After Death

Light is talking to Matsuda when he first feels it. A breath of air across the back of his neck and a premonitionary tingle in his fingers.

The hotel room that they are staying in– the investigators have gotten used to working in these anonymous rooms and Light allows them that comfort– is hot and closeted. The windows have all been shut and the drapes drawn. The investigators are all edgy. Ryuuzaki’s death is still heavy on them, and it shows in every hushed movement.

Light can feel someone behind him and studies Matsuda’s face. The man gives no indication of seeing anyone behind him.

“Yes, and?” Light asks, wanting Matsuda to stop with the verbal footplay.

Matsuda stops and shuffles his feet. He sighs. “I– Never mind. It’s not important.”

“If something does come up,” Light says, “then I want you to tell me immediately. Our efficiency as a group is dependent on how well we can work together.”

“Yes,” Matsuda says. “I just wish– Things are just different without Ryuuzaki.”

“It is,” Light says, careful to keep a certain amount of sympathy in his voice. “But we must move on. He wouldn’t want us to linger on– his death.”

“You’re right,” Matsuda says. He flashes a weak grin at Light, and says, “Time to catch Kira, huh? Well, I’ll go talk to Aizawa then.”

“Very well.” Light watches Matsuda walk away and carefully turns his head to see who is behind him. When there is no one but his father standing ten feet behind him and slightly to his left, he massages his temples.

It is not wise to show the investigators a weakness, but he lets himself go this once. Without L in his way, he is a little bit more free.

Light feels it again when he is in his room, sitting at his desk. He is thumbing through the magazines he bought at the bookstore and pauses to look at the newest photo of Misa. She is wearing a bathing suit and is posing on the beach. The lines of her legs are long and clean. She is like and utterly unlike the pornography he has stashed in his bookshelf.

His father had tried to ask him to throw the magazines away, but Light feigned confusion and his father gave up, not willing to make the conversation any more awkward.

Light knows because he saw the videos that L had. He has records of them in his desk drawer, hidden sheet by sheet in secret panels.

When he walks down the street, he imagines that he can see someone lingering in the corners of his vision. Not following him the way Ryuk does, but simply appearing. When Light tried to turn his head casually, the figure would turn out to be a shadow or a stray.

“Ryuk,” Light says one day. He is sitting in a corner seat of a restaurant. A plant keeps him from view of most patrons.

“Yes?” Ryuk asks, looming over his shoulder. It would have been intimidating to anyone but Light. He had long since been inured to the God of Death’s habits.

“Have you noticed anyone following me?”

Ryuk stares at him with those golden eyes and says, “Is there someone?”

“Is there or isn’t there? You tell me,” Light says, voice low with potential anger. He is not in the mood for Ryuk’s games.

“No,” Ryuk says. He spreads his wings and says, “No, I don’t think so. Should I go look?”

A strange subtle tension works its way out of Light’s shoulders as he says, “No. No, There’s nothing that could escape the gaze of a God of Death, is there?” He laughs, and Ryuk feels as though this human is lying more to himself than to him.

He stares at Light, pupils dilating, and watches the numbers click down to their final destination.

Light eats, and suddenly he jerks his head to the left, eyes darting towards a corner table.

Ryuk follows his gaze and sees nothing but two human children, clambering into seats.

Light shakes his head almost imperceptibly and continues eating his meal.

“Interesting,” Ryuk thinks. “Interesting.”

Ryuk drops in on Light a few days later. Light is sitting at his desk, writing an essay, and he swivels out of his chair to turn to face him.

“Oh,” Light says. “It’s you.”

Of course it is, Ryuk thinks. Who else would it be?

Light turns back. When an airplane’s shadow dances over the window, Light starts.

Ryuk finds this new Light fascinating. It is like watching a cornered rat, except all the more fascinating because it is just another facet of Light. Light the polite, well-spoken student has become animal-like. He laughs, and Light’s back is beautifully rigid.

“Shut up,” Light says, a tinge of real venom in his voice.

“Afraid of monsters?” Ryuk asks, grinning. “Skeletons in your closet?”

Light’s lip twitches into a snarl before smoothing away into a semblance of the normal Light. “Is anyone following me?” he asks again.

“Yes,” Ryuk says after a long moment. He feels a vicious pleasure race through his gut. “Your ghosts.”

“You think you’re being funny, are you?” Light asks.

Yes, Ryuk thinks, laughing. Yes, he does.

“What happens after a person dies?” Light asks Ryuk.

Ryuk’s black lips spread into a leer. “After you die? Don’t think you’re going to heaven or hell,” he says.

“That’s not what I asked. I asked, what happens after a person dies.” Light’s voice is strangely frantic. It sounds even, but Ryuk can detect a constant pulse of panic thudding beneath the words. Light does not wait for Ryuk’s answer. He rushes on, delighting Ryuk with his frenzy. “Is it possible for the Death Note to kill someone, but to let them– linger? No. No, that doesn’t make sense.” Light shakes his head.

Light glances at his bed then turns his head away.

Ryuk follows his gaze and sees nothing.

Light does not fall asleep so much as forces himself to. He has responsibilities and he knows he cannot afford to lose himself to insomnia. Sleep deprivation would cloud his mind and, if gone long enough, could lead to hallucinations. He recognizes his own twitchiness, his inability to focus as early symptoms, but it is not enough to give him reason for the figure sitting at his desk.

“Go away,” he hisses.

L does not answer (not yet, but how long before his hallucinations become auditory? Light wonders feverishly) and just sits at Light’s desk, knees up against his chest.

L is looking at him with his own darkened eyes and smiles.

“I killed you,” Light says. He smiles tightly, and a muscle in his cheek jumps. “Do you hear me? I killed you.”

With one hand, L opens a drawer and pulls out one of the sheets Light recognizes as the video record. He places it on the desk, and his smile gains an edge.

I know who you are, the look says.

Light turns his back on the figure (It’s only a hallucination, he thinks to himself. It cannot hurt me.) and closes his eyes.

When he wakes up, L is gone, but he swears he can feel the familiar pull of a chain around his wrist.

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