(Ph34r the uninspired title)

Okay, okay. I know. I'm a terrible, terrible person, and an even worse writer. I have been horrible to you all by making you wait – what was it? A year? – for me to update anything in my fiction gallery. I am very, very sorry for that, and I have absolutely no excuse for the delay.

As a means of showing that I'm still alive and getting some writing finished, here's a Death Note ficlet that I started some months ago, while I was taking a break from not updating Fate of the Damned and not finishing Support.

Now, before you even start reading this, I just have to tell you one thing. I know this ficlet will come off as a "WTF? When did this ever happen?" story, and that's because, well…it didn't happen. Ever.

The idea for this story came to me when I misinterpreted someone's Death Note fanart and thought I saw something that I indeed did not. That fanart happened to be a picture of the "Wammy's Justice Club" by Meronine, an image of L, Near, Mello, and Matt dressed up in snazzy investigator garb from the 20s and 30s. When I first saw this picture, I was unaware of Matt, and so mistook him for a bespectacled Light.

Yes. I'm that retarded.

So, thanks to my stupidity, this crackbaby of a ficlet was born.

Enjoy.

"L?"

Placing his empty dessert plate and fork on his desk with a slight clatter, the ten year old swiveled in his computer chair and searched the dark room with his wide, unblinking eyes. Catching sight of the young pajama-clad boy at the door to his bedroom (and immediately noticing the door was now slightly ajar, rather than closed tightly as he had left it a few hours ago), the boy named L pursed his lips and played at the fabric of his jeans absently, not appearing to mind the interruption.

"What is it, Light?"

The toddler inched further into the room, taking tentative steps toward the computer desk set against the adjacent wall. Clutching a ratty blanket to his side and nibbling on his thumb nervously, he whispered, "I…I wanted to ask if L was going to miss me while I'm gone."

L blinked at the question and crouched lower in his chair, his gaze wandering slowly from the other boy's face to a small, indistinct picture taped haphazardly to the wall near the door. The light from the computer monitor behind him cast odd, frightening shadows over his face and torso, and the image of it suddenly had Light wishing he hadn't braved the dark recesses of the orphanage to visit L at this time of night.

Sparing a quick glance at the base of the desk, Light saw what appeared to be candy wrappers strewn around the floor near a garbage can, along with what he suspected were newspaper clippings; though he couldn't be sure, since he wasn't old enough to read such things. Noticing that L was still not paying attention to him, Light took a few seconds to scan the room beyond the older boy's computer desk, not surprised to find a pile of dirty clothes in and around the hamper set against the back wall.

'L is messy.' He thought, giggling softly.

Eyes leaving the hamper, the little boy scanned the rest of the back wall, becoming transfixed by the brilliant moon and night sky that were visible through the frosted windows. It was strange that L didn't have the curtains drawn tonight (as was his habit); but to Light, it was an easily forgotten oddity. Who knew why L did what he did? Maybe the older boy had merely wanted to enjoy the stars.

Childish fears beginning to gnaw at the back of his mind, Light had the sudden urge to check the dark recesses of the room for any devilish nightmares that may be wandering around. It was pretty late at night, and this was about the time that spooky things liked to come out of their hiding places.

With a foreboding feeling growing in his stomach, the toddler turned his attention to his far right and into the corner of the room, where he knew the closet to be. His heart thumped furiously in his chest when he noticed the doors were wide open, revealing the shadows that were usually hidden from sight.

Gulping, Light instinctively looked from the closet to the unmade wrought-iron bed at the back wall, and noticed that, despite the opened windows above it, the area was dark as well. Imagination beginning to run wild, he thought he saw something move beneath the bed. Startled, he released his thumb from between his teeth and gripped his tattered blanket close to his chest.

When more movement came from the dreaded confines of 'under the bed,' Light gave a squeak of fear and, with the patter of bare feet over old floor boards, hurried to L and his computer desk, seeking safety from whatever might be out to harm him.

L looked down at the three year old curiously, a bit surprised to find the boy clinging to the ankles of his jeans as though they were a lifeline. Giving the picture on the wall one last glance, he returned his full attention to the situation at hand.

"What's wrong, Light?"

There was a lengthy pause before two softly spoken words reached L's ears. "I'm scared."

Pressing his thumb to his lip, L tilted his head and studied the toddler quietly. "Scared? Of what?"

"Y-your room is scary!" Light murmured in a childish whisper, dropping his blanket in order to get a better grip on L's pants. "It's dark!" He added, tugging on the faded material in an attempt to haul himself into the chair with the dark-haired boy.

Aware that his chair was moving under the force of Light's struggle, L gripped the arm rests and scooted until he was pressed against the back of the chair, leaving enough room to pull the child onto the seat in front of him. Haphazardly kicking the blanket away from the chair's wheels, he gripped the toddler under his armpits and hauled the boy into his lap without much difficulty. Getting them both situated in the overlarge, office-style chair was a different matter, however, since the younger boy kept trying to grab L's baggy T-shirt with his small hands in order to gain his footing on the seat.

Finally, after much scuffling and shifting, he managed to maneuver himself into a slumped position on the worn cushion. With his feet pulled up onto the chair (as was his usual sitting style) and Light sandwiched between his knees and chest, it wasn't the most comfortable of positions, but it would have to do.

"Better?" L asked, curving his arms around the smaller body and placing his hands on his knees once more.

"Yeah." Light answered, wiggling around to find a comfortable spot, preferably one that faced the computer screen. It was a little uncomfortable being pressed so close to the other boy, but at least the closeness helped placate the auburn-haired toddler's fears. "I'm better now."

"What were you afraid of, Light?" L asked again, curious. He didn't think of his own room as frightening, so he wished to know what could have caused such a reaction in the younger child.

"It's dark." Light repeated simply, staring at the computer screen. He wasn't sure what L had been looking at since he couldn't read any of the writing or captions, but from the pictures, he inferred it to be a website about criminals. The FBI logo at the top (which Light had grown used to seeing and could recognize immediately, thanks to his short life in Wammy's House) and the images of gruff men holding signs was enough evidence for him.

Besides, L was always researching boring things like that.

"I wasn't aware that you were afraid of the dark, Light." The older boy swiveled the chair around to face the desk and computer once more, easing his grip on his legs to give his small companion a chance to relocate himself. As expected, the toddler rolled over to face the screen as well, placing his back against L's chest and the bottom of his feet on top of the other boy's thighs, causing his own knees to press against his small chest.

"I'm not afraid of the dark." Light said, scandalized. Crossing his arms awkwardly, the boy tilted his head back to glare at L's chin and added, "I'm afraid of what's in the dark."

"Light, you're old enough to realize that there isn't anything there that can hurt you - especially not in my room or in my presence." Grabbing hold of the edge of the desk, L pulled the chair closer until the wood bumped his shins; then, leaning forward, he nimbly seized the keyboard wire with two fingers and maneuvered it closer to himself and Light. When finished with this, he repeated the process with the mouse.

"Hasn't Watari already had this talk with you?" He asked, opening a new search window on the computer and continuing his earlier work.

Light stared at a spot on the floor and squirmed at the question. "Yeah."

"And you're still afraid of the dark?" L sorted through a few criminal profiles, eyes drinking in the information greedily.

"I can't help it." Light gave an exaggerated sigh and slumped lower into his odd position, his arms moving to rest on top of L's while his cheek pressed against his pajama-clad shoulder.

"Well," L said, low voice almost drowned out by the constant click-clacking of the computer keys, "I suppose you'll grow out of it eventually."

The younger boy scrunched his nose at the answer, eyes travelling along the back wall to eventually fall on one of the frosted windowpanes above the clothes hamper. Ignoring the sounds of L's tireless work, he allowed himself to be momentarily transfixed by the glittering stars outside, their light catching the falling snow to give the view an almost ethereal quality.

With such a peaceful image before him, it didn't take long for Light's mind to drift away from L, and instead focus on the matter of what was going to happen to him come morning. The little boy wasn't sure what to think about the prospect of a new life in a far-off country – not that he had had much experience with traveling. Truth be told, he had only left the orphanage grounds to go into town with Watari, or one of the other adults who made up the orphanage's staff.

What would life be like for him now? Without L? Without Watari? If he was to live in another part of the world, did that mean he could never visit? Would his new family be any better or worse than the make-shift family he had now?

The toddler wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answers.

With a sudden jolt, Light noticed his vision becoming blurry as his eyelids began to sag. The soft, slow rhythm of L's breathing had begun to lull him into a light doze, and he hadn't even realized it! Desperate to fight off the siren song of sleep, he raised one hand to rub the drowsiness from his eyes. Unfortunately, the action only hastened his descent into unconsciousness, and he began to feel a familiar pressure building in his chest, forcing its way to the surface.

Light bit back the oncoming yawn spitefully.

L blinked at the indignant huffs issuing from his chair-mate. Taking his fingers from the keys, he placed his palms on his jean-clad knees and glanced down at the other boy as best he could, his effort earning him a face-full of golden-brown hair. Blowing a puff of air to send one of the many fly-away locks from the vicinity of his mouth, L asked quietly, "What's wrong? Are you tired?"

A pregnant pause followed his question, during which the older boy kept hearing soft noises that sounded an awful lot like a certain someone struggling (and failing) to silence his incessant yawning. Figuring he already knew the answer to his question, L broke the silence.

"If you're tired, you should go to bed. You can't afford to be sleepy tomorrow."

"I'm not tired!" Light barked, crossing his arms comically and glaring at his knees, lips in a firm pout.

"Yes, you are." L replied matter-of-factly.

"No, I'm not!"

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not!!"

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm-" A short pause, presumably for another yawn, "not!"

Rolling his eyes half-heartedly, L went back to his work, offering a shrug and an uninterested, "Alright, whatever you say, Light." in lieu of continuing the dispute. Agreeing with a lie was against his morals, yes, but he decided to count it as a necessary evil and let it slide - anything to get out of the infinite loop of this argument.

Not quite sure if he had won the dispute, Light hesitantly relaxed his arms and dropped his pout. When all that followed the movement was the continual click-clack of the computer keys, he let himself fully settle down in L's lap, a rather snooty smirk finding its way to his lips. 'I win.' An immense sense of pride filled his small chest at the victory, causing his smirk to widen to a full-fledged grin. 'I win and L loses.'

However, his triumph over the unbeatable L - no matter how glorious it may have been - was doomed to be short-lived. The signs of a tired body were still glaringly obvious, and the little boy knew he would eventually have to succumb to the pull of sleep.

Fortunately, it wasn't written in stone that he had to go without a fight.

Several minutes passed in relative stillness, with neither boy offering much in the way of activity. While one typed madly at his computer, his search for knowledge and information never ending, the other struggled to stay awake. L, being fastidious by nature, had easily picked up that his companion refused to fall asleep, but thought better of voicing the obvious. He realized that, although the situation was both frustrating and cumbersome, he couldn't truly blame Light for wanting to remain among the conscious.

No, L couldn't fault the younger boy, for he understood the toddler's incessant unwillingness to cooperate better than any other.

Each new second that ticked by meant they were yet another second closer to Light's eventual adoption and resulting abandonment of the orphanage. It may sound cruel to those not familiar with Wammy's House and its policies, but the complete severance of friendly and family ties was important for the preservation of the orphanage as a whole. If anyone were to somehow find out the true identities of Watari, or worse, L, the world could suffer dire consequences.

Once Light left, he was never coming back.

Hands coming to an abrupt halt, the shaggy-haired young man turned his attention from the monitor to the picture taped to his wall. Eyes adjusting to the change in light, he began to make out the three people in the photo. The first was Watari, his hair looking slightly less grey than it did now, and his expression as it had always been – joyful and caring. The dark, sleek suit he wore held snuggly to his body, and he looked as though he were holding the other occupants of the photo – two small boys - to his chest with the same amount of enthusiasm.

L easily recognized himself under Watari's right arm, since his messy hair, piercing gaze, and all around peculiar demeanor hadn't changed in the slightest over the years. Uninterested in reflecting on his past, he barely gave himself a glance before focusing on the other boy in the photo.

With his golden-brown hair slightly ruffled from the wind and normally pale cheeks beet red from the chill, an extremely young Light stood huddling into the elderly man's left side, a jacket holding tight to his slim form. The child, barely old enough to stand on his own two feet, seemed a bit bewildered as to why he was having his picture taken. He also didn't appear to know what to make of either Watari or L, because, admittedly, they both must have looked like quite the unusual characters to someone of Light's age.

L remembered the day the photo was taken quite clearly, for it was the day Light had first arrived at Wammy's House. He wasn't sure if the three-year-old remembered it as well, since he had been so very young and confused at the time, but the older boy could at least be confident in stating that Light had grown attached to his temporary home.

This was why it was going to be difficult to see him go, and even more so to forget that the little boy had ever existed.

An odd snuffling noise alerted L that his chair-mate had finally fallen asleep. Glancing down as best he could, he managed to get a decent view of Light's partially-hidden face, the child's cheek resting heavily against one of his arms. Taking in the passive expression with an owlish blink, L had the sudden urge to brush the thin wisps of auburn hair from the younger boy's eyes. He battled with himself momentarily, unsure if an instant of weakness could result in some sort of catastrophe on his part.

After several seconds of rapid speculation, L decided to chance it. Raising his hand from the keyboard, he brought it slowly toward the child's head, his fingers halting mere inches from Light's face. Flexing his digits in an awkward moment of uncertainty, he turned his gaze once more to the boy's soft and peaceful expression, weighing his options and the consequences that may arise from acting upon them.

With a deep breath and a final curl of his fingers, he figured he might as well finish what he had started.

Taking greater care than was necessary, L gently ran his fingertips over a pale cheek, the skin warm beneath his touch. Watching Light for a reaction, he continued his shy touches, the ghostly brush of his hand causing the boy to twitch and fidget in his sleep. Smiling tenderly, L shifted his attention to the toddler's forehead, affectionately sweeping away the auburn tresses and resting his hand on the boy's temple.

When Light sighed quietly and shifted in his sleep, the smile adorning L's face grew somber. He gazed sadly upon the child in his lap, a heavy pressure settling on his heart at the sight of the little boy's chest rising and falling in peaceful slumber. Taking back his hand, he placed it silently on his knee, and watched as Light's bangs fell back into his eyes.

Blinking the sudden mist from his lashes, L turned over his hand and glanced at his palm, the phantom heat from the toddler's skin still burning across its expanse. Flexing his fingers weakly, he looked toward one of the windows on his back wall and watched the snowflakes flutter past the glass, the moon's light catching them until they blew out of sight.

With his heart aching and his arm growing tired from Light's meager weight, he realized forgetting this one was going to be much harder than he could have imagined.

---

Though Light's "Adoption Day" was meant to be a day of celebration and cheer, the weather was surprisingly dreary. The sky was an abysmal shade of grey, while the snowstorm from the night before had left the grounds buried in several inches of snow, forcing a few of the older children to spend their morning shoveling the walks and roads, rather than lazing about. L watched them silently from a viewing window in the first-floor study, his vantage point allowing him to focus his attention on the entrance to the grounds.

Peering through the frosted glass, L's gaze jumped from one boy to another. It didn't take much effort for him to interpret their mumbled words of, "This isn't fair!" and "We'll never finish by noon!," making him pine for the days when he was unable to read lips. If there was one thing L despised more than criminals, it was whiners.

Curling his toes, he squeezed his jean-clad knees and leaned closer to the work desk in front of him, the array of books and newspapers covering its surface having lost his interest several minutes ago. Blinking owlishly, a movement near the entrance gate shifted his attention from the boys toiling away in the yard to a sleek black vehicle pulling into the orphanage's long driveway. He recognized the plates as those of a local rental car facility, and immediately identified their visitors.

Focus now completely on the expensive town car, L watched as it came to a smooth stop near the entrance of the building. The slight humming from the vehicle's engine halted abruptly, followed by the short 'click' of a lock as its driver and passenger-side doors were flung open to reveal a man and woman, both in their late twenties and clad in heavy winter coats. L already knew them to be a Mr. and Mrs. Yagami, just recently flown in from Japan in order to finalize their adoption of one of the many pristine wards of Wammy's House.

Their appearance caused a slight ache in his chest, but only because he happened to know which ward they would be taking with them today.

Taking a deep breath, L observed the scene outside, easily spotting Watari and the young boy in question as they walked tentatively toward the waiting couple and their fancy car. The off-white papers he spotted in the old man's hand could only be the final adoption papers the Yagami's had come to sign, the sight of which seemed to finalize the matter in L's mind. Light was leaving today and he was never coming back.

Turning away from the window, L glared at the thick volumes splayed out before him on the desk, his gaze intense yet unfocused. Despite his best efforts to ignore his emotions, the shaggy-haired boy could not find it in himself to watch the delighted new parents embellish those papers with their signatures. Therefore, he chose to stare at his work, rather than the portrait of a happy family outside.

Alone but for the bookshelves and lounge chairs nearby, L sat quietly in his hard-wood chair, languidly rubbing his chilled feet together as he ignored the small group outside.

He ignored their voices as they chatted idly with one another.

He ignored the sounds of luggage being loaded into the trunk of the expensive town car.

He even ignored the slight crunch of snow under tires as the family drove off the grounds, the loud, joyous honking of the car horn echoing through the trees nearby as a final farewell.

L ignored all of these things with little difficulty. What he couldn't ignore was the overwhelming sorrow tearing through his chest, and the knowledge that he had just lost his only friend.