Disclaimer: Death Note isn't mine.

Rating: PG (mild language)

Summary: Secret Santa among nemeses is worth a shot of eggnog. L plots in the name of commercialized Western holidays, Light schemes in the name of Justice. LxLight.


Mistletoe Vendetta

"Does everyone have their slip of paper?"

Ryuuzaki's voice was as impassive and commanding as ever, rumbling through the air in the way that calmly advised everyone to do exactly what he said or else lethal spores of anthrax would find their way into everyone's winter jackets. The sound of saliva gulping and sweat dropping from the investigation team rang loudly around the coffee table, right before five heads bobbed a vigorous affirmation. Light alone raised an inquisitive eyebrow at what was written on the scrap note he had drawn from a bowl in his hand, but when the lead detective gave him a sharp look, he shrugged and nodded carelessly.

"Alright then, good." Ryuuzaki's hands lifted from their resting spot on his knees and he leaned forward from his partridge-perched position on the chair toward the coffee table. Throughout the meeting, he had been eating cheap, plastic-wrapped candy, which were laying in a ceramic dish in front of him. Right next to the ceramic dish was another, identical right down to the red and green striped color, where the enigmatic man tossed the empty candy wrappers. This second bowl he suddenly shoved forward, and it slid across the coffee table to the middle.

"Ryuuzaki, what's going-" a distraught Matsuda began.

The detective didn't grace the young cop's concerns with listening ears. "You are all to memorize the data on your own respective papers. You are not to share this information with anyone outside of the headquarters, in fact, you are not allowed to share this information with anyone whatsoever. Commit what is written to memory and tell no one, not even a team member. I can not stress this enough. Do we understand?"

"Y-yes," came the symphony of uncertain approval from the surrounding couches.

"Very good. Then, if you please, Watari...?"

The old man, who had been standing stoically behind them all, suddenly produced a small box from his suit coat. It was a box of matches, Light recognized, and Watari retrieved a matchstick and grated it down the side until the tip produced a flame. The match was tossed into L's wrapper-disposal bowl, and the smoke of burning plastic elevated above the small fire.

"Ryuuzaki!" Soichiro Yagami chided, still pretending to be shocked at everything weird this man did. "You can't start fires in a hotel! The smoke detector will sound!"

"Don't worry, I've disabled them," L reassured nonchalantly, nibbling on this thumbnail. "I always do that, where ever I go."

"That's illegal, Ryuuzaki," Light cut in, pulling the I'm-righteous-and-offended-and-mildly-worried-about-you act. "And it's really dangerous, too! What if there really was a fire?"

But inwardly he was thinking something more like, that smoke detector thing would really be something to commit to memory, if he ever ran out of good ideas on how to kill his nemesis. Suppose he found out the name of someone else staying at this location, wrote the cause of death as spontaneous combustion and made the entire hotel burn down from the flames, with an oblivious detective inside... Of course, just like revealing himself as L, it was probably another defensive-indirectly-offensive move. if the hotel spontaneously started on fire, the death could be pinned to a Kira who knew that L did such a peculiar thing, which narrowed it down to the task force, which narrowed it down to the only suspect among them, Light Yagami. Come to think of it, there was also the chance that L didn't actually disable smoke alarms and relied simply on the current fire being small enough to avoid detection, so he could salvage his own life while simultaneously convicting Light.

Touché. Asshole.

"Gentleman, take a final look at your paper, and then please crumple them and toss them into the fire."

Well, the 'confidential data' on his paper wasn't exactly hard to forget. It was one stupid letter. Light chucked his in and watched it turn to ashes. (That was probably as close as he would get to seeing L burn. Sigh.)

"So, Ryuuzaki, let me guess," he started, breaking the awkward silence that was undoubtedly due to the fact that everyone was wondering if pyromania was among the vast claims that L had under his belt. "As part of the investigation, you want us all to secretly observe the person whose name we drew. We all wrote our names, so each member here will have a different one."

"Incorrect, Yagami-kun," the detective responded, his cool eyes probing Light's face. After a short pause (probably to heighten the suspense and no other reason), he continued. "Actually, this is team bonding experience. I would like us all to feel close and comfortable around each other so think of this as a recreational activity."

Blink, blink. What's that, L? The apocalypse, you say? Good, because for a moment there it felt as though you were suggesting-

"Gentlemen, you will buy an undisclosed present for the person whose name you have received. This gift, of your personal choice, will also be kept private. We will all exchange gifts at exactly 2300 hours on the twenty-fourth."

"The twenty-fourth?" Soichiro asked, brows furrowing. "Isn't that-"

"Christmas Eve!" Matsuda cheered, face lit up like a dull holiday tree bulb. "Wow, we're going to celebrate Christmas?"

"The game is called 'Secret Santa'," L explained. "You all have ten days. Good luck."

/-/-/-/

Really, L. This was almost an insult.

Light was far too brilliant to fall for this lame trap. L was very straightforward for a cipher, once one understood his thought process - essentially, to sum up the nonsensical equation, all he really wanted for Christmas was Kira, neatly tied with ribbons, bows and handcuffs. Personal relations meant next to nothing to him, and the relationships of everyone else on the task force was, if possible, on an even lower tier. This little holiday game, like everything else, was a method of uncovering some kind of evidence. It was far from under L to expect Kira to give himself away somehow in the presents he chose to give.

As if Light would be stupid enough to give L a grenade or something. Durr.

Obviously, L didn't actually trust anyone, but it was also obvious that his suspicions had risen almost exclusively in Light Yagami. What Light could not figure out was how the wily detective managed to ensure that Light was the one who drew his name, and thus would be the unfortunate soul to have to select his present. Every person on the team had written their name on a paper - his father, Ukita, Aizawa, Matsuda, Mogi, L and himself. They had all put their names in the bowl and the pile had been mixed so that the name selection would be totally random. That made it a one in seven chance that he would draw Ryuuzaki's name. This definitely was not coincidence - the detective had somehow managed to set this up. Had it been some flick of the hand? Some cheap magic trick?

Or...

Well, now, Ryuuzaki, that was quite presumptuous.

If the bastard was going to have fun, Light didn't see why he couldn't take a share of the cake, too. Justice would be served - all in the name of obesity-inducing eggnog, fat men clad in red encouraging materialism among youngsters (clearly suffering from delusion or possibly pedophilia), flying red-nosed reindeer that were the result of genetic engineering or heavy incestual inbreeding, and everything else that Light was aware of that made up the Christmas spirit.

/-/-/-/

The next time that Light came to L's hotel for the tri-weekly meeting that he was invited to, he was surprised to see that L had erected an American pine tree. It was decorated with tinsel, a string of blue lights, silver glass balls and a plethora of candy canes. Furthermore, there were boughs of holly strung up everywhere, as well as candles and other expensive decorations that made Light wonder how the bloody hell L had smuggled all of this rubbish inside when he was pretty sure the Japanese hotel had strict regulations on exotic plants.

Apparently, L had a taste for Western holidays. This was a useful tidbit of knowledge when it came to uncovering his enemy's true identity. Hadn't the enigma once mentioned that he had spent time in England? Unless that was what L wanted him to think, since this was just... too obvious, in which case would such assumptions ultimately become detrimental to his own safety? Rash moves would definitely have to be avoided.

(But what he was about to do would be too much fun to classify as an aforementioned 'rash move'.)

After the meeting, Light prowled behind Matsuda as the team split to leave the room separate ways, for security. Usually, Light would go with his father, but he made a point of latching on to the youngest cop - the easiest victim.

"Light-kun," Matsuda immediately initiated conversation as they rode down the elevator. "I'm so worried about this 'Secret Santa' thing. I bet it's how L is going to give us our annual reviews! If I get a bad present, then I might get a pay cut, and I'm still paying off college loans! What will I do, Light-kun?"

"Right, well, since I'm only volunteering I guess I don't have to worry about that," Light answered, rolling his eyes. "Listen. Have you bought your present yet?"

"No... I have no idea what to get," the man said miserably. "I don't know anything about what he wants that he doesn't already have a whole lot of. Did L even mention a price range..?"

"Matsuda-san..." Time to go in for the kill. "I'm wondering if we could trade names. I drew my father, you see, but I'm already getting him something at home. L wanted to keep this thing secret but I'm sure my dad would know instantly if I brought him a second present, since I'm terrible at lying."

"Really? I mean, we can trade? I can have the Chief?" Matsuda's eyes lit up. "Great! You can have mine then! I drew L - good luck!"

/-/-/-/

"Light-kun, are you familiar with Santa Clause?" L asked, five days before Christmas Eve.

"Oh, sure," Light answered with a shrug. "But we don't really make a big deal out of that. Christmas isn't even a national holiday here in Japan."

L continued, not showing any sign of whether or not he was listening to his younger mortal enemy. "I'm wondering if Kira thinks of himself as a modern day Santa Clause."

"..Huh?"

"Santa Clause is a concept of judgment. His own holiday judicial system. He rewards those who are pure of heart by bringing them the presents they desire, but contrarily, for those who are wicked, he sends them a lump of coal in punishment."

"Okay. Isn't that only for children though?"

"Curious, isn't it? Santa Clause, the proclaimed saint, judges children. This is how he views the world - everyone to him are simply immature specimens of humanity, and because they are metaphorically younger than he, he is the figure of wisdom that stands on a pedestal above all else."

"Kira doesn't kill children."

"No, because adults are as children to he. Kira is the guardian of the world, correct? A parental figure that doles out justice via sleigh and flying reindeer. If adults are a step above children, then gods are above all humans, and this is the role that Kira claims."

"Um... so you think the killings will increase over the holiday season?"

"But in the end, Santa Clause is a story made up for children." L licked a candy cane thoughtfully. "A matured adult would never fancy himself as such an childish figure who can writes out a naughty list in his book of judgment and punishes them with coal thereafter."

Shit! Write out...? Book of judgment...?! Did L know about the Death Note?

"Therefore, Christmas reminds me that Kira is, in fact, a mere child. Probably no more than an adolescent, when we examine his immaturity." L's obsidian eyes traveled pointedly toward Light's face, as if he were quite hinting at something.

Jerk. The adolescent in question glowered, holding back a huff of annoyance. "You know, to compare Kira's vigilante justice to some commercialized Western excuse to spend money is also kind of immature. Besides, if you use that analogy, since you want to eliminate this alleged Santa Clause, doesn't that make you kind of like the Grinch or something?"

Haha. Zing, right? L gnawed at his candy in what Light interpreted as overwhelmed defeat.

/-/-/-/

"Hey, Ukita-san. You know Aizawa-san a lot better than I do, would you like to trade names?"

"Aizawa-san, please for the love of God switch with me, I don't want Matsuda."

"Dad, Mogi-san thinks you hate him. Maybe you should get him a present instead of me..."

"Mogi-san, I lost my phone number, can I have yours?" Man, it was almost like cheesy pick-up lines. But the difference between Light Yagami and the rest of the world was that he could say could say about anything and the victims would fawningly submit and agree. Like he had told Ryuk once, it was all about the good looks, which he had in excess.

(That and his dexterous hands. Beside the point.)

If every cop acted according to plan, and really they had no reason to deviate, then all of the cops' names would successfully be scrambled among each other. If L hadn't cheated and handed everyone his own name, then L would have Light's name and Light would have his.

/-/-/-/

Light might have felt a little guilty for screwing the asocial twit out of a multitude of presents, except... well, he didn't. L started it, he was just going to have to reap what he sowed. The night arrived - Christmas Eve, and the task force poured into the decorated hotel room where L was sitting around plates of gingerbread and sugar cookies, enjoying himself quite thoroughly. Bastard was expecting everyone to drop their offerings at his unwashed toes, and Light choked back a smirk as the detective lazily announced, "Everyone, set your presents on the table."

Ha. Ha, hahaha.

"Hey! Wow, I got a present!" Matsuda rejoiced like an idiot, but it was more than appreciated because L's eyes bugged out like saucers. "Wow, can we open them?"

"Hold on..." L said, sitting up a little, finger trailing out of his mouth in surprise.

"Wow! Who had my name? A Final Fantasy XI expansion pack! How did you know?!"

"You posted your wish list on the bulletin board down at the station, you dolt," Aizawa answered, but while smiling the kind of Christmasy smile that illuminated with such goodwill that L looked like his dark soul was spasming a bit.

Light knew that technically he wouldn't get a present since L had cheated, but this was more than gift enough from L. The detective's jaw dropped as he stared, unable to even finish chewing his gingerbread as the cops all unwrapped their presents, chatting cheerfully and joking around, completely ignoring their employer.

Twenty minutes later, Soichiro said, "Thank you for this, Ryuuzaki. You were right, this was a great experience. Anyway, since there weren't any victim's today-"

Ha. Take that, L - Santa wannabe, Kira's ass.

"-we'd best get home to our families for tonight."

"Yes," L deadpanned.

Soichiro smiled again, bowing his head, and the crowd began to clear out. "Come on, Light, let's get going."

Before Light could make a run for it, the detective cleared his throat. "Light-kun will be along momentarily. He and I have something to discuss pertaining to the case, in private."

The word was stressed, not only hinting at everyone else to get the fuck out, but also a stab at Light, who had, quite evidently, not kept private about the Secret Santa business.

Light sunk down into his chair, chuckling nervously as the cops left. Then he thought, what the hell, he didn't do anything wrong anyway. In fact, he spread more Christmas cheer and actually enabled the team bonding experience that Ryuuzaki's claimed to value. Again, Kira was totally justified, even if it was at the expense of someone else - it was someone, again, who deserved it.

"What's up, Ryuuzaki?" Light asked with a sugar cookie-sweet smile when everyone was gone.

"I would like you to deduce that one for yourself."

The teenager coughed, and then stood up. "Oh, you're right. I didn't have money to buy a present, considering college expenses but..." The ultimate barb, he pulled a slab of coal out of his pocket, wrapped only in thin tissue, and tossed it in L's direction.

L caught it easily, but didn't bother to open it. He looked positively murderous.

"It's coal, but don't go jumping to silly conclusions - coal is an endangered natural resource and is worth quite a bit, price rising. In fifty years this could be the last of its kind, if you think about its level of human consumption. Maybe it'll even be a diamond one day, if you live long enough."

Which you won't. No, really, the process takes hundreds of years, that was definitely not a Kira's-going-to-eliminate-you threat in disguise, no way.

L said nothing.

Light laughed benevolently. "Okay, well, I thought it was funny. Besides, clearly that rock is more than you got me, and didn't you have my name?"

"Yagami-kun has no respect for commercialized Western holidays," L said, but he actually sounded angry. Standing in the darkness of the room, illuminated only by the blue bulbs of the Christmas tree and glow of the monitors, he looked like some vengeful holiday demon, the ghost who haunts Scrooge.

The mass-murdering teenager held up his hands to demonstrate a total lack of ill-will. "Come on, I was just playing around."

"No, you were expressing dissatisfaction in the current world. It's so corrupt in your eyes that you cannot take even the most sacred things seriously. Isn't that so?"

Light stared, a vein in his forehead twitching. "No, I actually was just playing around. Honestly, don't you think it's selfish to demand all the gifts for yourself? That doesn't seem like very good Christmas spirit to me."

"It doesn't matter what you think, this is my investigation and the rules are also mine."

The calm, icicle tone made the adolescent worry that maybe he did actually cross the line and the disheveled man was turning feral and about to lunge at his throat or something. "Geez, are you really mad? If you wanted a Christmas present so badly, I'll get you one. It's only Christmas Eve today anyway, so I'll bring it tomorrow. Isn't that acceptable to the Western laws of holiday mercantilism?"

"I want it now." Every word was delicately emphasized, and L took a silent step forward.

Well, Light didn't have any means to appease the petulant brat, his dear mortal enemy, now, so he shrugged and said, "Unless you want my jacket, I don't have anything for you. Tomorrow." A pause, when L gave him a curious look, and then Light added, "Not really though, it's snowing and I need my jacket."

L turned, backing up until he was in the door frame that was the only exit. He considered Light in a pair abyssal-dark eyes, and then concluded, "You will have to learn to be more respectful about foreign holiday traditions."

"Yeah, okay," Light gave in at the reprimand. He really did not appreciate this socially inept jackass treating him like a kid when the gangly detective probably wasn't all that much older himself, but there wasn't a snowman's chance in hell that L was going to apologize. Anyway, he was annoyed enough and it was long since time to go home, so he marched forward, undaunted. L was standing in front of the hallway still, showing no sign that he had intentions of moving.

Light was about to glare and, in the snottiest voice he could conjure, inquire if L was going to move or be moved, when he decided he did not give a reindeer's ass. He raised an arm to shove the cretin away, Merry Christmas, Ryuuzaki, and take his dramatic leave. His foot stepped into the line of the door frame to L's left, his elbow making contact with L's arm-

-only to suddenly be grabbed by the shoulders and slammed against the side of the frame. Surprised, Light thought briefly that L must be really mad and it looked as though they were actually going to be fist-fighting over Secret Santa - at least that's what he thought for the half-second he was allowed before L's lips slammed against his own.

And Ryuuzaki was kissing him.

"...Mmmf?!"

He was fully aware of how classy the muffled cry of distress sounded, somewhat unbefitting of the new god of this rotten world. But what he was not fully aware of was why L's tongue was in his mouth and surely, surely even the Westerners did not encourage their candy-cane chomping children to go around and-

Ooh, boy, there was Ryuuzaki's tongue.

Light felt his cheeks flush as he finally got his whirring brain under control, and decided he was too righteous to stand here and accept this most undeserved punishment. His hands flew up under the bony arms of the detective that pressured his shoulders into the door frame. Light was confident in his own strength against this lanky, undernourished person, and he used his hands to grab L's face and try to push him away. But L was full of Christmas surprises, and did something that shouldn't have been possible considering his famine-victim BMI - he used one hand to grab both of Light's wrists in one swoop and pin them over his head against the wall.

"Nngh...!"

Okay, he really needed to stop making these befuddled noises as he was kissed, L was probably gloating, thinking that this was his first one. Bah! Well if his sworn enemy was so insistent upon this, fine, Light was, humbly admitted, a fantastic kisser, and he had already accepted L's challenges a number of times. So whatever, Light would again annihilate him with sheer Kira awesome until the detective begged for mercy.

But as he was preparing to meet tongue with tongue, L pulled out, smirking right in Light's face. "I think not, Light-kun. Now go home and repent, please - you do not have long until Santa comes."

That being said, the detective released a flabbergast Light, jammed his hands in his pockets and slouched as he abruptly strode back toward his computer, leaving the flabbergast youth behind.

After a moment, Light slowly lowered his hands and frowned. Something had been overlooked - Light had not done his research, he did not know the rules. L had taken advantage of that somehow, what could it have been?

That's when his eyes caught sight of something hanging from overhead in the door frame. A woody stem, smooth leaves, a dense cluster of berries, the plant wrapped together with cord and crudely duct taped to the ceiling... Light's genius brain flew through possible explanations as to why such a specimen of vegetation was inside the hotel, let alone is such a precarious place. Was this foliage poisonous? Did the shrubbery release toxic truth-serum fumes that Light had been inhaling for the passed hour, and was L waiting for a chance to jump at interrogation? But then why did L simply walk away and let him go? Was it some kind of aphrodisiac? Was Light simply immune?

Was it... was it witchcraft? A curse? Some kind of ancient Christmas voodoo?

Since Light noticed it, L probably anticipated it. He would have known that Light would react with paranoia, and was definitely expecting Light to run after him. Beg him to uplift the curse, he would do anything, sacrifice a dog or some criminals or - oh God, L was watching him out of the corner of his eye, L was waiting to see if he would physically react, because surely that would mean that he was Kira, and...

Whatever. Screw it, he was just going home. To hell with this Christmas nonsense.

Without letting a muscle twitch in his perfectly controlled face, Light said, "Are there any other Western holiday traditions that I should study up on before I come to the investigation?"

L turned his way and he smirked, everything but his thin mouth completely blank and unreadable. "Light-kun will be here on New Year's?"

"Uh... I can be."

"Good."

No further explanation was offered. Utterly humiliated now, and refusing to be outdone again, Light frantically hurried home to consult Wikipedia and plot (more) schemes of revenge and destruction. Perhaps this was, in essence, the Christmas spirit in its purest form.

-fin


Author's Notes:

1. This doesn't fit in the timeline, which is why until a few days ago I never planned on writing a Christmas fic. Light doesn't meet L until he starts college in the spring, and L dies that autumn so, yeah. Not my favorite fic but hey, at least I got my favorite boys snogging.

2. Merry Chrismahanakwanzika! Blessed Yule! Happy... Festivus? And so on and so forth. Maybe this is why we should all say "happy holdiay(s)" instead. Anyway, yep. That. To all of you. And a superb new year! (and now I must cut this short because I think my krumkake is burning... fanfiction + cooking bad idea.)

Thanks for reading!