of the train. Light had the strangest sense of déjà vu. It all seemed far too normal to be taking place after he'd died. He could almost pretend he was boarding the train to commute to the police station in the morning, holding a cup of coffee and thinking about the Death Note sitting at home with Misa.
The train was quiet except for the sound of a family at the far end of the compartment. Light saw two children, both of them wearing bloody clothes like his own, pressing their faces up against the windows as the train started to move forward. They looked far more excited than their parents. The husband and wife were holding hands, their clothes also stained from their deaths, their expressions serious and grave.
Sakuma said pleasantly, "It's always nice when they come as a family. Usually it's a car accident, but sometimes it's a plane crash or a burglar who kills the whole family in their sleep."
"You sound awfully casual about death," Light said, almost to himself. But to his surprise, Sakuma turned and gave him a rather knowing smile.
"Do you really think you have room to talk? You are Kira, after all."
Light gasped, taking a quick step back. "Wait, how do you know that name?" he demanded. Sakuma chuckled, and reached out to pat Light reassuringly on the shoulder.
"It's all right, Light. No one's going to arrest you here."
The train slowed, as the intercom announced they were arriving at J-Central. Light's head was still buzzing with confusion as he followed Sakuma out of the train.
"How did you know I'm Kira?" Light asked again. "And wait a minute, if I was using the Death Note-"
"You've kept us pretty busy down here for the last few years," Sakuma said pleasantly. They stepped onto the next escalator and began to ascend. "You sent us a lot of criminals, most of which didn't believe in any particular religion. Most of them ultimately chose Buddhist or Shinto, since that's the biggest religion in Japan, but a couple of them were atheists or agnostics too. There were also some innocent folks you sent down here, a lot of them talking about nothing but Kira, Kira, Kira, and worrying that their families were going to be targeted by you next."
Light felt like a weight had dropped into his chest. "I was trying to remake the world," he said quietly, though it seemed like a rather pathetic excuse now. They were headed toward a large, closed office in the center of the hallway in another massive room full of gates and bustling people. It was slightly more multi-cultural here – Light saw some Koreans, Chinese, and even a few Caucasians mingling with the Japanese.
Sakuma's voice sounded gently in Light's ear. "You're not the first human to try changing the world," he said. He opened the door to J-Center for Light and said, "Seems you caused quite a lot of commotion on Earth. Your friend's told me all about it."
Shock hit Light as soundly as a bolt of lightning. He almost stopped dead in his tracks. "My friend?" he said in utter disbelief. To his extreme agitation, Sakuma walked right past him and up to the front desk, where a young, twenty-ish female secretary was typing something into her monitor-less keyboard.
"Hey, Momiya-san. I've come to deliver Light Yagami. How's our stubborn guest doing today?"
The young woman sighed and shook her head with a small smile. "Same as he's been for the last five years. Good thing souls don't need food or sleep, or he'd be dead ten times over already."
"Though his lack of appetite has never stopped him from asking for sweets," Sakuma said thoughtfully. The tightness that had taken hold of Light's chest gave a painful squeeze.
"You-you don't mean-" he began desperately.
"This way, Light," Sakuma said, waving him down the hallway to the right. Light followed right on his heels, unable to believe that this was happening. Never could he have imagined – never in his wildest dreams –
Sakuma reached for the knob on a door to the left and pushed it open. "Guess who's finally showed up?" he said cheerfully. He stepped off to the side, leaving Light exposed in the doorway. Every part of his body was shaking.
At the far end of the small table in the center of the room, L Lawliet raised his head. His black, voluminous hair shifted gently, and his skin looked almost white under the bright light overhead. His eyes were bottomless pits.
Light couldn't escape from those eyes. He felt like his skin was being pierced.
"So…you've finally arrived at last."
"L! L, what are you doing here?" Light demanded, his hands clenching the doorway for support. "Rem killed you five years ago!"
"That is correct," L replied. "And I have waited for you here for five years. Have a seat, if you please. I believe we have some catching up to do." He gestured to the chair across the table from him.
Light tried valiantly to regain his composure. He couldn't let L know he was so upset. "All right," he agreed, letting go of the doorframe with difficulty and entering the room. Sakuma was smiling again as he backed out of the doorway.
"I'll be out front if you need anything, you two."
"Thank you, Sakuma. I appreciate it," L said. With that, Sakuma left the room and shut the door. Light knew he had no choice but to sit down. He wasn't even sure why he was so nervous being here with L. He couldn't believe how surprised he was – he hadn't seen this coming at all. Perhaps he'd been too overwhelmed and confused by the entire situation.
It didn't take L very long to pick up on Light's unease. He said in that familiar, mumbling sort of voice, "I would offer you a strawberry in order to ease the tension, but they say that I do not need such things as I am clearly dead." He looked quite disappointed at the idea that something as simple as death would stop him from indulging in his preferred choice of diet.
"That's okay," Light said quickly. "So wait, why are you still here? Didn't they give you a ticket so you could go to your Afterlife?"
"The ill-mannered man at the desk did ask me to state my religious preference," L mused, his thumb drifting up toward his lips as it always had. "But upon finding myself very much alert despite my obviously deceased condition, I took thirty seconds to assess the situation before telling him that I would wait for you before continuing forward. He got rather upset and started making threats."
"L…" Light shook his head in disbelief. "I…I'm not really sure what to say."
"That's quite all right. Because I have a few things I'd like to say." L locked onto Light's eyes and said, in Light's opinion with the air of a satisfied but monotonous child, "I suspected you were Kira from the beginning and I was right. Even after you proved your supposed innocence, my suspicions of you never completely ceased. Therefore, I must inform you, I told you so."
Light's hand balled up into a fist underneath the table. "What do you want, L?" he asked curtly. "Do you want me to tell you you've won? Do you want me to admit that I was defeated?"
"That would be the polite thing to do, but it's not really necessary at this point." L sighed and started rubbing his lip with his thumb and glancing vaguely around the room. "You know, it wouldn't kill them to bring me just one, small piece of cake…"
"L, just tell me what you want from me!" Light couldn't contain himself any longer. He was distraught, panicked, confused. He had no idea what to do with himself. How could he face L, the one person who had known and understood him the best, knowing that it had been he who had secured his execution? He still didn't fully understand why L had stayed and waited for him for five years.
L's wandering eyes honed in on Light once again. "I had two reasons for staying here. First of all, I didn't feel I could move on until I was certain my efforts during life had not been in vain. I admit it was rather selfish of me, but then again, as you know I am quite naturally selfish. I had to see you here with my own eyes, to know that someone had ended your reign as Kira. Tell me, which one of my successors defeated you? Was it Mello, or was it Near?"
Light hated how calm and pleasant L sounded. "They collaborated. In a way," Light said.
L seemed quite satisfied. "Then I chose them well," he said.
"Mello died," Light deadpanned. He felt an instant thrill of satisfaction as L's eyebrows turned down into a dark frown.
"…is that so?" For a moment, L did nothing but stare off into space, as if he were seeing past Light and trying to imagine how Mello's life might have ended. Then, it clicked in his head, and he eyed Light suspiciously. "Did you do it?"
Light crossed his arms in front of his chest and shrugged carelessly. "I was Kira. Mello got in my way. I had no choice but to eliminate him."
L sighed. "He was very reckless," he mumbled to himself. "But still, I would've preferred that I remain the only casualty of Whammy children. I suppose he passed through while I was stuck here." He scratched one of his feet with the other. They were bare, as usual.
Light thought L seemed strangely indifferent in speaking of one of his successors. "You suppose?" he repeated.
L didn't miss the sarcasm. He gave Light a very small smile. "I might have been upset if I were still alive, but knowing where Mello has come to, dying isn't such a terrible thing, now is it? He probably told the cranky man at the desk that he was Shinto and boarded the next flight out."
Light crossed one leg over the other. "So here's what I don't understand," he said. "If you can go to the Afterlife of any religion once you're dead, then does that mean that every religion is capable of effecting life on Earth? I mean, I had the Death Note and saw Ryuk for years."
L nodded slowly. "Yes, I do believe that is the case. Regardless, The Airport does not seem to have any control over the selection or method in which people die – they are simply responsible for sending them in the correct direction after the fact."
"Okay," Light said. "So you waited because you wanted to make sure I was dead. But what's the second reason? I know it wasn't because you were afraid of getting on the plane," he added with a slight roll of his eyes.
L shook his head slowly. His thumb was stroking his lip again. "No, I have never been frightened by airborne modes of transportation. In fact, I think taking the plane will be a rather fascinating experience." Then, without so much as a warning, his black eyes locked onto Light again and he said simply, "But I stayed and waited here because I like you very much, Light Yagami. If there was to be another adventure in the Afterlife, I wanted to wait so that wherever you chose to go, I would be able to stay at your side and accompany you."
"What? But L, that's – that's ridiculous! We're enemies! What do you mean, you like me?" Light was also wondering in what context 'like' should be placed. L hadn't exactly been very clear.
"Perhaps now would be an appropriate time to use the phrase 'hate the sin, not the sinner,' " L remarked, stretching his hands out in front of him in order to loosen his back. "But in all honesty – it wouldn't be that hard for them to procure just one piece of candy-"
"L, will you shut up and explain yourself?!"
L blinked. "Well, Light, that's a very contradictory statement. What exactly is it you'd like me to do, speak or not speak?"
"Just sit still so I can punch you," Light muttered.
L let out a very small sigh, as if he were disappointed in Light somehow. "I suppose this is the most I should've hoped for in regards to a tender reunion."
"L," Light said through gritted teeth, "Just tell me how you could possibly – how you could even – how you could ever say you like me when I was Kira."
"It's very simple, Light. My affection for you has reached the point at which it transcends your actions." L watched him quite passively as Light tried not to strangle him. "Would you like me to summarize my thoughts up to this point?"
"That's what I've been asking you to do," Light snapped.
"Very well then," L said, ignoring Light's irritation completely. He wrapped both his arms around his legs and began, "Since I first suspected you of being Kira, you have been of interest to me. I watched you for a long time before we finally met face to face-"
"Hmph," Light said, his expression sour.
"- and even after that, you continued to fascinate me. It was when you decided to join us in the Kira Investigation that you began to take up most of my attention. Admittedly, at least forty-five percent of my interest in you was due to the fact that I thought you were Kira, but the other fifty-five percent was merely interested in you as an individual.
"You are an unusual person, Light Yagami."
Like L had any room to talk.
"Too intelligent for the mundane, and exceptionally successful at whatever you attempted – except perhaps in deflecting the attention of Misa Armani." L interrupted his own speech by asking, "Incidentally, Light, how was Ms. Armani doing before you died? Was she being taken care of?"
Light glared at L. He hated the fact that even in death, L had managed to catch him off guard. Maybe during their life on Earth they'd been able to take turns outsmarting each other, but unfortunately much of Light's success had hinged off of the fact that the Death Note was from another world. Here, when it was simply the two of them – and instead of a battle of wits, they were discussing L's feelings – Light felt as if he were being dragged along by a rope tied around his neck.
"She was fine. Same as ever, I guess," Light said. He suddenly had a strong urge to say that Misa was pregnant – maybe the idea of them being intimate would make L jealous. But Light wasn't even sure if L was the type of person to get jealous. Then again, Light had never thought that L was the type of person to feel anything like affection toward another person anyway. It was more impossible to believe than even the existence of The Airport.
"Well, I suppose fine is acceptable," L muttered.
"So anyway," Light pressed.
"Yes," L said, "Anyway, once I became aware that during any given point in time my thoughts would be circulating around you, I tried to dissuade myself by keeping in mind that you were committing horrible crimes right under my nose and therefore were not worthy of my affection."
The phrase "horrible crimes" made Light's insides clench slightly. So L still held fast to his idea that the murder of terrible criminals wasn't the way to go about changing the world? He still thought Light was twisted, disillusioned, and power hungry?
Did he think…did he think Light was evil? Light didn't have the courage to ask.
A thrill of alarm shot through Light's chest. L's voice had changed from one of calm indifference to quiet confession. His voice was soft. Probing. Taking Light completely off guard, once again.
"…I could not rid myself of my traitorous emotions," L said quietly. "The last straw finally fell upon my back when you found me out in the rain."
L raised his head slightly and met Light's shock head-on. "I saw you then, Light. The real you. Not Kira. Not the Light that everyone else knew. Not the one I was bent on capturing. The genuine Light." L paused for a moment and then added softly, "The one sitting across from me right now. The one who feels the same way as I."
Light was trembling. His jaw was clenched so tight it hurt his teeth. He wasn't hearing this. He couldn't be…L, the one person who should've hated him…who had every reason to despise him…was saying that…was confessing to him that-
L had stood up. Light sat frozen in his seat, unable to budge as L took the few steps closer.
"I've sat alone in this room for five years. I'm finished waiting."
His hands shot forward, his body plunged, as he swooped down upon Light and met his mouth with his.
Light responded by reaching up and wrapping his arms around L's neck, his back arching as he stretched higher to bring himself closer to him. He couldn't believe this was happening. This was L. L, his enemy, his rival, his nemesis…his everything. Despite everything that had happened, despite all that Light had done…despite the fact that Light had made the terrible decision to make L meet his end…L had felt this way…the whole time.
Light had never so fulfilled in life as he did now, here, in death. The years of Kira seemed to melt away under L's touch. This person saw past that. He touched Light's very soul…quite literally, in this case.
L finally released Light, though he didn't take his hands away from Light's face. They stared at each other for a moment, perhaps both a little unable to believe what had just happened. Then, with the tiniest of smiles, L asked:
"So Light…which Afterlife are you taking me to?"
Hope you enjoyed.