Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note, or L and Light. I'm making no money off this and I don't claim to be good at writing this pairing, either, before you say anything.
Note: This is for Blacksteel1, for being my hundredth reviewer on my other story, Inferiority Complex. She requested Light/L or something to do with Matsuda and coffee, and I freaked and leapt at the Matsuda one before I could alienate a reader through my heavy handed attempts at a pairing I don't support. But a few ideas came to me and I swapped it round and we've ended up with this. I like parts of it and I hate parts of it, and it's not as Light/L as I'd like to be but it's more than I thought I'd manage, so I suppose it balances out.
Blacksteel, I hope you like it.
I had so much trouble writing these guys you wouldn't believe. I think I've repeated myself, too, and it gets confused in places. Still…off we go.
The world is full of people, and not all of them are honest.
Light Yagami sits at a computer and taps some keys. He takes a sip of coffee, casts a wary look at the shinigami floating in the corner, frowns in a way that makes Matsuda asks him what's wrong. He answers 'nothing', but it has worked - Ryuzaki has now cocked his head and is staring at Light. Inwardly, Light smiles. The mind games are back.
He leans back in his chair and studies his computer screen. If he were alone, he would grin, he would laugh, but there is surveillance all through the building and so he holds it back, bites his lip in mock consternation.
It is difficult, though, because as far as Light is concerned, he has won.
There is a man standing on the rooftop.
No, it is more accurate to say that there is a letter standing on the rooftop, and that attached to that letter is a man. He is slight and bent, and as the winds pick up they seem to buffet him from side to side, almost trying to throw him off the roof altogether.
His name - his letter - is L. He has other names, other outfits he slips into - a deerstalker hat, a Belgian's moustache - but ultimately he is reduced down to a pair of connecting lines and unending lists of solved cases.
Recently, L has felt something he is not used to feeling. He has felt uncertainty. The feeling passed a few days ago, when a man named Higuchi was apprehended, and killed. Now, all he feels is dullness, regret, and heavy, comfortable, damning certainty.
Light looked up from the sheet of paper he was scanning, face fixed into polite interest. "Ryuzaki?"
"Would you care for some more tea?"
Light glanced down at his cup. He'd only just managed to finish the stuff, and Ryuzaki wanted to know if he wanted more? "I'm fine, thanks. I'd much rather to try look for leads on the case."
Ryuzaki nodded. "Well, if you're sure." He turned back to his computer. "I am not sure if there are any more leads to be found right now, however."
Damn right there aren't, Light thought smugly, keeping his expression neutral. "You're not going to get depressed again, are you?"
"No…" Ryuzaki stirred his tea absently. "No, this time, it is not depression I think I will feel."
Riddles, always riddles with him. I could ask what he means but…he probably wants me to. He's probably going back to the mind games, too.
Does that mean he knows - ?
But no, Light told himself, it wouldn't matter, even if he did suspect that Light had lost and retrieved his memories. His plan was set in motion, and within days, Ryuzaki would be -
Ryuzaki would be -
Light shook his head. His idea of capturing Higuchi, touching the Death Note and getting his memories back had gone exactly as planned, but had come with an irritating side effect. Without the Death Note, it seemed he had gone to great lengths to try to prove to Ryuzaki that he was worth accepting as a partner, and as a friend. With his knowledge of the Death Note returned, his distaste for the hunched, feral detective was back in place, but there was still…residue of what he had felt before.
"Is something wrong, Light-kun?"
Light shook his head again, more controlled this time. "No. I'm just frustrated about the lack of progress. It seems as if finding Higuchi was almost irrelevant."
"I don't think it was," Ryuzaki said tonelessly, returning to his tea.
Light studied the man for a few seconds longer, and then returned to his work.
L could confidently say that he did not now, nor had he ever, liked Light Yagami. He could list any number of reasons that would please whoever was asking the question, but in the end he knew it boiled down, very simply, to the fact that Light was Kira.
To L, that fact was not in question, nor had it ever been. There had been questions aplenty, but they had surrounded the 'how's, 'what's and 'why's - mainly the 'how's, since recently that 'what's had been answered. He had no evidence that Light was Kira (apart from everything he did and said and everything they'd found, except none of it was pointing in the right direction and he was too tired to line it up), nothing solid that could be presented to a court, but L…L was sure.
L was also smart enough (brilliant enough) to know that over the past few weeks, in their search for Higuchi, Light had been acting differently. He'd considered the possibility that he had lost his memories, and now, with the Death Note in his possession, his theory was gaining strength.
Once more, there was no proof, and the shinigami kept looking at Light, like it was taking its cues from him.
But then, from a certain angle, that made sense. Everyone around Light crumbled before him, for one reason or another - familial love, admiration, obsessive attraction - and if Light had met this shinigami before his confinement, then there was an eighty percent chance that, even now, L was playing into his hands.
L wondered if he had crumbled before Light, and cast his mind back over the last few weeks. He remembered the brilliant, animated boy bowing his head in deference even to Matsuda, passionate and motivated. He remembered bags under his eyes from trying to conform to L's punishing routine, remembered sleepless nights spent haring after the ghosts of Higuchi's murders across the Internet. Above all, he remembered the conversations: in the moments when the Kira case had released its hold on them, the talk would turn to anything - mortality, theology, humanity…
If L was perfectly honest, it had been years since anyone had offered him the same kind of mental stimulation, the same strength of arguments that Light had in those few weeks. Perhaps it had been his whole life; he couldn't be sure.
It had been early morning a few days before they cornered Higuchi when L caught himself, realised what he was doing. He had rapidly been crumbling, offering his real friendship to Light, to this beautiful boy and his brilliant mind. He had stopped mid-sentence, almost unaware of himself. Light had tilted his head, brow furrowed in confusion. 'Are you alright, Ryuzaki?' followed by the automatic 'I am fine, Light-kun', and the sentence picked up and debate continued.
L had not been concentrating, though. Morning light was seeping through the windows and bathing Light in an almost angelic glow. Light was a teenager, nothing more, and L marvelled that he could have the innocence of youth and grace of a man all at once. It could not be, should not be, the same cold eyed boy he'd played tennis against, who'd sent him sharp, judgemental glances when he thought L was paying attention to something else, that was sitting opposite him now.
The room had been silent, except for the sound of their voices, and the jingle of the handcuffs that kept them tethered to reality.
It was different now. The innocence was gone and the grace had hardened into refinement and forced elegance; the trappings of a psychopath in an angel's outfit. L was under no illusion: Light was Kira, and it was his job to expose him.
But, being under no illusion, L came to the conclusion that yes, he had crumbled, too.
In the middle of the night Light wakes up from a dream. He does not start or jerk awake, or fly out of bed in a cold sweat like something from a bad novel. He blearily opens his eyes as the images behind his eyelids melt away, into shadowy outlines and moonlight from a crack in the blinds.
He closes his eyes and clears his mind and tries not to think about the dream, in order to remember it. Fragments and sensations come back to him, and this time his eyes do snap open, because he does not want to be dreaming about Ryuzaki, about a life and time when they might have worked together, side by side, with ideas and intelligence blazing like fire and accidental touches lighting up the night.
He drinks water that's far too cold and resists the urge to punch the wall. The iciness of the water hurts his head, and it's a distraction, so he's glad.
L does not sleep but when he does it is so deep, so desperate, that whatever dreams might cross the darkness, he does not remember them. He wakes more tired than he sleeps, though, and he can't explain it so he simply returns to the case, and works until exhaustion crushes him once more.
He notices that on some mornings Light looks tired, and distracted, and will not meet his eyes. Vaguely he wonders if Light (Kira-Light) remembers the time he spent talking with L, and what he makes of it if he does.
After a particularly vivid dream, Light tosses and turns in his bed, pulling off the t-shirt he sleeps in to cool himself down. He is warm, insanely warm despite the frost on the windows and the coolness of the room, and he thinks it is to do with his unconscious imaginings.
He climbs out of bed and paces, he stands by the mirror and stares at himself and demands he answer honestly. He asks if he is attracted to L, and he answers no. He studies his reflection and knows that this is true, and that's the end of that, except it doesn't explain why his dream was filed with rough, angry kisses, bursts of frantic movement amongst flurries of case reports, and abandoned inhibitions.
Light remembered everything that had happened during the time he had forgotten who he was.
It barely interested him, except to reflect on how truly inept the task force was, how pathetic Ryuzaki had been. Memories of the debates he had had with the detective still intrigued him, though, and in some way, it pleased him to think of the times when he had bested Ryuzaki. At the time, it had been 'fun between friends', but looking back, Light could see it for what it was - God's victory over the mortal pretender.
And Ryuzaki was foolish enough to call him a friend! Before his confinement, Light had been sure that this was as much of a pretence on Ryuzaki's side as it was on his own, but now…Now, he remembered a light in Ryuzaki's dead eyes, and his face relaxing into a smile when the day was over and he was alone with Light. It hadn't been a pretence on Ryuzaki's side, he was sure. The man actually liked him!
Light would have laughed, but he remembered the cameras, and bit it back.
Oh, but this could only serve to make his victory sweeter. When L was dying, Light would be there - Light would watch his life fade away and he would savour it, the snuffing-out of this pathetic, sentimental fool who dared to oppose a deity's will.
And in time, the dreams about partnership, and notoriety, and lingering, brazen stares would be replaced by the reality of a glorious, shining new world, and there would be no doubt left in his mind at all that he had chosen the right path.
Perhaps he should leave a diary, L thought.
Would that be too contrived? He'd hate to destroy his reputation on a senseless gesture. And besides, Light would be the one to find it, and he would destroy it before anyone could read it. Or more likely he would keep it for himself, cling to it as a trophy to remind him that he had bested the world's greatest detective, and claimed his aliases and his memories in one fell swoop.
No, he wouldn't award him that. His life, now, L had no choice to give up, but his memories he could keep, his secrets, his identity…he could hide himself from Kira, remaining as a letter and a face and a reason to be smug.
L stood at the window and stared out across the city. He was not prone to aimless people-watching, but perhaps he could make an exception tonight. He was on the nineteenth floor so most of the lights were below him, spread out and sparkling. He could make out cars darting from road to road, and he wondered if he should have learnt to drive. It wouldn't have mattered, he supposes, because he's managed okay so far and he's not likely to need it in the future.
Still, it would have been something to do.
He wondered if Light had learnt to drive. He didn't think so. He wondered if he might have, if he wasn't Kira. He thought that perhaps he would have met Light anyway, after a time, and that perhaps, under different circumstances, he might have been his friend after all.
They work late into the night on the eve of his death. Light knows what is coming. L, well, a part of him knows too, because he's a genius and it's his job to know things other people don't. Neither of them is sure what to make of it, both resolve to approach it as fact, an event to be experienced and passed by. Light feels excitement, anxiety, and a keen pang of regret that such a brilliant mind should choose so dark a path, rejecting justice and paying his life as forfeit. L feels cold, because it's November, and he has just turned twenty five but he hasn't really noticed. In the back of his mind, he also feels tired, because he hasn't let himself sleep in a while, though he is sure that soon, it won't really matter.
When all is said and done, neither of them is the victor. They died the same death, in different scenery and with a mildly different audience, but an anonymous, secret death nonetheless, at the will of a being with no heart to stop. If one had been less driven, if one had resisted temptation, they might have shared a life, instead, and filled it with dazzling stories and fire enough to burn a forest. Shared passions might have grown into shared space, shared dreams and shared bodies, shared beds and shared nights in a wrap of silk and sweat.
But that is not how this story goes. If it was, Light Yagami would not have found the Death Note, and L would have let himself become human for the sake of an angel. As it stands, they die the deaths that never suited them, and go down in chronicles as faceless forces. The world keeps turning, and their names - their lack of names - is forgotten, reduced to a paragraph in a textbook passed round a classroom.
The world is still full of people, for all that has happened to these two, and they are still not all honest.
Life goes on, with or without us.