A/N – I wrote this chapter weeks ago, but I hated it. I was trawling for new music after finally sending it to recipe, but then I found Martin Harp's "I've Wasted (Bullet of Reason remix)." Envisioning the lyrics as a conversation between Light and L made me want to finish edits and post.
If there was sunlight outside, Light could not see it.
All he saw were bloody stars exploding behind his eyelids from scrunching them shut. He pressed his face into his right shoulder, hiding from his torn left arm. He did not have to see in order to know what the doctor and nurse were doing behind the screen that they had swung into place. He could feel the pressure of swabs and hear the words they used. The gruesome mental picture nauseated him.
It was far too late to save his dignity. The gown over his shoulder was sticky with snot and tears. To make matters worse, every other breath was something between a hiccup and a sob, and he could not make the noises stop. Those damn antidepressants they were force-feeding him made him weak and transparent. He had such a hard time keeping anything to himself now.
This was the first time he had been lucid while someone cleaned his wounds. The local anesthetic was worthless; his arms burned like they were on fire. The scent of rank blood soured with antiseptic and old sweat combined with the faint pressure of the stitches holding his arm together made him ill. The doctor's talk of infection and future surgeries did not help.
They thought there might be nerve damage, and they debated fixing it. It was so frustratingly stupid that Light wanted to tear his hair out by the roots. Why would he want their help?
He would use those newly-fixed hands to hold a gun to his head. He could not, would not do knives again.
He had passed out hoping to die, but he had woken up in hell. Trapped in a body that he had deliberately mutilated, his humiliation was on display for any nurse doing their rounds, for any guard assigned to watch him day and night. The lights were always on, and anyone in the ICU could see him with only a flimsy curtain to block the door. His shame was public and unbearable.
The less said about the counselors that harassed him twice daily, the better. He could not tell them the truth. If he had half a chance, he would do it again just to get away from this hellhole, let alone the shambles he had made of the rest of his life. What the hell was he supposed to do after this?
Even worse, others surely knew where he was. He was unsure how he had gotten here, but Wammy House had to know. Someone would be forced to fetch him eventually. He hoped it would be Wammy. If he saw L… he did not know what he would do.
Actually, he did. He'd kill himself with his plastic fork, if he could use his hands. Put a hole in his jugular and windpipe this time, just to make sure. Maybe bite through his tongue for good measure.
The last people he wanted to see were his family. What would they think of him?
Then his arm was being rewrapped, jolting him out of his daze. The nurse was asking him something, but he could not focus. His saliva had gone sour, and his face grew hot and tingly. Not again…
They barely got a bed pan in front of him before he started throwing up. It was the slow creep of something warm down his neck from the broken stitches that finally knocked him back out.
After the brief service, most of the attendees had drifted back to their cars before Roger approached Matt and the others, who were lingering on the periphery. Despite the breeze, it was still sunny and warm, like a herald of summer. Matt was reluctant to leave the light and head back to that dreary house full of strangers that would be offering their condolences.
"The hospital called late this morning," Roger said by way of greeting, adjusting his glasses while he stared at the ground. He pocketed the brief message he had spoken before they buried Wammy.
None of them had possessed the courage to say anything.
"They'll let us see him?" Matt prompted, and to his surprise, Roger nodded.
"It will be supervised, of course. He has been under guard," Roger said. "If one of you could go… I just don't have the time with all these people here."
"Of course. Sure. Right now?" Matt's hands were suddenly shaking, and he was aware that he was babbling.
"If you like. I have to get back to the house," Roger gestured lamely. "One of the societies is putting on a meal for us and the children. Unless you would like to join us."
It was an out. They all knew it.
"No. That's… that's alright." Matt swallowed and fished his glasses out of his pocket. He caught Near's glance at his trembling hands and jammed them back in his pockets, leaving his hands there to hide them.
"Take care, boys." With that, Roger sighed and turned away, his steps heavy.
Matt waited until he was out of range before turning back to Near, the last person he ever thought he would confide in.
"I don't think I'm ready for this." Matt started to laugh, but it sounded like the nervous fakery it was. "Do you think we should…?"
"Let him decide." Near sounded calm enough, but he was twisting a piece of hair tightly around his finger. "He can always ask us to leave."
Behind them, L said nothing through it all, his hands deep within his pockets and his shoulders starting to slump again. Whatever confidence or self-assurance he'd had before the funeral was disintegrating rapidly.
If he kept that up, Matt was going to start to pity him.
Matt finally pulled his old glasses back on so he could see. "Do you want me to drive?"
L handed over the keys mutely, his eyes on the ground. "I'm going to walk home."
"From here? Don't be ridiculous." Matt rolled his eyes. "Just… come with us."
L did not respond, but he did not turn around and leave either. Matt and Near started walking toward the car; eventually, L followed. His habitual slouch was back, and he was tugging at the tie at his throat. He acted like a man avoiding his own execution.
The drive to the hospital was too long, too quiet and too tense. None of them had any skills to make this easier. They were misfits trapped in a car on the way to an errand that none of them had the slightest clue how to handle.
Near glanced at his phone as they walked into the hospital, still decked out in their funereal clothes.
"Visiting hours at the ICU end in twenty minutes." Near said while studying a sign. "We can only see him one at a time for a maximum of ten minutes."
"I'll be in the waiting room," L said dully.
"Nonsense. You think this is any easier for me?" Matt tried to massage away the tension headache creeping up on him. "He'll probably tell us all to get the hell out anyway."
Once they reached the ICU wing, Matt was visibly disturbed. He hunched like he was expecting blows, and his eyes darted everywhere but where they were going. Every now and then, he would straighten up with a half-smile on his face, as if to hide what was going on, but the pretense did not last. L was a shadow, silent and unobtrusive, his blank expression fixed in place.
Near was the one to approach the nurse's station and make their inquiries. He had not known the first thing about hospitals until Light's incident, but he had been doing most of the talking since then. Him, Near, the most socially malformed of them all. Things were bad indeed if he was the one being forced to do all this.
A nurse appeared to escort them to Light's room one by one, but none of them stepped forward. Matt looked like he was going to be sick, and L wouldn't look anyone in the face.
So Near went.
It was both too long and too short a trip to the nondescript door. The small room only held two occupied beds, a tiny bathroom, and a window. A man in scrubs stood inside the door with several charts in hand, but he did not leave when Near and the nurse entered. Suicide watch. The man truly could not go anywhere.
The room stank of sweat and sickness. Near wanted to hold his breath while the nurse led him to the bed nearest the door. It was a claustrophobic cubby made from gray-green curtains, and the only light was a lamp over the head of the bed, casting weird shadows over the patient's face.
This is not Light; this is the wrong room. Near tried to protest, but the words would not come.
In that narrow tunnel, white bandages blended with the white blankets, and only the fingers on one hand were not swathed into invisibility. The face was turned away from the door and Near. When Near saw the dressings around the patient's neck above the flimsy hospital gown, he swallowed and almost put a hand to his own throat.
Somehow the sight of that one wound was so much worse than the others. This had been no charade, no weak plea for help.
The nurse stepped up to the sleeping man and put a hand on his shoulder. She said a few words and gestured with her chin toward Near. The man made no response, verbal or otherwise.
She left, but the guard inside the door stayed, his eyes on his charts but his posture attentive. Near looked away, took a breath to steel himself, and took a few steps closer to the foot of the bed.
"Lucian?" Near whispered. Even now, they had to play their secretive games. Near wished he could use Light's real name or speak Japanese, anything that felt real. Instead, he was forced to work with fake names and converse in English to keep up appearances.
Light's eyes cracked open just as Near got close enough to see them. He did not turn toward Near, only glancing out of the corner of his eye before refocusing on the curtain next to him.
"Didn't expect you." Light said, his voice little more than a whisper. There was no expression on his face to go with the bland words.
"The others…" Near stopped. They could explain themselves. "Ryuzaki and Matt are here too. They are out in the waiting room."
Light swore in Japanese, surprising Near with his ferocity.
"Do you want them to leave?" He was so far out of his depth here.
"I don't care." Light's words were flippant, but then he exhaled with exasperation. "Yes, I want all of you gone. Just… go away."
"Do you mean that?" Near asked after a pause. He had not moved from his stiff pose, hands clutching his hat to his chest.
"I wouldn't fucking say it otherwise," Light snapped. "Is Mr. Wammy here too?"
Near looked down. "Mr. Wammy is not here. He is…" He had not expected to have to break the news to him so soon. "He is gone, Light." He said Light's name softly so the guard would not hear it, but Light still flinched away from the sound of it.
After a long silence, Light turned his head toward Near, wincing as he did so. "What do you mean?" There was the faintest tremor in his voice.
Near's throat constricted at the thought of what that motion had cost him, how bad the damage was under the bandages.
"His funeral was today. We three just came from there. It… happened the same day you came here." He lifted a shoulder in his unusual clothes, as if to say that he would not look like this otherwise.
Light swallowed. His gaze moved to the ceiling and stayed away from Near's. "How?"
"He had a heart attack after you left Ryuzaki."
Light closed his eyes and started to lift his arms before forcibly halting and relaxing. He turned away from Near. "Please go away now, Near. I don't want to see anyone from the house."
"If you wish." Near backed away, avoiding the guard's eyes as he left the room. He had the rest of that brief walk to compose his expression before the others saw it.
"He does not want to see us." Near's first words upon reaching their little group had the intended effect.
"I knew it." Matt stopped pacing long enough to fix Near with a steady gaze. "How does he look? What did he say?"
"How bad is it?"
Near ignored the last question. He did not have the heart to answer it when even he knew that it would upset Matt. "He wanted to see Mr. Wammy."
"Shit," Matt said, and Near nodded wearily.
"I told him the barest details." Near turned his hat in his hands before pulling it back onto his head. "Then he asked me to go."
L stood up from the chair he had been sitting in with his feet on the floor like a normal human being. His slouch disappeared, his eyes intense rather than merely blank. "Which room was it?"
Near told him and then watched as L started toward it. "Where are you going? He does not want any visitors."
"I need to talk to him," was all L said over his shoulder, not slowing in the least.
It was a good thing Near had not described Light to them. It was hard enough for L to come without knowing that Light looked like he was on the verge of dying.
L's quick steps outside the door had surprised the guard in the room, but he had not stopped L from entering. Of the two patients in the room, only one had both arms bandaged. The rest of Light was too transformed for L to be certain of his identity. He approached the bed on the side that Light was facing, his pace slow but sure.
Light's hair was completely wrong; someone must have washed it and combed it back. Now it was half-parted in the middle and sticking sweatily to Light's clammy-looking skin. It left his face curiously exposed and vulnerable. Light had been feigning sleep, but L's footsteps made him open his eyes. Glassy eyes ringed in red and a mushroomy gray took in L's outfit with a mix of surprise and fear.
"This is hell, isn't it?" Light started in Japanese but switched back to English. He choked out what might have been a laugh. "And you are the devil."
L opened his mouth to make some sort of retort, but it was weak and slow in coming. Instead, wary of their audience, he stepped closer to the bed.
"Get away from me," Light hissed in a low voice.
"Why?" L asked instead of what he needed to say.
"Because I don't want to see you." Each word was its own sentence, distinct and fired out like bullets. "Turn around and get the hell out."
"No." L stood his ground even if his voice was soft and almost meek. He could not let Light know that he was scared. Fear only made a wild animal attack.
Light lifted his head stiffly since he could not push himself upright. He looked in the guard's direction. "Get this man—"
Quickly, L lowered his head in a bow, pressed his palms to his sides, and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Light's words broke off sharply.
"Gomennasai, Yagami-kun," he said too softly for the guard to hear him, then switched to English as he bowed, far more deeply than was necessary or appropriate. "I'm… sorry. I have done everything wrong with you, and I don't know how to start… anything. You have every right to despise me." He held the position long enough for sweat to start bleeding from his temples into his eyes.
When L finally looked up, Light's face was forcibly masked, his features unreadable.
"And I have no right to ask forgiveness." L stood up slowly, his hair falling out of the neater style he had been wearing it in.
Light was not impressed. "You think this fixes things?" He spoke through his teeth, his mouth barely moving.
L's gaze was drawn to Light's arms, hidden under all those bindings. He could not look at his face anymore.
"No. It's too late for that." Against all reason, L felt his face growing hot and itchy. The sweat made his eyes burn, and his head was pounding. "I just wanted you to know. I know it's my fault. That I was the one making mistakes with you. I was stupid, and if I had…"
If I hadn't been who I am…
But Light would never give him another chance, and L could not fix this, could not just move past it. Light would leave as soon as he could, likely to go back to his family or off somewhere else, anywhere but here. Light had no reason to trust L, and L was not sure he trusted himself. Mere words were not going to accomplish anything anymore.
"Don't flatter yourself," Light said in disgust. "This has nothing to do with you, you self-centered ass."
"I am self-centered. And I am selfish." L took a deep breath. "I'm glad you're still alive." He was not saying anything right.
Light's shoulders rose and fell with his breath as that moment stretched out taut. His gaze still pinned L like a dead butterfly. "Get out."
For perhaps the first time since they had met, L respected Light's wishes.
Author's Note – I keep wanting to chatter here, but copious author notes detract from the story. Several of you ask, so yes, I have written books I intend to edit and publish. Despite moving to England, I haven't made it to Winchester yet. FAIL. Hopefully for Christmas… Sorry for all the waiting. Please don't think that I changed my mind or brought Light back from the dead; he was never dead. I established early on that I use unreliable narrators. Thank recipe for insanity for being a great beta.