A/N: A thousand thanks to my beta reader Meiyl, and to everyone who has read and followed this story.

Disclaimer: The story and characters of Death Note were created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.


Epilogue: The Crusade


Cold January sunlight pours into the room, illuminating the sparse furnishings in my sleeping area. All around the floor are cardboard boxes with most of my shit in them—clothes, video games, extra cameras and bugs, my stash of cigarettes. There was no need to unpack properly, after all; this apartment is like a cell on death row, as far as I'm concerned.

Mello's plan goes down today. There isn't any point in delaying further; it's now or never. Mello's been ready ever since he steeled himself to carry out this whole thing in the first place, and we finished setting up the infiltration of the delivery company days ago... but I still have some things left to do.

For one thing, I haven't read Mello's note yet, the one he left for me in Paradise Lost and that I stuffed unceremoniously into my vest pocket in November. I won't have time to read it later, so I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and just look at the damn thing now. Gritting my teeth and trying to ignore how fast my pulse is, I pull out the slip of paper from my pocket and unfold it.

I pull off my goggles to peer at the note. The scribbled text is in blue ink that's probably as dark as the day he wrote it, since light has never faded it. I'm barely breathing as I read it. It strikes me that I'm imagining the present-day Mello speaking the words, since I can't remember what fourteen-year-old Mello's voice sounded like any more.

Matt,

You probably know by now that L is dead. I'm leaving Wammy's today for good, and I'm going to leave the country when I get enough money. Don't try to follow mestay here and be safe. I know we're friends, and if things were different, we'd stick together. But where I'm going now, I can't bring anyone else.

I promise that if I get into too much trouble, I'll call you, but it won't be until after you've graduated. I'll keep an eye on you, okay? So don't do anything stupid while I'm gone. We'll see each other again someday.

Mello

P.S. You're really damn smart, you know that? If you weren't so lazy, you could be number one, easy as anything. Now that I'm gone, I bet you could beat Near if you wanted. But don't let them make you the next L. The Kira case is between me and Near, got it? Finish out your four years, raise some hell, let the institution find a real job for you when you're eighteen. You deserve it.

P.P.S. You can have all the chocolate I stashed in the closet.

The paper tears slightly down the middle because of how tightly my fingers are gripping it. I smooth it out, reading and rereading it, until I realize how long I've been standing here when I'm supposed to be making final preparations. With eyes smarting, I refold the note and slip it carefully back into my vest.


It's almost time to go. I've erased every trace of the surveillance we've done, I've paid our bills (well, most of them, anyway), I've set up safeguards to delete the information on my computers if we don't come back—hell, I've even cleaned the apartment. Seems like a smart thing to do, since we're going to die today, and I don't want the landlord going through all our shit when we're gone.

Enough with the morbid thoughts, Matt. It's not going to help you do what needs doing. I sigh and check the smoke bomb for the fourth time. I can feel the gun Mello let me borrow as an uncomfortable weight in my vest. It kind of scares me to be packing heat, since I've never owned a gun before in my life, but I guess it's necessary. How Mello managed to obtain firearms in Japan, I'll never know.

Mello walks out of his bedroom carrying his helmet, looking badass as usual in his black leather. He's also got a gun, but he's dealt with scarier shit than weapons before. I'm the one who's new at this; I'm the one who's more likely to screw up. "You ready?" he asks.

"I've got the gun, the bomb, the car keys, a pack of cigs... yeah, I think that's everything," I try to say nonchalantly.

He puts his helmet on the kitchen counter and walks up to me, close enough to draw attention to the inch of difference in our heights. "Are you scared?"

"Hell, no," I lie. He gives a half-smile, then tilts his head down and pulls me in for a kiss. After a few seconds of dumb surprise, I give in and inexpertly try to kiss him back. After all, you're supposed to give people who are about to die whatever they want, right? I can't say that kissing Mello is an unpleasant way to spend a minute on the last day of my life. It even seems to provide me with a little bit of his fearlessness.

"I thought you said you wouldn't do this again," I remind him distractedly as his mouth migrates away from mine to trail ticklishly along my jaw.

I feel his warm breath on my cheek. "You looked sad just now. What else was I supposed to do?" I guess he knows I wasn't really protesting. "Matt..." His lips brush my ear and I shiver. "Tell me your name," he murmurs. "Please. I want to know your real name."

I don't have to hesitate. I know I'd give up anything for him—why wouldn't I trust him with my name? It occurs to me with a pang that this must be one of the only times in his life Mello's ever asked for something by saying please. It'll probably be the last time.

With his golden hair tickling my nose, I turn my head and mumble my given name into his ear. No one's called me by my name in a long time, not since before I went to Wammy's, and it sounds strange to me. I don't even call myself that name inside my own head. When he whispers his name in response, I smile. It's beautiful, a blending of vowels that sounds musical even without being voiced, and I like how it's vaguely similar to my own name.

"Hey... you're named after an archangel, aren't you?" I realize, musing as Mello releases me from his arms. The skin of my neck is chilly without his breath on it. "Mikha'el—Michael. The commander of God's army."

His fingers are now toying with his rosary beads. He raises an eyebrow. "How'd you know that?"

"He was a character in Paradise Lost. Don't you remember? You must have read at least some of it."

He shrugs, with a tiny, apologetic smile. "The only thing I remember is that I hated it." Mello was never much for literature, and I can tell he doesn't want to think about that book right now. He falls silent for a while, counting beads, and his voice is low when he speaks again. "They told me my mother was from somewhere in central Europe—maybe a Slavic country—and she was Catholic. I guess she might have named me after an angel... I can barely remember her."

"Was that her rosary?" I had never known.

He nods slowly. "I used to pray with it, you know, when I was a little kid." I do remember watching and listening to him reciting rosaries a long time ago, kneeling by the window of our room at night. "But I've forgotten how. Now I guess it's just a decoration." He gives a dry laugh. "Or an ironic symbol of how much of a sinner I am." He clenches his fist around the slim wooden cross.

"At least you have something left from one of your parents," I tell him.

"I guess so..." He lets go of the rosary and lets it drop against his chest, still looking down at it thoughtfully. "Let's get out of here." Before I know it, Mello's got his helmet again, and I'm locking the door behind us as we leave—a futile gesture, but done simply out of habit. We take the stairs and find ourselves in the dingy garage, standing between my car and his new motorbike. I feel like I've been sleepwalking.

I'm about to open the car door when Mello claps his hand to my shoulder. "Hey." I turn around and look at him patiently until he speaks again. "Want to really know why I kept the rosary?"

It doesn't really matter to me, but I might as well humor him. "Sure."

"You know how people think Kira's some sort of... god of justice?" There's an edge of contempt to his words.

I grimace. Kira—ism is pretty much the one world religion now, with its own prophetess and disciples and preachers... and a murderer worshiped as the divine savior.

"Well, I guess I wear this thing because it reminds me that they're wrong," Mello continues. "Kira isn't God... he's just some bastard who's as much in the dirt as the rest of us." His eyes are flinty, showing a hint of the ruthlessness he's capable of. "He's a fucking hypocrite. And if we can't bring him down, at least we'll give him a damn good run for his money."

I try to swallow the lump in my throat. "Yeah," I croak, unable to say anything else. I feel like a soldier going into battle. There's a reason I never joined the army. Where's that scrap of fearlessness that I just had ten minutes ago?

Mello's left hand is still on my shoulder. "Don't worry," he murmurs.

Suddenly, as if worried he might dematerialize in front of me, I wrap my arms around him and hug him tightly. Then I partially let him go, gripping his shoulders and glaring at him with all the severity I can muster. "If you die and I don't, I swear I'll—"

"Shut up," he interrupts softly, touching a leather-gloved finger to my lips. What was I going to say, anyway? I can't threaten someone whose life is about to end. It's like he doesn't even belong to this world any more.

Mello gives my shoulder a final squeeze, disengages himself from my hands, and retrieves his helmet from where he left it on the seat of the motorcycle. He looks at me levelly, mouth in a grim line, eyes ablaze. "See you on the other side." I nod shortly, reaching up to pull my goggles down onto my face, and get into the car.

I take out a cigarette and light up as I hear Mello revving his bike. When I start the engine and put it in gear, the sound of the rumbling motor kicks my brain into hyperdrive, and I can sense the adrenaline fizzing in my bloodstream. I feel my heart beating behind the note in my vest pocket. It's strange that I feel so alive right when I'm getting ready to die.

I don't know what Mello meant by "the other side," but whether he was talking about the afterlife or the aftermath, I know he's lying—we won't be meeting again after this. Nevertheless, I can't help wanting to believe him; I've always hung onto Mello's every word. Don't worry, he said.

We'll see each other again someday.


Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell.
Macbeth, act IV, scene iii


Well, at least the first part of the plan seems to have been entirely successful—the more bodyguards there are following me, the fewer there'll be going after Mello.

I may be a damn good driver, but I can't get away, even though I've been speeding around and evading them for a good while. It isn't enough. I can't even set off another smoke bomb to get them off my tail; I'm surrounded. They've got me. So it turns out you were wrong, Mello, like I knew you would be.

Damn you, Mello. Damn your determination, your stubbornness, your stupid fucking pride. Damn everything I love about you. Weeks ago, I told you I'd do anything to bring down Kira, and I wondered why I cared so much. Now I know what I really meant was that I'd do anything for your sake—even, God help me, die for you.

You're no angel, Mihael, and God knows we won't see each other in heaven. We aren't fighting Satan and his army, either; we're all human—you, me, Near, L, and especially Kira. This is not a holy war.

Funny how I let you drag me into all of this. I never needed to be the best, the first, the victor, the successor—that was all you, Mello. This was your game of divine justice, or vengeance, or conquest, or whatever it was. All I want is for you to get out of this alive, but you can't even grant me that one wish. I suppose it's fitting that I won't fulfill your wish for me to live, either. We both lose.

As I step out of the car and raise my hands, I almost want to laugh at how many guns the damn bodyguards have got aimed at me. Total overkill. One bullet is going to kill me just as dead as thirteen bullets, or twenty-six. This isn't Grand Theft Auto, and my non-bulletproof vest isn't going to help me out of this one, but I guess I still have to try.

I've got my goggles on; the world doesn't look as frightening when it's all washed with orange. My cigarette helps calm me down while I breathe in the smoke and address the faceless men in black suits. It's almost comforting to know there are only two possible outcomes. Either I sweet-talk enough to stall them, grab my gun, and somehow cheat my way out of death, or... I fail.

The first shot hurts more than anything I've ever felt in my life, which, incidentally, is going to end soon. Each bullet slams into my body with devastating force, bleeding the life out of me until I don't feel any more.

So. This is it.

I don't think either of us could have guessed what death really means, Mello. We won't even find out together. I'm ending my life the same way I started it—alone.

Maybe death means loneliness. Maybe it means nothing.

There aren't any flights of angels to sing us to our rest, but I didn't expect there to be. I never believed in angels.


end


Note: In Roman Catholic tradition, the archangel/saint Michael (whose name means "Who is like God?" in Hebrew) is not only the enemy of Satan in battle, but also the one who guides souls to heaven. The name Mail (pronounced MYLE) seems to be a form of the Gaelic name Mael, which means "servant" or "devotee."