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"I am... Righteous." He stands before the Shinigami King, new-made and blank. The King looks him over, smiles, and waves a limb dismissively. He bows, not because he feels respect for the King but because he does not wish to risk angering him, and leaves.

The Shinigami realm is a wasteland, dust and rot and dark and chill - he sees nothing interesting around him. His wings unfurl, and he takes to the sky for a better vantage. He doesn't care one way or the other about the sensation of flying; it is simply the most efficient way to see as much as possible of this world he is now part of.

He has existed for less than an hour (in this form, at least) and already, he is so bored.

***

He finds a small portal that no one is beside, and lands to study himself and choose a victim (because he is new, and he has so little time before he will dissolve into dust. Even if this life bores him, he does not wish to become nothingness, to vanish and leave nothing behind but dust to join the desert already here).

He has black eyes, round and opaque as a mirror. His head is covered in black feathers, which stick up untidily, and merge with the black feathers covering his wings. His face is gaunt, his skin white with a silver tint that even he recognises as unusual - not the dull grey of dead flesh, but silver, as if he is not entirely (human) animal but something of metal (robot). His clothing is a tattered rag that might once have been a white shirt, and a pair of shredded jeans. Clasped around his right wrist is an old handcuff, attached to a chain that has rusted away.

He feels something related to pleasure at his appearance, though he has no idea why. Enough that he does not dislike his own looks - he cannot change them, after all.

His curiousity momentarily assauged, he turns his attention to the human world, seeking out a prison, a place that he does not (quite) recognise but where he knows that he will find -

There. He sees a long life in that one - Rafael Mustaro - and writes the name, adding that Rafael will be knifed in a prison fight. No need to give himself away by causing a heart attack, he thinks, and wonders for a moment what he means.

He himself is the biggest mystery he has found here, yet, and he recognises that he is fascinated by himself the same way he would be by any complicated puzzle.

***

The other shinigami are fascinated by what is happening in the human realm, discuss events and bicker over rules with raucous laughter and vicious sneers. He ignores them, mostly - there is nothing in the things they watch that amuses him. Occasionally, he finds himself glancing at the boy/man who is possessed by a shinigami, but something makes him turn away.

How long will you make me wait, he wonders irritably, and has no idea what he means by the question.

He doesn't bother to watch as things in the human realm finally end, focussing his attention on a prison in New Zealand, where he is studying the behaviour of the humans.

Humans (are) were boring, and once he understood them as thoroughly as he understands the rules of the Death Note, but that was before he became a shinigami (before he died?) and now he has to learn again everything he once knew.

It's the closest thing to entertainment that he's found yet.

He knows that he's waiting for him (whoever he is) but not why, or how he'll ever find him. When he finally arrives, this boredom will be gone. Meanwhile, the humans are more interesting than gambling with old bones and paying with useless trinkets.

***

The new shinigami stands before him as if silently asking his opinion of his appearance. Hair the colour of drying blood obscures this other shinigami's face; all that can be seen beneath it are the blazing red eyes. Everything else is in shadow, regardless of the point of view of the observer. He wears what was once a smart suit, which has been burned and bled on until the original colour is indistinguishable. Behind his back, his wings flare out, a bone framework that seems empty of surfaces to catch the air.

A cuff and chain hang from his left wrist.

"I am Righteous," he says, introducing himself for the first time since he was made (remade?) by the Shinigami King.

He can feel, somehow, the amused quirk to the other shinigami's lips, though there is nothing to see. "I am Kira," the other replies, holding out his right hand in imitation of the human ritual.

Instead, Righteous reaches over and grasps his left hand, pulling it so that he can compare the chain around it to the chain around his own wrist. He smiles, then, and looks up at the hidden face.

"I've been waiting for you."

"I've missed you," Kira answers, and they both know that neither of them understands why the words they have just spoken are true.

***

Kira knows more of the rules that hedge their existence than Righteous does. They experiment, sharing their discoveries, and this is the first time Righteous has been truly interested in something. He smiles more, but only at Kira. Occasionally, Kira smiles widely enough that his teeth show, brilliant white in the shadows covering his face.

They go to the human realm together, stalk people who can't see them, listen in classrooms and bedrooms and living rooms and offices and churches and temples and parks... Sometimes, one of them (or both) can recite along with the human who is speaking. Sometimes, the human gets the words wrong, and they both scowl at the mistake that they would never make, never have made.

They are vaguely aware of other new shinigami. They do their best not to associate with them. All they need is each other, and the challenges they make for themselves.

***

Shinigami are forbidden from having sex. Shinigami are incapable of having sex. They learn these rules, and look at each other, and laugh at the so-clear loophole that they both know they will exploit.

***

Shinigami are only allowed in the human realm for longer than a few hours at a time if they have dropped their notebooks and are haunting the person who picked them up. Righteous and Kira have both stolen enough time now that they will outlast even the longest-lived human, and they dislike having to return to the Shinigami realm so frequently. (They have started a new game, one which draws its amusement from the reactions the humans have, and they cannot stand having to watch from a pool instead of seeing for themselves.)

They choose their latest victim carefully, and could never explain why they chose him (even if they remembered their pasts, they still would have no answer to that question). They do choose him, and they know enough of themselves and each other to trust in their decisions even without understanding them.

Besides, his reaction when the two Death Notes land in front of him... No one else could have been so amusing, surely.

***

Matsuda is walking to the nearest bar, trying not to acknowledge the heavy looks he's been getting lately from Mogi and Aizawa. He knows, knows he drinks too much, but it helps drown out the memories and he needs it to smile and behave the way he should, the way people expect of him.

The books land right in front of him, and he doesn't want to pick them up, not really, but he knows what they are and if someone comes along who doesn't...

Part of him expects to find himself face-to-face with Light, with Kira, with his hero/enemy/betrayer(victim).

He almost can't believe it when he sees the shinigami in front of him, stood in his familiar slouch, hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans. The feathers and wings, they're new, but everything else...

"L?" he chokes out.

The shinigami looks at him, and it's so familiar, the unspoken disdain for his slow mind, that he can feel tears welling (ridiculous, really, and he'd never realised how much he'd missed the genius who stood beside Light so well, showing them that they'd underestimated Yagami's son) (yes, he'd shown them, and they'd refused to see it). Instead of speaking, L looks meaningfully at the other book, and Matsuda hurries to snatch it up, because that's clearly what L wants him to do.

"Matsuda Touta," the voice comes from behind him, and he spins around to find that there is another shinigami. The face is hidden but he knows who it is, and the tears finally spill over his cheeks because he hates (missed) this person so much, and here he is, nothing is over, nothing is done with.

"Light?"

L walks around him to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Light, and Matsuda isn't sure if it looks right or incredibly wrong. He notices the rusted and broken chain between them, and has to laugh, because of course that would have stayed after their deaths.

Both of the shinigami are watching him with curiousity, and it almost makes him laugh harder, but he ends up gasping out, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry, please -"

"Please what?" and it's Light who asks, but L is the one who steps forward a pace and cups his cheek, raising his head so that they can both see his expression.

"I'm sorry. Please," and he doesn't even know what he's asking for, not really, he just keeps on repeating the words, because these two are geniuses, surely they can work out what he needs?

"Do you want us to forgive you?" Light continues, and Matsuda can't see his face, can't see if he's smiling, but there's a note in his voice that is pure silken cruelty and he shivers but he nods because that's exactly what he wants, even if he shouldn't, and if Light is cruel he'll take it willingly because he (wants) deserves to be punished and they should both know that, shouldn't they?

"You recognise us." L finally speaks, and again Matsuda nods.

"Well." Light leans forwards slightly, eyes narrowing as if Matsuda is incredibly interesting, and there is the smallest crescent of white as he smiles. "Tell us. Everything."

***

This human is a wonderful choice; he knew them before they became shinigami, and he tells them everything, even if the facts are jumbled and scattered with meaningless emotions. They know now, know who they were, know about themselves and each other.

If their past lives had been things remembered, instead of learned facts, it might have been enough to damage their friendship. As it is, the closest they get to falling out over it is when Kira smirks that his killing Righteous must earn him a point in their informal contest. Righteous stares at him with a deadpan expression, and remarks, "And you promptly became so bored that you allowed yourself to be defeated by a teenager. Highly impressive."

***

They fight (physically), of course - and of course Matsuda tries to stop them. They simply phase through his hold, claws tearing at each other's flesh. Shinigami can't be permanently injured; it's just another way for them to challenge each other, another way that they can't be matched by anyone but each other. Thankfully, it only takes four fights for Matsuda to work this out, and then he gives up on telling them to stop. As if they were misbehaving children.

As if he thought they'd ever obey him.

***

Matsuda never writes a single name in the Notes. He leaves them behind carelessly as he goes out to work, and Righteous and Kira look at each other and each take their own Notes, pens in hand. It's another kind of challenge; can they can time it perfectly (to within 0.06 of a second), or will one of them have their lifespan extended by the years left to Matsuda?

They succeed, of course. Matsuda never learns of their contest, doesn't realise that they almost killed him that day. He doesn't know that he is now immune to any Death Note, that no other shinigami can ruin their fun by cutting short his life and their time in this realm.

They have no reason to tell him.

***

They float behind Matsuda occasionally, invisible witnesses to the humans around him, who comment on how much happier he is (and Righteous asks Kira with bewilderment what he must have done to Matsuda when he was human, to have inspired such an unhealthy level of devotion? Kira has no answer). One of the men goes so far as to say quietly, "It's good to see that he's finally getting over the Kira case." Kira makes a vaguely amusing choking sound at the comment.

Righteous is more interested in the file the man is carrying. It would be a puzzle, the first they have found that they could share instead of providing for each other.

***

Matsuda buys cake for Righteous, and crisps for Kira, and it opens a new line of thought for them both; he only thought they might like those foods because they had back when they were human, and to learn that his so-obvious thought is true raises intriguing questions about how much of what they are now is due to what they were then.

***

Kira gasps and cries out under Righteous, his friend's (...?) arm straight through his torso. If shinigami could feel pain, this would be agonising, but all they can feel is pressure and sensation, and this is purely the feeling of his friend's (...) body inside his own.

They both know what it symbolises to them.

If Matsuda saw them, he'd doubtless mistake it for a more aggressive than usual fight. He'd think that Righteous was torturing Kira, moving his arm so slowly inside his body, and Kira thinks he might be, but he'd be happy if Righteous never stopped.

Red eyes widen as they meet his (...) friend's, and they both realise that this is going to kill them.

(Shinigami are forbidden from falling in love.)

(Their favourite moves have always led over the edge.)

The knowledge only makes it sweeter; what's the point of a game with no stakes?

***

They grow curious about this 'Near', this 'new L'. They start writing more names in their Notes; a carefully designed challenge for this so-great detective.

They want to try a game where they are on the same side against an opponent, a game against a person instead of against the rules.

They don't really expect Near to be a challenge (two against one; well, no shinigami has ever pretended that they play fair) but he is the most likely source of decent competition for them.

Kira is furious at the very thought, and the knowledge that his anger is irrational only makes it worse. Righteous baits him into physical struggles, draining the anger before it becomes dangerous (not to him, never to him, but despite their actions their pet human Matsuda is still so very fragile). Kira lets him, despite knowing exactly what Righteous is doing.

Neither of them understand why Righteous bothers; neither of them care. They trust themselves and each other; it is enough that this is what he chooses to do, and enough that Kira chooses to allow it.

***

Near does suspect Matsuda quickly; maybe because of his past involvement with Kira, maybe because of his recent change of demeanour. Maybe it is simply that he knows how much Matsuda dislikes him.

Whatever the cause, he gathers the SPK and goes to Matsuda's own house, waiting for his arrival with a smug smile playing on his lips. Arrogant, cold as a shinigami, and so very convinced that he is in the right.

Righteous is more than willing to share Kira's hatred of the (child) man. If he ever met Nate River in his human life, it left no impression strong enough to carry over, and the fact that this (boy) person believes that he won against Righteous' best and only real opponent, that he does not even think that Kira was giving way because of the loss of Righteous - it angers him. To have his own abilities so belittled...

Matsuda has no idea that Near is there, waiting for him. He comes through his door with a huge grin, and calls, "Righteous, Kira! I've bought some snacks for you, okay?"

"You even call him righteous?" Near sneers in monotone, making Matsuda jerk to a halt, eyes wide with shock. "And such a very domestic tone to your conversation - it raises questions about how long Kira has been in this world." He does not even bother to move closer, simply tilts his head in a silent order that has his people grabbing Matsuda roughly and frisking him.

Righteous and Kira exchange looks, silently considering their next move. Kira's lips suddenly quirk (though no one but Righteous would realise it) and he raises an unseen eyebrow at Righteous. Righteous smiles back, though Kira is the only one who'd see the change in his expression, and goes to the cabinet their Notes are currently lying in.

The men in the room all know of the existence of shinigami; they understand perfectly the significance of furniture moving by itself, and especially of the books that float out of their holding place (hiding place, Kira and Righteous can see Near thinking, and both are irritated anew by the implication that they would ever allow such a pedestrian attempt at hiding their books to go uncorrected) with the words Death Note written on their covers.

Righteous studies Near for a moment, and then taps him on the head with his Death Note. (The tap might be considered more of a whack; Righteous does not care for the expression on Near's face.) Near is clearly expecting to see Kira, though Righteous does not know if he would recognise him (Matsuda's recognition had been as much guilty wish as truth); Righteous must be a severe surprise to him.

He must be. It's the first time Near loses his smug arrogance.

Matsuda watches them nervously, not thinking to struggle out of the loosening hold upon him. Kira rolls his eyes, but makes himself comfortable against the wall instead of interfering. Righteous manages not to glance at him too obviously.

Kira would have noticed the glance anyway. It's just another strike against Near that he doesn't.

"Who - no -" Near shakes his head slowly, his proud demeanour shattered. It's sweet, and Righteous and Kira both enjoy the sight.

Matsuda just blinks at him, still in the hold of his people (though the men holding him are looking less self-assured with their leader's sudden change), looking innocently puzzled. "That's Righteous."

"You said he was Kira!" Near accuses, and hears for himself the near-hysterical (Near-hysterical) note in his voice. Righteous is close to bursting with the laughter he is holding in, and Kira is shaking slightly where he stands, teeth clearly visible in the shadows.

"No, that's Righteous. Kira's over there," and their hold on Matsuda is loose enough that he can wave in Kira's direction. One of them jumps back, and shouts (shrieks, almost) "There's two of them?"

"Well, yeah." Matsuda gives them all a weird look, (Kira rolls his eyes. "And here I thought Matsuda was supposed to be not the brightest of the force? Even he can work out -") "There's two Notes, you see. That sort of means two shinigami to go with them."

Righteous and Kira exchange amused glances at the slightest hint of pride their pet gives, that Kira gave him such a back-handed compliment which no one else even heard. Whatever Kira did to Matsuda, it has permanently warped him. Or maybe not; maybe it simply laid the foundations, and their reappearance in his life is what has twisted his sense of self to the point that he will happily provide them with food and information, let them insult him and torment him, and seem better pleased with his life than he ever was before their return.

It hardly matters. He is as he is, and he is useful as he is.

Near should be calmer now, should have realised what it means that there are two of them, should be preparing himself by snatching at the other Note to see Kira with his own eyes.

He should be. He isn't.

Did he ever meet Righteous when he was alive, when he was human, when he was L Lawliet and Near was being raised as his successor? Does he recognise the remains of the human in the being stood watching him with disdain and contempt?

He certainly doesn't understand the meaning of the rusted chain around Righteous' wrist. The look he gives it, doubtful and scared, proves that. They watch with interest as he calculates, plotting out causes and reasons, and almost hope -

But, no. His face clears, and it shows that he has found a wrong answer, and wishes to make it true (both of them have been guilty of that, in their human lives, but neither would dream of acknowledging that fact). He finally reaches out for the other Note, and Righteous, feeling petty, holds it just out of his reach as he asks Kira with his eyes whether he should let this child/man, this empty white space that thinks he is superior to them both, see him. Kira gestures, looking bored, and Righteous slaps Near with the Note.

Near's first awareness of Kira is a sharp chuckle, followed by the comment, "Feeling a little irritated, Righteous?" He looks to the voice, and finds that he cannot see the person he expected. The figure before him is in shadow, arrogantly posed as Light Yagami ever was, but impossible to see except for the startling hair.

"Kira," Near snarls, almost blind with rage that his so-wonderful, so-perfect victory has effortlessly been ruined, crushed, destroyed by the person it was won over. "What did you do to L?"

Kira and Righteous both lose their seperate battles to hold their laughter in. Matsuda glances between them and Near, biting his lip, unsure of the joke but almost smiling because they are so very amused.

"Oh, now, you overestimate me if you think me responsible for the creation of another shinigami," Kira finally gasps.

"Especially since it would have been while he himself was still human," Righteous points out, and though the suggestion is amusing it also infuriates them both. The belief that Righteous had been so fine a person that it would take Kira's influence to make him what he now was, that he could never have become this before Kira corrupted him, and never mind the number of times that L had commented on the similarities between them, said outright that he could have become Kira just as easily if he had been the one to find the Note, they didn't count for nearly so much as Near's - what? Hero worship? Devotion to his ideal? Blind faith, being shown by the one person who has done his best to eradicate any sign of illogic in his mind?

Their anger is rising, feeding off each other, and Near sees something of that in their faces and is cautious. (Good. He should be.) He tries to wipe the emotion from his face, stands straighter to lose the defensive hunch of his shoulders, rebuilds his emotionless mask. But it's a flawed performance, half-hearted at best, and doesn't even fool the men who have come here on Near's orders, held Matsuda on Near's orders, are standing waiting for Near's next orders as he is broken down by something (some things) none of them can see.

Kira walks over to stand beside Righteous, where he belongs (they have only ever belonged beside each other), unthinkingly lacing his fingers with Righteous' own. Near's eyes widen at the gesture, realisation and understanding, and it is with the voice of a child who has just been betrayed that he says, "You're lovers!"

The humans in the room have decided that he has gone mad. They don't see the glee in the ruby and obsidian eyes, don't hear the retort, "Petty fool. Shinigami cannot love. You really know nothing, do you?" or see the stances that put the lie to the words. L is gone, and Righteous and Kira are lovers, and everything that Near has ever worked for is revealed to be empty, worthless, cast aside garbage.

Near sees all this, sees how his reaction to it destroys his authority and the mystique that gave him such power, and is helpless to prevent the loss of everything he has.

Even Near is human, however much he denies that truth.

***

Kira's wings stretch wide as he pretends to yawn, eyeing his lover (they have never been as careful hiding it as they should; eternity would be a bore to both of them, even eternity together) speculatively. "Did you expect that end to our game?"

"Not really," Righteous admits with a pout. Near's mental disintegration had been a vicious delight for Kira, but Righteous had no personal reasons to care for it, and all it meant to him was that their game had ended with their opponent (their only chance at a worthy opponent) proving himself so very unsuited to his role.

(Trapped in a safehouse from which he will never be allowed to escape, Near struggles to explain, refusing to admit that no one will listen to him. "They're lovers! He killed him and they're lovers! It's forbidden!"

Something hears -

Understands -

Acts -)

(The world vanishes around them, and they know that they have been too careless, and the punishment for their breaking of the rules is/was/will always be nonexistance)