Shit. Shit shit shit.
Light stood by the coffee table, his shoulders stiff and his knees weak. The aspirin should kick in soon, only...
...his body wasn't the problem.
The afternoon sun was quickly fading into evening, streaming through the windows of the shared apartment, filling the room with a soft glow. It was everywhere, warming the carpet, illuminating the back wall, shining off of the glass topped table.
But Light did not see these things.
All he knew was that the light fell on L.
They had been awake for 48 hours.
At least, L had been awake. Files and papers lay scattered in front of him, lightly dusted with a fresh layer of cookie crumbs. His eyes never moved from the glowing computer screens in front of him. Hell, they hardly even blinked.
For the tenth time that morning, Light jerked his head up after catching it falling forward. He was tired. He was exhausted. His brain seemed filled with cotton, and his head was heavy. So, so heavy...
He roughly rubbed his eyes. Dry again, probably red. He shifted and reached into his pocket.
Since being handcuffed to L, Light found himself carrying the strangest things in his pockets. Saline solution for his eyes, for instance. Aspirin. It seemed to help when his shoulders got stiff. He had even begun carrying cinnamon gum. Light had always found the practice of chewing gum revolting; it gave off the impression of a bumpkin farmer or gawky teenager. Yet even worse was the taste that fermented in his mouth during the long days at headquarters, and he decided that gum was the lesser of two evils.
Light gently tugged at his eyelid and precisely applied three drops of saline on each cornea. He blinked.
Better. Sort of.
"You're tired, Light" said the quiet voice beside him.
Light laughed weakly. "Sorry for letting it show. I promise to be more alert next time."
L bit his thumb, eyes still fixed on the monitor.
"Watari," he said suddenly. "Coffee, if you don't mind."
A silent figure in the background nodded and slipped away.
"I'm surprised," said Light. "Don't tell me that the hours are getting to you too, Ryuzaki..."
"Of course not. The coffee's for you."
"Oh. I see. Thanks."
Light's brain was beginning to give up on words. For just a moment, he wondered dreamily if consciousness could actually drip out of your ears. How exactly would that work...
Light's eyes jerked open in response to the clink of a spoon. He didn't even know they had closed.
A bowl of sugar cubes sat by L's hand. He delicately pinched one between his long thumb and forefinger and raised the cube to eye level. He scrutinized it for several seconds. Finally, his bizarre criteria seemingly satisfied, he added the sugar to the coffee and stirred it in gentle circles.
He repeated this odd procedure a few times before placing the very tip of his finger on the surface of the coffee. He brought it to his mouth and tasted it with one darting flick of his tongue. He sighed in satisfaction.
Light realized that his mouth was open. He closed it and cleared his throat.
"Er, Ryuzaki? Didn't you say I could have a cup of coffee as well?"
"Of course. This is yours."
Light blinked. He had only ever taken his coffee black. "Oh, I -"
"Consider this the Ryuzaki special. I put a bit of milk in there too." He slid the cup to him.
Slowly, Light clutched the cup in his hand and peered suspiciously into its depths. "I don't think..."
"I'll think for you. Drink up."
Light wrinkled his nose. "Ok..."
He cautiously put the cup to his lips and tipped back the tiniest sip. It was mistake.
"Jesus Christ, L!" he shouted, spitting out the syrupy liquid. "What the hell did you put in here?"
L turned to him in confusion.
"Just milk and sugar - it's exactly what I've been drinking. What's the problem?"
"This is obscene! You might as well inject glucose straight into the bloodstream - "
"It would lack the essential element of caffeine. Anyway, I don't think you should judge. I'm not the one falling asleep in my chair. Bottoms up, Light."
Light stared at the cup in horror, but he couldn't escape L's expectant gaze. With a deep, determined inhale, Light closed his eyes and chugged it.
L politely ignored the sputtering coughs that followed.
Light was pouting. He hated when L was right.
He was once more alert and ready for action. Yes, his hands jittered a bit, and his mind still fuzzed with static, but after that coffee concoction, he could once more function like a human being.
What a jerk.
He shuffled some papers, pretending to read over a list of expert psychiatrists, but in reality thinking about the detective next to him.
He wondered how L had picked up his grotesque health habits. Yes, beyond all scientific reason, they aided L in his work, boosting the clarity of his mind to godlike levels. But L was not a god (obviously, because gods promote their health and fitness in order to ensure longevity and thus prolong the extent of their power over mankind. Duh). There would be a toll to pay, and L's body would pay it. He would shine like the brightest torch, and just as quickly burn out.
Light chewed thoughtfully on the end of a pencil. Perhaps Kira's next move should be the most obvious one. Stall the Kira case until L, expending the last of his energy, died from the neglect of his own body. It would be the simplest way, the cleanest, and impossible to trace...
But Light frowned.
It wouldn't be any fun.
Yes, Kira would win, but not from superiority. He would be beaten by cake.
Light's ruling passion was to win, and it came to him naturally. But it wasn't winning, per se, that gave him the irresistible high which he craved so powerfully. It was knowing that he was better. Knowing that he held the power, that he was the one in control...
He recalled a chess match that he had participated in as a young boy. He was nearing the kill...he was two moves away from a checkmate. He could barely contain his smile, anticipating his triumph with a rush of glee - but then the other boy's mother had called. His grandparents were coming for dinner, and could he fetch some extra groceries? Oh! No problem, mom. See you later Light...I guess you win this one!
He had stared at the board. He had won by default. His brilliant positioning squashed by chance, never to be revealed...
Light sat calmly until his opponent had left the room. Then, in one vicious move, he swept the board from the table. The wooden board shattered, the pieces flew across the room and hit the walls before rolling to a stop on the floor. He then stood, calm and cool once more, and picked up the chess pieces one by one. He didn't even notice horrified stares of the other chess students and their teachers.
His jaw clenched, and his fingernails dug into his palms.
No! Winning by default is the ultimate defeat.
He suddenly became aware that L was staring at him.
"Okay there, Light?"
There was a sharp sensation in his mouth, and Light realized that he had bitten off the end of his pencil.
"Oh," he said quietly, as he lifted a napkin to his lips and removed the splintered end.
"Sorry L! That was silly of me...I guess the coffee just made me a little jittery...heh! I'll try not to let that happen again."
L still stared, and Light felt himself growing hot.
"If you say so, Light. Here, these pocky sticks are a great pencil substitute."
Light took the package with a grumble and a blush.
Another hour had passed. Another hour of poorly stifled yawns and groans from the task force. Another hour of L scrolling through prison locations, news casting timetables, and god knew what else.
Another hour of Light thinking about L.
What is it about him? Why is he so fascinating?
Light tapped his chin. It was true that L was a genius, and a particularly impressive one. But then, so was Light himself. Why should he be interested? Perhaps it was the fun: the battle of wits, the chess match...surely it was just the excitement of their little game?
Light gave his companion a fleeting look.
There was nothing there that should have evoked an appreciative glance. L's skin was so pale...even translucent in some places. There was the soft patch under his wrist, and the barest tips of his ears...but the ears were largely hidden under that scruffy black hair of his. It sometimes took all of Light's restraint not to leap from his seat and brush it out with his own fingers. Then there were L's eyes - wide and unblinking, giving nothing away...Light often tried to read them, but without success. And of course the heavy shadows that fell under his eyes. They made him look like a newborn owl. Ha! That was it exactly! A bony, baby owl. It all fit...the protective crouch, the curled toes...mmm. Perfect...
L had perfected his technique. He could gaze straight ahead, seemingly absorbed in the task in front of him. But a momentary shift in his peripheral vision could reveal Light by his side.
Light. What an oddity he was next to the ordinary, slightly rumpled men around him. Light was so...how to put it...decorative.
Appearance had never been something that occurred to L, so he took particular interest in Light's value of it. Light always looked elegant. His hair was smooth and shiny, his hands and nails meticulously cared for. Then there was his clothing: always a crisp collared shirt, usually paired with a tie. One of those fancy silk numbers. He even knew how to tie it.
Today it was a black shirt. There was no tie, so the first two buttons had been left open. It made a nice change. But these days Light only ever saw the other task force members, and of course himself. Who on earth could Light be dressing for so carefully?
Light's regimen of personal care was also a source of interest, and one of the perks of wearing handcuffs was that L could study it up close.
"What is it, Ryuzaki?"
L was showering. Light sat petulantly on the toilet lid, staring at the wall. L had once suggested that he bring a book of sudoku puzzles to occupy himself, but the steam made the pages wilt.
"Can I use your shampoo?"
"I didn't realize it was time for the monthly wash - wait. Did you say my shampoo?"
"I can't find mine."
"What do you mean you can't find - oh."
"I...put it in the cabinet. I didn't know you were still using it."
"You know I have some standards, Light. So can I use some of yours or not?"
"Ok, let me see. Here's coconut...mountain mist...ooh! Apricot guava, please."
"Are you kidding? That's the most expensive shampoo I-"
"I know, but I like it. It's nice on you. And the scent reminds me of something..."
"Apricots and guava, maybe?" said Light, unable to suppress the scorn in his voice.
"No...what is it? Ah - marmalade."
"Yes. I used to have it for breakfast on toast. That was before I discovered donuts."
Light kneaded his forehead with his knuckles.
"Go ahead, Ryuzaki," he sighed. "Whatever makes you happy."
"Does that mean I can use this lavender facial scrub too?"
Yes, studying the life and habits of one Light Yagami made for an absorbing project. It could, perhaps, be applied to the Kira case, but even if it couldn't, it was still a pleasant undertaking for it's own sake. It was a true puzzle. There was something there that he couldn't quite put his finger on, some inexplicable quality beyond the clothes, the careful bathing, or the well proportioned body. What could it be...
Sitting next to Light, being beside him every hour of the day, made L acutely aware of his own physical shortcomings. The prominent knuckles of his hands, the bony projections of his hips. Well, it was too late to change. He wasn't born to be an Adonis. But even if he wanted to copy Light's clothing or habits, there was still that mysterious trait that couldn't be replicated.
It was, perhaps, grace. There was a natural flow to every action Light performed. The way he held a pencil, a paper, a coffee cup - who knew that these mundane tasks could evoke such admiration, even pleasure?
He was 21.3% certain that Light may have practiced these graceful hand gestures in the past.
But he was 78.7% certain that Light was simply born lovely.
The task force was dropping fast. There were a few scattered pleas for release, but L didn't seem to notice. Eventually the Soichiro Yagami discreetly discussed the matter with Watari, who brought it to L's attention.
"Oh. You guys are tired? Already?"
He was met with blank, dead stares. Matsuda had already started snoring.
"Alright. Go home, fellows. Rest up and be ready tomorrow morning. "
There were vaguely murmured thanks, interrupted by poorly stifled yawns.
"Goodnight, Light," said the senior Yagami. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"You too, Father. Give my love to Mother and Sayu."
Soichiro Yagami could only raise his hand in acknowledgement as he stumbled toward the door.
L turned to Light.
"Do you want to stop, too? You look fine to me."
Light popped an aspirin.
"I don't think I could sleep after that...er...coffee you gave me. But what about you, Ryuzaki? You've probably had the least sleep of any of us."
"Does that matter?"
"Of course it does! You - you really should take better care of yourself."
L stared thoughtfully, his thumb resting on his lip. Eventually, he stood.
"If you think so, Light, then I'll agree. I suppose we could both use a break."
He stretched his long limbs, probably for the first time in hours. Light was always surprised to see how tall he really was. It was remarkable.
They entered the lift, and Light leaned back against the faux wood-grain wall. He stared at the fluorescents overhead, hoping for a sudden brain wave of some sort...
But then he looked at L. The little baby owl. He was, perhaps, slightly more hunched that usual, the eyes a bit more dark. He even allowed a yawn to slip out of his pale mouth.
L...you're turning into a wraith. I can't win if you lose...
He was surprised at the feel of cotton under his fingertips.
Light stared at his hand, which had somehow reached out to touch L's upper arm. His soft sleeve was a strange contrast to the wiry muscle underneath.
L blinked. "Light?"
"I - ah - sorry, Ryuzaki. I was just thinking about how tired you must be. Look, why don't you take a nap? You can lie on the sofa. I'll be happy to read in the chair next to you. I'm sure there's enough chain length for us to be comfortable."
For just a moment, a touch of pink showed on L's face.
"Thanks Light. I'll take you up on that offer."
They entered their apartment. L stared at the sofa, then threw himself face down onto a pillow and was asleep in seconds.
Light allowed himself a smile and picked a magazine from the table.
But when he heard the soft sigh, it dropped to the floor.
L had turned onto his side, his shirt riding up a bit in the process. A small strip of pale skin came into view. Nothing that anyone would really have noticed.
But then, Light was not anyone. His hands clenched, and he sucked in a deep breath. Suddenly all that he could see was the slim, sinewy figure before him, rich and glowing in the golden light.