Matsuda met Yuki Yagami when the boy was only nine years old. Of course, Matsuda thinks, his last name wasn't really Yagami, there's only one person with the surname Yagami left that Matsuda knows and even Sachiko wishes she had abandoned it.

The night gods are more or less dead and Matsuda has to keep reminding himself of that.

Matsuda can't remember the exact circumstances of how they met; he only remembers the lingering details, those small images that never quite wash out. Sayu's cold and dull eyes as she looked across at him, the boy standing still as a shadow upon the white staircase, the clinking of the coffee mugs amid the silence of the house, and the chill in the air as if all the ghosts of all the dead policemen were still watching them in that cold small room.

Matsuda wonders who Sayu decided to blame when she found out the ghosts had followed her into her new life. Matsuda blames Near, Ide and Aizawa blame Light, and Mogi blames both of them. Some people though, people like Sayu, they aren't so lucky, it's not as easy finding someone to blame the ghosts on so they live with them instead. They live with the memories and the empty chairs and they try to pretend they don't exist, it doesn't help.

Sayu doesn't like the way Matsuda comes to visit her, she doesn't like it when he shows up on her doorstep and inquires after her son, she doesn't like the reminders. Matsuda understands, it still hurts to see the cold hatred in her eyes but he does understand. After all, in his own way, he hates the police too.

Yuki says nothing, but the silence isn't unexpected. Yuki is like the shadows on the wall, like those lingering memories of what was lost; he's the frayed curse on Sayu's household that has almost been forgotten. Each time Matsuda comes back Yuki will look at him through empty gray eyes as if wondering why he bothered in the first place.

Matsuda likes to believe there is a reason for why he goes back, but he's misplaced it, so whenever anyone asks him why he doesn't have an answer. Maybe it's because he misses things that shouldn't be missed, maybe it's because it's the only place where he can actually remember what it was like when hewas alive, or maybe it's because something of himmight still be alive.

All he knows is that he comes back and back and back and that Yuki says nothing and his grey eyes remain empty.

"A light fringe of snow lay like a cape on the shoulders of his overcoat and like toecaps on the toes of his galoshes…"

He doesn't remember why he was at Sayu's house that day, approximately eleven years after Light's death. It was the first time he had contacted Sayu since the day he told them that Light was dead and that he wasn't coming back, it was the first time since the lie.

He told them what he had to, what they thought he had to.

He told them that Kira had killed him.

He told them that Kira had shot Yagami Light to goddamn pieces and given him a goddamn heart attack, he told them that he had tried his best to save him but it just wasn't enough, that they had all tried but Light was still dead and nothing in the goddamn world would bring him back.

It was easier than telling them the truth, and at the time they had thought it was true. After all if Light hadn't been Kira then Light wouldn't have died, he wouldn't have been discarded like a cheap ragdoll, shot like a man escaping from prison just as his fingertips touched the wire fence.

The others still believe that, that's how they justify Light's blood, the blood that still stains their hands…

Matsuda remembers their eyes, the hopelessness as they stared up at him, not asking for explanations or bursting into tears. They were already dead by then, their tears wasted on Soichiro and now they had nothing left to give. He remembers the way Sachiko had accusingly shut the door behind him, as if to say he were no longer welcome if he ever had been. He remembers the unconscious hatred that followed him from that house, like the blood dripping from his hands and the smoke curling up from the rim of his gun.

He understands, even now he understands why they loathe him. More than they hate Kira, more than they hate L, they hate him because they can put a face with their hatred and as Kira knew it was the face that made all the difference.

Things had changed though, eleven years was a long time and Matsuda had felt every one of them. He doesn't remember exactly why he was there that day when he met Yuki, but he can hazard a guess. He believes that his fingers may have been wandering through the old photographs, and that they might have stumbled across Yagami Light's dark eyes and pensive expression, perhaps then they paused and the face grew like a cancer in his mind the image demanding he go and pay retribution.

Your blood for my blood.

It may have only been a lingering image, a ghost that haunted the walls of his mind, but whatever it might have been it was more than enough to drag Matsuda to Sayu's doorstep.

He remembers how she opened the door, the cautious glaze to her eyes the way she attempted to hide her distaste as she surveyed him, he remembers the silent moment when she simply looked at him as if wondering if she could still slam the door in his face.

He remembers how she reluctantly allowed him to step into her clean hallway and lead him into the living room where spotless pictures framed the walls. He remembers her mumbling something about marrying a journalist a couple years back, stirring her coffee has she said it as if she very much wished she were somewhere else.

Even then he could feel the ghosts watching.

She didn't ask why he had come, perhaps she liked to imagine that she didn't care, like he didn't matter to her because everyone in her family was already dead and he couldn't take anything more from her and that the world had already fallen to goddamn tiny pieces and there was nothing he could do now.

She asked him how his work was going. He remembers the sharp knife-point in her eyes at this question, he remembers the words in her eyes.

Are you proud of yourself? I hope you're proud of the goddamn mess you've made. I hope you're proud of all the goddamn police men you've killed. I hope you're proud my brother's blood is on your goddamn murderous hands, you bastard. I hope it hurts you just as much as it hurts me, you goddamn pig…

He told her it was fine. He lied.

It was at that moment he noticed the boy. Looking back it shouldn't have been so remarkable; after all it was only a child, perhaps an unusually silent child but a child none the less staring at him from the opening with apathy in his eyes.

But Matsuda knew him, he knew that boy. He remembered those cold eyes, those solemn tired eyes that looked out at him asking if he was still too slow to follow, and even though he was smaller, even though he was paler, even though he was only a child Matsuda knew him.

He remembered those eyes that looked so desperately up from beneath the barrel of his gun. He remembered their accusing depth, he remember the curse they laid upon his own gun smoke-stained hands.

Like a cancer the feeling of foreboding grew inside his skull, pounding away at the memories of the blood and those golden eyes that still haunted him at the bottom of every glass of beer and at the end of every work day.

He knew that child.

His voice was trapped in his throat and all of a sudden he was back in the ware house, the smell of rust hanging in the air and the blood pounding in his ears, and Light's blood soaking the pavement and his desperate hands reaching out for him and the hatred in his amber eyes…

The boy turned and walked silently from the room, both Sayu and Matsuda watched him leave.

"My son," She said in explanation watching the horror grow in Matsuda's eyes, "Yuki."

(And in the distant corners of his mind Matsuda could see the light snowfall that fell on Light Yagami's grave.)

"The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument. How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper table!"

Looking back Matsuda can see it all playing out before him, he sees himself as a younger man in that house of ghosts and shadows, his eyes following a small child up the stairs and into the darkness. It's so easy he thinks; to lose yourself to the past.

The boy had said something similar once. Matsuda remembers the way the child had looked at him, through empty gray eyes that spoke of nothing but what was already dead and bleeding. He can't remember the words, but he remembers those eyes staring through his soul. He can always remember the haunted lamp light in those eyes.

While he can't remember those words he does remember others, he remembers the first conversation more than any other. Maybe because it was the first, that'd make sense wouldn't it, but then maybe it wasn't…

He kept returning, police officer Matsuda, alcoholic miserable Matsuda who dragged his way through Sayu's doorstep time and time again. Her eyes never softened and the silence never disappeared, but he came back anyway.

At the time Matsuda had told himself that it was sympathy, because he could see the misery in Yagami Sayu's eyes and he knew that he was responsible. Or perhaps he told himself, it was the sense of mystery, those boy's eyes and that childish silence. It's only looking back, looking back as he sits in his cold apartment and rots, that he realizes it was desperation.

He needed the child; he needed those dismissing and solemn eyes to stare through his soul. He needed that stubborn silence, that sense of vague recognition; he needed to wash the blood off of his hands.

(It's so obvious, when you look back...)

The boy stood in the shadows, always in the silence, merely regarding and evaluating and then taking his leave. Like the furniture about his mother and the policeman the child watched with silver eye a sense of death written upon his features.

He never said a word, always waiting, always watching, always staring dimly after him.

(Matsuda recognized him anyway, past the changes and the masks, Matsuda could see him behind the lies…)

He talked to Sayu instead, so that he might disguise his true purpose, so that like the boy he could hide in his own silence and masks. Lies upon lies and masks upon masks…

Matsuda didn't expect the child to take the first step.

Sayu had left to the kitchen to go make coffee for her cursed guest that she couldn't drive from her home; in the shadows the child had been watching carefully his eyes regarding Matsuda's face in casual disinterest.

His voice was like the whisper of snowfall upon Yagami Light's grave.

"Do you ever get tired of it?" the child asked softly his gaze sharpening from mere apathy into something far more lethal.

"I'm sorry?" Matsuda asked, taken aback as he watched the dark-haired young boy emerge from his corner.

"These games you play with yourself, I imagine they're rather dull." The boy's lips twisted into a familiar bitter smile.

In that moment Matsuda truly saw the boy, not as Light Yagami but as something similar. He was a fragile thing with bones for arms and eyes like white fire. His skin reminded Matsuda almost of Ryuzaki, whose skin had been the color of fish bones. He stood there, a pale dark-haired wraith with eyes burning bright.

(It wasn't a coincidence that in time Matsuda would come to regard Yuki as another ghost of the Yagami family…)

"I don't know what you're talking about." Matsuda replied in an even tone, and at the time he didn't. It's only when he looked backwards that he could see the knots in his own tangled web.

The boy said nothing but instead moved over to the chair and sat down folding his hands and looking at Matsuda, not with dismissal but instead with calculation.

"Our house is filled with dead policemen, we don't need another."

Matsuda almost laughed now, how neither of them could quite utter the truth.

"I don't see any dead policemen." Matsuda lied.

The boy turned away from him then, standing up from his chair and making his way out of the room and up the stairs out of sight. He didn't turn back but the words reached the aging policeman sitting in his chair anyway.

"Then you must be blind as well as stupid."

"The morning was still dark. A dull yellow light brooded over the houses and the river; and the sky seemed to be descending."

He stands in his clustered apartment and as he surveys the room he notices just what a mess it is. Everything is cluttered and he begins to feel suffocated, no not begin to feel, begin to notice. The suffocation has been there the whole time and it's only now that he notices just how much junk he has. It's all worthless junk.

He turns to look out of the window and sees the busy streets of Tokyo bustling beneath him, blissfully unaware of the man peering through his blinds to catch a glimpse of their care-free figures. He can't help but notice that they aren't fighting for air.

His hopes and ideals have long since settled on his shoulders and it's only now that he wonders at the weight of them. When did they get so heavy?

Even now though he thinks back, he can't help it sometimes, sometimes it's just so terribly easy to slip back into reverie and let the narrative escape him.

He remembers when Yuki came to accept his presence, no longer glaring at him from the shadows but instead asking questions, his curiosity finally overcoming his wariness. Yet always in his eyes there was that flicker of distaste and tried tolerance.

The pretenses remained but the rules of the game had changed, slowly but surely Yuki was being drawn out of his corner into the light where Matsuda could see him properly.

It was hard to see a child when talking to Yuki, he didn't hold himself like a child, but rather like a slim and silent shadow that spends its days in forgotten corners. He was familiar though, so terribly familiar, and in his eyes Matsuda could see a shade of gold.

It was through Yuki, and not Sayu, that Yagami Sayu's story was revealed.

Sayu had married a man ten years prior and while it wasn't quite love it was better than the abandonment left to her by her father and brother. He loved her and she liked him and she smiled when it was expected and did everything a wife was expected to do. She rose to no great heights, had no ambitions to speak of, and yet somehow she felt that her father and brother had followed her into this new life anyway. Soon enough she announced to her husband that they were going to have a baby.

It was a boy with solemn-silver eyes that looked almost like moonlight and Sayu couldn't help but cry at the sight of him.

They had almost named the child after its uncle, but every time they spoke the name they felt as if it were slipping away from them. It was then that Sayu looked outside and saw the drifting silver flakes, and seeing their slow descent she turned to her husband and her unnamed child and whispered "Yuki,"

(Yet no matter how Matsuda prompted the boy never went into further detail than that, waving Matsuda's curiosity off with his pale thin fingers as if it no longer mattered.)

Masks upon masks, lies upon lies, and all the while the silver flakes continued to fall outside.

"A few light taps upon the window pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again."

In Matsuda's mind he sits with that somber expression upon his pallid face, he does not watch the policeman but instead concentrates upon the fiddle in his hands. His fingers dance across the strings and in the distance Matsuda can hear the faint sound of a dirge being played. It wrenches his bones and brings tears to his eyes but the boy plays regardless and the blood cascades from his fingers onto the polished wood.

The policeman whispers for him to stop, seeing the blood fall among the cascading notes, the endless waterfall of sorrow that seems to leap from the strings. He'll kill himself, the policeman is sure of it, for the boy's grey eyes are dulled by nostalgia and his fingers aren't stopping in spite of the blood.

"Stop playing," he tries again and this time the boy does look at him but the fingers continue their waltz upon the strings and the blood still flows. Matsuda can't describe the expression in his eyes because it isn't human, it isn't as derisive as pity but it isn't as kind as mercy it isn't as distant as apathy but it is not love. Perhaps he glances at the policeman with nostalgia as well.

"Please," the policeman remains desperate his mind raging as he watches the child's face drain of color, a ghost of a ghost playing a dirge for blood that had long since been spilt. The policeman can't help himself, he sees the corpse, he sees the body crumpled at his feet and the blood upon the warehouse floor.

"I didn't mean it." He tries again but the notes are speaking for the child and the boy is no longer listening. "I didn't mean it." He repeats to himself for assurance to test if it is true or not because he can't tell, it was so long ago and he can't tell anymore.

"I couldn't… Did you expect me to thank you?" He asks instead, asking the fading music and the blood stained fingers of the child. "Your own father died because of you! You killed your own father!" He accuses, leaning forward to shake the child so that its fingers might slip.

The music stops and only a shade of silence remains, the boy's eyes turn and this time Matsuda does see pity hidden in their depths, this time the pity is all too evident. The bow drops from his hand and clatters onto the floor.

"He was not my father."

Matsuda blinks and the dream is broken and only Yuki remains.

The boy rarely spoke of his father and Matsuda could never be sure if it was simply apathy or if there truly was something to hide. Those pale eyes rarely showed emotion other than nostalgia and no matter how he searched their depths he never found the hint of a lie.

His father was gone often, he was a journalist and traveled, he hardly knew he had a son. It was only when he came home to his wife, when she was in his arms, that he would look down and see the child with eyes of pale mist and dimly remember the child's name. To his father Yuki was like the stars, a thing to be admired, but distant and cold and left unremembered in the face of mortal trials and joys.

It's as if Matsuda is watching it all play out before him once again, because in Yuki's pale face he can see the shadow of Light's legacy. In that silent house he could see Soichiro watching his son through distant eyes inquiring after his marks in school and his test scores, and all the while the apathy remained…

His father would talk to him about school about the friends he didn't have and about the sweet hearts he had never chased after then his father would pat his son on his dark mat of hair and walk away towards the coffee maker and the boy would stand amid the grinding cacophony of the coffee maker and silently leave the room.

(To Yuki his father is not worth even a name. Matsuda never learned the name of his father and he reasons that he never will.)

Matsuda still remembers his surprise at the sharp bitterness in Yuki's voice, far different than the familiar dull apathy that infects the child's voice, when he asked for the father's name.

"Ask if my father remembers mine."

(And even now, when everything has passed Matsuda can't help but wonder if the child was referring to L, to Soichiro, or to his unnamed father who Matsuda never met.)

"The lamps were still burning redly in the murky air and, across the river, the palace of the Four Courts stood out menacingly against the heavy sky."

They became friends, the child who lived among the dead and the policeman who was soon to join them. He supposes now that it was because they understood each other and that they both could hear things that had been left unsaid. And even though he was only a child, only nine, Matsuda felt as if he were talking to Light again.

In his soft words Matsuda can hear Light on the roof-top in the rain looking down upon Tokyo with regret in his eyes.

Yet when Matsuda asked the boy about Kira it was not Light Yagami's voice that answered him.

"Do you believe in Kira?" Matsuda remembers asking the child as they sat in his room, the boy staring out the window at a piece of sky that had been trapped in the glass and Matsuda staring at the child with eyes filled with the image of a man already dead.

"Kira is dead." The words fell like the soft silver flakes that covered Tokyo on the day of Naomi Misora's disappearance.

"That's not exactly what I meant."

The boy didn't answer but instead moved closer to the window and opened the glass and staring outside at the cool night air. For a moment Matsuda caught sight of the fleeting smile upon his lips but by the time he looked again it was gone.

"Do you think he was right?" asked Matsuda, wishing to pinpoint his own feelings of unease and guilt in that quiet house that was filled with too many dead friends.

The silence expanded as the child thought over his words and Matsuda saw Light at Ryuzaki's funeral, staring at the grave, his hands clenched at his sides and a dull absence of life trapped in his golden eyes.

"That isn't a question you ask a child." The boy responded softly still not looking at the policeman's questioning eyes.

"No, no it isn't." Matsuda admitted, yet even then Matsuda remembers glossing over that detail not finding Yuki unnatural at all, because even then Matsuda thinks that he might have guessed… Might have known…

"It's more complicated than you think it is."

Matsuda looked up sharply from his own reverie, noticing that the boy was now watching him out of those pitying nostalgic eyes.

"You assume the word 'right' has a definition."

"Doesn't it?"

"Kira was a murderer; he killed without a second thought because he believed no one else could do it for him. In the six years in which he existed crime rates reached a record low." The boy paused before continuing, looking at Matsuda with accusing eyes, "Yet, more than half the population wanted Kira dead for what he had done. Not because he was wrong, not because he was right, but because people couldn't find the definition they wanted."

The silence persisted after the words had passed and through Yuki's eyes Matsuda could see Light's glazed eyes staring up at him from the floor of the warehouse, he could see all their hatred and their anguish as they stared up at him from the grey mist.

Perhaps it was in that moment that the thought began to truly form, to move from intuition into thought and finally into belief, perhaps it was in that moment that Matsuda believed that the dead could rise from the grave.

Near had said that Light was nothing more than a murderer, but he was wrong, Matsuda knew he was wrong. Light had changed things, Light had gotten his hands dirty because no one else could afford to, and now he was dead for it. Shot to pieces in a warehouse by the man who had once worked beside him.

Aizawa once said that it didn't matter if Light was wrong or right, because if Light had lived the rest of them would have died. Matsuda wonders if he still thinks that, even when he looks over the flood of crime reports that litter his desk, does he still think they made the right decision?

It's easier for them though, they didn't have to wipe Kira's blood off of their hands.

Looking at Yuki though, looking at that grim-eyed pale scarecrow of a child, he could see Light rising from the ashes.

From the mist of those silver eyes he could catch a flicker of sunlight.

"We don't want any light. We have enough light from the street. And I say, he added, pointing to the candle, you might remove that handsome article, like a good man."

Matsuda doesn't enjoy going to work, he's thought of quitting, but he can't bring himself to do it. Quitting means admitting that Kira was right, that all those people deserved to die, and that Light didn't. Quitting means admitting those nagging self-doubts to everyone, it's spitting in the face of everything they worked for.

He used to tell himself that one day he'd leave and he'd stop being so goddamn miserable. He'd get up and walk out and never look back, never think about Kira, or Near, or L, or Light ever again and just walk out…

He won't though, he won't quit, he won't do that to them even if he thinks they deserve it…

He went to work after asking Yuki about Kira, and the thought wouldn't leave his mind, it was always there out of sight, blinding his vision until he couldn't think of anything but the phoenix rising from the grave. His fingers chafed against the paper work scattered across his death and all the while the funeral bells were tolling in his mind. The thought hung in his mind and dangled upon a swaying string Yuki's silver eyes caught in their midst.

Looking back he thinks that it was only a matter of time before he asked for their opinions, because they were his friends and they may have been wrong but at least they weren't afraid of hearing the questions, they were only afraid of the answers.

He approached Ide, remembering all too well Aizawa's bitter eyes and Mogi's stony expression of disapproval. At least Soichiro may have listened, he may not have believed, but he would have listened.

Such a pity all the good men are dead.

"Do you think the dead can come back to life?" Matsuda asked Ide in a secluded corner of the office, when everyone had been more or less occupied by their own work.

"You mean resurrection?" Ide clarified looking over at Matsuda through wary and fatigued eyes; they were all tired of their guilt. In a sense they all had Yagami Light's blood on their hands.

"No, more like reincarnation." Matsuda said slowly thinking back on the thin frail child with eyes too sharp for a child and too dark for a mortal.

"No, Matsuda. I think once people die, they die. You heard the Shinigami." Ide turned from Matsuda then preparing to leave Matsuda alone with his self-doubts.

(There they were, standing outside the yellow ware house, abandoning Light's bleeding corpse inside where they didn't have to look at it anymore. Matsuda's hands were shaking, the gun still in his shaking hands, and the smoke still rising from the barrel. They stared at each other grimly in the twilight, looking at one another with the guilt etched in their eyes.

It wasn't hard to hear when the Shinigami followed them out of the ware house, they had thought that it would demand the notebook. Could they say no? They had killed Yagami Light for it, they had shot him in cold blood, could they hand it over to a being that wouldn't spare the innocent even if asked? Even now the irony of that thought makes Matsuda's blood run cold.

It didn't though, it didn't ask for the notebook, said that now that Light was dead it belonged to Near. Perhaps it's fitting, Matsuda thinks, that he'd be the one to own the notebook after Light. It hadn't come to take it, didn't want it, had enough entertainment to last him a life time, it said.

With a sharp toothed grin it looked each of them in the eye and said in measured words, "I came to tell you that he won't be coming back."

They looked shocked then, looking at the winged creature who hovered above them, laughing at their looks of relieved horror.

So that was it then, they had thought, Light was dead and that was it. L had won, it had taken him six years but he had won, Kira lost and Light was dead.

And that was the end of it.)

"I remember." Matsuda said dimly, even as Ide walked away briskly, walking away from the memories of days he did not wish to relive.

He remembered the glow of entertainment in the reaper's eyes, he remembered how it had always been laughing at them more or less, and somehow even with all those details he remembered that on occasion it lied.

(And in his mind the image of the child only grew stronger as the grief and doubt began to plague his mind once again…)

"The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree."

He hates Near, more than he can possibly convey, still he says it every once in a while simply to reassure himself. He didn't hate L, even now, he had never hated L. He had never liked L but he had never hated him either. He didn't hate Kira or Light, even if they were one in the same like everyone said, he couldn't hate them even after what they had done to him.

It was different for Near though. With Near the rules changed. Near wasn't like L or Light or Kira, Near had no honor and no moral code and he didn't even realize. Even now Matsuda thinks that Near doesn't realize his own hypocrisy.

He can see him now, a young man in a room filled with toys; his team is looking at him with eyes filled with both pity and respect that he does not deserve. They think he is brilliant but Matsuda knows they have no standards, they didn't know L, they didn't know Light, they know nothing at all.

Near hasn't changed, he'll never change; he'll always be the arrogant child in the ware house sneering of Light Yagami's decaying body. Matsuda's always known that, some things never change.

He's not sure why he decided to tell Yuki about Near, perhaps to confirm his suspicions, but maybe he just wanted someone who would actually listen instead of tolerate him. He's so tired of being ignored, of being the chattering voice that is barely tolerated.

"I work for a child." He told Yuki in the silence of that home. Sayu had left for the day and left her silent son in the company of a man she barely tolerated, she had left in a rush perhaps escaping the reminders of the life she had fled.

He remembers the way Yuki's eyebrows raised delicately as if in amusement at the statement.

"Are you implying that you work for me?" He asked, his grey eyes flickering with a silent unspoken joke and Matsuda couldn't help but smile as well.

"No, someone else; he thinks he's an adult, he's old enough to be one by now, but he isn't…" Matsuda trailed off thinking of the masked white haired young boy, barely older than Yuki himself, sitting among the pages of a Death Note and looking up at a murderer with smirking arrogant eyes.

Yuki didn't ask who it was, perhaps he already knew and didn't bother to feign ignorance, perhaps his own apathy prevented him from asking as if he deemed it was no longer worth the effort of his tired and fragile bones.

"His name is Near."

(Even now Matsuda can't say he imagined the light in Yuki's eyes darkening into hellfire or the shadows that stretched across his pallid face.)

"That's an odd name to have." Yuki commented in a soft cutting voice, and in the echoes of those whispered words Matsuda could see shards of glass reflecting the silence that stretched between them.

"He doesn't call himself Near anymore, he tries to hide it, but I know."

"Do you?" Asked Yuki in that whispered derisive voice that fell like snow upon Matsuda's shoulders.

"He killed Kira." Matsuda said all the while watching the boy's face, seeing his relaxed fingers and seeing his grey eyes staring back at his.

(And in the silence Matsuda can hear the clock ticking, ticking, ticking…)

Somewhere in the room the façade shattered and Matsuda stared the child and the pieces flew through the tormented air with the ticking hands of the clock. The child's face has changed and even as his mask of apathy faded Matsuda could see the betrayal in his grey eyes as the blood dripped down his wrist.

"Why are you telling me this?" The child asked in an anguished voice his face twisting into that horror stricken expression that haunts Matsuda's nightmares. Matsuda could see the blood staining the carpet and somewhere the clock was still ticking in spite of the broken illusions.

Matsuda decided to tell him the truth.

"Because no one else listens."

The child's laugh was as tormented as his soul and in it Matsuda could hear the pain and betrayal of a death he had already experienced and all at once Yuki collapsed in on himself.

"Kira means nothing to me." He whispered his grey eyes focused on Matsuda's weary eyes and in that one moment Matsuda could believe those words. "You should know better Matsuda-san."

"I'm sorry." Matsuda said but the words are empty and the clock was still ticking.

"No you're not." Yuki stood suddenly, moving past Matsuda and opening the door slowly and motioning towards it. "I told you once, this house is filled with enough ghosts."

"You did." Matsuda confirmed but Yuki was one of the ghosts once again and no longer had time to tolerate the living and though his burning eyes watched as Matsuda walked out of the room he said nothing and the clock continued to tick.

Even now as Matsuda looks back he can still see the betrayal in those childish eyes and he can't help but wonder if their suffering was worth it.

"The voice, made plaintive by distance and by the singer's hoarseness, faintly illuminated the cadence of the air with words expressing grief…"

In that one moment when the truth was almost uttered Matsuda believes they lost something, both of them. They lost that illusion of safety that came with the lies, the ability not to have to choose. The desperate policeman had forced the decision upon a frightened child and suddenly the child could be a child no longer but a vindictive ghost brought back by the anguish of the living.

Matsuda was certain, so certain in his desperation yet in the end all the evidence he had was his own tangled thoughts.

It had shaken them both and soon they had forgotten the words they had once used to express truth, an uneasy friendship was born between them. They viewed each other as two old acquaintances who would laugh at the same jokes and talk casually but always would guard their secrets with caution.

But they were slipping, spiraling downwards in the vortex of their forgotten pasts and their unspoken secrets. Soon enough the masks would fall and they would have to look one another in the eye and see the truth.

Sayu knew something was wrong, that this stranger she called an old friend was the source of her son's sorrow, she watched him with wary and accusing eyes. He had taken so much from her already, and now he was there once again, this time after the soul of her son.

Matsuda supposes that she had a mother's instinct for peril, that she could smell the danger before she could truly see it.

She was too late though, she was always too late. They had already begun their descent into madness and not even Sayu could stop them. Poor Sayu, she was always too late. Her father, her brother, her family torn to pieces and all she could do was watch.

Matsuda still doesn't understand how they tolerated him, both of them, not just the mother. Because even if Yuki had said nothing it was still his decision as well, he hadn't thrown Matsuda out either. He had been close, Matsuda knows, but he didn't slam the door and lock it behind him.

You should know better, the boy had said, and yet Matsuda kept wondering who he was addressing with those words. Was he talking to the ghosts that wouldn't leave, the disappointed and tired policeman, or to himself?

(They were still so desperate, so very desperate.)

Matsuda couldn't stop; he was like the hands on the clock that kept on ticking, ticking, ticking in spite of all the lies and all the truths revealed. He had to know, know for certain, no more lingering doubts and hesitations. He had to know. So Matsuda kept ticking, ticking, ticking towards forty seconds.

One night he looked in the mirror and he saw himself for the creature that he was, a creature driven and derided by vanity, haunted by the ghosts of things that had long since passed. He broke the mirror and still his reflection showed in its shattered pieces.

(And the clock kept ticking, ticking, ticking…)

It was Yuki who suggested field trips; he said with his strange smile that the house was suffocating and that the eyes of God were everywhere nowadays. Matsuda had nodded dully in agreement, his mind still trapped on that single forbidden thought, what if, what if, what if. (Tick, tick, tick…)

They went to the library and sometimes to the park; they sat in the sunlight and watched as the people walked past them blissfully unaware of the dead who watched their passing. Sometimes it was almost peaceful, but always in the back of his head there was that nagging thought that not everything was as it seemed. He couldn't let go.

Matsuda thinks that Yuki knew, he never said a word but then Light Yagami hadn't admitted to being Kira until it was already too late. The boy was a shade, a dim reflection of his uncle that had somehow become trapped in the world of the living. Yuki wasn't a real person any more than Kira or L had been real people. Yuki belonged to the world of detectives and gods, even if he hadn't been born in it, in this new world he was only a memory of ideals and fears that the people had long since forgotten. Kira had been dead for eleven years, longer now, much longer.

Sometimes Matsuda can't find it in himself to forgive Light for dying so easily.

"It's a surprise." He told him that evening as they stared into the sunset. Matsuda remembers the way the boy looked over his eyes darkening in suspicion, but he nodded slowly and didn't ask what. Perhaps he already knew.

The sun was sinking slowly into its watery grave, almost lost behind the sea of chimneys and roof tops. The pair had been watching for quite some time, watching through the glass windows in the living room, painted with the red blood of the dying sun.

"Matsuda, you know I'm not overly fond of surprises." Yuki said softly his lips twisting into an ironic smile and Matsuda couldn't help but think of Light Yagami's dead body on the warehouse floor.

Matsuda decided to change the topic.

"You should rethink becoming a policeman, or a detective, you'd be very good at it." Matsuda's eyes pierce through the pale mask of flesh that hides the child's thoughts.

"You're very persistent." The child dully as his eyes reflected the last flicker of light of the dying sun. "Mother is right, you are a bad influence."

"You should, think about it I mean." Matsuda insisted as the black hands in his mind kept ticking towards the elusive truth.

"Of course Matsuda, but don't you know they're cursed?"

"Who are?"

"Policemen," Yuki answered with a smile and a brightening of his eyes. "Surely you must have guessed, Matsuda."

(There were four men standing before a young man's grave and though one was fighting back tears of shame and despair none had bothered to bring flowers. They turned to look at one another and they couldn't help but be reminded of how many funerals they had been to in the last six years…)

"I've guessed." The words fell quietly from Matsuda's lips, dripping with the guilt and terror that had haunted him for all those years.

"Besides, mother wouldn't be happy if I joined the police force." Yuki said absently his fingers scratching at the material on the couch, "I think you've caused her enough pain for one lifetime."

"I've caused her pain?" Matsuda asked in indignation his blood boiling at the thought that everything fell on his shoulders. It wasn't always his fault, why was he the one who always had to take the blame.

"Who do you think she would blame if I were to join your pathetic police force?"

Matsuda couldn't pretend that he had an answer for the boy so he said nothing, Yuki was right but then he usually was.

"We're not pathetic."

Yuki's laughter was like the spring snowfall and although it was light it didn't fall on deaf ears either.

"We're only human." Matsuda justified again, he wouldn't believe that it had been for nothing, not even for Yuki's cynicism he wouldn't do that to himself.

"That excuse will only get you so far, policeman." Yuki warned as the sky turned from red to purple as the last rays of light disappeared from the horizon.

"We aren't Kira, we can't get the results he did, but we at least have standards." Matsuda's words flew past him, before he could stop them, and all at once he could see Light's body again and Near looking down upon him.

"And what standards would those be?" Yuki questioned his smile gone and only the cold ice in his eyes remaining.

"We don't kill people like he did, we give everyone a fair trial, we give people second chances. Kira didn't give second chances…"

Even in as he said it though Light's bleeding and broken body greets his mind, three bullet wounds and a heart attack with only a few middle aged men to stand as the jury and a child to be his judge. Looking in Yuki's eyes Matsuda could see the reflection of that forgotten trial, filled with blood and screaming, and Matsuda knew that Yuki had been there as well.

Yuki's apathetic voice was shaking like the branches of a dying tree in the midst of a blizzard, and in his eyes Matsuda could see the forgotten blood, "Is that what you said to mother when you told her that her brother was dead."

Even in the midst of the storm Matsuda remembered that he answered quite calmly, "No, I lied."

"Better pass boldly into that other world, in the glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age."

Matsuda always had the feeling that deep down Yuki believed in Kira, even if he wouldn't admit it. Matsuda had that feeling about a lot of people; they were all closet Kira fanatics, most people anyway. Only a few of them are able to put away their shame and admit it.

They're the ones who look haunted whenever they watch the news, they're the silent ones who sit in the corner with their face in their hands while all the rest chatter and laugh. They're the ones with that blank expression whenever Kira is mentioned, a mask carefully devoid of any features lest someone notice the flaws. They're the ones who pretend apathy. Matsuda finds that it's quite obvious once you know what to look for.

There are others, others who have made Kira their religion, a perversion of Catholicism or Judaism, Matsuda can never decide which. He went to one of their services once, back when the guilt was almost unbearable. He stood among their robed bodies watching a young woman carry a candle and raise it up high preaching the return of their fallen god.

He can't remember why it was so damn funny, but he couldn't stop laughing, they prayed and he couldn't stop laughing. He remembers dimly being thrown out of the service, as if his laughter was considered disrespect to the almighty Kira. If anything it's the opposite, Light at least would have appreciated the irony, even if it was Matsuda who was laughing.

He goes back every now and then, just to see how they're fairing. They haven't changed much, perhaps grown a little larger, a few more decorations, a few more dedicated fans but they've stayed the same more or less. Matsuda doesn't think it's their fault, after all, how could they know any better?

They were the spectators, the fickle crowd, they watched the play while flipping through the channels and as a result they only caught bits and pieces. They heard only what they wanted to hear and remember only the highlights. They don't know the half of it.

No, Matsuda doesn't blame them, but he doesn't exactly forgive them either.

Matsuda remembers the way Yuki would hold himself when Kira's name was mentioned; the cold silence that would invade the room, seeping like a fog through the windows and underneath the doors until all that was visible was the hatred in the child's bright eyes.

(It's at this point that Matsuda realizes that he is desperately and irrevocably alone in the indifferent universe…)

Matsuda stares out at the people on Tokyo's street, several hours have passed now and the sky has gone dark, the street lamps clutter amid the black sea of pavement along with the dancing red butterflies of the car lights.

He spots a girl among a group of her friends, laughing at a joke, texting on her cellphone and Matsuda can't help but notice that she doesn't even bother to look up. They pass beneath the lights, illuminated for only brief periods of time before being swallowed up by the darkness again.

These were Kira's people, the ignorant and the frivolous who hadn't been touched by the darker aspects of the world. Kira had referred to them as the innocent, but Matsuda finds this term far too flattering, because in their own way they killed Light Yagami as well.

Matsuda sometimes imagines that Light survived to see his trial. Matsuda sees him sitting in his prison cell looking up at the bars with childish eyes like mist, he sees his pale hands folded together and his dark hair stuck to his forehead, and he sees the silver handcuffs encircling his thin wrists.

He imagines that Light is mostly silent as the prosecutor slams his confession against him, that he would simply say that the prosecution had no proof, merely a few middle aged men. The prosecutor doesn't appreciate the irony.

The people chatter during the trial watching in vague interest, the way one watches a reality television show, to see if the self-proclaimed God would win or lose. The death count rises against Yagami Light, and all the while Near can't help but show his self-satisfied smile.

Matsuda finds himself uttering a stumbling speech on the witness stand, his words accusatory and shallow and all he can do is stare into Kira's sharp golden eyes, and it's not hatred he finds there but dismissal, in the face of death Kira regards Matsuda as a speck of dust, something only to be brushed aside and the thought of his own insignificance is terrifying.

Matsuda is escorted efficiently from the stand, watching helplessly as the young man with golden eyes stares down his next accuser, and so they pass all of Kira's living victims staring into those steady golden eyes with accusing fingers. Light listens with apathetic eyes, regarding each argument against him carefully, after all to him each victim has as much claim as the last. After all, they're the ones Kira kept in the world of the living.

Eventually it is claimed that Yagami Light has no soul, that he cannot grasp morals and that in his own right he is something far worse than a murderer, he's a monster. He's a man that would not blink an eye at a thousand murders and would trample over any obstacle in his path. No matter how they try to justify it, people just can't stand the sight of him.

(And Matsuda can't help but be surprised when he finds himself weeping at Yagami Light's death sentence, and the fact that Kira's eyes remain apathetic and indifferent even the face of his own demise…)

It's at this point that Matsuda would wake up from his own nightmares and find himself face to face with the child that was not a child, the boy would hold out his hand and with a smile he'd wave Matsuda into that cold forbidding house.

They'd make their way in through the doorway but suddenly the boy would stop and the harsh words of a murderer would escape him,

"Before you come in Matsuda, remember to leave the past where you found it."

"It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Fuery lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns."

The gates of Hell loomed ahead and Matsuda pulled the child toward them, and even though he wore no blindfold the ghost followed obediently towards his second damnation. Even as the flames rose and the gates drew closer to the blood red sky Matsuda couldn't stop, Matsuda couldn't stop.

They crossed the river and descended into the darkness, a starving man and his pale grim reaper, down they plummeted, through the streets of Tokyo and onward towards the church of a false idol.

Even though Matsuda can't remember washing out the stains he is certain that at the time his hands were covered in blood.

"Come on," Matsuda didn't say the boy's name in the fear that he had forgotten it, "Come on. We're going to be late, we're too late."

The boy said nothing as he was dragged through the darkness, his eyes filled with a newfound horror, his feet dragging behind him in desperation that he might live to see the sunlight again.

The ravens circled above them, they sat in the branches of the dying trees and watched as the man dragged the limp child behind him. The boy searched around him for a friendly face but all he could see were the ghosts and the ravens.

"We have to hurry!" Matsuda said once again shouting at the child behind him, Matsuda's grip tightened around the boy's wrist.

In his mind the policeman could see all the graves he had long since forgotten, all looming ahead behind those black gates towards which they ran and in the distance he could hear the church bell's dirge playing.

The bells in the clock tower are shaking with the force of the incessant tolling and the black minute hand ticks onward past the eleventh hour. The ravens cawed fiercely and their black feathers fell like rain upon the ground.

The boy's feet were bleeding as he was dragged through the waves of darkness, he was stumbling far behind the policeman and yet he was dragged onward, reluctantly towards the looming gates.

The doors were closer, almost in reach, so terribly close, the policeman could almost feel the cool obsidian against his hand. The boy fell behind him, tripping upon his own bleeding feet, the policeman hardly notices only sparing enough thought for a large tug to lift the child to his feet once more.

"Hurry up!" The policeman spat sharply at the child whose eyes showed nothing but a wish to die.

The ravens now have perched upon the child's thin shoulders, looking down into those grey eyes with a scavenger's hunger for death. Matsuda tried to brush the raven away but it wouldn't leave, it simply looked at him, a wicked gleam in its black eyes.

So Matsuda pulled both the raven and the child through the doors into the darkness leaving a trail of blood behind for the carrion crows.

"One by one they were all becoming shades."

The priestess was wearing white just as Matsuda had expected, the temple was filled with dripping candles and rows of the desperate eyed fanatics, Matsuda nodded to each as he passed careful not to look into the eyes of the child who diligently followed.

They didn't recognize him but then that was also expected, after all he hardly ever came, and when he did he was always sure to be masked one way or another. Yes, that was expected.

He had expected the priestess' cries of desperation for Kira to return, for him to save his people, to forgive them for their sins and to destroy the wicked. He had expected for the mob to retaliate this plea, he had expected the chanting, and the prayers.

It was only when he noticed the child's silence that he turned into the darkness and faced his forgotten demons. The boy had said nothing, standing amid the mob a glorious angel of death with pale limbs and bright silver eyes.

He stared ahead at the windows, his eyes reflecting the candlelight but nothing more, and it was at that moment that Matsuda realized the child was empty and that there was nothing left inside his soul.

Somewhere in the distance Matsuda remembered hearing the bell's final toll as the clock struck midnight.

"He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward."

Matsuda revels in the silence of his apartment, the tears streaking down his face; he's so tired of remembering when no one else has bothered. He's more tired than he felt possible he remembers when he was young and the Kira case had seemed exhausting, that was nothing compared to the weariness he feels now.

He was so naïve back then, and now all he can feel is the ache in his soul.

Somehow Matsuda knows that it will snow, he can see it in his mind, though it has yet to happen. He can see the white flakes floating softly downwards from the sky, and he can feel its weight upon his shoulders. It's all so terribly heavy.

He hasn't talked to the boy in years; Yuki has slipped out of his life like a phantom, just like all the other ghosts in the Yagami household. In some ways Matsuda believes it was inevitable just like most things in his life he could not think of a way that it could have been avoided. All he knows is the tiredness, the weight of his guilt and his weariness; he's so tired of it all.

He can still hear the end tolling in his ears.

"Matsuda," the words came from the shivering child inside the living room. He was looking at Matsuda this time, really looking at him, not a passing glance or a quick gaze but a dissection of the policeman's soul through those bitter gray eyes. "Wasn't once enough for you?"

"Listen I…"

"Kira is dead." The boy interrupted before Matsuda could continue. The child rose to his feet standing before Matsuda as a fallen angel stands before the gates of hell.

"…Maybe." Matsuda said softly.

"No, not maybe Matsuda. He's dead, and nothing in this world or in any other will ever bring him back. Not your priestesses, or your prayers, or your pity, or your self-delusion, not even your God."

"I knew Kira." Matsuda continued as if the child had not spoken his mind still ticking away like a twitching broken clock. "I watched him die. I shot him myself and his blood soaked my hands."

The boy's words shattered the glass of a policeman's guilt ridden hopes and dreams, "I am not your dead god."

Matsuda could only watch as his dreams fell in shards against the carpet each piece reflecting a bit of the lies the policeman had created for himself, the might have beens, and the what ifs all drifting slowly downwards.

He only had one question left.

"Are you sure?"

The boy smiled at the question, but it was still Light's smile, Light's bitter self-deriding smile that cut through flesh and suffocated the hearts of the living. He had seen Light's blood in the boy's eyes before but never like this, never overflowing as if the boy could see it too, not just a mere reflection but a physical body that bled to death between them.

"And if I am your dead god why on earth would I tell you?" The boy's smile transformed into a wolfish grin and he laughed.

Matsuda felt the world around him shaking with the force of that child's dark laughter.

"Dead or alive, god or no god my answer remains the same and it's up to you to live with it. I'm tired policeman, tired of your games. I'm tired of liars." The boy shook his head his eyes still locked on the phantom blood upon the carpet.

"Yuki… I…" Matsuda never finished his sentence the boy held up his hand and the words died away, like ash upon the wind.

"No Matsuda, I have only one gift left for you." Yuki's smile disappeared until all that was left was his haunted weary eyes that so resembled a dead man's. "I'm leaving you alone."

"I don't understand."

"I'm leaving you alone Matsuda, you can tend the garden it's yours too." The boy moved towards the window his hand against the glass.

"Yuki."

"I leave you the empty and barren world you've created for yourself, you will never see me again. This is my last gift Matsuda."

And though Yuki never named the gift in his heart Matsuda already knew the unnamed beast and it stared out at him through golden betrayed eyes.

"He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling."

But Yuki is a liar because Matsuda does see him again, oh yes he does, he can see the boy staring up at him. Although not quite a child anymore, a young man instead, he looks up at him with those grey piercing eyes trying desperately to see the policeman's face.

Matsuda can't help but grin as he looks down at Yuki, so far below him, trapped on that dismal wooden floor still cluttered with junk. All of the junk Matsuda left below, the furniture, the papers, the memories, the guilt all of it left for that young boy to sift through.

The boy is twisting in and out of view, the floor shifting with him, the entire room swaying back and forth below his feet. It looks so far away, so far down, resting their beneath his feet, a twisting perilous sea with a single person staring straight up at him.

There will be others, Matsuda knows this, soon enough the sea will be filled with people. Sorting through all the junk he left behind, filing it away, doling it out collectively. All twisting and turning beneath Matsuda's suspended feet.

They'll move him too, categorize him, sort him, and finally throw him out with the rest of it. It all ends up in the same place, in that twisting, turning, writhing vision below.

Matsuda's still smiling.

It's difficult to see out the window now, not much of a view anyway though, always the same street with the same street lights turning on at the same time. The same innocents, laughing and texting, and he's so tired of them, tired of all of them.

Still, somehow he knew that Yuki would be the first to come and see him.

He says nothing as his eyes pin Matsuda to the ceiling, he's taller than he used to be but yet from where Matsuda's standing (standing on thin air, standing on nothingness, suspended) he looks like a speck of light trapped between the floorboards. He thinks Yuki would like that. Would like his grand insignificance in the scheme of things.

He almost wants to tell him but the knot around his neck curbs his interest in speaking.

Matsuda is losing interest in the twisting floor and this tiny insignificant child beneath him, soon enough the boy is leaving, walking out the door for the last time, sparing Matsuda only one more glance.

And in his own way he even manages to say goodbye.

"I'll try to find someone to cry at your funeral."

"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

Author's Note: For some reason I felt like writing a very long one-shot about Matsuda of all people. Italicized quotes are quotes from "The Dead" by James Joyce. If you've made it this far you might as well review, I'd appreciate it at least.

Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note or The Dead.