"As to where we are going," L continued in that same low voice, "that is up to you."
Light lowered his newly restored hand, so the wonder of it would not distract him. He used it to shift his position. Sitting on the hard floor was not exactly comfortable for long periods.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"You only asked me to get you out," L said. He kept his head against his arms, curled into a protective ball beside Light.
Light leaned away, fumbling in his mind for their already-lost rapport. It was like trying to grasp smoke; one moment, they had a refreshing shared goal, and the next, L said or did something that knocked Light off-balance again.
"Do I have options?" Light asked.
It was hard to see possibilities, any possibility, beyond just getting out of the hospital. The only place he could think of was Wammy House. His things were still there unless someone had packed all of them. L lived there, and they were still working together, right? Where else would they go?! But L wouldn't ask if the answer was that simple.
"Better," L said enigmatically. "There are two main options. I didn't want to give you both, but in the interest of including you in decisions, I will. I trust you will choose rightly," L said.
Games. Light was not going to like this, but he said nothing. He couldn't know what would come out of his mouth sometimes.
"I can take you back to Wammy House or to a private hospital in North London." L waited, letting that information sink in.
Another hospital. Light had flown one prison only to be sent to another. He lifted his gaze to the windows as a helpless fury spoiled the daylight's promise. England's ever-present clouds seemed to scuttle across the sun as he watched. Patchy sunlight still fought to get through the trees and the clouds, but it had lost its magic.
Light closed his eyes. Better if he couldn't see it at all if he was only going to lose it. He shifted his shoulders to try to keep his coat from sliding off.
"What's in North London?" Light asked instead of questioning why Wammy House was the wrong choice. L's ideal answer could be a psychiatric facility or an actual hospital. Was either any worse than the other?
"Specialists in Deep Wrist Injuries," L said immediately, the capital letters apparent even in speech. "The hospital also caters to those with more money than sense. I have contacts from when I was treated there four years ago."
Light almost smiled at what that said about L. Light didn't dignify him with a look or words when it didn't sound like L was done.
"The rooms are private, so it would not be unpleasant for your family to meet you there either," L added in a lower voice.
Light curled his hand into a loose fist rather than curse or throw something or just bury his head under his coat where no one else could find him.
"Are my parents already here?" he got out through clenched teeth.
"They have a flight on Tuesday," L said. "They land on Wednesday at 5:45 PM."
Only two days. Light would call them and tell them not to come if he thought it would work. Would it really be worse than having Sayu there?
Yes. A thousand times yes. He didn't want his mother to be a bother once she saw what he'd done to himself. Her perfect son was irreparably damaged, and she would flutter around wringing her hands, at a loss as to how to fix him. It would just be a nuisance. And to have his father see him…
"What happens if I choose Wammy House?" he asked.
L didn't answer with words. Light opened his eyes when he heard the scraping, for L dragged the bag that Wedy had set beside him into Light's view. Without moving from his stiff-looking position, L unzipped the bag and dug around inside before he pulled out his prize.
Whatever Light expected to see, it was not L's fingers pinching a pair of handcuffs.
A much longer chain than usual connected the handcuffs, the links attached less than perfectly as if someone had made the modification himself. They weren't costume quality handcuffs either but the same sturdy type Light's father wore on occasion outside the office. Light and Sayu had played with them exactly once as children before Soichiro had to hide them or see them used in a game of cops and robbers again.
Light and L were not children, however, and no one was going to handcuff him even as a joke.
"What is that," Light ground out, making the words more of a threat than a question. If L planned to chain him to a hospital bed until he was healed as some stunt, Light was going to break his nose again.
L pulled the chain the rest of the way out and let it pool on the floor in front of them. He lifted one end of the handcuffs and snapped it onto his own wrist rather than Light's. Light jumped at the noise when the metal struck bone.
L's almost imperceptible wince let Light know he hadn't meant for his demonstration to be quite so painful.
"If you choose Wammy House, you will be handcuffed to me 24/7," L said, hiding his discomfort well behind his usual imperiousness. He held the other cuff out to Light, as if Light would apply it himself. "Your choice."
"That's ridiculous," Light flailed while he tried to figure out what the game was here. L couldn't be suggesting this in all seriousness. It had to be a prank. "I would never—"
"You can sleep in my sitting room. The sofas are comfortable, and it won't disturb me while I'm working," L said without a trace of discomfort, shame, or any other human emotion.
Light opened his mouth and closed it before he regretted it. His face went hot with fury so quickly that it almost made him lightheaded. A lightning-fast succession of images scrolled past his mind's eye.
Light was curled on L's sofa with his head on one of L's throw pillows, the nasty floral ones with fringe and tassels. He had a mask over his eyes so he could sleep while L poured coffee and typed on his laptop an arm's length away on the other sofa. Another image: Light sat on the floor with the chain trailing under the closed bathroom door, reading a book while L showered. Next, Light argued to leave Wammy House and get some fresh air when L refused to move off the sofa because he still had cake left.
The next images grew worse. L unlocking the handcuff only long enough for Light to change his shirt and snapping it on as soon as he finished. A stranger sniggering as Light tried to walk close enough to L for the chain not to be visible when he got L to leave the school grounds. L poking his head into the bathroom to ask why Light was still combing his hair or brushing his teeth or doing anything else that he would have preferred to do in private. Light sleeping on a futon beside L's bed on the rare occasion L used his bedroom, never getting a moment's respite from L's company even in his sleep.
Who would submit to that? L was just crazy and socially maladjusted enough to do it, but the thought of being subjected to it for however long it took Light to meet L's imaginary standards…
No. Not in a thousand years. Not for the best job in the world, and not for the cure to his depression either.
"You're insane," was all Light got out before he bit back the other insults that surged in him. He was supposed to help them work together; he couldn't do that if he was spitting mad.
"No, Light-kun. You are if you think you will survive at Wammy House. Your health is too fragile, you can't perform the simplest tasks until you heal, the staff isn't equipped to care for you, and I won't trust you," L said firmly.
Now L's excellent control slipped, but that was probably on purpose. Honesty was hard for them both to offer in measured doses right now.
"I made a mistake using Aiber to speak with you, but I needed him to gauge if you were still suicidal and hiding it," L continued. "If you choose Wammy House, it's ninety-one percent likely that you'll attempt suicide again within three days. Therefore I won't let you out of my sight until you fulfill your half of the bargain."
"I don't have to agree to any of this. You don't get to dictate everything; that's why you asked me for help," Light snapped, but it was almost out of reflex.
L was right; of course he was right about Light's ability to survive on his own. He wasn't saying anything that Light hadn't already realized but refused to dwell on before he got out of the hospital.
"You'll agree if you want to work with me," L said firmly. "And I did what you asked of me."
L still held out that handcuff, which was now a very real chain to bind them together. In the past, he had asked Light to give up his career and later his name to make Light pliable and able to be bent to L's will. Now L wanted to use physical objects.
This behavior could not continue. Light had misjudged the amount of work it would take to make this partnership functional. Strangely, rather than wearying him, it made him calculate. It made him formulate plans, like how to pay L back for this, starting with that private hospital.
L looked away from Light, and he let out a sigh as if he had just lost this fight rather than Light. He looked weary or disappointed. He stared into the corner where that bloody handkerchief lay.
"You may still refuse my terms, but I can't help you any further if you do," L murmured. "That would be tantamount to assisting in your suicide."
"You've made your point. The private hospital is the only reasonable choice," Light said flatly.
This time, his irritation was an act, and he tried not to smile and ruin it.
Light lifted his newly-restored right hand and managed to take the handcuff from L. L met his eyes, trying to read Light's intentions. Before Light could drop the cuff or throw it away, a knock sounded on the van door.
"Your drinks, gentlemen," came Aiber's voice from outside.
"It's unlocked," L said without turning his head.
Light leaned forward and shoved his end of the handcuffs back into L's bag just as the doors came open. Did the man have no capacity for shame?
"Good choice," L said unnecessarily, something akin to a smile spreading across his face. He turned that half-smile on Aiber before Light could regain his proverbial footing.
As Aiber held out the drinks, his eyes darted around the space, likely coming to the wrong conclusion about what he saw: L smiling and wearing a handcuff, Light discomfited and red-faced with his other hand hidden where the rest of the chain was.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Aiber said with a wolfish grin as he set the drink carrier down.
Before L could wrest control of the situation away from him, Light withdrew his hand from the bag and sat up when L still curled around his legs.
"We're still figuring out the next course of action," Light answered Aiber. "Thank you for the drinks," he said with eminent politeness and a clear note of dismissal.
Aiber's surprise was very slight, but Light had been looking for it. L didn't move or object; Light didn't know what expression he wore with his head now turned toward Aiber. Maybe he was just waiting for his promised sugar and nothing more.
"Good. I haven't gotten anything to eat yet. Just call when you- when you two know what we need to do next, or if we need to get you something else." His amusement was poorly concealed.
Aiber pulled a handful of sugar packets from his pocket, depositing them and a plastic spoon in the drink carrier before he pushed it toward the two of them. He leaned into the vehicle and held out a straw toward Light.
"In case you need it," Aiber said.
"Ryuzaki will call you when we're done," Light said with a thin smile as he accepted the straw, grateful that he had enough control over his fingers now to keep from dropping it. Light said nothing more and made no more pretense at conversation, just keeping his eyes trained on Aiber until the man shut the doors between them.
L exhaled, and only then did Light realize that he hadn't breathed since Light's first words to Aiber. He still hitched when he inhaled given the pain in his back. He reached out and dragged the drinks closer until they rested in front of both of them.
When L made that little aborted inhalation again, Light realized L was chuckling as much as he was able.
"What is it now?" Light asked.
"Command suits you," L said. He worked a key out of his scrubs pocket with difficulty and unlocked his handcuff.
Light exhaled forcefully through his teeth. "Did you enjoy your little stunt?" he asked, putting his head back against the wall.
"Yes. I would have hated to prepare all this for nothing," L said with a hint at levity. "I was ready to use it though. You needed an extreme demonstration."
"That or you could try talking to me like an equal," Light countered.
"I see I have insulted you again," L said, his humor vanishing. He started tearing the corners off his sugar packets and upending them in his black tea. "You already rejected my plan once out of pride, and you aren't yourself right now. I couldn't risk you doing it a second time, not when this other hospital will be nothing like the last one."
"As someone tasked with improving our working relationship," Light started, closing his eyes so he couldn't see the disgusting sludge L was making out of his tea.
"Please shut the fuck up right now."
Light's pain medication was wearing off faster than L had anticipated. He had hoped to get any important conversation out of the way before that happened, but Light's temper had a hair trigger when he couldn't get away from L as he had tried to do so often in the past.
L stirred the last of the sugar into his tea and decided to let Light stew for a few minutes. The damage was already done, the analgesics gone with his intravenous drip, and the drive to North London could take two hours or more if traffic was bad. A few more minutes compared to that amount of time was nothing.
Once all the sugar was dissolved, he recapped his tea and took a sip.
Pain slammed into his nerves with the taste of blood. He coughed and set the tea down, pressing his fingers to his cheek even though it did nothing to ease the agony. The hot liquid, even sweet, tasted of iron as his tongue and cheek started bleeding afresh. It felt like he had burned his tongue too given how sensitive everything was.
Light asked something but L just shook his head, his eyes squeezed shut. The sudden pain made him irrationally angry, much like Light would be later, and nothing he said right now would be productive.
A minute passed before L could hear Light laughing under his breath. He opened his eyes only to see bloody spots fading from his vision.
"Aren't we a fine pair?" Light asked with a heavy dose of sarcasm once he met L's gaze. He made a circle with his chin that seemed to encompass his injuries as well as L's.
L only sniffed at the comment. If not for Aiber and Wedy nearby, L would feel very vulnerable being out in public in this deplorable state.
Light was back to trembling in his extremities, though whether that was from tension or cold was hard to tell. Some antidepressants could have a similar effect if they were halted too suddenly, and L wasn't sure when Light's last dose was.
"May I talk?" L asked, trying to honor Light's request.
"If you spare me any more games or orders, yes," Light said.
L frowned, trying to rephrase what he had been about to say so it wasn't a command or request. "I ordered you hot chocolate because it was warm, and people with hypothermia shouldn't have caffeine. I specified a large one so you could hold it and warm up."
Light stared down at his drink. "I'd thank you for the thought if I could pick it up."
Light reached out to touch it, but it was on the wrong side of him and he couldn't reach the cup. L wondered if he had a death wish for coming up with nothing but orders when Light was so touchy right now.
"If you want to sit there, I can hold them for you. I can't drink mine, and my hands are fine. One of us might as well benefit from the heat," L said.
He gestured at the bench across from him. The van was just wide enough to accommodate them sitting across from each other on the floor if Light leaned against the bench seat.
Light rolled his head toward L. "Better," he said, mimicking L from earlier, "but that tea would give me diabetes."
"I'm not giving it to you. You can just hold it until it's cooler." L waited.
What's worth more right now, Light-kun: your pride or your comfort?
Light glanced at the other side of the van. If nothing else, it would be a little more distance between them than they had.
That or the chill must have decided it for him. Light pushed off the wall with one elbow and crossed the van on his knees. Despite only having half an arm at his disposal, he managed to get into a comfortable position across from L with one knee drawn up and the other leg stretched across the van. His right hand was still too weak, and he carried his left as if it was starting to hurt.
What a long road they still had ahead of them, but at least this hospital would get Light functioning sooner.
"You can call Aiber now and let him know where we're going," Light said, as if his pride wouldn't let him go along with L's plans without giving orders of his own.
L picked up Light's hot chocolate and held it out. Light used his right hand to guide it to him even though he couldn't lift it with only his fingers. Unlike the cup that he had held before in his hospital room, this was too heavy and too easily spilled. Light sighed once he had it against him, a tiny sound that he might not even know he made.
"Is it too hot?" L asked, looking away to find his mobile so this contact wasn't quite so… unsettling.
Light said no and picked up his straw. "Could you ask Aiber to get some soup, if he's willing?"
If Light really was hungry, that was a vast improvement over before. He had so easily stopped eating or skipped meals in the past.
"What kind?" L asked.
"Carrot and coriander. I could drink that with a straw, right?"
L had to think. He was sure he'd never had it in his life. "Probably."
He called Aiber and told him they were ready whenever the group was done eating. When he glanced at Light, who had furrows between his eyebrows with his eyes closed while he drank, he suggested that Sayu ride with Matt and Near if the two of them were willing to go to London. Light's pain was only going to get worse on the long drive, and he doubted Light would want anyone else around him.
He closed the mobile and set it aside so he had a hand free.
In the bag, he had a tablet that he had intended to give Light later this evening, but it would probably come in handy now, long before they reached the hospital. His original plans had involved Light sleeping through the drive while still safely medicated and unrefrigerated.
He took as deep a breath as he could manage and let it out.
"There's something I need to investigate in Los Angeles," L said.
Light opened his eyes and looked up from his drink, confused by the inquiry out of nowhere. Pain still etched lines into his forehead.
"I have seen signs that a criminal with ties to Wammy House is making a sport of killing people, possibly with the intent to draw me into investigating," L continued. "How should I get involved?"
Light blinked and lifted his head the rest of the way. He had one hand curled around his drink while L held it from the bottom, his shoulders rounded to get him closer to its warmth.
"Is this another training scenario?" Light asked.
L had questioned him before about other cases that Light didn't already know about, and sometimes they had even roleplayed the interrogation or investigation. They had never done this before, however.
Hopefully it would distract Light and keep him occupied until the doctors could replace his lost medication and possibly sedate him, depending on how bad the pain became. L wasn't willing to give Light anything that could exacerbate his illness even further.
"No. It's one of my old cases," L said. "Don't discuss it outside here. Knowing what you do of me and what resources I have available, how would you approach this investigation?"
Light lifted his eyebrows and just stared at him. L had no idea what to make of it until the side of Light's mouth quirked up. It didn't look like his past half-smiles, the ones that masked Light's loathing for him or preceded an insult.
"Thank you for trusting me," Light said.
L thought he should say "you're welcome" again, but there had been enough of that sentiment earlier.
"Why do you think Wammy House is involved?" Light said before L could figure out whether or not he needed to respond to that gratitude.
"The criminal baited me with this," L said. He unlocked the screen on the tablet and held it out to Light. Now he had both arms extended toward Light. His back wasn't going to like this for long.
"What makes you think—" Light started before he got a look at the crossword puzzle that Beyond Birthday had sent to the newspaper in advance of his first murder. "Never mind. And here I thought I didn't have a use for calculus anymore. Or Latin or particle physics. Is this a joke?"
"I think he was trying to ensure few outside Wammy House would even know where to start." L tried to balance his arm on his knee so it could take some of the tablet's weight. "I can tell you the solution now so we can proceed with the investigation, or you can work on this… if you want to," he added, trying not to give orders.
Light wanted to try the puzzle, so L set the tablet on the floor beside him. Aiber came before long with Light's soup and L's pack of Jaffa Cakes. He confirmed that Sayu was happy to ride with the boys to London. That was what he called them: the boys. L wondered sometimes how Aiber saw him.
Finally, the van was moving again as Wedy and Aiber took them to North London. L had them pull the window shut so he and Light could have privacy. Wedy and Aiber had both been part of the case as well, but he didn't want either of them knowing more than they had. L held Light's soup to his chest so that could keep him warm once the hot chocolate cooled off, and Light filled in the crossword puzzle while drinking his meal. Eventually, he wasn't shivering or trembling anymore, so L set Light's cups back in the drink carrier.
Then L was free to take tiny nibbles of cakes between miniscule sips of tea to avoid aggravating the cuts in his mouth. Eventually, Light asked him about some of the puzzle solutions, for he would have needed access to a graphing calculator, obscure history, or foreign language dictionaries to continue, and the tablet had no wifi capabilities on purpose. L answered as best he could or helped Light work out the solutions. It had been a long time since the case, so he had forgotten some of the answers.
Light focused hard on the puzzle between questions about the investigation, but after ninety minutes, he was gritting his teeth every time his left arm jumped with a spasm. L avoided talking to him after that happened and focused on his treats. He knew better than to invite unnecessary abuse.
Despite the rotten circumstances, L found that it was one of the most enjoyable training sessions he had done with Light. It was as if they had called a truce: no bickering, no conversation about touchy topics, no more discussion of the future. Just work.
L was almost sorry when the sunlight vanished as they disappeared under the hospital's VIP entrance. This one was well-shielded by greenery and an overhang; celebrities used it when they didn't want to be photographed or harassed. Under L's direction, Wedy had already given the guards the vehicle's description and the name of L's contact so he could vet them.
L thought he had smoothed over a lot of his abrasiveness with this new openness. It showed Light that he was willing to change his past habits to work together, and Light had accepted the peace offering.
He should have known better.
Once they reached the underground car park, L's old doctor, Dr. Anderson, came right out to the van to see them, bringing two nurses and a gurney in tow. The tall, skinny doctor asked Light a few questions and had a nurse help him to the edge of the van so he could examine Light quickly. Wedy and Aiber lingered on the opposite side of the van to give them a little privacy.
"You'll want to look at him too," Light said, inclining his head toward L before they could put him on the gurney.
For a moment, L thought he had misheard.
"He's complaining of back pain and hasn't moved from that position for the last two hours," Light said. "He fainted and banged his head as well."
"Is this true?" Dr. Anderson asked, scowling behind his glasses. Mr. Wammy had deflected this man's requests to reexamine L's spine for years. Now he would be suspicious and harder to shake off.
L shot that traitor Light a furious glance.
"It's not serious. I haven't lost any mobility," L lied. "Lucian's immediate health is more important."
"He lost consciousness for almost three minutes," Light continued as if L hadn't spoken. "And he blacked out before he hit his head."
Dr. Anderson reached out toward L's bruised cheek, but L pulled away, well aware that he was being childish.
"This isn't about me," L snapped, resorting to orders. He could damn well refuse treatment when they weren't here for him.
"Then take me back to Winchester," Light said, lowering his eyelids and pulling his right hand away from Dr. Anderson's examination. "I don't need to be seen and would like to go home."
Dr. Anderson sputtered in disbelief. "I beg to differ. These are life-threatening injuries. You can't leave them untreated!"
"If he doesn't get examined, then I won't either," Light repeated.
"Is this a joke? What are you two playing at?" Dr. Anderson asked, giving L a look as if this was all his fault. "You can't let him leave."
L glared at Light, angry beyond words that Light had manipulated him into doing this, but Light only smiled.
"You needed an extreme demonstration," Light said quietly in Japanese through his smile.
What's worth more: your pride or your comfort?
L sighed. Light was every bit as childish as him, but L knew when fighting would only make things worse. His back did hurt much worse than before. It was only one battle; he could cede that much to Light to salve his wounded ego.
"Let's get this over with," L said.
Light got the gurney, and L was helped into a wheelchair. He had Aiber keep all of his personal effects except his mobile because he trusted him more than the hospital.
It wasn't like he was agreeing to any major surgery, just a shot or some pills. Nothing that would require general anesthesia or lay him out.
After four hours of examinations, x-rays, a CT scan, at least one injection, and a lot of annoyed looks on Dr. Anderson's face, L let himself be wheeled to Light's still-empty room. Only when he got up and tried to reach the plush white sofa that beckoned from in front of the windows did he realize how dizzy and weak that shot made him. He might be mostly pain-free but he was barely hanging on to consciousness. Dr. Anderson had been right to insist on the wheelchair.
L waited until the nurse left, the door locking behind her, before he called Wedy to bring his things. Aiber said that he had passed them off to her so he could catch up with his wife.
L must have passed out on the sofa while the late afternoon sun cast dappled shadows through the towering plane trees outside. Any traffic noise was muted given their distance from the road, the birds in the trees, and the massive fountain in front of the building that blanketed the area in white noise.
He only woke when Wedy touched his shoulder, his reflexes and his wits dull with fatigue. How he hated being drugged.
Wedy had changed again, opting for a black dress with heels under a longer coat. How long had he been asleep? She must be dressed for dinner already.
"They got you good, didn't they?" she asked from where she knelt by the sofa. "I swept the room already. It's clean."
"Where are the others?" L asked groggily, pushing himself into a sitting position. The sun was still above the horizon, so it might only be six. He couldn't concentrate to get any more precise than that.
"Lucian's still in an exam room. Sayu, Near, and Matt are at tea with the Morrellos. Your bag and Lucian's are locked up in that closet." She handed him a key. "I replaced the lock with one of mine, so the staff can't get in there."
"Thank you," L said, the phrase practically becoming second nature by now. Wedy looked amused at his attempts to be gracious.
Wedy got to her feet and popped the cap on a bottle that had been resting on a table nearby. L didn't even see the tool that must have appeared and vanished back inside her sleeve, but she wouldn't have used her pink painted nails to do it. Her heels clicked on the gray marble tiles as she walked back to him.
"Stay hydrated, Anderson says," she advised, holding out a glass of water. "And no caffeine, he said to remind you again."
L drank the water sourly. It was just so… boring, and this one had a weird mineral flavor that probably made it appealing to water connoisseurs. Coffee had water in it, as did tea. He wasn't going to drink sugar water.
"We're curious, Thierry and I," Wedy said in a lower voice so it didn't carry out the door, leaning back against the table while L finished his water. "Is this 'Raito' going to fill Watari's role in the future?"
L didn't frown but it was a near thing. He cursed himself for his slip in the morgue when Light knocked his medication off the drawer.
"Mmmhmm," she said with a half-smile. Apparently L's drugged silence was enough for her. "I guess I owe Thierry that new watch."
"You bet on that?" L couldn't help asking as he handed back the glass.
He pushed himself to his feet, eager to get out of the flimsy gown and trousers that they had forced him into for his exams. He might still be woozy, but at least he could stand up without pain now.
"It makes it more interesting. I won't say what I bet he was," she said with a wink, "but you seemed very possessive."
"Don't you have dinner or somewhere else to be?" L asked, unlocking the closet.
She laughed and pulled away from the table. "Message us in the morning when you know what else you want us to do. Good night!"
"Good night," he said under his breath as she left.
He really should find new agents. These ones were far too familiar with him after so long.
L woke up again at a strange noise near his head. Light's room had gone dark while L must have dozed, the leaf shadows now knife-edged from the streetlights in the absence of the sun. There must be a breeze, for they moved enough that it was hard to see the edges of the room's furniture.
He could hear breathing in the near-silence. L tilted his head so he could see behind him.
Light stood not far from the sofa, those same shadows almost camouflaging him as they moved over his face and clothes. His right hand was pressed to the window, his breath nearly fogging the glass given how close he stood to it. The arm nearest L was Light's left, and the bandages seemed less bulky in the uneven illumination. L could see the fingers on that hand now.
L pushed himself upright, but Light didn't look over. "I'm not staying here."
Light glanced over at him then, the light catching his eyes intermittently as they went in and out of darkness.
"That's probably a good thing," Light said with a distant relation to a smile. "How is your back?"
"Much better, no thanks to you," L groused. He couldn't sit in his usual position, but he did curl his arms around his legs. He felt more like himself when back in jeans and long sleeves.
"This is when you ask how I am," Light said after several seconds of silence. At L's look, he added, "My job, remember?"
"How are you?" L asked.
"Better," Light replied without elaborating.
"I could guess that much. Did they give you a PICC line?" L asked.
Light nodded and stepped back so he could show L the tube that fed into the inside of his right arm rather than his elbow. "Now I can use my arm and even leave the premises with a backpack."
"Where would you go?"
Light shrugged. "I don't know yet. Away. Coffee. A meal I don't have to eat through a straw. I would say a bookstore, but turning pages would be a challenge."
Light looked down at his right hand, curling and opening the fingers once before he splayed them against the window.
Even L could see that this much feigned dismissiveness was hard. Light was hopeful now, which was far better than the mess he had been, but the extent of his injuries had to be daunting. Maybe Anderson had changed the medication that made him talkative and opted for something that calmed him.
"My hotel is next door," L said with a nod toward the east side of the building. "I only stayed to let you know that."
They weren't arguing, and L wanted to keep it that way. They both needed space.
"I left the tablet that you were using in the van," L continued. Light looked away from the nighttime view of London. "It's in the closet. The staff can't get in there, so lock it up whenever you leave."
L wanted to add that it was very sensitive information, but he had to trust that Light would know what he meant. He would only antagonize Light if he tried to micromanage him, something he had learned well.
"Or have them lock it," Light said with one of those self-deprecating smiles, although not nearly so intense as it had been. "Don't worry. I'll be careful."
L stood and set the key on the windowsill in front of Light. "There is more casework on it than you saw earlier, thirty-nine cases so far. I'm still sanitizing the rest. I've only given you the initial evidence that I had at the beginning of the case, so it's more authentic if you try to solve it. Whenever you want to work on one, message me and I'll supply the information you ask for or come over. The time of day doesn't matter."
He handed over a new mobile that he had retrieved from his bag. This one was entirely touchscreen, unlike the first one he had given Light.
"No one else has this number yet. Mine is in there, and I'll let you know my room number after I check in or any other numbers you want to add. The next steps are up to you."
Light took his hand from the window and turned just enough so L could set the mobile in his palm. Light curled his fingers loosely around it. He didn't look up to meet L's eyes and kept his head down.
"I'm sorry that getting here was so difficult," L said, trying to figure out how to get out of this conversation. He had talked much more at a stretch than he normally did, and Light, usually the loquacious one, said nothing.
Before L walked out to spare them any more awkwardness, Light turned back to the window and lifted his head in the same motion. He looked up, as if searching for his namesake outside.
"See you tomorrow, L," Light said in a thin voice.
L bowed his head in thanks and left.