Author's Note: Jenwryn's prompt for her Christmas present was L/Light and "sight-seeing." Since I've been desperately wanting to show her my side of the planet anyway… why not show the boys? :D
Haven't been up there since August—wrote "Struck" on the way back, actually; very historic, eh?—but that's what Wikipedia is for. I took a few liberties, but the geography is relatively sound. :)
I hope you love it, Jenny, 'cause I love YOU. x)
And yes, kids, it's one of those inexplicable AUs where everyone can be happy for once. If you don't like it, just don't read it, okay? XD
OF GOLDEN GATES AND CABLE CARS
The hills were monstrous.
Light had never been surfing—that was a strange mental image—but he imagined it would feel something like this: the rising, the falling, the staring at the impossible steepness of the incline and starting to wonder in disbelieving horror if he'd survive the descent.
Of course, resisting the urge to brace his feet against the dashboard and gritting his teeth on "It was very nice knowing you—in multiple senses of the word" were both probably unique to this experience.
Ah, the fond memories he would carry out of San Francisco, California.
The streets were rutted, narrow, and populated with lunatics, whose ranks were divided just about evenly between the parallel-parkers and the daredevils with their death-wishes. Fog skimmed low along the horizon, thick and curious, a pale gray that matched L's eyes as it skulked mischievously upwards and outwards from the bay. L had rented a Prius, a little car shaped like a teardrop and about as substantial, probably mistakable for a bit more fog if he hadn't chosen the tomato-red paint job. The only thing between Light Yagami's face and the cracked pavement at the intersection at the bottom of that impossible slope was L's foot on the brake, and given that L's other foot was up on the seat to facilitate the knee-to-chest position, Light figured he had a right to be clinging to the armrest, knuckles white about the edge of the cup-holder.
Tony Bennett left his heart in San Franciso, and Light Yagami was going to leave his stomach.
"Slow down!" he cried as they barreled heedlessly towards the Earth below, the car's bumper before them nearing, the one behind looming like a shadow overhead.
"I am not going to kill us, Light-kun," L reassured him equably, pale eyes flicking towards each of his mirrors in turn. "Please refrain from panicking."
"I'm not panicking!" Light howled, scrabbling for purchase on his seatback and slinging his arms around the headrest. "You're going to hit him!"
L smiled fondly but didn't deign to reply. Once the death-defying detective had navigated a few more of the streets, Light began to relax a little. It seemed they weren't going to meet a hideously-splattered end after all—or at least not yet.
L guided the little tomato-car into a parking garage, where he fought for a few moments with a ticket machine that was not at all genius-friendly before drawing further into the lot, where he sought out a small space and slid the car perfectly between the two white lines.
Naturally, the S.U.V. on the right side was completely invading Light's space, but there wasn't much that he could do but huff about it, suck his stomach in, and sidle through the gap between the shining paint of either vehicle, trying not to catch his belt buckle on a door handle.
L slipped the paper ticket that the antisocial machine had eventually yielded onto the dash, shouldered his black messenger bag, and placidly followed Light. Together they strolled towards the street and emerged, blinking, into the intensifying sunlight, an uneven sidewalk beneath their feet and a half-clouded sky spread out above.
Light gazed at the chaos around him—innumerable tiny shops crammed up against each other, stalls of produce pushing their wares halfway across the sidewalk, awnings of every color fluttering in the breath of the breeze, gift shops bulging with curios, and everywhere, everywhere, strings of red firecrackers with gold lettering draped from doorways and windowsills, bunched together like bouquets.
"Where are we?" Light demanded as L, peering interestedly at this unfamiliar world from beneath his bangs, slouched over to the closest crosswalk.
"This is Chinatown," L replied.
"I thought we were in San Francisco," Light countered.
"Chinatown is in San Francisco," L explained.
Light jumped as the crosswalk sign began very peremptorily to chirp at them.
"There's a town within the city, then?" he hazarded.
"There are a great many neighborhoods," L responded. "There is also Japantown, and Russian Hill, and a long series of others…"
Before Light could ask just who had designed this crazy place, L was ducking into the first of the tiny shops, the bell at the doorway tolling cheerfully to announce their presence. Light, who wasn't so keen on the idea of upsetting barely-balanced trays of mass-manufactured plastic toys, lingered by the door, watching L's long white fingers trail over the trinkets, his eyes wandering, his smile faint, his should-be-awkward figure twisting easily through the narrowness of the aisles. He came upon a precarious-looking pyramid of rectangular boxes covered over with patterned silk and waved a hand to Light, who dutifully—and very cautiously—traced a path over to him.
"This whole thing is a fire hazard," he muttered.
"Much of the city went up in flames after the 1906 earthquake," L agreed absently, "though I believe that was mostly attributable to poorly-situated gas lines and illogically-employed dynamite, rather than a result of junk shops trapping people within their confines." L opened one of the cases, in which two shining metal spheres, vividly decorated with gold outlines that partitioned pink flowers from green leaves, nestled side-by-side in a bed of silk. "These are Baoding Balls," he reported, taking both of them in one slender hand. "Purportedly they have medical applications, though I'm not entirely sure I believe that." Manipulating his newfound treasures with his fingers, L slowly turned them about each other, whirling them slowly in his palm, where they began, very softly, to chime. "That aside, I think they would make a very soothing plaything, particularly if one was inclined to fidget while one worked."
"Near?" Light hazarded.
L smiled and gave the balls a final twirl—Light attempted to erase all the terrible and terribly ineluctable mental images from his head—before replacing them in the case and toting it up to the pleased-looking proprietor at the counter.
None too surprisingly, this first purchase segued into a thorough search of the area—which, for starters, required weaving through the masses of locals and other tourists alike, with their wheelchairs, bicycles, strollers, and carts, children bundled into puffy jackets against the chill pulled along the sloping sidewalks in bouncing plastic wagons. L, a thumb to his lips, a spark in his eyes, leaned unnecessarily close to examine unfamiliar vegetables and particularly gaudy souvenirs, dodging people deftly, one perfect, precautionary hand splayed over the flap of his bag. Light, who did a great deal of colliding with pedestrians and apologizing profusely in his best English, caught up in time to see his traveling companion exchanging a few American bills for a paper-and-plastic lion dance mask, a specimen designed for portability. Accordingly, L slipped it into his bag between his notepad and his laptop and turned to Light.
"Three walls of Watari's office are dedicated to memorabilia from various cultures," he explained. "Would you like to ride a cable car, Light-kun?"
Meeting bright eyes fixed astride the sharp nose, dark bangs dangling before them, Light could think of something else he'd like to ride.
"…a what?" he prompted.
There was a great rumbling, and Light gaped, and L smiled, and a brown trolley decorated in white, red, and gold rattle-soared swiftly past them, gliding along the track that sliced through the street.
"Oh-dear-God," Light said.
Shortly, they'd paid three dollars each and boarded one of the things, and Light was hugging a brass pole like it was his last lifeline—which L, eyes shining, halfheartedly held as well as he leaned out as far as he could without attracting the conductor's attention. The wind tugged insistently at his hair, summoning pink to his cheekbones, and he looked irresistibly alive.
Then his eyes lit up a little more.
"Light-kun," he murmured. "Look."
A slender finger pointed the way, and Light turned just as they crested the hill—just as the vast blue bay came into view, white boats trolling idly across its breadth, the rolling brown hills beyond stained with patches of evergreens. Nearer, stranded in the inlet's embrace, rose a rocky island topped with a fortress.
"What—?" Light managed, something of a feat, given that he hadn't quite succeeded in closing his mouth.
"Alcatraz," L reported. "Notoriously inescapable. The stories are thrilling."
They shuddered down the hill, and Light finally convinced his jaw to snap shut. "So it's a prison?" he asked.
"It was," L answered. "Military, and then federal. Now it serves mostly as a tourist attraction, which is a rather less sinister purpose indeed." He hopped down from the cable car at the next stop and led on. It wasn't long before they'd reached a vista point, and L set both hands on the rail of the fence and looked out over the water. Smiling despite himself, Light leaned against the chain-link and watched him.
It suited him, the city did—the ocean in particular. Cold, blue, white-capped, fog creeping along its contours until the morning sun burned the mist away—L was gray and white and black like the heart of the night, but there was something vital to him, too. Something that winked conspiratorially in violently-colored ice cream and lollipops, something not unlike the cotton-candy-colored houses that dotted this city's hills. There was a beauty to the eyesores, to the vomit-orange garage doors and the moss-green shutters, because you really could find them nowhere else.
Most cities had laws against those kinds of crimes against one's retinas, after all.
Light hadn't realized how long they'd been here already. The sun was slipping towards the endless Pacific by the time L bought a teddy bear dressed in an inmate's stripes, and they climbed onto a city bus. It was strange, Light thought, impossibly strange, to think that Japan—true, real, familiar Japan—lay on the other side of that boundlessness, and that Japan hadn't stopped moving for a minute when he left it.
L peered intently out the window as they drove, then nudged Light tactfully with an angular elbow when they reached their stop. Light had given up wondering what the plan was; L had evidently memorized the path he meant to follow. It was a great deal easier to get along with L once you gave up and let him lead you.
Light stepped down to the street and then looked up.
"It's bigger than it looks on the internet," he said stupidly.
A smile had staged a coup of L's expression. He started towards the bridge, his trailing shoelaces tapping out a rhythm on the sidewalk, the black bag bobbing at his side, Matt's teddy bear's contented face peeking out from the front pocket.
"Why do they call it the Golden Gate?" Light asked as they made their way across, craning his neck, likely to the point of permanent injury. "It's very… red…"
"Technically, it's 'international orange,'" L replied. "Though I have my own suspicions about the nomenclature."
"Oh?" Light prompted.
L just smiled and kept walking.
He didn't stop until they'd reached just about the middle of the structure—which was quite a stroll. L's cheeks were flushed again, and the breeze caressed his incorrigible hair. He moved to the edge, one thumb to his lips, and gazed out over the water again.
His other hand reached blindly for Light's.
Buffeted by the wind, anchored by the warmth, Light squinted against the glare as the sky relinquished the pendent sun to the sea. L's hair fluttered in his eyes, and Light raised a hand to smooth it away. L's hair was silk, was black ribbon, was oblivion condensed, and touching it was his favorite ritual.
It was a tradition of theirs. Light would take a proper shower in the proper bathroom on the ground floor of their flat in London, put on boxers and his bathrobe, emerge in a torrent of captured steam, and take L's wrist in an unyielding vice grip, the better to drag him, vociferous protests, laptop, and all, up the stairs to the wood-paneled bathroom with the claw-footed tub. He'd bought a tray that spanned across to either wall of the thing, upon which L would set the computer to keep working, and Light would sit on his three-legged stool and massage strawberry-scented shampoo into the thick dark hair. Wild little shivers trilled up and down Light's spine at the sounds L made—murmurs and coos as Light's fingernails scrubbed his scalp, mutters if a careless swipe of Light's palm over his forehead sent soapsuds dripping into his eyes.
If he was working too hard, Light would wash all the shampoo out, stroke the wet hair away from his face, and lean forward to nibble innocently on L's ear. The white hands would immediately freeze, hovering over the keyboard, and when Light's tongue touched the place where L's earlobe met his neck, they invariably ended up tossing away laptop tray and bathrobe alike, in favor of a more involved activity.
Light had quickly learned to keep a mop propped up against the wall lest the overflow that subsequently sloshed out of the bathtub seeped through the floor afterward.
L's fingers tightened around his, and Light looked over the bay again—just as the sun touched it, and the whole world went gold.
"Your theory," Light breathed.
"Yes, Light-kun," L said.
Light turned, slipped his hand into L's soft hair, and drew him in for a long, long kiss.
In this city, no one would look at them twice.
…on second thought, judging by the catcalls, perhaps people would.
But here, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
L was smiling enigmatically as they took the same bus back.
"Isn't this where we came from?" Light asked.
"There's one more thing I wanted to see here," L announced.
Light was confused for a moment.
But only until he saw the neon sign above a series of storefronts with vast bay windows—a sign that proudly displayed Ghiradelli in bright letters against the darkening sky.
Two ice cream sundaes and a large hot chocolate later, L wandered back to the counter and selected a large gift box.
Mello, Light thought, grinning. That completed L's souvenir shopping.
Light flung himself facedown on the bed the second they returned to their hotel room by the airport. His feet were killing him, and the glare of the sun on the water had planted the seeds of a headache in the fertile soil of his skull. Groaning, he raised his head just high enough to rub vigorously at his eyes.
"Did you have fun, Light-kun?" L asked, sitting down next to him and taking ahold of his foot to unlace and remove first his shoes and then his socks, the latter with especial satisfaction.
Light let him finish before shifting to lie on his back, pushing the pillows up against the headboard. "I had a lot of fun," he replied. "But it was a long day. I trust you got all your shopping done?"
L nodded, the shadows cast by his hair sliding across his face. "I even bought something for you, Light-kun."
Light frowned. When had he…? "You did?"
L bent to retrieve something from his messenger bag, Light's view of which was obstructed from his position on the bed. Momentarily, L straightened.
He flicked a segmented fan open before his face, the overlapping slats clacking softly into place, two fingers at the base holding it so that the curve underscored those vast gray eyes a bit more dramatically still. The unmistakable musk of sandalwood flooded over Light where he lay mesmerized.
"Light-kun does seem to enjoy a bit of mystery," L remarked innocently from behind the fan.
Light grinned slowly. "Would you like me to wash your hair?" he asked in reply.