A Balm for Social Failure

(Chapter 1: The Dynamics of Failure)
Light x L

L begins to suspect something is missing from his life. He believes the key to be in social interaction - his weak point. At the appearance of the enigma named Light Yagami, he is challenged to rise to the occasion.

Disclaimer: Characters are the property of the writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata. There may be a few original characters within the scope of the fic - those'll be mine, as is the plot. (I think we all know which elements are from the original story.)

A/N: This chapter starts out with the internal ramblings of L just before all the 'live' action stuff starts up. Bear with him. He is not all doom and gloom :)


Prologue:

Albert Einstein once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

L was not insane, not by any stretch of the imagination. He varied every experiment, every test of logic, even if by infinitesimal degrees.

It has also been said that, "Only a fool expects rational behavior from his fellow humans."

L bit the side of his thumb and chewed, a frown marring his contemplative expression. A fool then, he thought. I am a genius and a fool.

Chapter 1:

People are so tiresome... Useless little land mines - sources of self doubt and analysis. They offer nothing of value outside of their roles as keepers of the information I must ferret out to complete the latest puzzle. The latest case.

They are as lifelike dolls, trained to know a few things, but ultimately the space inside, the minds inside are hollow. They offer nothing but a waste of time as I mull over my inability to apply my intellect to successfully blending into their social matrix and gaining their acceptance. I am not perceived as 'normal', nor will I gain that attribute in their eyes as they continually identify me as an outsider almost on sight. Blind in other regards, it is with almost animal efficiency that they can test the air and sense I am different from them.

Normal. How does one portray normalcy as an empty doll? How does one fake it?

No. It may be impossible for me. And yet I worry at it. I've cataloged the exercise as a waste of time, and yet I cannot seem to escape my endless musings.

Social Interaction... I despise failure, and yet I fail at this.

It drives me to try, to test out new methods, different approaches, revised maskings of my persona, but ultimately, I yield the same depressing result.

It galls me.

I watch them, the teeming mass of humanity, as if I am on a different plane. I am cut off from them just as surely as they cut themselves off from me. I am in color, they in black and white. I watch them, much like children watch ant farms, and I wonder. I wonder how, why, in their inept scrabblings, is it that they have so much more to wring from life?

I have my mind, yes. But even the ceaseless flow of requests for help pouring in to "Eraldo Coil", "L" and "Deneuve" are not enough to fully distract me. I feel dissatisfied. As if there is something missing. This feeling only intensified as I began work on the most intriguing and challenging case in any of my three careers and, as necessity dictated, for the first time, personal involvement.

--

L worked fixedly on the slowly melting piece of caramel in his mouth and tried to decide how to initiate his next course of action. The three suited men seated before him, brought in as liaisons to the current case, blathered on in an energized though exceedingly boring fashion. They went through their paces of elementary deduction, thrilling to each others brilliance at brainstorming while L fought the urge to roll his eyes or fall asleep. The latter was a greater feat. So, if nothing else, they could be commending on their outstanding ability to lull a chronic insomniac into rest.

He chewed through the resilient, sticky lump of golden-brown confection with determination, wondering if he should perhaps tape this session to use later, if by chance he actually wanted to sleep and couldn't manage it alone. It had happened before, though typically, he was content to lapse into unconsciousness wherever he was until a few hours rest revived him. In that respect he was almost like a thing fueled with stored electricity. He ran until the power gave out and everything shut down just long enough to for his reserves to renew their energy and get him back online.

He'd developed amazing poise. He could balance on the edge of his toes, hovering over a keyboard, and fall asleep mid ponder- only to awake with a solution or a theory which he would find himself typing as he came to. He was rather proud of that ability, that mental stamina, but it was just that sort of thing that most people would think he was strange. To his point of view, skills like that should be deemed impressive, not freakish. But even the stalwart Watari had been on the giving end of a few looks of that caliber.

Finishing the sweet just enough to be able to make mostly recognizable speech, L spoke. "Gentleman. Your summations are correct, insofar as your first conjectures..." Seeing as I all but laid that information out at your feet 2 hours ago. L pained himself to be tactful with his under-gifted comrades. "However, I have given much thought to the matter..." As expected, his forthright speech, gently correcting their misconceptions, and steering them back on course was met partially with confusion, as if they couldn't follow the simple logic, and largely with veiled resentment.

He completed his discourse as succinctly as possible, not wanting to draw out the uncomfortable feeling that was beginning to pervade the room. He reached for another caramel, popping it into his mouth, followed by two others, removing his ability, and their expectation, for him to speak further. One man, in the navy blue suit - he hated navy blue - looked perplexed. The other two, grey and black respectively, looked mildly disgusted and disdainful. He widened his eyes and chewed at them, knowing he'd done his part, and wanting them to leave as expediently as possible. He felt an intense desire to reclaim his solitude and not have to endure such trifling intellect. It was making his mind slow to alarming levels just trying to communicate with them. Watari would take care of the rest. Watari always did.

Blue suit was significantly younger than the other two, and it was he who lingered a moment as they made their exit.

He said nothing, merely pausing at the door and pinning L with such a look that made L wonder if that head was not as empty as he expected, only less intellectually gifted. It was not a friendly look, nor was it aggressive or mean. It was an invasive look, however, and it was unwelcome. L grabbed a small, chocolate coated cake donut and shoved it in his mouth, simultaneously shutting out all traces of thought and emotion from not only his face but his eyes as well. People hated that look. And while he was stuffing his head, it probably served to make him look like a mindless, flat-eyed frog.

The other young man's eyes sharpened a touch, making L regret the last donut and the second that he'd started, the junk food roiling in his stomach uncomfortably. Then he was gone, leaving L to contemplate his O.C.D. habit of plying awkward social interactions with enough junk food to make an army of snot-nosed, sugar-greedy children throw their guts up in repentance.

--

"L-"

"Ryuuzaki," L corrected absently. He was fighting the urge to sweeten his tea with gumdrops again, good as that was, as the last instance was met with less than favorable responses.

"Ryuuzaki-san," the dark haired police officer amended, "I think it is safe to say that the killer is not going to be-"

"Mogi-san," L sighed, "I am well aware of how unlikely you find this to be, but I assure you that ruling out an entire demographic due to perceived innocence, the result of stereotyping at its best, is a grievous mistake."

"But I don't think it could be a student either, Ryuuzaki-san," Matsuda piped up.

L hung his head to mask his irritation. Now that the bumbling fool of the group has affirmed such insipid logic with his seal of approval, who was L to question it? L was only a conglomeration of the three greatest detectives in the world to date. What did he know? He grabbed a handful of brightly colored jellybeans out of a nearby bowl and proceeded to bite into them like they were the heads of his devastatingly intelligent comrades. Orange. Matsuda. He bit through three of those at a time. Purple and black. Mogi.

"Ryuuzaki," The police chief started appeasingly. "I know we are all frustrated about this case, but you have to realize why it seems ludicrous for a student to have the mentality, and the funding to be an international serial killer. Even more so if he or she is the mastermind behind a ring of individual murderers."

L nodded and sullenly bit into a green. Yagami could be green. Green was a favorable color. He was still annoyed, but Yagami-san eased that mood somewhat as he seemed to have the highest ratio of brain cells devoted to higher functions and could apply them to logic that was not utterly painful for L to endure. At least he backed up his statements with well thought out arguments instead of flinging loose "what ifs" every which way.

"Be that as it may, Yagami-san," L nibbled on another green, "it is also foolhardy to banish the possibility merely because it is not as likely."

"Well... that is a good point," Matsuda drawled infuriatingly in his high pitched, go-get-'em voice. "Don't you think so, Mogi-san?"

L crunched through 5 orange jellybeans in quick succession followed by three yellows. Matsuda was definitely a yellow as well. All sunshiny and vile.

"I suppose he has a point," Mogi conceded grudgingly. Gods above, L thought. The smartest person in the room has a point. Why do you morons think your superiors wanted me on the case in the first place? Matsuda beamed at Mogi, nodding his head vigorously, overflowing with the satisfaction he gained in bringing them all together.

The combined taste of yellow, orange, black and purple was horrid enough to make even L slow his chewing to a mechanical process colored with distaste. He swallowed with some difficulty.

"Yagami-san," L said quietly, giving up and dropping the last of his jellybeans into his cooling tea. The police chief looked up, trying to appear attentive although he seemed to be struggling with disgust as L stirred and sipped his concoction. "Yagami-san?"

Yagami looked up, shaking his head slightly to dispel his lack of focus. "Yes, Ryuuzaki?"

"I hear you have a son."

"I do indeed. Why do you ask?"

"And he is at the top of his grade?"

"Why - yes, he is, but-"

"Not only that, he has ranked in the top percentile on tests internationally," L said. No longer a questioning tone. Yagami picked up on that right away, that L was not actually questioning him, but verifying information which would in turn lead them into the conversation they were about to have.

"Ryuuzaki, I fail to see the importance of -"

"Yagami-san," L interrupted. "My ways may be foreign to you, but I assure you that I do nothing without forethought." He paused. Yagami reluctantly nodded. "I researched your son upon hearing about his involvement with several of your own cases, as well as his success rate at solving those cases, and I have come to a decision."

"And what might that... be.." the police chief trailed off as he watched L dunk a large piece of angel food cake into his tea. The liquid was low enough now that L was able to scoop out a few jellybeans with it.

L took that horrifying bite and rolled it around his mouth with his tongue thoughtfully. As he swallowed, he noticed the distinctly disapproving look on Yagami's face and felt somewhat cowed. Strange, but he actually looked up to Yagami in a way. He seemed the type that would make an excellent father, and L found himself wanting to curb his erratic behavior enough to quell those looks of resigned tolerance. "I would like to meet your son."

L took another bite of cake, admitting, to himself at least, that the jellybeans may be a bit over the top.

--

The feel of canvas on his feet was almost unbearable.

L wanted nothing more than to shuck them off and fling them at the head of the assembly director for being so monotonously BORING. But he couldn't. He was trying to blend in.

In addition, he was stalking Yagami junior, in an effort to observe him in his natural environment.

He did indeed wish to make the acquaintance of the chief's son, but on what terms, he was, as of yet, unsure. In an effort to amuse himself, he had entertained the thought of such a brilliant student - well known to the authorities and generally seen as one of their own - as being a suspect in the new case. The idea was scintillating. Though at the moment, that path of thought was motivated by nothing but a whim. In all likelihood, he would be meeting the son in order to offer him a chance to work on the case.

With naught but the dregs of the police force to assist him, the pooled brainpower of the case's task force was frightfully low. But Yagami-san's use of his brain, coupled with his son's astonishingly perfect national test scores gave him hope that the chief's offspring might actually wield a promisingly formidable intellect.

L scrunched into his chair, frowning at the uncomfortable position he was forced to take in order to not draw attention to himself. It was with effort that his feet remained planted on the floor.

Light Yagami.

His given name would prove to be the ultimate irony if he were indeed a suspect in the Kira case.

L wiggled his toes in expectation, failing to hear the voice to his left that buzzed insistently like a fattened bottle fly. Well, failed to hear the words. He was good at tuning things out.

A touch on his arm broke his concentration.

He looked over with wide eyes, a little taken aback at being touched. "Yes?"

"I said, 'are you new around here'?" repeated the dark-haired student who had decided to occupy the seat next to him.

L peered at them, and was perplexed to find that determining the gender was nigh impossible. Almost everything about them was completely androgynous. Blue-grey eyes stared back at him patiently, ringed by eyeliner and colored mascara. L started to think 'girl', but then they would be rather flat for a female.

"I am new, yes," he offered, deciding to attempt a social interaction exercise while waiting for the appearance of Light. Maybe it would warm him up so he didn't botch his exchange later.

The student smiled at him engagingly, and that tentative, bold hand was back on his arm again. "Forgive me for saying this, but... you are the most interesting looking person..."

L felt perplexed. "In what way?"

"I pegged you for a goth at first... That dark, messy hair and those large dark eyes and pale skin, but you dress without a scrap of black. Instead, you choose nondescript clothes as if you are trying not to stand out, and yet you do."

"Is that undesirable?" L was distracted suddenly as he saw his target enter the auditorium. So this was Light? He was older than he looked from the pictures he had seen previously. Fair brown hair swept back from his face, also falling in long bangs across his eyes. It gave him a carefree and innocent look at odds with the aura of collectedness and the slightly snobbish, preppy air he had about him.

Light moved through the space like he owned it, a commanding tilt to his head, even as his features were settled in an expression that could be called demure. He stopped to speak with many people as he made his way across the room, a perfect socialite, but in the end, he chose to sit alone. The discrepancies were intriguing, he -

"Hey, are you listening?"

L realized he was biting his thumb intently as he stared. He dragged his eyes off of the anomaly and back to his dark-haired companion. "I apologize. What were you saying?"

The student sighed and leaned back in their chair feigning nonchalance over some harsher mood. "I said, it's hopeless to lust after that one. He doesn't let anyone get close."

L curled his toes in confusion. "Lust? I was merely watching another student enter the room..."

"With single-minded determination, and to the exclusion of all else?"

"I do everything that way. That's normal."

The student laughed and L detected a bit of meanness to it. "What's your name?" they asked in a slick voice, fixing him with a speculative look.

"You may call me Ryuga." L's speech was becoming more formal, more careful and more stilted. He was starting to pine for the sweets he usually had in front of him. He was beginning to feel the familiar awkwardness settle into the interaction and was ready to escape it.

Snicker. "Like the musician?"

"I suppose." L frowned. More and more he felt like he was detecting hidden inflections threading the student's words and demeanor. He didn't like it.

"See? That is about as normal as the rest of you."

L looked away, putting on his deadpan face in the process. "It's normal for me, so if that bothers you, I suggest you leave."

"Touchy," the student laughed in a low voice, fingers tilting up to thread into his hair. "You'll never snag anyone like that, much less Light."

"Please stop touching me." L said, staring fixedly ahead. He radiated disapproval but it did not seem to deter the other boy much. Yes, he was becoming more certain it was a boy. Perhaps it was the new, deeper pitch to the voice or the lack of any softness in the press of their chest against his arm as they leaned into his neck.

"You'll have to do better than that, Ryu-chan," they chided him in a condescending voice. "That just makes me want to eat you up," the boy breathed into his ear, as his hand stroked up L's leg, making him jump out of his seat with a startled yip.

The low murmur of noise broke into silence for several seconds as the other students turned to gawk at the commotion. Embarrassment colored L's face for the first time in a long while.

L found his eyes drawn magnetically to the place Light Yagami was sitting. His target, of course, was looking straight at him. Damn! Who would believe this was the world's three greatest detectives? Blowing his cover in such a deplorable fashion... Their gazes locked, assessing each other in those first few seconds almost desperately as they recognized each other for the equals they were. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. Light looked away first with a bland smile and a minimal shrug. It was dismissive. But was it dismissive of me, or the situation? L wondered.

With so many eyes on him, it started to tear out the under-pinnings of his confidence, he could feel his limbs twitching in a desire to flee or hide. He cut his losses, beelining for the auditorium exit and his exodus. He had botched the first meeting, just as he'd suspected he would. Though he could not have accounting for the overtures of a fellow student.

He shuffled off, thinking that next time, he would use a fellow student more wisely, and try to procure information about his target instead of experimenting with socializing.

'It's hopeless to lust after that one. He doesn't let anyone get close...'

He pondered at length the one thing he had garnered from the exchange, turning it round in his mind, examining it from all angles. Searching for any insight it could give him into the character of his target coupled with what his brief observations told him.

'He doesn't let anyone get close...'

Light Yagami was not someone who lived on the surface. If anything, his lack of pursuing physical need would indicate he was closer to L's sort than his carefully constructed act would lead anyone to believe. Or was it an act? Which part was the real Light? The commanding social engineer or the preppy socialite?

It would be interesting to find out.


TBC

A/N: Chapter 2: Meeting of the Minds