Author's Note: A total departure from the usual, though at least the innumerable Hamlet quotes feel like home. It's really not my fault that Hamlet applies to everything. Or that everything applies to Hamlet… Perpend.
Recipe for Insanity requested L/Light for Christmas, with the prompt "You don't own me," and this creature emerged. XD The editing was wretched. It'd be a different fic if I went through it again tomorrow. O_o
(But tell me, Victor—how much of it is mine?)
BY AND BY
It's easier not to be wise
And measure these things by your brains
I sank into Eden with you
Alone in the church by and by
I'll read to you here, save your eyes
You'll need them; your boat is at sea
The anchor is up; you've been swept away
The greatest of teachers won't hesitate
To leave you there by yourself, chained to fate, yeah
I alone love you
I alone tempt you
I alone love you
Fear is not the end of this
– "I Alone" – Live –
He was ready to tear the world to pieces.
He would start with the hard, sharp shard they called L. He would rip it free and crush it under the dominion of his heel.
It was the arrogance. It was star-shaped, and it gleamed in the dark with a medal's guilty self-awareness. L wore it like a mantle on bending shoulders, carried its trophy taint in every cup of tea—the calligraphic ink had begun to inscribe itself upon his forehead, but, overzealous, in a few more strokes had dyed his hair instead.
And that was that, in summary and in spades.
Light wanted to pull that hair and see how wide the eyes would go.
He imagined you could lose yourself in those eyes—release your handholds and forget all you'd ever been. It was their vastness, or their depth, or their color, or the weird-muddled fusion of the three. They were stars' mirrors and sidewalk pools; the shine slick on the wet pavement as you skirted puddles for your feet's sake, casting fishhook glances into their shallows, flinging an abstract hope for a reassuring revelation.
He could have done with a reassuring revelation. He could have done with any sort of reassurance, any kind at all. He would have selected the peppermint flavor, given the choice; there was something cold and clean about the taste.
Some days, he thought Kira was right. Some days, he thought the world was sick—cankered, cancerous, wallowing in its own contagion. Some days, he thought amputating the blight to save the blessed sounded like something he should have figured out years ago.
Elbows went to the desktop, balancing all that counted as he let his forehead fall to the cradle of his knitted fingers. Knitted fingers; knitted brow; knotted throat; netted heart. Patterns should be comforting.
The voice: low, leaden, unrelenting.
Merited a muttered, "What?"
"I would like some cake."
"So go get some cake."
He began to wonder if the great L could tie his own shoes, only to remember that the things barely had laces at all.
There was dark lace in his hair and pale lace in his eyes; to add more might diminish them.
"I would be quite content to do so were we not so inextricably connected," L remarked, white hand indicating the chain between them, the hydra-headed truth that dressed in silence.
We will speak of it, but not of what it means.
It means that one of us is dead.
Neither of us is prepared to die. I'm not. Are you?
L unfolded from the chair, bare soles unfurling on the carpet, and Light wrenched his body to its feet to follow. Reluctance, repugnance, repentance. He had begun increasingly to suspect that L's insistences on traipsing to the kitchen were motivated more by Light's inevitable surrender to the clock, which L sought to discourage, than by cravings for diabetic indulgence.
Mortals slept. Light had been born that way.
"Do you need anything, Light-kun?"
Repent, resent, retort, repay. Rinse and repeat.
"Sleep," he said, hearing his voice twinge sardonic.
L turned, face charnel-house-white in the refrigerator's glow.
"Something has been making you irritable all afternoon," L decided quietly. "If you can explain it, perhaps we can work towards a solution."
"I'm tired," Light mumbled, the corner of the matter slipping out the corner of his mouth.
The great L: "It seems that there is more."
I know not 'seems.'
Light raised his left hand, an incongruous giggle rippling through links of soldered steel.
"This is not a dog collar, Ryuzaki," he said. "You don't own me."
L's lips curved into the devil's smile, thin and wicked as the whole of him.
"As nosy as he may be—" Wicked; wicked; hellish; L. "—I should hardly presume to put Light-kun in the doghouse."
It would be too easy to break those bones; the milk-pale skin betrayed them, and they couldn't hide. Surely he could find a better challenge.
"I work with you," Light elucidated, syllables slotting into place, "not for you. I help because I want to, not because of an obligation. Not because you're paying me. Not because I like you." (Oh, but he loved the flicker of the dark lashes upward as the wide eyes swelled wider; he loved the foreign cruelty of the hurt.) "So if you can fit it into your schedule, I'd appreciate it if you'd treat me like a human being every now and again."
Moons in his eyes; the night in his hair; starlight bound in ivory—was L a god? Some days he thought it must be true. A spirit, then; an incarnation. Something that transcended.
One of us is dead. You are you; and it must be me.
L had taught him how to lie, how to lose, and how to love so hard he hated.
He wished, though, that L would teach him how to sever the vine that bound up heart and head and made each see the other. L's vine turned leaves at midnights when the refrigerator hummed, but the new growths withered in the light of morning.
"What do you suggest I do differently, Light-kun?" L inquired, face half-tilted to the right. "I listen to your suggestions, I judge them, and if they are useful, I heed them. I have established all necessary amenities. I provide for your coworkers. I am solving your case and saving your world. What more do you want from me?"
Perhaps it wasn't him. Perhaps it wasn't that Light wanted to feel human.
Perhaps he wanted to believe that L was.
The vine strangled him, and he spoke.
"Is there anything real about you?" he asked.
Lips parted, and sealed.
L didn't seem to have an answer.
Nay, it is.
Tines on ceramic. It was L's way of personalizing nails on a chalkboard.
Light's eye twitched.
L licked the stainless stem, pausing in mid-stroke to watch the boy across the table.
"Would you like some, Light-kun?" he asked.
Part of the game. Light had implied that L lacked the capacity to feel, ergo the indomitable L would project munificent empathy as evidence to the contrary—even at the cost of cake.
"It's Prinsesstårta," L added idly, dragging the rightmost tine through a clump of crumbs to send them scattering. "A Swedish Princess. It has a layer of raspberry jam, one of custard, and one of whipped cream, and there is marzipan in place of icing." He plugged the fork between his lips again. "Light-kun might like it," he murmured around the sides.
"I just want to go to bed," Light said, and the words assumed their own truth. It was cold in the kitchen, the kind of cold that pressed from every angle, bending the hairs on his arms, seeping into his skin to seethe through his bloodstream. Consumption.
Unprecedented obedience triumphed, for L balanced the fork on the place, wordlessly gathering it in hand, himself to feet.
"Permit me five more minutes," he requested. "I expect Light-kun can be persuaded to check his email a few more times?"
L had a gift for expecting too much and too little.
"Presuming that Ryuzaki can be persuaded to lie down and close his eyes for a while after that," Light returned, one palm spread on the tabletop as he rose.
L set the cake on the edge of the desk, coiling in his chair. Pulling all the limbs in—wasn't that what dying animals did? Dead spiders, Light knew. Half-bent limbs with switchblade joints. Protecting something. Dignity, perhaps? There was dignity in death.
But not enough.
Light flicked his computer mouse, and the screen buzzed awake. Meticulously he avoided the tab for his email, much as he might have liked to usher in the latest the invisible couriers had to offer. He had some shame.
He set the machine to shut itself down and waited until the screen went dark. Was that how it was? All at once, a blackness? The humming stopped, and the whirring faded into… nothing.
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveler returns.
He turned, slightly suddenly. "Ryuza—"
Chain-arm-elbow-fate; porcelain shattered on the floor, and the painted flowers broke.
"Shit," Light said. "Here—"
"It's all right, Light-kun; I've—"
Twenty fingers in cake and white powder-shards. Here was his torn world, flecked with custard and raspberry jam; its tear-seeds grazed his fingertips, and smears dried bloody underneath his fingernails.
L moved to lick whipped cream from the ridge of one knuckle. Light saw the glinting slivers of ceramic embedded there and grabbed his wrist. L stopped.
"Do you like me, Light-kun?" he asked, head cocked, bullet-barrel eyes trained on Light and Light alone.
"More some days than others," Light answered.
L wriggled his trapped fingers, filament-bones shifting under his captor's grip.
"Do you love me, Light?" he inquired.
"Far too much," Light said.
The jam was cold, but L's hand on his face was warm, and Light wondered for a moment how he would get it all out of his hair.
What a piece of work is a man.
He wasn't sure what part of the infinitely-layered cake he was tasting in the soft press of L's mouth, but it was terrifyingly good.
L drew back, eyes endless and impregnable. In the half-smile that skimmed the crests of his eyebrows and foundered in the curled corners of his lips there floated a strange confusion. Had he done it? Had he meant it?
He appeared to be discovering that he had, and had. That he did.
Light smiled back and watched through the portholes as a spider's web of slender cracks assailed the wall of silver ice.
L touched his pink lips with a red thumb.
"I should brush my teeth," he noted.
"And wash your face," Light murmured, leaning in to kiss a fleck of splattered custard from his jaw.
They settled, and he slept, and the dreams woke him. The sheets were tangled, and his hair was matted with histrionic sweat.
L was up already—or still—with hands folded across his calves, the green pajama bottoms almost worn through at the knees. He smoothed the fabric that spanned the right one, chain clinking, and set hailstorm eyes to searching Light's.
"Again?" he asked.
Light ran unsteady hands over his face. It was difficult to determine whether the moisture was born on damp forehead or clammy palms.
Both, or neither?
"It's dark," he muttered, rubbing gritty eyes, "and they're screaming… and they cry… and I can't see them to make them stop. But—the way dreams are—I can see my hands…" He held them out before him, and they shook. "…but the blood won't wash off…"
He met L's eyes, and the gray world was softer there.
"The rest," he finished, "is silence."
L breathed in a sigh, released it, and slid nearer, serenaded by the bedsprings' protests, to thread both arms around Light's shoulders. Slender fingers, surer than he'd thought, worked through his hair to the rhythm of the thudding of his heartbeat in his ears.
"Sounds like Kira on a bad day, doesn't it?" Light smirked into the quiet as his will, his wit, his resources, his resolve—as they all failed; as the dominos wavered, and fell.
"Kira," L whispered, taking Light's hand to trace the lines that trailed across the palm, "would never let me see his soul."
Light smiled a little, and he was drifting soon enough—no anchor to this raft, no oars, no map. Just two men and a river. Two boys and a world, and heaven knew what lay ahead.
A soft voice before he slept, gentle like the arms around him:
"And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."