In the end it is Near sitting alone upon the floor with a city of dice. He is stacking them carefully, his pale fingers aware of each delicate piece, each precarious position as his city slowly extends skyward. It is such a delicate thing, a single touch and it will fall to ruins, and only the scattered bones will remain.
The silence is more deafening than usual, but Near says nothing because he knows that nothing will respond. It is only him, his fragile city of dice, and L's face left discarded upon the tile floor. It looks up at him with accusing eyes, watching him from behind inky-blue hair and holes for eyes.
It is Near who addresses the mask first, "Don't stare, it's rude."
The silence echoes back and the mask remains stubbornly silent, staring up at him and the city that surrounds him.
"There was nothing I could do."
The mask does not respond but instead becomes passive, as if it no longer cared whether the white-haired young man lived or died, as if it was no longer important.
"Don't look at me as if I didn't try, there was nothing I could do." He repeats as if saying the words again makes them more genuine. It is only the silence that responds and somehow Near can't help but think of the corpses.
"I would have saved them if I could…"
But he is avoiding all their eyes now, all the damned, the masks, the corpses, the silence, even his own reflection stares back at him with hard eyes now. He can't look, he rationalizes instead, what was he to do? What had they expected from him?
Even as he thinks his city grows higher, like the tower of Babel it climbs skyward towards the heavens, the dice pile on top of one another, the odds against him expanding exponentially with each di added.
The body count is against him already and now only the silence remains.
"I will not let him win." He says to the shadows of doubt that have grown upon his mind yet they spread like a plague, eclipsing the fluorescent lights that hang above him, leaving no glimmer of light untouched.
(And one by one the dice topple downwards and the tower collapses beneath its own weight…)
"Yagami Light," He greets the shadow as it crosses from his thoughts into the room. Near has to remind himself that it isn't real, that it shouldn't be real, that it is no more real than any other thought and yet there he stands in the flesh with a crooked grin upon his face.
"No words of endearment? No greeting? I must say Nate Rivers, you haven't found any manners since we last met." Light observes the ruins of the city, the black eyes of the dice staring up at him in agony. He brushes them aside with his feet and instead reaches for the abandoned mask.
Near watches as the auburn haired young man brushes the dust from L's discarded features, his eyes narrowed as he wipes away all the memories that have clung to its face.
"How long has it been anyway? It's very difficult to keep track of time when you're dead, but I suppose you wouldn't know about that yet." He says with that grin that looks so very unfamiliar, so very controlled, so very different from what Near had seen.
"You aren't real, you're simply a figment of my imagination, a product of my fear…"
"Are you sure?"
Near looks at him again, sees the young man who stands so still and resolute in the darkness, his eyes an inferno of contempt, perhaps even a glimmer of pity but nothing more.
Near's fingers shake beneath his white sleeves, and once more he feels like a child, a child trapped in a game that he had once thought he had mastered. He had discarded it, like a broken toy, he had left it in the dust of his past with all the masks and all the blood trailing behind him.
Yet here stands a shadow in the darkness with golden eyes glowing, holding L's face in his slender hands, and a grim smile upon his face.
Kira laughs. His laughter resounds throughout the broken city of dice and it echoes off the metallic walls.
"You're worse than Ryuzaki," he says, "At least Ryuzaki had the decency to know that he was lying."
"I'm not lying." Near says to the young man, but Light is not looking at him but is instead staring down at the mask. There is some unfamiliar emotion in his eyes, something akin to nostalgia, it glistens there in the candle light of his eyes as he stares down upon the plastic features of an old and forgotten friend.
"Of course not." Light says dismissively looking back up at Near, "Tell me, how long do you have to live?"
Near pales beneath Kira's vindictive gaze.
"What do you mean?"
"How long has he given you?"
"I don't know who you're talking about."
"The lies are getting old Nate; they were amusing when you were a child in a warehouse with a gun in your hand and blood dripping from your fingertips but I think we're getting a little old for such games now."
"What lies Yagami Light? What blood? I didn't hold a gun in that warehouse, I didn't kill anyone, if you remember correctly it was you who was the murderer. You were the cold blooded killer with blood on your hands, it was you. Not me."
"Even now you can't admit it." Light says coldly shaking his head as he does so. "You want to know what the difference is between us, Nate?" He leans down towards the boy in white his hands reaching out to hold Near in place as he whispers in his ear.
"I knowthat I killed them, I knowthat I lied, and I knowthat even though I didn't write his name and that there was never a drop of blood upon my hands that I bathed in blood all the same." Light's words drip softly into Near's ear, they fall like the light morning snowfall, but he shudders even as Light pulls back to look into Near's black eyes. "A killer isn't a killer because of the blood on his hands, it's something deeper, nothing quite so easy to wipe off."
Even in the silence alone with a ghost of a man long since dead he can see the forgotten blood casting shadows on his own pale hands.
"That, is the difference between us, my delusional champion."
In that moment Near is the forgotten (he had forgotten them over the years yet here they are) hatred of his fallen brothers. He is Mello burning alive inside a church, he is Matt shot to death on the street and left like a ragdoll to bleed to death, he is L falling upon the tile floor as the church bells toll in the distance. He pushes the vision of the young murder away and yet his grinning face remains and his laughter fills the hollow emptiness.
"You aren't real." He repeats to the specter that haunts his eyes, the young man with golden eyes and a somber smiling expression and those delicate hands without blood-stains.
"You seem so certain." The image muses, tucking the mask safely away inside his jacket, close to where his heart would have been…
"I am." Near answers the vision, the doubts that plague his mind, the uncertainty, and the fear. He addresses them all with his stoic expression, dismissing them from sight, waiting for them to slither off back to the darkness form whence they came.
"Then why bother?"
The question resounds in Near's mind but he doesn't answer instead he changes focus.
"You asked if I would die."
"No," Light says softly with a cruel smile, "I asked if you knew when you would die."
"So then," Near says with a cool gaze, "You do know what he is planning."
"Do I?" He asks in return watching Near with amused golden eyes.
Near instead tries to remember the bleeding ragdoll upon the floor of the yellow warehouse, abandoned by his friends, shot to death by his admirers, betrayed by his own shadow, and his heart shattered in his chest. Near prefers that Yagami Light and he wonders where he went and why this one has visited him instead.
"Stop avoiding questions!" Near shouts at the specter however it isn't looking at him instead surveying his surroundings with cool assessing eyes and Near can't help but wonder if he too is disappointed.
"Stop avoiding the answers." Light replies coolly.
"Funny, I remember you being much more civil when you were bleeding to death." Near says with a bitter laugh.
It is only Near who is laughing though, the young man is staring down at him with sharp golden eyes that flicker in distant amusement as if Near is simply a child's toy that will soon be tossed aside and replaced without a moment's hesitation.
"I thought I didn't exist, Nate." The young man replies, the word Nate falling from his lips with mocking derision.
"You don't." Near spits and yet even as he says it the vision remains and it begins to smile.
"You didn't really believe you had won, did you?"
Near can't say how long it has been, how long he had been waiting in the silence until the vision decided to speak. Near wonders if it expects him to smile and laugh in despair or to glower at his pride. Near prefers to show nothing and maintain his expressionless mask rather than give anything more away to a mere hallucination.
"Did you really believe I would simply give up?" Light asks still smiling as if the thought of this is sheer foolishness.
"No, you lost." Near clarifies holding that one triumphant moment filled with blood and disappointments. "We beat you. I beat you. I won."
"So here we are," the young man gestures to the empty room and the fallen tower of babel, "Desperately alone in the dark, is this what you wanted from your victory?"
"You died! I saw you die! You no longer exist! You are nothing!"
Light says nothing and instead walks slowly over to an empty chair and sits down with grace that should not belong to a ghost or an illusion. He looks over at Near with pitying golden eyes and in that moment Near wishes that he had removed Kira's eyes before the burial.
"When did it start, when did you realize that it was the beginning of the end?" Light asks, "I'm curious, when did you realize that all your scheming amounted to nothing?"
"It's not the end yet." Near stares into the face of the phantom, the ghost simply shrugs and continued to stare at Near with those piercing yellow eyes.
"Are you the only one left?" Kira's voice is like the soft snowfall that had fallen on his grave when Near had visited it, drowned out by his prior screaming and bleeding stumbling and sheer dying.
"Yes." Near confirms, the empty room speaking for him. "But it is not the end yet, Yagami Light."
Light smiles before responding softly, "I suppose you would resent it if I told you that you remind me of myself, I didn't realize it was the end either." It is almost a sweet smile on his lips, an endearing smile, one without hatred or malice and that in itself makes Near shiver violently.
"You and I are not the same. I'm better than you are, I'm a human being, and you're simply a monster."
"And yet my mother and sister cried at my funeral, no one will cry at yours."
Light turns from Near then and makes his way towards the fallen city of dice, no longer paying Near any heed, and in that moment Near feels the impulse to call out to him and make him turn back and give meaning to Near's existence. Anything to break the dreaded silence.
"Do you want to know who died first?" Near asks Kira sharply watching as the man's shoulders stiffen.
"Does it matter?" Kira's voice replies softly.
"It's your revenge. You of all people should care."
Light Yagami shrugs indifferently his back still turned from Near as he prodded the fallen city with his shoe.
"Alright then, tell me since you're so eager, who died first?"
Near fell silent, watching Light Yagami, standing so tall in a room that appeared to grow smaller with every second; the shadows were growing longer and Near could swear that the lights had grown dimmer.
"It was Halle, Halle died first." Near closed his eyes against the memories, and yet he could see her falling, falling down the stairs, her eyes staring up at him like marbles, all while she tumbled down and down and down…
"Interesting, why her?" Light had begun to walk toward a chair and now proceeded to sit in it crossing his legs and smiling at Near motioning for him to continue with his story, tapping his fingers against the arm rest all the while.
"Because she meant nothing to him, and because she was in the warehouse. She was young too, so that I would know, so that we all would realize that you were back and that you meant to kill us all this time, and that we couldn't stop you." Near paused catching himself and looking over at the specter sharply, "But we will stop you, I will stop you, just like before, just like the warehouse."
Light sighed and began to speak in an exasperated tone, "Would it reassure you if I agreed with you?"
Near decides not to say anything to this, to ignore this and go on with his tale as if this vision of death is not truly in the room with him. He is only a ghost, only a convincing ghost produced by fear and death.
"We all met after that, the task force and my team, like old times you would say. And we all knew although at the time we were denying it, because no one alive knew who we were, and the shinigami certainly didn't care, you had been dead for quite some time Yagami Light and nobody really gave a damn anymore." Near grins here and sees Light eyeing him, measuring him up, he doesn't see fear but Near wants it there wants this man, this vision, to fear him and to leave him alone.
Light grins in return, sitting casually in his chair with one hand supporting his chin, looking all the while like a god of death who's just found a spot of fun among the ashes and bones that constitute his barren world. Near is reminded of the villains who sit so casually upon their thrones of death, yet there are no bones in the office chair that he now inhabits, he looks out of his element yet at ease with this fact.
"We didn't really believe, and so we wrote it off, but it kept happening and soon we knew that we couldn't stop it because how can you stop your heart from careening to a stop in your chest? How can you stop fate? My team died first, then yours, one by one, and soon it was just a few of us left." Near pauses not wanting to give the vision any sign of his fear but it is there, more visible than either of them, like a shadow it passes over them both and Near can't help but shudder at its presence. He hadn't thought to die young.
"Of course, that is the way I knew it would be. If it were possible, if you could possibly come back from whatever hell awaited you. You would take us one by one, until it was only me, and the darkness came for me. See, I do know you. L never saw it coming, neither did Mello, but I do."
Light's face changes he is no longer smiling and there is a solemn isolated look in his eyes that Near has never seen before, he wonders if L would have known these eyes and known what their message contained, but he writes that thought off and stores it in the back of his mind where he can throw it out when he has the time. He holds out his hands in an offering of peace and spoke softly.
"Did you really think that it would be as easy as that?" This question isn't pointed and that's perhaps why it hurts more, there is no mockery in this voice no sense of pleasure, he can't name the emotion in this voice. At first he thinks it is pity but then he looks into Yagami Light's face and sees that it is not, there is no pity in those ancient dead eyes.
For that alone Near answers him truthfully, "Yes."
Light stands then motioning for Near to join him, he takes the young man's arms still thin like a child's as if nothing has changed from that moment Kira died in a warehouse covered in blood. It is as if they have merely jumped over the years in between, as if they were simply a dream, a thing to be forgotten in the morning when reality takes hold yet again and Near is dragged away.
They stroll like a pair of young lovers through a garden passing over the fallen tower with a single step, Light looks down at him with glittering golden eyes, like the dragon that awaits in the darkness, and his smile has returned. They pass the eyes of the monitors and Near can see them reflected in its surface, the taller auburn haired young man with the confident smile linked in arm with the smaller younger man with the white-gold hair and the shifting dark eyes.
In their footsteps he hears his childhood, the shattering of white puzzles, Mello leaving, and the church bells tolling for L's unattended funeral.
"What a pretty pair we make." Near comments at the irony but allows himself to be dragged on by Light never the less, allowing himself to be taken away from this tomb to another, it no longer matters where he chooses to die.
Light's smile widens at this statement and Near is struck by how innocent he looks, how normal he can look with the right smile and the right look in his eyes.
"Not the same as Ryuzaki, but then second L second best." Light's smile becomes a grin and aside from the mockery in the tone Near can see nostalgia in those eyes. Suddenly Near is reminded of Mello, as was Kira's intent no doubt, and Near can see him with that scarred face slouched over the wheel of a truck burning alive.
"He did what he had to." Near says slowly because he knows that although Light didn't mention Mello by name he is the topic being discussed.
Light appears to consider this, still smiling, looking down at Near with those death-god eyes, "Only because you won, Nate, if you had lost then he would have done it for nothing."
"But we did win."
"Only by a very small margin," Light pauses and reconsiders then says, "And even then, Nate, do you call this winning?"
"You're dead," Near says with a sneer as they continue to stroll through the abandoned facilities, "I call that winning."
Light laughs at this and holds open a door for Near when they come to the end of the room where the computers can no longer watch them with dead eyes and he says, "I'll tell you a secret, Nate, even when L was dead I never thought I had won."
Near looked up at him with narrowed eyes, "You're lying."
They walk through the empty corridor and for a moment Near is blinded by the fluorescent lights glittering in the ceiling, Light kindly waits for his eyes to adjust and for a moment Near is reminded of the line Emily Dickenson once wrote concerning death, Because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me…
He puts that thought out of his mind and allows Light to take the lead as they walk down the empty sterile passage their feet tapping together in rhythm, Light's making a hard tap with his shoes and Near's white socks sliding along beside them.
The silence is haunting, Near decides to break it he watches it fall and ripple through the air, "You know Light, you're far less arrogant than I remember."
Light continues to walk and says, "Well, would it be blasphemy for me to say that people are capable of change?" He smiles and shakes his head and although he isn't laughing Near can tell that he is amused by his own joke.
"So then you admit that you were wrong." Near states a smile growing on his own face, yet this quickly slips away when he sees the vision remains the same.
"Oh no, I wasn't wrong." Light says his feet still echoing across the white corridor.
"But you just said people can change."
"Not easily," The vision surveys Near then and adds, "Give me a notebook and a ball point pen and I'd jump at the opportunity to put you six feet under. In fact, I think I am, jumping that is."
Near suddenly remembers that L's face, the mask he had worn in the warehouse, is resting inside Light's jacket. Near shudders.
"I feel that none of this is real and that I am already dead. Did that happen to you, too?" Near asks.
The monitors are stretching, growing longer, and Near knows that he has left his hallway and is in Light's hallway now. The lights have grown dimmer and the silence seems to be looming just behind their footfalls. Near knows that if he looks around he will see their faces, everyone's faces, but he doesn't turn and he doesn't look behind for fear that he will not see them.
The monitors are endless, the hallway is growing smaller, and soon it will not be big enough for the two of them. Something must give, something must break.
"You mean fatalism? Well, what I felt and what I was before I died is for me and me alone to know. You'll know soon enough, nothingness is rather jarring."
"Aren't we beyond these petty games, Kira?" (But Near is looking at the walls, the too close walls, and the too high floor, and the too low ceiling…)
"You can afford to leave me my secrets, besides as I recall you weren't much interested in what I thought or said before. As I recall you thought you had me pegged." Light stops walking for a moment and while his words have the illusion of lightheartedness Near can feel the weight in them and he knows that there is something left unsaid. It stands behind them wearing the mask in Light's jacket, the dust smeared like paint.
"I do have you pegged, you are a murderer, and that's all you have ever been capable of. That's why I won and you lost." The words echo the hallway says nothing.
"And that's all." Light says softly not looking at Near but looking elsewhere.
There's a small patch of silence but then Light begins to laugh.
"Humor me, Nate, you wouldn't want me on your bad side tonight." Light laughs and the sound haunts the walls like the tolling of the funeral bells.
They step through the white door at the end of the hallway. (Because there is always a door, there must be a door, and his name will be written upon it because it is his door…)
Near finds himself blinking in what he at first assumes is sunlight, but on closer inspection turns into faded yellow paint. There is rust on the walls and above his head a fan whirrs silently. Light is smiling.
"Why are we here?" Near asks because he knows this place even if he will not name it. It was his door after all.
"It hasn't changed at all." Light says slowly reaching forward to touch the yellow paint. He's wearing a smile and that in itself Near finds offensive because this place is filled with ghosts. Light smells the air and holds out his arms the blood dripping down his chest, although there wasn't blood before, and he's smiling as if he's finally come home.
"Kira, why are we here?"
The young man turns and whistles, "Like nothing has changed at all…" He then sighs and addresses Near, "You know why we're here, we're going to play the game again, everyone is already waiting. It's the midnight hour and Mikami is knock-knock-knocking on the door."
Near then notices that they are not alone for they are surrounded by a half circle of gray faced strangers, but their eyes are dead and he can't recognize a single one of them…
Nothingness is rather jarring, Light had said.
Light had said…
Why does he have so many faces if he only uses them to kill?
"Wait, I… That's not fair this isn't real! It's all in my head!" Near screams holding his hands to his ears to block out the cawing of the carrion crows perched upon the tin roof, he can hear their talons tapping in rhythm, like the snare drum in the distance. He closes his eyes and the grey faces, the audience, is gone and it is only his head and his pounding feeble heart.
The voice cuts through.
"Of course it's in your head, but you know that doesn't really make a difference to me and it certainly doesn't make a difference to you. So let's pretend it is real and that when your precious name is written in ink that it will make all the difference. Let's pretend when I pull the trigger and shoot you thrice that you will bleed and scream and beg yet it will make no difference for they have already decided on your death sentence and really they're all relieved to see you gone. You've said it, you're already dead anyway so why can't we have a little fun while we're at it?"
Eyes closed Near is on his knees and he remembers this but it was different last time. He knows that in the unreality he has created Light is standing over him, and there is blood but it does not matter. Near is the one who is begging (refuses to beg) he is the one who is going to die (is going to live). He wants to scream because he can hear the pen scratching, Kira's pen in that far off world writing one name at a time.
"You aren't real!"
Near opens his eyes and sees Kira smiling down at him through Light Yagami's golden eyes. The audience says nothing. Light steps forward with his hands outstretched palms up and smiling still.
Near sees the door. He stands. Looks at Kira but he does nothing. Near runs socks hitting pavement like the talons on the tin roof.
"You have so much conviction but so little faith. All that running won't do you any good, the doors are locked and since none of this is real why are you even bothering to try? I told you the door was locked."
Near's hand remains on the handle and he speaks to the door, to whatever exit he can create for himself.
"If it's my dream then I have the power over it! It will end how it did then and you will die!"
"True, true, but you know it's still your choice. You could die here or out there. I still exist outside of the dream, it depends which face of mine you'd prefer to kill you. If I were you I'd rather just get it over with, since it's already written anyway."
Near does not turn because turning won't change anything but will only make him see what was already there and god knows he doesn't want to look.
"What do you mean? What are you talking about?"
"Nate Rivers suffers from insanity and smothers himself in his sleep. Quite a nice way to die, much more pleasant and romantic than the alternative…"
He smiles and there is a gun in his hand. His finger is on the trigger and the room Near finds is significantly smaller than it used to be.
"If you aren't real here why would you be real there?"
"Because I am, Nate, that's all. I am here and I am there and I am holding the gun. So, which would you prefer the bullet to the brain or the hammer to the heart
Author's Note: Needless to say this was the Light revenge on Near fic. Thanks for reading reviews would be lovely.
Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note