Warning: If you aren't past episode 25 in the anime or Ch. 58 in the manga, you will be spoiled.
This idea has been nagging me for a while now, and though it's probably OOC for both Rem and L, I wanted to try it anyway.
Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note.
Light from multiple television and computer screens illuminated a long dark room high above the streets of Tokyo. A young man was crouched before a computer screen, his large eyes scanning a file listing criminals scheduled to be executed. Spiky black hair framed his face as he crouched in his chair. His large eyes were focused on the computer, as though he could physically draw the information into his brain by staring. His hands, which rested on his knees, looked almost skeletal in the eerie blue glow from the screens, nearly as skeletal as the looming creature on the far side of the room.
The creature itself was hideous to look upon. Several feet taller than most men, its entire body resembled a distorted skeleton with overlong limbs. White bone flared from its shoulders in a series of spikes. Tentacle-like extensions tipped with purple hung over one side of the creature's face in a surreal resemblance of hair. The one visible eye was gold and slit like a cat's. It watched the young man by the computer without a trace of emotion.
The only disturbance in the room was the tapping of a keyboard. The young man's eyes never left the screen, though his left hand occasionally shot out to grab a chocolate from a large red box beside the computer. The creature remained motionless.
As a distant clock began to strike one, the young man suddenly spoke. "Shinigami-san, how do you use the notebook we found today?"
The creature's eye widened slightly, but the face remained blank. "I thought you knew that already. Whoever's name is written in the notebook will die as long as the writer has the person's face in mind."
"I know. But I was asking how you yourself used it. How do Shinigami use these notebooks? Why do you have them in the first place?"
The creature stared at him for a long moment. "We use them to live. When a Shinigami kills a human with a notebook, they receive whatever years that human would have had left, had they been left alone."
"So you live by killing."
"Does that surprise you?"
"Not very much," the young man mumbled around the chocolate. "It is interesting, that is all. If you exist, are there other kinds of gods?"
"I know of only our kind. But I never left the Shinigami realm until recently."
Swiveling the chair around, the young man gazed at the Shinigami. "Why did you leave the Shinigami realm? Did you go to Misa Amane?"
The creature was silent. Its gold eye never left the human before it, nor did it make a move. For a moment the young man waited, until at last his hand reached out for the chocolate box again. "Then I will ask you another question. Why did you give away this notebook if using it is the only way for you to remain alive?"
"That notebook is not mine," the creature said calmly.
"Do you mean it is Kira's?"
"It was Higuchi's."
"That does not answer my question of why he had it, if you need it to survive."
Again the creature was silent, its face completely blank. The young man was about to reach out for another chocolate when the creature suddenly said, "The notebook you have was never mine. I have my own, but the one you hold belongs to someone else entirely."
Dark red jelly spilled out from the corners of the chocolate the young man bit in half. "And you won't tell me who it is."
"No. I'm not on your side in this, or anyone's."
The creature's gold eye widened in a faint look of surprise, but the answer, when it came, was as dry and toneless as ever. "The deeds of humans have no interest for me."
"Not even when they affect you? You would not have followed Higuchi around unless you had to."
"The laws of the notebook state I must do that."
"But what is the purpose of that unless it would be to monitor their use of the note?"
"I do not care what the humans do with the note." The creature's hand twitched faintly, and the young man's eyes flashed quickly toward the movement before glancing again at the Shinigami's face. After a moment, the creature's blue lips parted again. "For all intents and purposes, I am merely a dispenser of the notebook. What humans do with it is their business."
The young man crossed his arms, and his bony hands gripped his forearms tightly. But his voice remained measured. "If that is the case, Shinigami-san, why do you not answer my questions? By doing so, you are hindering me, and taking Kira's side."
"If I answer your questions I would be taking yours."
"Then are you on Kira's side?"
"I am on no one's side."
"Then why do you help Kira, Shinigami-san?"
The creature was silent, looking as bored as it could with most of its face concealed. With a sigh, the young man turned away. "Do you think Kira is right?" he asked over his shoulder.
"How would I know?"
"Does justice mean nothing to you, Shinigami-san?"
The black slit in the creature's gold eye narrowed. "Justice? What justice do you think would have meaning for a Shinigami? We kill others to live, and we go on living. In that lifestyle there is nothing of what you humans call justice."
Reaching out to a plate that was on the far side of the now-empty chocolate box, the young man grabbed a cookie and snapped it in half. Crumbs flew and scattered on his rumpled clothing. "The notebook has rules within it. There is no reason to set rules unless there are some things that should not be done. Shinigami must have some idea of justice, or at the very least, an idea of what is acceptable and what is not."
There was silence for such a long time that the young man had almost emptied the cookie box before the creature finally spoke again. "Having an idea of what is acceptable and what is not does not equate to an idea of justice."
Swallowing hard, the young man licked his fingers clean of powdery sugar. "True. But the idea that some things should be done and that others are forbidden has in it the hints of the idea of justice."
"That would depend on how you defined justice."
Now it was the young man's turn to fall silent. His hand slowed on its way to the cookie box, and his brow furrowed as though deep in thought. At long last he spoke, and his husky voice was very soft. "My notion of justice is simply that everyone should be treated as they deserve. And Kira, through his killings, is violating that idea. He may be killing criminals, but from what I can see, he is only a human like the rest of them. He is not someone who has the right to decide whether they should live or die."
"By your society's standards he too would be killed when captured, correct?"
"Very likely he would be. But that is out of my hands. All I can do is capture him to answer to justice."
The Shinigami looked at him intently. "And what about what you do to bring him there?"
"As I see it, the ends will justify the means as long as the ends outweigh any evil in the means."
Silence fell in the room again. The young man waited for a moment as though expecting a reply, but when none came after several minutes, he turned his attention to the computer. For a long time he stared intently at the screen, gnawing at his thumb. For a while the Shinigami watched him. "You are not so different from Kira yourself," it said at last.
The young man's eyes flickered once towards the creature. "Maybe not. Yet I am still opposing him."
White bony shoulders rose very faintly. "Then do so. I will not help you or him."
"Your silence is helping him now."
Again the room fell quiet. Large dark eyes met the single gold one for several seconds. Neither human nor Shinigami moved. The only thing in motion in the room was the shadow of the Shinigami, which was thrown into sharp relief on the wall by the light of the video screens. At long last, the young man turned away, and the creature remained motionless, watching him without a trace of emotion in its golden eye.
When it became certain that Misa Amane, the young cheerful girl who had never failed to exasperate and amuse the task force, was indeed killing with a Death Note, Rem knew that the young man who had spoken so strangely of justice would have to die.
Every trace of emotion she had retained after years as a Shinigami was overtaken by rage. Rage against the young man and his old assistant, whose deaths were going to ensure her own. Rage against Kira, who had forced her into this corner with the arrogant assumption that she would simply sacrifice herself for the sake of a human. And to make that knowledge even worse was the knowledge that he was right, that she would die to allow Misa to live.
Loathing for herself, for Kira, and for the entire situation filled her as she moved through the floors of the many-storied building, passing through the solid steel as easily as sunlight passed through a window. She was no true Shinigami, if she was willing to die for a human. Yet the thought of Misa dying was somehow worse than her failure to live up to her nature. And yet she could not understand why. Perhaps it was simply unfair that the child, whose only crime had been to love too blindly and too powerfully, should die because the one she loved was a cold-blooded manipulator.
And so in the end, it seemed for her that it would come down to what was acceptable and what was not. To her, it was acceptable that she die, but not Misa. No one in the Shinigami world would see that as the case, yet Rem knew that she could not live with the regret of having allowed the girl to die. Such a thought was disorienting, and as she wrote the name of the old man hunched unsuspectingly over his computer, she felt a bitter taste in her mouth. For if it came down to innocence, there was, in the end, only the slightest of reasons why this old man should die. And if it came to deserving, the young man had done nothing save but do what he believed to be acceptable. As she did now, even as she wrote his strange name down in her notebook.
She could feel her limbs beginning to crumble even as she passed down to the lowest level of the building. She had no wish for any of them to see her in this state; the thought that they would later find her as a pile of sand was unbearable enough. As she watched her long fingers turn to dust, she longed for an answer. In the end, it seemed there was no justice in this. For if there was any truth to what the young man had said about justice, she did not deserve to die this way, having sacrificed herself for another. Yet she was crumbling, collapsing, even though she had tried to act in a way that would be acceptable to herself. There was little consolation in the thought that Misa was safe from the young man; with the love Misa bore for Kira, she could not last long. So in the end, even this death of Rem's did little to accomplish what she had died for.
And perhaps she did deserve it. If justice was about what was truly deserved, then perhaps this miserable disintegration was the only true end for a creature such as her.
When he felt the constriction in his chest, as though a hand was crushing his heart relentlessly, he knew that he had lost. And in that instant time seemed to slow down, as though to torture him by giving him extra time to meditate on that loss.
There was no victory in this that he could see. Now that he knew he was dying, the only way his successors stood a chance of bringing down Kira would be through working together, and L was sure that that was the last thing either of them would consider doing. He could not imagine how Kira had been able to discover his name. If Misa had remembered his name from the glimpse she had had of him at Toh-Oh University, she would surely have killed him as soon as she had been released. Yet he had lived. It made no sense, then, that his death came now.
Then he remembered the Shinigami.
As soon as he remembered, he almost felt resigned. It grated on his nerves to think that the Shinigami had been on Kira's side all along. But the strangest thing of all was that L would have staked his reputation on the creature's sincerity when it had said that it was on no one's side. It had not interfered when Higuchi had been captured, nor had it done anything to indicate that it ever would do anything other than haunt the back of the main headquarters. Now it seemed that that assumption had been wrong.
The relentless pressure in his chest suddenly spread to his shoulders, blanketing them in a vice of pain. He wondered if he had been too sure from beginning to end. So certain that justice would prevail, he had openly declared himself as L and challenged Kira for supremacy. And now that he was dying, he had to wonder whether this was even a question of justice prevailing as much as a battle between two equal opponents. If that was the case, then perhaps the Shinigami had been right, and he was not so different from Kira after all.
No longer able to maintain his crouch, he crashed to the floor. The pain in his chest was almost unbearable now.
Though he had been right all along, in the end, L knew he had failed when it mattered most. The last glimpse he caught of Kira's face made him certain. Perhaps the battle between them had been a battle between two opposing minds, not a true battle between justice and injustice.
And yet he was certain that what Kira was doing was wrong. No one person had the right to kill others as he saw fit. Kira was no one to judge the guilt of others when he killed innocents who opposed him. And yet the question of whether or not he was the best one to judge Kira still lingered in his mind. L was willing to do whatever it took to bring down Kira, and in that, perhaps his death here- the end he someday hoped would come for Kira- was not so unacceptable after all. But it was galling to think of justice when a cold-blooded killer was allowed to prevail and alter the world to suit himself. And then he wondered whether, when he had undertaken to oppose Kira, he had sought justice or superiority. If he had sought the former, then he could die certain that there was little justice of any kind to be had in this world.
And if he had sought superiority, than perhaps this death was justice after all, even if it had been dispensed by a Shinigami.
I owe my sister for coming up with L's line on the means to an end in the first section. She articulated what he would say much better than I did.
Feedback, especially constructive criticism, would be awesome.