A/N: Alright, I realize that it has been a very long time since my last posting. My apologies, but rest assured, there is progress being made backstage. (Slow, but progress.) Truthfully, this piece has actually been sitting in my hard drive, ready to go and gathering dust for a few months. Not sure why it's taken so long to pop up... let's go with brain gremlins. Anyways, enjoy everyone!

Disclaimer: Death Note and related characters © Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

Tainted

Raven Ehtar

Monotonous, repetitive, tedious… cut it up any way you wanted, it all boiled down to the same thing: life was boring. Worse, it was frustrating. There was nothing new, it was all the same tired routines over and over again. And what was repeating itself into oblivion was humankind proving itself to be nothing more than a species only evolved as much as its capacity to sin. Theft, rape, arson, murder, mankind did not want for inventiveness. Large and small, corruption streamed forth with no end in sight, and those meant to stem the tide doing little more than manning the fringes.

What was the point?

It may have just been because it was of particular interest to Light that he was so aware of this failing in his fellow man, but it seemed to him that it only got worse with each passing day. His father was a police chief, and Light intended to follow in his footsteps into a career of law enforcement; but as time passed, it seemed less and less worthwhile. Why bother, when the police were only a treatment, not a cure?

Not that he doubted his own prowess, his abilities in his chosen field or in anything he put his mind to. He was top ranked in academic scores on a national scale, a place all but guaranteed in one of the best schools in the country, and had even worked on real cases with his father, despite his youth. No, he was as confident in his abilities as was possible to be, but it all seemed so… meaningless. So he was first in the country, what did it gain him, prestige? He could do as well without that as with, and how well he scored on tests in high school wouldn't mean much once he was working the streets. The pride of his parents, then? They would be proud of him no matter his scores, they were his parents. Assurance of a good place in college? He didn't need the level of scores he was getting for that. He knew he was intelligent whether his test scores reflected it or not.

Still, it was the thing to do, and without some level of distraction, the monotony of the world would only grate that much more, wearing away at him. So Light applied himself fully, more as a distraction than anything else. When that wasn't enough to occupy his mind, he began attending cram school as well. He didn't need the help, there was nothing they taught that he couldn't find and teach to himself, but the extra strain on his schedule and on his intellect might take away from some of the drudgery of day to day life.

It barely made any difference. The extra challenge was negligible, and Light was still all too aware of the futility of his career.

Frustration and boredom, those were his life. To go through the motions without really trying, to feel no challenge and no satisfaction in overcoming what was meant to be challenging, and to recognize the emptiness of all your efforts. And repeat. And repeat.

And repeat.

The world continued to rot to its core, and Light only felt himself grow more leaden, more lethargic, more resigned to it all every day.

And then the death note fell to earth.

You wrote down a person's name, and that person… died. As easily as that, and they were gone. Not as though they had never been, though, oh no. Dead. Killed by a stroke of ink, murdered by a notebook of death…

Murdered by him.

It was Light's doing, his choice to write down the names in the book, even after he knew without doubt what would happen. It was Light, and only Light deciding that these people should die, that they deserved death. It was him, Light Yagami, who was killing these people, just by writing their names.

He was a murderer, the kind of filth his father worked so hard to bring to justice, what he himself meant to chase down in later years. He was no better than the dogs he was putting down with the death note.

But, no, he was better. He was ridding society only of those who did harm, who preyed on the innocent. By continuing to write down name after name after name, he was actually making the world a better, safer place for everyone to live, wasn't he? Yes, of course he was. He was killing, which was a despicable act, but didn't the true measure of evil come not from the act itself, but from the motivation behind it? He wanted to make the world a better place, to protect the innocent from the vermin that lurked in the shadows. What could possibly be nobler than that?

His work was no different at its center than what the justice system strived to do. The problem with the system was just that: it was a system. Weighed down by the conflicting opinions of its members and petty bureaucracy, even when the bad guys were caught, they escaped again through some loophole of red tape rather than any proof of their innocence. Should the guilty roam free because they cut deals, or because their victims stuttered on the stand when they were called as witnesses, or for any number of other technicalities? No, it's not the way the world should be. The evil should be punished, and the good should live without fear.

If, in the end, Light's own soul were judged to be too tarnished, then so be it. If he were judged to be nothing but a murderer, that was fine, too. He would make those sacrifices if that's what it meant to create a perfect world.

Nightmares were something Light had been expecting. Killing, however justified it was, was bound to have some kind of effect on him. What he hadn't been expecting was for the dreams themselves to affect him as much as they were. The nightly visions of the people he killed - the people he murdered - streaming by him in a river of faces and names made rest elusive. Sleep came more reluctantly each night, and when it did finally come, it was troubled and easily broken.

He couldn't let himself get too tired. If he wore himself down too far, then his grades would suffer, it would show in his face or in his behavior. Someone would eventually question it.

He couldn't be questioned, or even noticed. Not now, not when there was still so much left to do, so many more people left to judge.

It was never ending. The vileness of the world… He'd known it would be no easy task to rid the world of its foul, corrupted souls, but he had hoped that after a time, he would begin to see an end. But no, it never lessened. It was as though there were people in the world merely waiting for there to be enough room before turning to the bad. It was sickening.

Light's task only grew, with more and more names needing to be written, more and more mortals needing to be judged.

His nightmares grew worse, more numerous. Restful sleep became a practice in futility, and food became tasteless and bland. He lost weight, tiny dark smudges appeared beneath his eyes, his entire face grew strained… But his grades remained impeccable, no one noticed any change in him, and the world's sinners continued to be punished.

It was a great strain, but one Light was more than willing to take on. After all, who else would do it, who else could do it? Clearing away the evil, protecting the innocent, and all from the comfort of his desk, with no way for those he judged to escape… It was a euphoric feeling of power. God-like. It almost made up for the nightmares, the guilt.

Feeling like a god just barely out-weighed feeling like a devil.

It happened. He knew that it would, but it was still something of a shock. The original owner of the death note had come - a shinigami - a god of death - had come to him. Light couldn't decide whether or not he'd been given enough time with the notebook, but he was prepared to take whatever punishment he was due for daring to use the death note, for killing hundred of his fellow humans… He was prepared, and once again willing to take whatever the shinigami would mete out.

… but… no. The shinigami didn't want him, was not there to punish him or harvest his soul in return for borrowing the power of the notebook. No, the notebook belonged to Light now. He could use it for whatever he wanted, for as long as he wanted and the shinigami - Ryuk - wouldn't do a thing.

Could it be true? He'd gone through all he had thinking he would be stopped somehow, that he would eventually be held accountable, that there would some kind of payment for his using the note. But anything he thought would happen to him, any outright retribution, wasn't forthcoming. Only 'the terror and torment that humans who've used it will experience', as Ryuk put it. Well, Light thought he knew some of what that might be, if there was more to come, then he would endure.

Ryuk also said that when Light died, it would be the shinigami himself who wrote his name in a death note, but that didn't seem to imply that Ryuk meant to kill him any time soon. In fact, it would run contrary to why he had dropped the notebook into the human world in the first place.

Because he'd been bored. It Light died soon, then what entertainment would there be for the shinigami?

Because he'd been bored… Light had become the world's protector because a god of death had been bored…

Light had been bored as well, and using the death note, he would become a god of the new world he was slowly creating. It was only fitting. And if he could go neither to Heaven nor to Hell after his death…

Well, gods weren't really meant for either one, were they?

It was almost frightening how easily the death note fit into Light's schedule. His days were absolutely packed from start to finish, with school, cram school, homework and studying for entrance exams, the basic needs of food, hygiene and sleep, and the need to make the regular appearances to his family to keep up the pretense of leading an absolutely normal life… Add to that the extra work of writing down as many names of evildoers as possible, and there was never a time when Light wasn't doing something. There was almost never a time when Light Yagami was free to just sit and think freely anymore.

Considering the nature of his thoughts these days, that might have been for the best.

With no time to slow down during the day, when it was time to sleep Light would simply collapse into bed, too exhausted to dream. While awake, every hour was spent running from one thing to the next or planning what was to come, so he wasn't distracted by frivolous, destructive thought patterns.

It was almost impossible to think of the death note as anything supernatural now, or of the presence of the shinigami as anything other than pedestrian. The notebook was his. His. And if it came from a god of death, then that was as it should be.

From time to time Light's schedule did lighten, and he was granted a few precious hours not devoted to study or judgment. Those times were scorned, filled up, made useful. A god had no use for free time, no need for it.

Nor did he need to think on the countless lives he had ended. They were dead and he lived. They forfeited their right to live with their deeds, while he gave his willingly to see to it they paid their dues. He was a self-sacrificing god, who gave everything to see to it the world became a better place, the kind of world everyone dreamed of, where evil was punished and the innocent lived without fear.

Light continued to write, his weight slowly whittled away, and the lines beneath his eyes grew subtly more prominent.

He tried to deny the effect using the death note was having on him, the way it was changing him. In a way, the denial only made the changes worse, more profound. It changed the way he thought, the way he reasoned. He became addicted to the power, to death, and slowly, inexorably, Light Yagami began to totter on the brink of madness.

There was a point to all of this. There was… if he could just remember what it was when the doubts came creeping along the edge of his resolve.

Justice, retribution, righteousness, that's what it was for. He remembered. It was to make everything better, safer, happier. It was to solve the problems, to cut out the rot. That's why he was doing this, why he was slaughtering people by the dozen, by dozens of dozens. He was the great reaper, scything away the chaff. When he was through, only the wheat would be left, pure and true.

It's the way things would be.

It's the way things had to be.

Because if they weren't… if at the end of it all, the world was just the same… then what will have been the point?

What will Light have sold his soul for?

What?

Who was this, now? L? Who was he? A detective meant to find and capture Kira? As if he ever could, you didn't collar God for His righteous judgment.

What was that…? He called Kira… evil?

the hundreds of dead gone from the world forever, and the innocent could sleep more easily… but even the bad guys had loved ones… families… right…?

No! He was not the evil one here! He was the god of the new world, clearing away the garbage so the world could start fresh and clean once more! Who was he, this L to say that Light, that Kira was wrong?

This, this… heretic had to die, and die now. The whole world would know beyond a doubt that Kira was watching, and that Kira was justice! None would dare to question his judgment, all would see that the only right was with Kira…

What? A trick? How…?

A challenge. Very well, then. Kira would face this L, and would win the game. When he won, it would be an even greater victory than if L had died on television. With a battle of wits, when one rose superior to the other, then there truly could be no doubt who was greater than whom. All would know Kira to be the best, and would bow before him.

After all other distractions proved too feeble, perhaps Kira had finally found a diversion that would satisfy.

L truly was an opponent to be reckoned with. Battling him, sparring with him, running full tilt just in order to stay neck and neck with him, much less one step ahead, took nearly all of his energy, all of his cunning. It was frustrating, but also exhilarating. Nowhere else had Light found such stimulation, not even with the notebook. Nothing else had ever challenged him or truly tested his limits as did this duel with L, the famous detective.

All of his second-guesses and uncertainties, slight enough to begin with, evaporated under the constant stress of their battle.

This is what he needed. What he'd needed all along and never known it. Someone at his level, testing him, goading him, trying to work past his defenses and outmaneuver him…

It was too bad it would all have to end soon.

As… easy as that?

L would die… as easily as that? It didn't seem possible, somehow. Somewhere amid the back and forth, the fighting and struggling to gain the upper hand, Light had developed some sort of sense that L couldn't die, that he would remain forever, a constant thorn in his side. That he could die at a mere word from him, that all it took was a slight manipulation of an overly sentimental shinigami… it didn't seem right.

It didn't seem right that L would die with as little fuss as the countless others before him. Wasn't L different? Wouldn't it take more for him to die? Somehow, he would survive.

Light Yagami silently snarled at himself. What did he think, that L was immortal, that he would escape the killing power of the death note, that he was special somehow?

It was no way for Kira to think.

That he did just showed that Light had spent far too much time in the company of the enigmatic detective.

L had to die, and die soon.

Kira… was a god.

Gods did not form attachments of sentimentality or love, they simply were.

The judgment of a god was absolute, inviolate, unquestionable. To question a god, to move contrary to His will, was to invite His wrath.

No one could stand before a god and defy His will. Eventually, all would succumb to the smiting of that god.

This god, Kira, showed neither remorse nor mercy in His judgments.

L was dead. Dead by the will of Kira.

The greatest enemy to the new world had been struck down, erasing the last lingering, childish notion that he would somehow be there forever. Forever at His side, in the shadows, testing and undermining His every move, the only one willing to meet Him head on…

Kira was once again free to move without constraint or challenge, to fashion His new world.

It's funny, the things you miss. The little things you never noticed, or perhaps thought of as annoying before they were gone.

It's funny, the things you regret. The things you exhilarated over at the time, or convinced yourself was the right thing, the only way to proceed.

It's funny, the things you realize, when it's far too late to do anything about it.

He'd been right, that bastard. At the end, he'd been perfectly right.

It was… very lonely.

...

A/N2: So. Confession time, and I'm probably not going to be making many friends with it. I hate Light Yagami. (Settle down, let me explain.)

I've tried, since the first time watching the anime, to like him as a character. Failing that, to at least understand him a bit and see things from his POV. Hating a character doesn't bother me; some personalities are just built to be disliked. I'm not about to go bashing on the Light loving fans about my personal dislike of him, so it's all good. What does bother me is the amazing amount of difficulty I have in getting inside his head. It's taken me the better part of two years to get to a very begrudging kind of understanding. In just thinking about what he's meant to be all about, yes, I understand and grasp him fine. Being able to put myself in his shoes and say that I can see why he's done as he has and that I can honestly see where I might have done the same… no. It's frustrating, since I'm usually very good at seeing all sides. Light Yagami is the first character who's given me this much gyp. Long time readers will note: he's only appeared in 2 previous fics, and briefly in those. This is his longest stint and my first time attempting from his POV.

So, there it is. This was a challenge to write, and I'm not positive I'm happy with how it turned out. I've got a couple more ideas for something Light-centric that may or may not appear later. In the past couple months I've probably made the most progress in accepting Light as a well-rounded character, so we'll see if that produces anything.

Hope y'all liked, I go off to work on my Beyond Birthday pets for a while, now. Rejoice, people, I still live! ;D