From out of the abyss of a long, long absence comes… this fanfic!
So, I could give you guys a zillion reasons why I haven't been able to update this sooner, but it boils down to this: end of bachelor's degree, starting up the master's, finishing the master's with major exams, language lessons and some furious jobhunting. On less exciting terms, also a major case of writer's block, though I knew kind of from the start how I wanted this thing to end.
And then I suddenly sat down and wrote this thing in one fell swoop. Hopefully it's somewhat good, but if there's any continuity error, please let me know! I'll also endeavor to finish this fic within the next two or three months, as there is still a bit to go – not much, but a bit. This chapter is a teensy bit shorter than some others, but this was done on purpose, since otherwise, there would probably be cliffhangers in it. I hope you enjoy it.
In the meantime, peace!
Edit: Continuity error fixed, thank you guest reviewer! :)
Legally Now and Forever
You know how sometimes, the world just has the tendency to slow down at the worst possible moment – how, in the case of acute embarrassment or some horrible misunderstanding, time seems to stop and the attention of everyone and everything around you focuses on you in just that one moment. The ground refuses to swallow you up no matter how hard you stare it down, even as your own clammy sweat tries to helpfully drown you – good attempt, you think absent-mindedly, but ultimately not up to the task – and you await the moment of judgment, as well as your impending doom?
It was like that, only a thousand times worse. Especially since it was just one person staring at her with, for once, pure astonishment.
If there was ever a moment when Misa wanted to disappear forever, it was now. And there was no Rem around to stop her from blurting out this key piece of damning evidence against her, nor was the shinigami there to advise her what to do in this single, terrible moment. Somehow, it made things partly Rem's fault.
"Misa-san." Yes, definitely Rem's fault, because her hallucination was still standing her, astonishment on its way to morphing to an entirely blank expression, one that contained not one hint of the previous – had she imagined it? – happiness. "Is there anything else you wish to add?"
"Huh?" She wasn't aware she had made a speech. "Add?"
L's eyes narrowed ever so slightly, but not maliciously. "I would be most interested to know what brought you to the conclusion regarding my identity. You're clever, Misa-san, but also too selfish to notice things that don't directly relate to you."
That stung, but Misa bore it with dignity this time. "I-is it too much to believe that I figured it out on my own? That I actually tried to figure it out?! The long absences, the changing phone numbers, the convenient excuses!"
She knew the situation was serious when L locked the door behind himself and his eyes quickly swept the room to see if there was any window open, or any chance that information might escape this place. Then… "Is your cellphone on, Misa-san?"
"Would you mind turning it off for me? As well as any electronics you may have on your person."
What was this, an airport check? "Why would you want such a ridiculous thing?"
"Because we apparently need to have a conversation, Misa-san. I would prefer it not be shared with others. If you don't wish to comply, I'm afraid I'll have to leave and someone else will-"
"No!" That would be even worse than this humiliation – Misa quickly whipped out her phone, switched it off and basically tossed it at him in a moment of panic. Thankfully, apparently L had decent reflexes, slouch aside.
He didn't thank her for it though. Jerk. "So, Misa-san, given the nature of our situation, I am compelled to ask you… since when have you known?"
Again, not the obvious question – how did she know? Misa had trouble meeting his eyes. "You've been gone for three years." she said in lieu of an answer. "Do you think I never thought about you? I wish I hadn't." That wasn't true, but she needed some ammunition – anything. "But I did. I thought it was my fault that you'd left!"
"You know that wasn't the case."
"Please Ryuu-" She stopped herself. "What do I call you? I've always called you Ryuuga-san, but that's not your real name, is it?"
L shrugged very lightly. "It's as good a name as any. You're used to it, so please feel free to continue using it to refer to me. For obvious reasons, I can't share my actual name with you, Misa-san."
As if she needed it – she almost laughed at that, but somehow managed to stop herself. "You really don't know how women think, do you, Ryuuga-san? Or how you taught me to think. I began searching for information, and I began analyzing. There was nothing on you anywhere. You don't exist."
"Still, that is a rather impressive deduction based on what is an absence of information." Too far too far too far he wasn't buying it, of course he wouldn't, because he was a thousand times smarter than her, and all she had to go on was her ability to channel her suppressed anger into not revealing exactly how she knew. "Yet out of all the possible outcomes, out of all the possible solutions, you went with this one. Why?"
"You're not denying it."
"There's little point in that."
Misa was probably imagining the tiredness in his slouch as he grabbed one of the classroom's chairs and proceeded to sit down and balance on it in that ridiculous position he called sitting. It was almost endearing, if not for her being too petrified to move and get one herself. Instead, it felt like an interrogation.
"I won't insult your intelligence by denying my reaction to you possessing this information. There was always the possibility that this might happen, and one of you figures out the ruse. However," Here, he almost smiled. "I must confess, I did not anticipate that it would be you, Misa-san. Your quest to regain Light-kun's affection held all of your attention at the time. It seems that when you focus your efforts on something, you go all in. This goes a long way towards explaining your success in law school."
"I- thank you." There was nothing else to say, really.
"Of course, this puts us in a slight predicament." L said, leaning back against the chair a little bit – an impressive feat, considering his continued maintenance of his usual slouch. "Obviously, I miscalculated somewhat in allowing myself this… however, nothing can be done about that now."
"You're not going to question me further about how I know?" She just had to blurt out the most horrid things today, it seemed. Misa barely managed to fight the reflex to cover her stupid, big fat mouth.
"There is little point in that now – you know, which is the important thing. And I thought you had already attributed it to your amazing powers of feminine persistence, Misa-san. Or is there anything else you wish to tell me?"
Oh so much, but nothing that he could ever know. "No, since you obviously don't believe me."
"I do believe that you believe that, Misa-san. Which is unfortunate, but nothing I can change." L knew her too well, because she could barely keep down the things she instantly wanted to blurt out at him. Law school be damned – much more of this goading and she'd probably yell that she could have been the goddess of the new world if she had wanted to. "It would, however, be interesting to know what you plan on doing with this information."
Of course – the blackmail potential was endless, if you could survive whatever grisly fate would probably await her if she wanted to go down that route. However, this snapped Misa out of her reverie a little, because it made her angry.
"You actually think I'd expose you?" No response. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life. You… you don't know me at all. Just like I don't really know you." she added dejectedly. "This… I don't believe it… after all this time, all that I did…" Years ago, Misa-Misa would have been terrified at the idea of her makeup melting due to tears, and what others might think of her less than perfect visage. Amane Misa didn't spare it a milisecond's worth of thought.
"Misa-san," She'd never have guessed that a person could move so silently, or that she was so distracted that a slouching detective in sneakers, seated on a likely squeaky chair, could basically sneak up on her. "Do you understand what revealing this information could do? I don't appear as a disembodied voice to my clients because I relish it, but because it's an essential part of the security of my operations. As well as my associates, some of whom have criminal records and are thus more easily traceable. You, as a civilian, are also at risk for knowing my face and identity – particularly being a highly famous public figure. If anyone were to discover you know this, your life could be at risk."
"You're concerned about me?" Misa blinked. She hadn't considered that, not really.
"Of course I'm concerned about you." If L had ever been exasperated, now was the time, apparently. "You are infinitely frustrating, Misa-san. Your main advantage is your unpredictability – sometimes even I can't predict what move you'll make next, because you change gears so quickly. One moment, you have a clearly structured hierarchy of priorities, the next, you react on impulse. As you can imagine, such a behavioral pattern makes it somewhat dangerous for me to entrust you with confidential information, no matter how you came across it."
"Then take me with you." Once again, the age-old demand. If she was getting any good at reading L's expressions, Misa thought this surprised him once again. "I've said it before and I'm saying it again."
"Here I thought you hated me, Misa-san. I've deceived you all this time, after all." If L was searching for a sign of wavering on her face, he found none. "Do you even know what you're asking?"
"Do you know what you're asking?" she demanded. Then, Misa's nose wrinkled a little – men could be so stupid, but she had seriously picked the most oblivious one on the planet. "For such a reputably smart person, you really are silly."
Misa supposed there were thousands of ways things could have happened, but for a moment, she realized that she had more power here than she had actually considered, and needed to make use of it. After all, in real life, just as the courtroom had taught her, it wasn't really the facts that mattered – it was how well you played your hand. And she hadn't prepared for this, in any case – she had no letter ready to whip out and run away, blushing like the schoolgirl she was. There was only one way of doing things – the way she had always done, even when she had been in her own little selfish world, so long ago.
"As an internationally famous person, you are a highly-visible liability."
"I can get to places your people can't. You can protect me this way in case anyone found out."
"You have a very promising life ahead of you, Misa-san. You've worked so hard to achieve your spotlight." Quizzically, almost, he tilted his head. "And you want to spend it in the shadows? That isn't like you."
"No." Misa said, gathering every ounce of courage and pigheadedness she had left. It was always her way to gamble without considering the consequences. "What's like me is this – I want to spend it with you."
Truth to be told, Misa had painfully little experience with taking the initiative when it came to boys. Her one big relationship had been Light, and that had been entirely initiated from his side – well, she had been smitten with him from the start, so she hadn't much cared, but it had always been him making the move, him progressing their intimacy, him deciding what was next. After that spectacular trainwreck, and her experience with Ryuuga-san, she hadn't really dated. It was easy to justify it with a plain old busy schedule, which was true enough, but that wasn't the main reason behind it.
That isn't to say that the big kiss – maybe not first, but the big one – with the man she had set her heart on years ago sent her head spinning. It didn't start out like much – she didn't imagine surprise kisses did, usually – but she had a strategy. Having worked out the nerve to actually do this, she knew that if she happened to give him room to wiggle out of this, he likely would, given the opportunity.
If anyone had witnessed her impressive handiwork, they'd have claimed she was part-octopus, given the swift, tight grip she quickly found on the still-unmoving detective's shoulders. Misa was very aware that her hands were shaking, but she persisted. The slouch came in handy in this case. She was shorter than him, but this evened the score, mostly.
Kissing an unresponsive person was somewhat discouraging, but the nice thing about betting all things on a single, desperate, final card was that persistence was its own reward.
Of course, the moment she felt the stiff rigidness under her clammy hands lessen the slightest bit was also nice. It had nothing on the instant she felt the slightest, extremely tentative response against her lips.
In hindsight, she should have probably realized that this would be L's first kiss – it wasn't as if the detective was likely to get that much social interaction with women, let alone women his age, and Misa was now thankfully certain that he didn't have a preference for men instead.
If a panel of experienced judges would have been present to rate the kiss, it would have barely scraped a four out of ten, maybe. For Misa, it felt like roughly two thousand.
It couldn't last forever, and when she opened her eyes, Misa's fear of looking into an unreadable face dissipated. Even in moments of mild surprise, she had never seen so much emotion on L's face, though unfortunately it wasn't only the one she had hoped for.
"Misa…" Even the voice had changed – not calm but hoarse, though L cleared his throat to change that instantly. If he tried to get away from her grip of iron, he was unsuccessful at it, or not very keen on it. "Misa… why must you do this? Why must you be so difficult?"
"You knew I was difficult when you met me. Why did you come back?" Tentatively testing the waters, she released one hand's grip on his shoulder, moving it towards his cheek. L flinched away slightly as the hand approached, for the first time appearing rather like a scared animal, but Misa waited and when he didn't push her away, slowly placed it there. "Why are you here?"
"You know why. I've always been your fan."
"Number one fan?"
"I wouldn't dare call myself such." He wasn't running yet. This was almost good. "The whole world adores Misa-san, or will soon enough."
"Oh good, you admitted you love me first. Here I was afraid I'd have to do it myself."
She didn't give him a chance to question that, not immediately at least. After the second kiss broke – this time, because she knew she'd have to let him voice an opinion at some point, Misa could honestly see the resemblance to a fish on his face. Certainly, the way his mouth didn't seem to close properly this time.
"Misa," Once again, no Misa-san. "This is not how this conversation was supposed to go."
To this, she shrugged. "Things never go as planned. If they did, I'd have married Light-kun and never met you."
A shadow passed through L's face at the mention of his age-old suspect, and Misa briefly wondered if she hadn't made a mistake. "True enough." he said, but didn't comment on that idea beyond that. "I saw part of his speech. I must say, the part of a serious student is always one where he excels. Has he not reconsidered his proposal towards you?" Scratch that last bit.
"Do you really think I'd accept it now? After all that happened? I do have my pride, you know. And it's getting slightly shattered here, seeing as I'm making leaps of faith and assumptions and you really are a dummy, Ryuuga-san."
"Hm? About what, Misa-san?"
"Misa." she insisted, "Just Misa. If I'm right, that is." One more kiss, though quick this time.
The reaction was quicker this time, probably because he was getting slightly used to it by repetition. "Misa, listen to me. There will be no easy way through this. There will be compromises… changes… and I cannot promise you anything but constant uncertainty."
"Do you think I waited for you for three years without considering that? As I was saying, an absolute dummy. You can't even confess to a girl properly!"
There is was again, that not-adorable head-tilt he sometimes did. "I'm confused – how is it a confession if you already know how I feel about you?"
"Well it's the princi- oh!" Misa closed her mouth and allowed her hand to finally drop, the magnitude of that statement sinking in. "Since when?"
"Is that relevant?"
"Of course it is!"
L thought about things for a moment. "You know, I don't actually remember." he said, rather earnestly. "I guess it must have always been like that."
Though she wasn't certain to what degree she believed it, Misa wasn't one to let facts get in the way of a good story, at least not in this case. Although she was sure someone would notice the locked door at some point or come looking for one or both of them sooner or later, at that moment, she didn't care at all.
This time, L was prepared for her response, though it still probably wouldn't have ranked above a six out of ten on the expert judge panel's scale. However, practice did make perfect, and Misa did have faith in powers of improvement. After all, she wouldn't be where she was if it weren't for them.
It must have been ages, but she felt something tug slightly on her hair and brush through it – it must have been his free hand. There was always opportunity for improvement. All it took was a catastrophe, a little encouragement, and the right person to do it.