Ficlet Twelve: Trees in the Garden
Note: Sequel to "Liar Liar"; if you don't remember that story (it's Chapter Nine) then please reread that before reading this. Gaawa-chan suggested that I explore 'what happens next' further, so a tip of the hat (that I am not technically wearing) there.
Warning: Shonen-ai as fallout from "Liar Liar", excessive use of the present tense…and to paraphrase an excellent writer, angsty fic is angsty. L and Light happen to have the perfect destructive relationship.
ON WITH THE SHOW!
Out of the ground the Lord GOD made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…
—the Book of Genesis, 2:9
Quillsh Wammy is worried.
The child—to Quillsh Wammy, he will always be a child, despite the fact that L Lawliet is twenty-five years old and intelligent beyond the capability of tests to measure—is unresponsive, half-comatose, locked within the realms of his own mind: Watari does not want to consider what horrors the child is capable of conjuring within that mind to add to those he has already experienced, none more traumatic than today.
He has not spoken a word for an hour, since revealing to his guardian how he brought the Kira Case to an end the only way he could, and the two curt sentences are still echoing in the elder man's ears.
"I made him love me. And then I killed him."
Watari longs to be able to help the boy, at least extend some measure of comfort, but L has never been one to be touched and coddled; and now, more than ever, Watari is afraid to touch him, as if he might shatter at the slightest breath.
The thought—the very thought—of what L has done, of the lengths to which he has gone, horrifies Watari, he who thought he was used to how cold L could be, how ruthless. To take your worst enemy—the one trying to kill you—as your lover, to work at his side, and then to kill him: it brings bile to his throat. He cannot imagine what it will do to L.
As the private plane they are riding in begins to circle, touching down from the airport in Taiwan it departed not five hours ago, he studies L again, wondering where to begin to heal the fragile young detective.
L is lying on the couch, facing the cushions, eyes tightly closed, shutting out the world. He has curled himself into as tight a ball as possible, arms folded across his chest and hands clamped around his ears. He is shaking slightly, and not because the plane is landing.
"L," Watari calls softly, extending a hand over his ward's shoulder but not actually touching him. "L."
A few more repetitions later, L actually responds, albeit briefly. "No," he whispers, not opening his eyes, and turns his face away, into the seat cushions.
"L, what do you want to do?" he asks. "Where do you want to go?"
His only answer, at first, is a simple, repeated, "No, no, no…" which trails off into nothingness.
Watari repeats his question.
The detective's answer, when it comes, is barely audible, and for a moment Watari is convinced that he has heard wrong.
"Home," L whimpers. "I want to go home."
L, to Watari's knowledge (and he knows him better than anyone, and realizes daily how poor that knowledge really is), has only ever called one place home, and the boy has not done so since he was fourteen years old.
But Wammy cannot help but agree that Winchester, and the orphanage located there, may be the best place for L to recover from…
…what has happened these last months.
He still cannot think of it.
"And then what do you want, L?" Watari queries softly, pressing the advantage while L is still speaking. For a moment, he futilely wishes that this was a year ago, when the answer to that question would be something as simple as strawberry cake, or hot sweet tea, or the surveillance tapes from three different conference rooms from the headquarters of the FBI. Simple things.
"…and then I want to sleep."
"All right," his guardian soothes him. "You can sleep as long as you like there."
L opens his eyes now. He stares into the seat cushion, and his eyes are as empty as the cold depths of space.
"I want to sleep," he repeats quietly, "and never wake up again."
When the rumor gets to him, Mello has three textbooks on his lap, one of which he is reading, and is accidentally sitting on another.
Because it's his room too, Matt is sitting on the floor playing Grand Theft Auto V. Because Mello is trying to concentrate, and can be louder than the soundtrack if required, the redhead is wearing headphones.
"Got news," Ardis announces, opening the door uninvited and sticking her head in. "What'll you trade?"
The children of Wammy's House function on a barter economy, with the main currency being information. You don't get rumors for free—unless it's a really good one.
"What are you asking?" Mello shoots back, barely looking up from his book.
"You really want to know this. I'll redeem it later."
The blond eyeballs her. He hates bargains like this—but he likes knowing what's going on.
"L's back," Ardis says briefly, and gets out of the way.
"He's not!" shouts Mello. Matt takes off one headphone to listen. "You're lying."
"I dunno!" Ardis shouts back. "He's just here!"
Obligation be damned. Mello dumps the books onto the bed and dashes upstairs.
L's room is on the fourth floor. L's room has always been on the fourth floor. One thing it has never been, when L is home, is locked.
Today it is locked, so either he has been lied to (which does not happen much anymore, as Mello tends to exact Revenge), or something is very, very wrong. The blond tugs fruitlessly at the doorknob before knocking, calling, "L? L, it's me! It's Mello! Can I come in?"
There's no answer.
"He wouldn't let me in either."
Mello releases the doorknob to turn around and glare at Near, who has materialized some way down the hall. "How long has he been back?"
One of Near's shoulders moves up and down briefly. "I don't know. He may not even be back—but Watari is downstairs talking to Roger with the door closed."
"I don't imagine you know what about." Mello is determined not to acknowledge that the younger boy might know more than he does—but that is not going to stop him from pumping Near for information.
Near tugs on his white hair thoughtfully. "There hasn't been anything written about the Kira case for a while," he observes.
"Watari's back here, and L's door is locked."
"And they haven't come looking for us," Near adds.
They look at each other for a moment.
"Something went wrong," Mello concludes.
"But L's still alive."
"It still went wrong." Mello's not exactly sure if he likes agreeing with Near, but they do seem to have come to the same conclusion.
"He could be ill," Near points out, and Mello gives this due consideration. He loves L, really, he does, but he will be among the many who admit that L does not take care of himself. That's why he has Watari, and, if the full truth were known, his heirs.
"He could be."
There is another pause. This one is ended by Mello pulling a small package out of the hem of his shirt and handing it to Near. "Get it open," he orders curtly.
Near doesn't like to be given orders, especially by Mello, but he does take some small pleasure in realizing that Mello knows that the younger boy is better at picking locks. (Mello, who knows what doublethink is and is very good it anyway, denies this completely.) He accepts the tool kit from the blond and kneels down by the door, carefully working his way around the lock.
Everyone at Wammy's house over the age of five can pick an ordinary lock like the ones installed on the students' bedroom doors. The door to L's suite is much more complicated, thanks to B's obsessive tendencies, but Near is thirteen.
When the door finally swings open, Near doesn't bother to rise. He can probably see more from the illuminated square cast onto the floor by the hallway lights anyway; L's room is pitch dark. The windows are shuttered and covered, and, worse still, all the computer screens are off and unplugged. There aren't even any LCD lights to indicate that the computers are charging.
L lives in a digital world. This is all wrong.
"L?" Mello calls tentatively. "Are you here?"
"L?" Near chimes in. "Can we come in? Are you busy?"
"Of course he's not busy, you idiot," Mello hisses, kicking the boy at his feet softly. "No computers!"
"I can see that."
The voice from the darkness is a growl, scarcely human. "Get out."
Mello has to fight to keep the quaver from his next words, less because the voice is scary than because it is, underneath, familiar. "L, are you okay?"
"I told you to get out!"
Staring into the darkness, they can't even see him. "L?" and damn, there was that shake.
There's a doorway, further into the room; for a moment, light glances off white fingers gripping the doorframe. The knuckles are torn and bloody. "Leave me alone." It's a cry now, not a growl.
Mello stares at that hand, at the old blood crusting the fingers and the new injuries slowly dripping, and it hurts. For love, for love of the man who has been brother and mentor to him, he steps inside, leaving Near watching anxiously at the door.
Silently, he crosses the familiar rug in the dark, skirting the small table with the ease of memory. He cannot count how many times he has knocked this lamp over, dashing into L's room with news of some achievement or fleeing from some childish misdemeanor. The lamp is off now, its battered and dented shade dark.
Because this is L, he reaches out, gently touching the pale hand. Slowly, he pulls L's hand into his and draws him out into the twilight cast by the door.
Against his will, Mello hears a faint cry of horror come from his own mouth.
L is a wreck. His skin is sallow, having lost any shade of health it may have once had. Black hair, matted and filthy, has grown long enough to get caught between cracked and bleeding lips. And his eyes are…unspeakable.
L has often resembled a vampire, but he has never looked more dead.
"Go away," L whimpers, tugging futilely on his hand and turning his face away from the faint light, from their eyes. "Go away…"
Mello has always thought of L as pleasantly emotionless, interested but removed. He cannot imagine what has happened to bring the dispassionate sleuth so low. More out of shock than design, he refuses to let go of L's hand.
"L, what's happened?" he asks, wiping dried blood from his mentor's chin. Dimly, he realizes that he is almost taller than L now.
The detective's huge eyes close in pain. "…saved your life…" he whispers brokenly. "Lemme go; it hurts."
"Near," Mello tosses over his shoulder, not taking his eyes from L, "close the door."
Near does so, throwing the room back into darkness.
"No," L mutters invisibly. "Can't…can't be here; can't looka'you…done so wrong, Mello…"
"What happened, L?" the blond asks quietly, and, perhaps inadvisably, "Did you win?"
L slurs, "…won the game…won the battle…won the war…" and trails off into eerie sobs of laughter. "He's dead," he whispers.
"Kira?" Mello asks unwisely.
At the sound of the name, L wails as if in unbearable pain, yanks his hand loose from Mello's, and lashes out. The tips of his fingernails barely connect with the boy's cheek. They do not break the skin—the blow will not even leave a mark—but to Mello they are like streaks of fire burning into his face. Horrified, he jerks back, almost colliding with Near.
"I saved your life, Mello," L whispers into the darkness. "Now leave me alone…both of you!"
Aware they have pushed the limits, both boys flee.
They stop just outside the door, which latches firmly behind them.
"What the hell happened to him?" Mello breathes, staring aghast at the door as if he could see through it.
Near twirls a finger in his hair, dark eyes wide with shock. "Kira," the pale boy says finally. "I think L killed him."
A second later, Near adds, "And I think he did it himself—and looked him in the eyes as he did it."
"Oh my God," Mello whispers, and his hands flicker reflexively in a cross.
There is a room on the bottom floor of Wammy's House; or, at least, there is a door. For years, the super-intelligent children that inhabit the house have struggled to open it; the finest minds of an underage generation have applied their best and brightest ideas to the problem of unlocking that door. Only space, or the lack of it, has prevented judicious application of a wrecking ball.
No one has yet succeeded.
The only person apparently capable of entering this room is one L Lawliet. No one exactly knows what he has done to the door to make it so impassable, but he has obviously done it very well.
Despite their best efforts, not only can the children of Wammy's House not get into the room, they have also yet to figure out exactly what he keeps inside it. The rumors are fantastic.
It has gone through several other monikers depending on who has been reading what lately. Although the membership changes, there is always a small minority who insist on calling it the Batcave, or the Fortress of Solitude, alternately. There is apparently that age.
But by common consent, it is generally called L's Lair.
It is perhaps the one place in the universe where L feels completely secure.
By L's perfect internal clock, it is 3:48 in the morning when he leaves his fourth-floor suite and creeps downstairs. Anyone up this late will be in their room, either studying or watching television.
Not even Quillsh Wammy knows how to get into the Lair, but L wants to be completely alone, possibly for the rest of his life. He wants to curl up inside his own head and scream in pain and guilt—and, for possibly the first time in his life, loneliness.
He wants to die, damn it, and if that means locking himself in his own Lair and starving to death, then so be it.
It takes him only an instant to open the door to the Lair. Today, he does not even spare a thought to wonder how anyone can find this so hard. He knows the secret; as with so many other things, he cannot understand how anyone can not see what is so obvious to him.
The rumormongers would be heartbroken if they ever found out what was actually in L's Lair.
It's a very simple room. The ceiling is quite high, and the walls are soundproofed. There are no lights installed in the ceiling—L likes the dark. The floor is plain wood, and there is no furniture, only a flat pallet and a computer. A small collection of peripherals are stacked neatly next to the monitor screen.
The last time L was here, the Kira case was just beginning. When he left, it was to travel to Japan, to formally face the police during a case for the first time in his life, and to meet Light Yagami.
The computer screen glows softly as L closes the door behind him. His footsteps make no sound against the smooth wood. Sinking to the ground before the computer screen where he has solved so many cases from, he presses a torn and bitten thumb to his lips and breathes in a broken sob. Desperate to stop, he bites into the flesh of his finger until blood flows.
Licking the blood from his hands a little bit at a time, L shuffles over to the pallet and lies down to sleep, he wishes, the rest of his life away.
L is dreaming.
He knows that he is dreaming. It is sweeter than waking, where he cannot hide from himself. Dreaming, he, the liar, can lie, and no one need know the truth. Awake, there is no escape.
In the dream, there is a river. He stands at the shore in the dark and watches it flow, and he knows, in the way that dreamers know, that the river is evil.
It is not a feature of the river, the river itself is not evil. It is made of evil, the substance that flows through it, composes it, is the essence of evil itself.
(In the dream, you cannot ask, "What is evil?" Evil is.)
He dips his hands (slim, white hands that have never burned in the sun or torn in strain) into the river, letting it soak into his skin. When he pulls them out, his pale skin is coated with blood.
He watches it drip from his fingertips in strings and patterns, back into the river, and when his hands are clean and dry again, only a shadow of the darkness lingering, he plunges them in again, deeply.
Cupping his hands beneath the liquid, he raises them. It flows over the edges of his hands, pooling in his palms.
L stares into the little mirror. His own reflection stares back at him, haunted and wan.
L meets his own eyes in the mirror, and they change, from deep and shadowed black to bright golden brown.
Deep inside him, something tears. It hurts. An illusion, maybe. A lie.
L touches his lips to those of his lover's, in the mirror, and drinks deep.
He wakes in darkness, with his nightmare on his lips.
"I killed him," L whispers, to the dark.
"I killed him. Light, I'm…"
Sorry? Is he sorry? For what he has done? Knowing why?
He what? What can he say, to the ghost of his lover, the ghoul of his enemy?
Light, I love you?
Light, I want you?
Light, I want you back?
Light, I miss you?
Light, I don't regret what I did?
Shuddering, L brings his hands to his lips and dreams a kiss. A poison kiss, a liars' kiss, but God, it had felt so good…
Light, I hate you?
And he did, he did, he should, he had…but it was so hard to hate the dead.
"Light," L whispers, "what now?"
He remembers how sweet it was, the kisses, the lust; the meeting and merging of two minds so far beyond the rest of the world, that they could build their own world together, and make it perfect, and more—
He remembers the cruelty he had seen in those eyes as they kissed, and worse, the indifference as they killed—I looked like that, when I killed him, L knows.
L remembers the pure joy of having a partner equal, at last, to himself.
I saved your life, he whispers, again, to the blond boy upstairs, who loves him like a god.
Light wanted me dead, L knows. And I hated him for it.
And here I am, dying.
L stares into the darkness, stares it down.
Damned if I'll let him kill me, after all that!
Light is in the dream.
"Get out," L tells him. He has said that often lately, but it seems he has been telling the wrong person.
"I thought you loved me, L," Light says remonstratively.
"You killed me, L," his lover says, in his dream. "How could you do that?"
L shakes his head, softly, and in the dream he reaches out to touch the other man. His skin is warm and soft beneath his hand. "You know why. Just as you know that you would have killed me first, if you had thought a little more."
Light smiles, and it's an honest smile, not the sweet lie. "I would have, if you hadn't tempted me. I wanted the world—hopefully one that included you at my side."
"At your side?"
The dream shrugs. "In my bed as well. …I never should have trusted you."
"I never should have loved you."
"But you did."
"So did you." And L smiles back.
"I'm not going to let you kill me, Light—not then and not now. Now get out of my head!"
In the dream, Light smiles—that slow and evil smile that had sent chills down L's spine and heat flashing through the rest of his body. "I don't think so, love…"
L knows that he is dreaming…but the kiss is still sweet.
Quillsh Wammy hopes like hell that the boy is hiding in that Lair of his, because he seems to have vanished. He seems doomed to spend the rest of his life worrying about L.
…actually, he could live with that.
He returns to the fourth floor in the late afternoon to check if L has returned from isolation for the sixth time that day. He is pleased and surprised (and pleased to be surprised) that a few of the lights are on.
"L," he says briefly to the frail young detective curled in the armchair, sucking wanly on a lollipop. He desperately hopes that the single syllable can convey how relieved he is to see the boy.
"Hello," L replies, and smiles faintly. Watari smiles back.
"Are you all right?" his guardian asks, daring to lay one hand on that flyaway black hair, which appears to have been combed for the first time in weeks.
L's eyes drift off into the middle distance, and he murmurs, "I hit Mello."
Watari mentally runs through placating and dismissive, and settles for facetious. "Did he notice?" he inquires, which at least has the benefit of drawing L's attention back towards his handler.
"He hasn't stopped asking me when he can come and see you," Watari clarifies, enjoying being able to see that "Aha!" moment in those huge eyes.
"I didn't mean to," L explained.
"I know." Watari takes a seat on the couch across from him. "Are you hungry?"
"If that is a particularly tactless inquiry into my mental well-being…"
L is apparently doing much better…
"…then yes, I am improving."
"Good." Seeing no need to immediately press the subject, Watari rises to leave the boy in peace.
Just as Watari rarely calls his charge by his full name, L generally refrains from addressing his elder by his given name. It gets Watari's full attention.
"I won't let him beat me," says L, quietly but firmly. "I never will."
There is nothing Quillsh Wammy can say in reply to that, and he does not try.
Afterword/Disclaimer: FIRST: I actually did not invent the Lair. It is visible (partly) in: Volume 1, pages 51, 107,163-5; Volume 2, p. 15, 22, 28; and best, Volume 7, p. 131, 148. When we see L (partially) in those pages, his posture is better and he does not have both knees up to his chest. Once L comes to Japan, we never see the Lair again. SECOND: Indirectly, Light Yagami did kill Mello in the original plotline. (I was very annoyed about that, and would have shouted at the page if I wasn't in a math class at the time.) THIRD: Ardis is an OC. I like her name. I like my big yellow name book, too. FOURTH: There's a great crossover story, "Alphabet", in which Mello calls L's base of operations "the Batcave". I think Mello dropped the joke after a while. Of course, he had better things to do. FIFTH: I don't own the Book of Genesis. Really don't. SIXTH: I really, really, really, to the nth degree, don't own GTA5. I had to ask my brother for the name of a video game—any video game! SEVENTH: really seventh? Misa is not even mentioned because I DON'T LIKE MISA. My world would be a happier place if she did not exist. That combination of cunning and gross stupidity makes me queasy. Besides, it would take the focus off the fantastically destructive L/Light relationship.
Thanks for reading all this angst! Ta.