EDIT: Rewrite as of 2011 (continuation after a loooong hiatus due to uni). Finally, the fic is at the final stage. Anyone who knows the duration of legal studies in Japan, feel free to correct me – I put it at 4 years bachelor, 2 master.
Sorry about the fake chapter alert yesterday, the website glitched on me. Ever since then, I've managed to rewrite a portion of this chapter to make it better suit my needs. Honestly, there were so many drafts and scenarios, I'm not entirely certain what kind of outcome I wanted to produce in the first place. I despise utterly senseless fluff, but it seemed to be heading in that direction at first. Now, I'm relatively satisfied with the outcome.
It also turned into a freakishly long chapter, which meant that parts of it had to be cut and reposted elsewhere – meaning that an epilogue is in the works, because it just doesn't work too well without it. So, one more chapter, which will be a continuation of this scene and possibly a separate epilogue – I have to see how long the rest of the scene turns out to be.
Light makes a brief return! No Ryuuk or Rem this time, but this might make it up to you (hopefully).
Amane Misa, twenty-three, in a few hours to be graduate of To-Oh's law department, wasn't her year's valedictorian.
Not that she had expected that much. After all, despite her best efforts, competition against Japan's brightest intellect was a foregone conclusion in her opinion. She wasn't a natural academic, nor did learning come to her as easily as it did to Yagami Light. But she had put her best efforts into her studies and it was now finally paying off.
No, she wasn't the top student of her year, but she was close. Being number three wasn't as horrible as her naturally competitive streak might have otherwise claimed. It was an acceptable victory; especially considering her continued modeling and acting career, which had a tendency of interfering with things.
Over the years, Misa had learned important distinctions, such as when she could wear her favorite cross-shaped jewelry and when a more subtle fleur-de-lis motive was a trifle more acceptable, when a book was too heavy to carry around during the breaks between photo shoots and when she had to clench her teeth and tell her manager that she intended to not only graduate, but graduate with honors. And that meant that sometimes, studies had to take precedence (during exam periods, this often caused Yuki to freak out, though she had gotten used to it as the years passed.)
After the resolution of the Kira case, the press had tried to use all the damnest methods to get her to reveal even the tiniest tidbit of information regarding L. She still remembered some of the headlines, particularly the more outrageous ones that pegged her as being in a secret affair with L and later on those who believed that she herself was L, considering her timely involvement with the case.
It wasn't as funny as it should have been. Certainly, it now made more sense why L had chosen to abandon her so quickly, this unwanted investigation into her private life, but it didn't ease the sting of his absence.
Four full years. Well, almost. Not a single word, be it visit, letter or phone call (and he still had her phone, damn it.)
Somehow, she wondered if the L stood for 'liar.'
"Great speech, Light-kun."
She sashayed to their star student with a bright smile that was just a little bit tense. None of the others around her knew just how close they had come to being forcibly saved from themselves by a dark messiah. But that would-be prophet or god now stood among them, all gracious friendliness and polite gestures. Some days, even she didn't believe that this man had the will to kill in him. She still didn't share Rem's opinion that he would have killed her too, in a heartbeat.
"Ah, thank you." he replied almost bashfully, ruffling his hair a bit. There was no sign of any degradation in his state of health – as far as Misa was aware, no one knew yet, besides her, of course. She didn't really know when it would come out. But there were other things to be grateful for.
Light remembered nothing from his time as Kira, which was a blessing. But he had also never tried to resume any kind of close relationship with Misa, despite his eventual break-up with a stiff-lipped Takada Kiyomi. They were somewhere between casual friends and good acquaintances at this point; Misa preferred it that way. Partly because she felt physically ill at the thought of manipulating Light into returning to her through the power of the Death Note (though only Light, Ryuuk's voice seemed to laugh in her mind). But mostly because fixating on Light would mean remembering the past.
Now that she was no longer a nuisance and a stalker at that, their valedictorian was able to use his perfectly enacted smile on her to a supreme effect.
"Congratulations on your exam results, by the way."
"I might actually get close to you on the master's level."
The paranoia that had made Misa search for any trace of Kira in his gestures was gone, replaced with pure gladness that her hero was now a force of good in the world. Even robbed of his powers, he intended to save lives and help people. This was justice.
"I won't make the mistake of underestimating you again, Misa. Besides, I know when to quit while I'm ahead." Light added without a trace of malice. Had it not been Misa-Misa the model, the small circle of intellectual friends around him would have snorted at the idea. But most of the time, they were still too much in awe of her presence to do anything of the sort.
Most of them still entertained the idea that she might say yes to their date offers, after all.
Misa ignored them, as she did to most of the world when speaking to her former ideal. It was a training in focus, in studying a subject or suspect for any tell.
"You were always quick to adjust."
But even with her careful observations, she still couldn't beat his mastery of observation skills; whenever she came close to discerning what he was thinking, Light's mannerisms changed, subtly or obviously. This time, that amounted to a slight roguish smile that would have robbed many a girl of her heart. As Misa had already fallen victim to that robbery and endured the long wait at the police office, the fruitless investigation and the eventual replacement of the missing article with an inferior piece of equipment, she was immune.
"It's my one saving grace, aside from my good looks."
"Ah, Amane-san, there you are." The tight-knit cluster of their classmates had spread out to allow a woman almost as tall as Light pass through. Misora Naomi still almost always wore all black, but her expression wasn't nearly as morose as it had been during the Kira case. "Yagami-kun, congratulations on a memorable speech." she said earnestly, congratulating him with the (cool, according to the students) western handshake, as there wasn't any room to bow properly in the packed courtyard. "Your family must be most proud of you."
Misa had caught a glimpse of them somewhere around the campus, most likely waiting for their son's admirers to disperse before congratulating him. Out of all the graduates, Misa was probably the one with the least family members present, for obvious reasons; her sister was there somewhere, probably doing her best not to be recognized as Misa-Misa's sister and possibly her manager Yuki, who would be most glad to see all the craziness over. She was likely also planning to have Misa pose in her graduation robes for a photo shoot soon, if the rumors were true and To-Oh was ready to pay her an outrageous sum of money for appearing on their leaflets and study guides.
"Misora-sensei, I'm sorry to hear that you're leaving To-Oh." Light said earnestly; he actually also looked mildly dejected, if there ever was such a thing. He had a great amount of respect for the former FBI agent, in class and out. Misa was actually relatively certain that were it not for the fact that Misora-sensei was married, they would have made a nice couple. "I'm certain your expertise will be missed here."
"There's always a point in a job when moving on is relatively inevitable." Misora shrugged idly. "If you stagnate for too long, it simply gets to you. You'll see in ten years."
How easy it was to laugh right then. "I'm certain."
"Amane-san, could I borrow you for a moment before your fans spot and overwhelm you?"
Misa blinked. She wasn't aware that there were too many admirers around, but she had seen some possible reporters around… and the announcement of her graduation was hardly a surprising or unexpected thing, so it was entirely possible that others might show up. But was something too serious to show up on camera post-ceremony?
"Sure." The blonde shrugged easily, waving to the amnesiac dying God without any fear. "Say hi to Sayu-chan for me, Light-kun!"
And for that, she received a blasé glance and a dismissive smile, sent away by the monarch uncrowned. "Will do."
There was a certain advantage to being just one member of the crowd, not the person standing on the stage and watched by all. Misa didn't have a particular problem with either of these, but there were moments when she didn't really want to be faced with publicity. Personal triumphs that had little to do with her acting career were one of those.
The inside of the law department's main building was almost entirely deserted, save for the cleaners and a straggler here or there. Misora-sensei's office was on the far side of the second floor, in probably the quietest part of the corridor. Misa had come by enough times to appreciate the place. It was least likely to have her run into some of her fans – and there were enough of them around now that it had become clear that she was there to stay for her whole degree.
"Many thought that you wouldn't prevail in your task, Amane-san, and today you've managed to prove them all wrong." The blinds were down in Misora-sensei's office, but the door had enough glass in it to allow light inside the tasteful but Spartan room. "I hope you're justly proud of yourself."
"Thank you, sensei." Since her teacher didn't sit down, merely leaning against the doorframe, neither did Misa. "I have a few job offers, but I still think they really just want Misa-Misa as their mascot, not as a proper worker."
"That will inevitably be part of the truth for a while now." Never let it be said that Misora Naomi was one to sugar-coat the truth when she had the slightest chance to be truthful. "I'm certain you won't have any trouble making your way after these four years, though."
It wasn't the path-forging that was the problem, it was the picking of the path in general. Misa still wasn't entirely certain whether she should plunge head-first into the legal world or continue with her acting until she was too old to be considered a teen idol. After all, she could use the money in the future; a model of her caliber was hardly living on a pittance.
Naomi was about to say something rather wry, if her expression was any indication, but a small light began blinking from the pocket of her jacket. The faint buzzing sounds weren't impossible to ignore, but when the older woman looked at the caller id, she must have considered it of the utmost importance; Misora-sensei wasn't one to leave things half-finished.
"Would you excuse me for just a minute, Amane-san?" She offered a tight but apologetic smile for this intrusion, already halfway out of the door. "I have to take this call…"
"Of course. I have time." Misa was actually surprised that she wasn't the one being sent out of the office; for all intents and purposes, she was the visitor here.
Heeled boots echoed behind the closed door as her former teacher obviously walked a little bit further away to make certain she had some manner of privacy. Not that this was necessary; she was intimidating enough even when her utmost attention wasn't focused on a student. It was more about the fact that people did such things out of habit.
Misa sighed a little bit. She was somewhat sorry that Rem had refused to come and attend the celebration; the shinigami apparently disliked such irreverent gatherings, celebrations simply for the sake of celebrating. Ryuuk had left her quite a while ago; as she already had one shinigami bound to her, the bond of another was neither possible nor necessary.
Besides, if she was going to be this boring about hiding her Death Notes, he had no reason to stay, even if he couldn't take that second notebook back. Misa didn't doubt that this was in part due to his own lack of amusement with the human world. Besides, there would always be other ways to amuse oneself in the shinigami world, like figuring out how to get another extra Death Note.
She herself would be bound to the Death Notes for a while still, unless she wanted to lose her memories and make the sacrifice of half her lifespan for the Eyes in vain. Sometimes, she wondered if she had made the right choice, but there was no taking it back, which was something she just had to accept. It could also be useful sometimes, though she would have a hard time justifying how come she knew someone was who they were without blatant evidence.
One of the windows was half-open, making the papers on the desk rustle. Since Misora-sensei liked little as much as she did a tidy desk, Misa rather thought she wouldn't begrudge her for saving the orderly papers. She crossed the room with a few purposeful strides in her deliberately low heels. The official look suited her relatively well by now, despite her refusal to wear boring colors like navy or grey (what was wrong with light blue?) and her insistence on keeping her hair long, blonde and loose.
Unwavering red symbols everywhere, hovering peacefully, never flickering. After three and a half years of wearing her own invisible red glasses, Misa had gotten relatively used to it. It was now distracting only on photos or movies.
The door behind her opened again, somewhat softer than Misora-sensei's trademark brusque and firm movements would make it.
"You've stopped wearing your hair in pigtails."
Were it not for the fact that she had just closed the window, the model wasn't quite certain she wouldn't have fallen right through it. She knew that voice. But she hadn't thought she'd hear it ever again. At least, not without a filter of robotic disembodiment over it. No, not even then.
She turned, slowly, eyes wide and frozen.
And of course it couldn't be just a mistake or a hallucination (but she wasn't entirely certain about the latter); it had to be him, standing there with one hand still on the door handle, wearing the same clothes as on the day of their parting (how many white t-shirts and jeans could one person own, anyway?) and slouching twice as badly as Misa remembered.
And there was an actual quirk of a smile on his lips as he surveyed the stunned graduate, her formal attire clashing wildly with her distinctly childish shock.
"That's a shame; it suited you."
One couldn't slap hallucinations, of course.
Misa didn't even know how she maneuvered herself past the desk and across the room; she just knew that one moment, there was an almost misty sheen to her vision, as if she were going to cry. The next, she was standing in front of the world's greatest detective (some detective he was, if he couldn't evenfigure out one woman) with her arm raised, her palm stinging and a reddish mark spreading across the most definitely real man's deathly pale cheek. He didn't even have the decency to look too shocked or at least show some display of pain.
But she had that covered, naturally.
"You don't call for ages, vanish on me for over three years and now think showing up is going to make things all right?!" Misa didn't want to yell – it wasn't ladylike, hurt your singing voice and alerted possible bypassers (not that there would be any, if Misora Naomi was indeed on the case, as she suspected) to trouble. So she settled for a high-pitched shriek.
There was silence almost until the moment that the sting faded from both her hand and the assaulted skin. Perhaps to give her some gratification, L only turned his almost pupil-less eyes towards her once the red had faded.
"I apologize, Misa-san." Those words were costing him something – pride, perhaps – and Misa could tell that it was difficult for him to phrase. She waited, but knew that nothing could make things right. "I was… delayed."
Especially not that.
"Why are you here now?" she asked, a little calmer after several deep breaths. Who needed a Death Note; she would throttle him right then and there if she stopped to look at the almost floating letters above his head. Because they were confirmation of both his identity and the continued lie.
"This is a very significant moment in your life." he said it without being sarcastic or condescending, but the very calm of the words made Misa's blood burn. Not significant for him, obviously, but important enough to appear. She didn't know what to say at this point. "As a… friend, I'm obliged to show my support for you. Besides," L had paused before that word, wondering if it still applied, but didn't shirk away from admitting harmless facts "You know I'm a great fan of yours."
"A friend would have called." Misa's voice was quivering, but she didn't know whether it was with rage or sadness. Possibly both.
Part of her had never wanted to see him again, part of her was half-convinced that using the Death Note at this point would still be a good idea… but somehow, these aspects of her were rather out of ideas when actually faced with the detective. Right then, answers didn't concern her; she had only accusations. Long-standing ones.
"A fan would have tried."
L never looked dejected when explaining logical matters that suited his purposes, but he could also quite easily calculate just how happy the blonde would be with logical answers. "There are obligations that supersede personal desires."
"Yes, duty, work, saving the world and all that!" The model finally took a step back, if only to have room to throw her arms up in the air in a sweeping gesture. There was something desperate about the way she moved now, but she managed not to trip over the edge of her heavy robes. "Misa doesn't buy that anymore!" Then the movement slowed and Misa used whatever conscious and unconscious acting talent to project the singular accusation with her eyes. "You promised me."
It was most effective, L had to admit. If he had a better grasp of words, he might have tried to explain this better, but a partial explanation would likely only anger Misa further. To see her at all had been an impulsive decision in itself; perhaps the wrong one, too, but it was done now. Perhaps he actually was the pervert she had dubbed him – or, at the very least, a masochist, since seeing her enraged by his presence was better than seeing just the image of her in a magazine or movie, not acknowledging him at all.
A destructive circle without end would be the best way to describe their pseudo-relationship.
"I promised I would try to visit if I returned to Japan. This is my first time back ever since the Kira case. And I believe you insinuated that I may call you whenever I like."
He remembered those words entirely too well. And the pink phone he still had among his few non-occupational possessions had been a hovering question mark for all the time since the end of that case.
"Perhaps I simply didn't wish to call you."
For her own good. Having something of hers was enough.
L was good at lying.
Misa wasn't entirely convinced yet.
"Friends are supposed to call each other. And you never gave me your phone number." Nor would he, of course. This – whatever it was – was the equivalent of throwing salt into an almost-healed wound. Pointlessly cruel and efficient to no party. "We were supposed to go on that vacation. You said you would have liked to."
If he lied then, Misa was relatively certain she would have tried to use the nearest object – sharp or blunt – on his head. The very idea broke to pieces when the almost bashful look reappeared, subtly proud yet not entirely able to imagine the thing.
"I believe it would have been most diverting, Misa-san. Had it been a possibility, I think I would have enjoyed going with you very much."
It was a distinct sign that his combat skills were deteriorating due to lack of training, L thought moments later, that he hadn't been able to predict the suddenness with which Misa had thrown her arms around him. For such a slight girl, she certainly had bone-crushing strength when she put her mind to it, despite the numbing effect of her graduation robe.
But her hair smelled the same, rain and sweetness and happy things; her breathing as uneven as always when she was in an emotional state like this one and suddenly this proximity was painful not only due to her odd grip and strength, but also because it was Misa.
"Ryuuga-san is an impossible pervert!"
Those words, hiccuped as they were, remained quite at odds with how she clung to him. It was as if they were in an elevator with one too many people inside, but the office was roomy and easy to move in; it didn't matter to her. Even the rigidness she felt through her own tightly-clenched hands didn't matter.
"Statistically, this isn't the best way of fending off possible sexual attackers." How he managed to draw enough breath for so many words was a mystery even to L, which was a matter of some concern.
"Could you just not spout statistics at me for a single moment, please?" Misa's voice echoed from somewhere around his clavicles. It was too much, too close, too risky, but it was also her. "Otherwise I might have to clobber you with a calculator."
With the childishness of Misa-Misa temporary gone, L calculated that there was a high chance of her having calmed down somewhat.
"An inventive and deadly punishment, to be certain." It would certainly take quite a few hits and, given Misa's strength, she might break the small object before succeeding with even one attack of significance.
Not that L wished to try this in any shape or form. His masochistic tendencies weren't that deeply-rooted.
Finally, he was allowed to breathe, though it was still somewhat difficult. Misa refused to move away, perhaps believing that he would vanish into thin air if she as much as stepped away.
"You're staying this time, aren't you?" It was a challenge, a question, an accusation and a plea, all wrapped up in one perfectly enacted package.
Clearly, the wrong answer here would mean certain death.
"For a time, yes."
It wasn't the wrong answer, but nor was it the right one, if the frown was any indication.
She hadn't grown more than an inch throughout the years, which enforced the childishness of Misa-Misa's image. Therefore, it was relatively easy to tell when a pout meant simple coyness and when it became something much more serious. This time, it wasn't an act.
"You're here because of a case, not because of Misa." she proclaimed after a moment, her voice even, not yet quivering. That was to wait for the moment when she raised it once again – upon receiving no audible reply. "A pervert and an awful person too boot! Some things never change!" This time – finally – she wrenched herself away, the way her little feet stomped on the floor showing just a hint of the storm to come. Not the mirthless laugh, though. "Silly me, to think that you've actually come here to see me! Is one of the students a suspect?" Misa's voice was brisk, harsh and unyielding. She hadn't been like that three years ago. "Do you need background information on someone from the university? Misora-sensei is going back to active duty - that must be it."
Depersonalization, that was it, the correct word for what she was attempting. If she did that properly, things wouldn't be so utterly horrible and this embarrassment – her thoughts – not so complete.
How like a lawyer to jump to conclusions without any proof to support their point of view. Accusations first, proof later, if ever. She would get that yet – and a confession, at that.
"No one on campus is suspected of any involvement with my current case." That was the truth, or as much of it as L could tell her. In any case, this was indeed a purely social visit, as peculiar as that might be for him. L generally had no strong opinion regarding friendship and admiration, though he understood the concept well enough. But Misa was different. "I came here because I wanted to see you."
There, that was it: a truth, simply put, without any kind of hidden motive to it. Peculiar, to indulge oneself in such things once in a while.
But after being exposed to half-truths and strategies for too long (not least of all thanks to him), Misa wasn't so quick to believe anything she heard or saw.
"Of course!" she exclaimed, spitting the words out almost like knocked-out teeth. "You expect me to believe that after two years of making me think you don't even remember who I am, the great L suddenly has time for me without any hidden motive?!"
Old habits died hard, and continued twitching long after their actual demise. One of them was obviously Misa's tendency to be emotional about things. Her brain caught up with her mouth approximately three seconds after all its venom was spent and thus had no time to try and halt this most irrational (but fair) accusation. What it did manage to halt was the stream of expletives that flooded the blonde's consciousness in the next thirty seconds.
It was a rather long list. She was actually surprised at herself.
The detective was very still, watching her rather as if she were a frog that had suddenly sprouted wings, flown around the room singing Sakura, Sakura while dancing the polonaise and promised to fulfill three wishes for him if he brought her to her golden aquarium at the end of the rainbow. Which meant that his eyes were rather wider than usual (if that was possible), his thin lips slightly parted and his posture a touch more tense. She could pride herself in the fact that he would most certainly have dropped his customary coffee cup, had he been holding it, though.
Were she speaking to a normal person, this would be the moment where some kind of reaction would be able to give her a start-kick to her rant, some confirmation. Naturally, L couldn't have expected her to have worked out his identity – or, even less so, her revealing this trump card in such a blasé and reckless manner. But L wasn't a normal person, much to Misa's chagrin and relief both. It was difficult to tell what he was thinking; or perhaps he was simply thinking much too fast for her to catch up with him.
Either way, his immense fish-like eyes remained relatively expressionless, as far as she could tell. But then, he blinked. That was as much of a reaction as she was going to get. L never blinked.
Misa didn't really know whether to laugh or cry.