A/N: For Snoaz and Aloony, who will hopefully be pleased at what their requests brought them.
L does not miss Yagami Light. Any insinuation towards such a thing is a blatant and ridiculous lie. Light is just another murderer he has put away, and L feels nothing when it comes to murderers. Why should Light be different from the thousand others he has seen tried and convicted?
"Let's catch Kira together."
It isn't the first time someone he's worked with turned out to be someone he was hunting. The difference was he'd known from the start, had actually invited him himself.
"Light-kun is my very first friend."
He lied, of course. L has no friends, nothing that might compromise his judgement, might mean he has to reassess the single-minded devotion of his life to justice. (Ryuzaki had friends though. But Ryuzaki-Light's-Friend was put away with the Kira case, folded up like a suit that no longer fitted.)
He knew from the start that Light was Kira. He could give a dozen explanations, all of them lies, every one specific to a potential questioner. The truth is, L can't say, even to himself, exactly what made it so clear. Light might as well have worn a halo, it was just so perfectly obvious, it was just there, standing behind his every move, his every smile, behind even the most innocuous comment.
Kira was as clear to L as his reflection in the mirror, and L – L cared about him anyway.
He'd slept beside Kira, watched him dream, held him when he woke from nightmares. Kira knew how to make his tea exactly the way he liked it, and knew when he wanted western or eastern style sweets. He knew when L needed space to think and when he wanted to talk out a theory.
L won't tell anyone about that, about how he could turn to Kira and talk and know that he understood, even when he pretended not to. Because if he did, he'd have to see the disbelief and incomprehension on their faces, and accept that he'll never have that again.
He goes back to demonstrate his superiority over a beaten foe, that's all. (Lie)
To say to Kira, 'you don't hold any more secrets from me' (Lie)
L does not miss Light. But he does grieve for him. (Truth)
It was raining the day Light destroyed himself. L doesn't think about heaven, weeping for the waste.
He knew what Light was going to say long before even Light knew for sure he was going to say it, and as much as he wanted the truth, he didn't want to hear it. He wanted to see it, wanted to have Light's face before him and see the shock when L finally, finally managed to corner him where he couldn't escape.
("Listen," Light said, expression bleak in the half-light L insisted upon working in at night. "I'm trying to tell you something.")
When L allows himself to linger on it, pick at the memory like a half-healed wound, ripping out stitches over and over again, he wants to hit Light, he wants to break his pretty face, wants to make him scream and beg and weep and grovel, wants Light to know just what L could have done to him to extract those words from him, see how pointless the sorry little confession was. If he'd wanted words he'd already have got them.
("Unless it has to do with cheesecake, I'm not interested, Light-kun."
"L, this is far more important than cheesecake."
"Nothing is more important than cheesecake," L said, and Light groaned with frustration, slender hands in his hair, watch glinting on his wrist like a guilty secret.
"Will you just listen to me?"
"No." L said, watching Kira bare his teeth in fury, watching Kira's hands clench into fists, watching Kira's fury sweep Light's confession away like it was written on sand.)
If he ever hoped that Light's lost memories of Kira might be permanent, it's not something he can recall.
("Do you ever dream, Ryuzaki?"
The realisation that he was going to lose Light was in the way he'd screamed, clutching the Death Note like a drowning man clinging to rock, the way his hair suddenly covered his darkened eyes again, the smiles that were no longer smiles but smirks, the way his every move suddenly gained the double triple quadruple meanings they'd had before he'd cast away his pride. It was the way he stood, the way he frowned with distant eyes, like something more important than his continued freedom was going on somewhere else, inside his head, it was the way he held a strip of paper crumpled in his fist. (Lie)
He'd always known he was going to lose Light and it was only the night after Higuchi's death – watching him sleep, his expression cold even in his dreams now – that L realised he was mistaken: he'd already lost Light and he hadn't even known until it was too late. (Truth)
Secretly, he'd thought he'd know, the moment Kira took Light back. He thought he would have some warning (this pride--) he thought that there might be some chance, some opportunity--
To do what? How was he meant to guard against something he could not see, did not know or understand? How was he to know Kira hid inside a book, waiting to seep in through Light's skin like poison?
What was Yagami worth anyway? Nothing. Kira was what L wanted, the reason he was in Japan, tangled up with Light in the first place. He wanted to win against the first Kira, the true Kira, the Kira who hid little taunts inside suicide notes, the Kira who knew exactly how to play the game and played it brilliantly. There was no satisfaction in having Higuchi as Kira and Amane could only ever be the second. But Kira-Light, who had proven to be the best challenge of his career – the truth of that was worth anything.
Even Light, poor innocent fool, who might have been L's equal, if the Death Note hadn't fallen at his feet.
("I wanted you to be Kira.")
He wasn't surprised in the slightest when Light announced what L had always known. To be exact: he wasn't surprised by the actual announcement, only that it was announced at all.
"I am Kira."
You bastard. How dare you just tell me like I couldn't figure it out on my own. How dare you take this victory from me. How dare you ruin this.
Light-kun. Don't you understand what I'm going to do to you?
The first time L goes to see Light, he doesn't. He thought he was ready, he thought he knew what to expect, and he did – and did not. He expected Light to be changed, but not what he changed into. He expected the difference, but not how it would affect him.
L has always known how to break Light.
Day eight of his confinement, Light announced that put together the walls divided into 130 sections, something he'd worked out just to have something to do.
Day nine, L could visibly see Light's frustration, that incredible mind desperately seeking something to occupy it, and finding nothing but L demanding a confession. They would trade verbal barbs that were slowly losing coherency on Light's part until exhaustion took its toll and Light would sleep fitfully until L woke him with another demand for a confession. L would give him anywhere between twelve minutes and two hours depending upon how irritated he was at his stubborn refusal to confess to something he no longer knew anything about. By the time the eighteenth day had passed (not that Light knew what day it was, or how to divide his time into days anymore) Light was hallucinating. L had been rather impressed with his fortitude.
Day thirty-six L agreed to give Light the time and the date, if Light could walk from the door to other end of the room. A walk of twelve paces, if that. Light fell four times.
"Thirty six days, six hours, ten minutes. One month, five days. Fifty-two thousand, two hundred and twenty minutes… three million, one hundred and thirty-two thousand and six hundred seconds…"
A glimpse of Light, very pale and very broken, slender figure swathed in clothes that had fitted him perfectly when L arranged for him to become a resident in Rooksgrove. His eyes are empty, there is nothing, not the faintest gleam of the intelligence that L had always known had to be Kira's and couldn't just be Light's.
All this L remembers hunched over the bathroom sink, fingers gripping porcelain, the taste of vomit lingering stubbornly in his mouth.
Every time L goes to see Light he has to fortify himself with more sugar than even he usually eats in a week. That way he can tell himself that his stomach aches and his head swims and his heart thumps painfully against too-tight ribs because of the sugar, not because the sight of Light – arrogant, calculating, charming Light – in such a place, in such a condition, makes him want to close his eyes, to retch, to wish it had all played out some other way.
L doesn't want to die any more than anybody else. But what he's done to Light – his perfect enemy –
He doesn't want to die; he doesn't wish he had. (Truth)
He doesn't want to look at Light like this. (Truth)
He should have killed Light. (Truth)
He wishes he had. (Lie)
"Talk to me," L says to the mirror, imagining Light's dead eyes in place of his own.
"Talk to me," he orders.
He tries again, and the words come out gentler but still needling, still with the bitter-bile taste of pleading.
"Stop ignoring me," he says, hears the whine in his voice like a child separated from its favourite toy. It makes him grimace. It feels like giving up one of his aliases unnecessarily, like giving Light something he hadn't quite known how to use before.
He tries again and again, words torn from him, twisted or ripped out like not-quite-ready-to-go milk teeth. He can't think of what to say.
("Will you just listen to me?"
He lets his head fall forward, press against cold glass. Seven hours from now, Light is staring at him without expression, finally as neutral as he always pretended to be.
"Talk to me." he says to no one at all. "Please."
"Back again," the shinigami says the third time he visits. It crouches next to Light, body tangled up in ways that make L nauseous to look at it – the sheer impossibility, every human instinct in him recoils at the sight, and the fact that Light doesn't even blink makes it all so much worse. He doesn't want to think about how long it must have been following Light for him to be so acclimatised to its presence.
It is the first time it has spoken to L, rather than simply looking at him like it was trying to figure out how he was put together. He gets the feeling that if it were human it would glare, filled with loathing for what L has done to its entertainment. But since it is a shinigami, it only looks at him. There will never be a human to make it hate. L wishes for that kind of distance.
Ryuk, Light called it, without even a flicker of disquiet. Ryuk, without honorific, without detachment, with an absurd kind of intimacy – this is Ryuk, like he was introducing a friend from school. L hated that.
Ryuk smiles. Or at least, he shows all his teeth. "L…" he says. "Lawliet," he says, tastes the name L has never heard spoken before, pronounces it like the syllables are bones he can crack between his teeth. L glances at Light automatically, but he doesn't stir, gives no sign he knows L is there or that the shinigami has spoken. It's almost as disappointing as the anticlimax of Kira's great chess game. Don't you want it? He wants to ask. You fought so hard to find it; it meant more to you than it ever did to me.
Light stares through him, his indifference so wrong L can't put it into words. He has a new scar trailing across his neck, like someone wanted it to look like he'd had his throat slit. L knows the amount of care that had to have been taken to make sure it only looked like that.
Ryuk notices his gaze, laughs – it's a hideous noise, why it makes Light relax infinitesimally L will never know – and runs one sharp claw exactly across the mark in Light's skin. He makes a noise as he does it, like a child does when it wants to intimidate friends with the threat of cutting off their heads.
L is still and silent. It might be fury that chokes him.
The shinigami grins, wriggles its fingers carelessly at him before circling Light's throat with its hand, claws sliding over skin hard enough to make it whiten, not quite enough to make it split. L moves forward, though quite what he intends, he cannot say – and it lifts its hand and pats Light's hair like he's a favoured pet. "Such big dreams, such a grand mess," it says, smile so wide it has to hurt. "Such fun. Don't you agree?"
L thinks of all the things he would say if the shinigami were human – then the absurdity of that idea catches up to him and he says nothing at all, simply glares and hates and watches as Ryuk hums tuneless songs and strokes Light's unresponsive face.
He turns away.
"I'd like to play tennis with you again," Light says.
L whirls around so fast he almost falls, stares at Light, who doesn't blink, doesn't move, doesn't – doesn't smile. Oh, L thinks blankly, an inkling of suspicion making itself known from beneath the memory of Light's expression when he said those words, something soft and gentle and amused. Probably worthless, but still pleasing in its own empty way, the way all Kira's little attempts to befriend him were.
"Yes, same here," the shinigami answers in L's voice, sound-perfect imitation. "Kira and the second Kira… once we've solved this case and rid the world of them, I'd enjoy that."
"Stop that," L says.
"L," the shinigami says in its own voice, damning. Light smiles fleetingly, so fleetingly L is convinced he's imagined it even as he sees it come into existence. "Game over, time for you to leave, isn't that right?"
"No," L says flatly, seeking Kira in Light's face, seeking the part of Light that could never give L anything less than all his attention. Wasn't this what he wanted – Kira, not Light? Words crawl up L's throat and over his tongue, wriggling like maggots, putrid with stale truth. He swallows them, too used to lying to do anything else.
"Oh? Just what are you going to play with now? It's a bit hard to play tennis here and Light's not home at the moment anyway."
He's learned a lot from Light, this shinigami; he knows where the weak points are and how to use them. Do shinigami have weak points the way humans do? What would make this creature hurt, L wonders.
"Go on," Ryuk encourages. "We'll still be here when you come back. He's not going anywhere; you must know that by now."
L spins on his heel, walks away with head held high to the sound of a shinigami's laughter.
L takes case after case after case. Once they might have challenged him. In the wake of Kira they are simple to the point of absurdity. He wonders if they were always so and he chose not to see it, or if perhaps his time hunting Kira, sharpening his mind against Light's has simply made everything appear so. Yet another reason Kira remains like a thorn in his side, a thorn tipped with a slow-moving, slow-acting poison. If L could just bear to remove it he'd be fine. But he can't, so the thorn remains and he is dying slowly—
Watari finds him surrounded by the smashed remnants of his laptop, plastic and metal and wires everywhere and says nothing.
– but nowhere near as slowly or as torturously as Light.
Everything hurts, but it's nothing physical so it must be nothing, just Kira's poison making its presence known once again, just making sure that L knows that even though he's won, he's lost.
One day, he thinks, he must learn how Light manages to turn his every victory into a loss in some way, and every loss on his side into a victory. Then he remembers Light's eyes, and he wonders how long he has before one day turns into too late. He wonders why that thought makes him hunch over and press his hands to his eyes, as if to blind himself to the possibility.
He is ill, he says when Watari tries to tempt his appetite with ice cream, feeling Light in his veins, in his heart, stubborn and poisonous, and knowing the only way to be rid of him is to kill him.
He can do that. He's killed Light once before.
("Let me touch it too!")
By the time Higuchi had become the third Kira L had known the Kira case would be the end of him. He has to admit, this was not quite how he imagined it.
His fifth visit, it occurs to L to wonder if by giving up Light was asking for help.
"Listen," Light said, expression bleak in the half-light L insisted upon working in at night. "I'm trying to tell you something."
L looked at him, wanted to touch him, to see if he would slip through his fingers like some half-remembered dream, he seemed so unreal. Light looked back at him, expression tightened with decision. He opened his mouth to speak.
"Can I touch you?" L wondered out loud. If I do, will you fade away and make this just a dream, just one possibility among many, nothing solid and irreversible?
Light froze. A flicker of revulsion crossed his face and was quickly hidden beneath bewilderment and confusion. He pulled back, away from L, into himself – L wondered how he had never noticed how open Light's body language had been towards him after his confinement until he closed off again. "No?" L said, and smiled mockingly, though he could not say whether it was directed at Light or himself.
Light's eyes studied him as intently as they did the Death Note during daylight hours. It looked like an interesting battle was playing out in his head. L wanted to open him up and see the thoughts struggling there.
Everything electronic seemed to flicker, a momentary glitch. Light's expression became closed off and bleak again, his programming recovered, returned to its original point. "Listen," he said. "I'm trying to tell you something."
L wakes up.
February the fourteenth the nurses are ridiculously cheerful, wear a heart somewhere on their uniform and pretend with all their might that their jobs are not empty, thankless and soul-destroying. It's like being L.
It is Light's birthday in two weeks. He will be twenty years old.
"What would you like for your birthday?" L asks. He is close enough to touch Light, close enough to be repulsed by him. He is all waxen skin, meandering scars and jutting bones now, something all the more grotesque when L can still remember the way he held himself like a king.
"Apples," the shinigami says, and though L knows there is no point, that the creature will give him more entertainment/information/satisfaction than Light ever will, he does not look away from Light's face.
"You will be twenty by western age reckoning." L says, drops to the floor opposite the human and the shinigami and adopts the crouch Light knows so well. "Still not quite an adult by law in some countries."
The shinigami laughs. L has to admit, there is something amusing in that. "What would you like?" he asks again.
"How about freedom?" suggests the shinigami. "No? How about my property back? I'd love to know what Light'd write next to your name now."
Light lifts his head, meets L's eyes for the first time in three visits, smiles. L presses his hands against his knees to stop himself hitting him.
"I'll bring you a cake," he tells Light, watches his smile vanish.
"He would have been merciful," the shinigami says when L prepares to leave. "He would have killed you."
"He broke the rules," L says, instead of asking what a shinigami thought it knew about mercy.
"Was it worth this?" the shinigami asks, sounding genuinely curious.
"Yes," L says. ( ... )
The first day of November, Light walked into the main investigation room with a piece of paper in his hand. "I have something to tell you," he said.
"Can it wait?" L said, fingers tightening where they held the Death Note, looking at Rem, at the way she looked at Light as if a pattern had been broken.
"No," Light said simply, glanced at Rem, at the notebook – did not look at L. The entire team began to gather, as if summoned by L's desperate wish for them to stay away, give him time to defuse Light's attempt to tell the truth.
Light looked at the Death Note like he was bidding farewell to a dear friend, looked at Rem like he was warning her not to interfere, didn't look at L like he was losing something. "I am Kira," he declared.
The inevitability of it sickened L. He put the notebook down, stretched his hand out and took the piece of paper Light offered. He looked at the shinigami – this is Ryuk, like an old friend – looked at (Kira) and wished Li(Kira, Kira Kira)ght would remember that he was a liar and a remorseless killer and that honesty should never cross his lips.
How dare you just tell me like I couldn't figure it out on my own. How dare you take this victory from me. How dare you ruin this.
L wakes up. L wakes up. L wakes up.
He stumbles into one of the nurses as he is leaving on the 28th of February, knocks her files out of her hands and scatters them across the floor.
"Forgive me," he says as he helps to gather them up, his hands steady. "I wasn't looking where I was going."
"It's alright," she says, smiling. (Lie. Lie lie lie.) "Were you here to visit someone? Visiting hours are nearly over, you know."
"No," L says. "I am not visiting anyone." (Truth)
"My name's Anna," she tells him, and waits patiently for his answer.
"Please call me Light," L says after a long moment, watches her features soften and smile.
"Light, huh?" she says. Her eyes wander over him, studying him in a way that is alien to L but perfectly normal to Light. "Unusual. I like it."
L smiles a polite 'I'm listening' smile that isn't his any more than the way he now stands, one hand in his pocket, shoulders square and body centred to face the person he's speaking to. "Yes," he agrees. He bows, and walks away with Light's casual confident stride.