Author's Note: This fic is directly related to the doujinshi "God's Eyes," which I acknowledge as the true end of Death Note. X3 (If you haven't read it yet, you really should! You can find it here: http(colon-slash-slash)vilani(dot)livejournal(dot)com(slash)75156(dot)html.)
Warnings: You probably won't get this unless you've read "God's Eyes." LxLight.
"Why haven't you aged?!"
The first time he spoke the words, they were in venomous anger—furious at his guardian for treating him like the child he (technically) was. And the older man (so much older than he looked) had made a joke of it all, quoting a painter and claiming to be a virgin.
But he couldn't very well tell the child that they'd once been lovers, could he?
So as Light threw a fit, the detective simply smiled, the expression both cheery and patronizing; he refused to pay the words any serious thought until after the sprout had gone back to his room. Then, and only then, did L peek hesitantly at a dusty mirror.
Then he shivered and tried to forget that he'd done so.
"Why haven't you aged?"
The second time, years later, the question was asked much more calmly: poorly-hidden curiosity in the pre-teen's cinnamon eyes. He didn't even bother to pretend that he was doing his homework anymore; all around them, the countless shelves of the Wammy House library stood in yellowed silence. It was a place made for whispers and side-long glances… Light's actions were spurred by the ambiance.
But L would have none of that. When he answered, it was in his usual drone: "I have aged," he insisted, the retort strangely loud in the hush of the room. As always, his chin was on his knees; he turned the rustling pages of his newspaper without sparing his charge a single look. "However, as I age at the same rate you do, you don't notice anything. For example, in my eyes, you still look like a five year old."
Light frowned. "That doesn't even make sense," he glowered, crossing his arms over his chest.
"If that is how you truly feel, then it means you are stupid," L returned flatly, but seemed to be biting back a teasing grin. "In which case, you haven't been working hard enough. Shall I increase your homework load?"
The young boy groaned, flopping forward so that his torso blanketed the ancient wooden table. "No…"
"Then prove that you are not stupid. Recite for me the history of Grecian theatre, starting with the ancient cults of Dionysus." A pause. "And tell me in French."
Another whining moan. "Do I have to…?" Light complained, all while knowing how pointless it was to resist. In fact, he didn't even bother waiting for an answer; with a sigh, he stood, turned towards his frog-faced teacher, and began: "Le concept du théâtre et du drame s'est développé du culte antique de Dionysus, un dieu de vin et de fertilité. Ces cultes désigné généralement sous le nom étant une partie du Mystère-compréhensible dionysien, comme pas beaucoup est connu au sujet de elles. Cependant, on le suppose qu'ils ont émergé la première fois à la suite de l'apparition du vin en Grèce antique, qui est censée s'être produite dans 6000 AVANT JÉSUS CHRIST. Les rites du culte semblent avoir été basés sur le cycle de mort-renaissance de la nature avec une emphase sur la possession d'esprit…"
And so the original inquiry flew far from the child's mind.
But still, the resulting, faint frown did not leave L's face for the rest of the day.
"Why haven't you aged…?"
He was physically a teenager when he asked the third time—but, simultaneously, an adult in the eyes of the world. And L had to admit, he could see where the world was coming from: the way he carried himself, the way he dressed, the way he'd pierce a person with those intelligent chocolate eyes… He seemed so much older than he actually was.
Almost like L himself.
So maybe that was why L said nothing, averted his gaze—tried to forget the boy from long, long, long ago, the one he'd chained to himself and never wanted to let go.
"Ryuuzaki?" Light probed, his voice careful, delicate. He pressed his palms flat to his caretaker's mahogany desk, leaning slightly over the barrier of wood. L didn't respond, but he did sink more pointedly into his spindly chair. "Ryuuzaki… Please. Tell me. I have to know. Why? It shouldn't be possible—but I swear upon any god listening, you haven't aged a day since we m—"
"Don't," L said softly, his voice curt and firm.
Light blinked. "Don't…?"
"Don't swear upon 'any god listening,'" the detective coldly clarified, wrapping his arms around his knees and staring pointedly out the window, watching the summer sunset. "You don't realize how many are listening, Light… and they are probably not the gods you'd assume."
To this, the younger man merely gawked. "Ryuuzaki…" he breathed a moment later… and then there was a smirk on his face, and laughter in his eyes. "I'd never have pinned you for a religious fanatic."
"I am not," L returned curtly, and Light was startled by the ice in his tone. "But you would not believe the truth if I told you."
Once again, Light was reduced to merely blinking in surprise. But then, slowly—ever so slowly—he began bending forward, moving closer… until his body had bridged over the ornate desk, his nose a scant few inches from his teacher's. "L…" he whispered, voice low with genuine sincerity, "you are the only person in the entire world who has my complete trust. I would believe anything you told me."
The detective watched his pupil from beneath half-lowered lashes, his breathing growing harsh and shallow as memories flit and winked like fireflies through the twilight of his memory. "…anything…?" he heard himself murmur, tongue flicking over his dry bottom lip.
Light nodded once, brisk and begging. "Anythi—"
But his intended promise was cut short by a gasp and a moan; in that moment, L had thrown himself forward: wrapping his arms around the other's neck and pulling him down, down, down— the mouths meeting and meshing and forming one whole.
The papers and folders and manila case files that had rested on the desk were scattered to the floor; the individual pages fluttered gently in the warm, sweet wind that floated through the open window.
A whimper, a groan— silent, silvery tears…
"I love you, Night God Moon."
And history repeated itself.
"Why haven't you aged…?"
The fourth time found them lounging in bed, unclothed and bundled in a Christmas blanket. The detective grumbled faintly, rolling to wrap an arm around the younger man. But now the younger man looked older than he did: close to 40, mature and beautiful, with enough youth in his eyes to make up for his gray hairs.
"You'll have to answer sometime, Ryuuzaki," Light sighed, refusing to let himself be distracted by butterfly kisses. "People are starting to look at me like I'm some sort of pedophile."
L snorted. "Ridiculous," he then droned, kissing a hot trail up his lover's throat. "I am clearly of age. There is no reason for anyone to assume such a thing."
"Ryuuzaki…" He was losing patience.
Even still, L did not answer. Instead, he chose to press his hungry lips against Light's own, suckling and tickling with practiced skill… And soon the younger man could no longer pretend he wasn't interested in perusing this alternate form of entertainment.
"Why haven't you aged?!"
The last time was like the first: full of anger and annoyance. And yet, deep in the unheard subtext, there was also a hint of despair… of loneliness.
An unchanged L briefly touched his lover's hand, as if wishing to hold it—but quickly pulled away when the sickly senior jerked backwards, trembling as if frightened.
L couldn't blame him. "…I am scared, too," he whispered slowly, sinking into an adjacent chair. Around him, Room Zero felt cold and oppressive; how he hated irony for bringing him back to this place.
He wished—and not for the first time—that he were dead.
The younger man (but oh, he looked so much older) glared briefly, then twisted his head away, as if trying to ignore his companion. A weighty silence hung between the teacher and the student… and then L sighed, allowing two cold fingers to brush against Light's withered arm.
"…do you remember," he said softly, black eyes distant and warm voice low, "when you claimed that I was a religious fanatic?"
No response. But it was enough.
"I am not, nor have I ever been, a religious fanatic," L quietly continued, swallowing once. "But I did… fall in love with a shinigami."
Despite his best efforts, Light could not help but turn to face his lover once again. As he gawked, a single glassy tear quivered on the ends of L's thick charcoal lashes.
"…and in so doing," the detective finished, the words hesitant and heavy as he hung his trembling head, "I seem to have inadvertently locked myself in limbo."
The wrinkled elder visibly gaped; L closed his eyes and brushed a kiss to Light's forehead.
"Yagami Light… you were the Death of me."
No one asked him why he did not age anymore.
Not out of callousness, of course, or even a lack of interest. No, the reason was much simpler: there was no one around to do so. Light, Matsuda, Roger, Near— everyone who had touched his second life, every single person he had cared for, or about… time had swept them away, leaving him behind.
He sat silently at his desk, typing, typing, typing…
There was work, of course. He was not completely without interaction. And the orphanage blossomed, its sprouts growing tall and healthy and true. He was not un-happy.
But then, he was not truly happy, either.
Seems you've gotten yourself into quite a spot.
Years ago, L supposed, he might have reacted violently to this voice. Years ago, he might have yelled, or screamed, or demanded to know what had happened to him. Years ago, he might have cared. But the passing of decades had found him calmer than ever—more collected and flat-faced than even the 'L' of the Kira Task Force had been. And so when the shinigami Ryuk materialized behind him, L did not even flinch.
"I did not do this to myself," he replied coolly, without bothering to look away from his computer screen. He doubted the changing times had done much to alter Ryuk's appearance, either. "My condition is in no doubt tied to your damnable notebook, somehow. However, I have long-since given up my attempts to figure out how."
Oh ho! Too complex for you? The black-clad devil grinned, its clown face shining with amusement.
L snorted. "No. I simply no longer care."
…Oh. Ryuk seemed a bit put out, scratching at his head for a spell before pulling an apple from his pocket.
"But that is neither here nor there," the detective droned, putting the final touches on his report. Thank God: that case had been so easy it had nearly put him to sleep. Which was saying something, all things considered. "What can I do for you, Shinigami?"
Oh—yeah! The god of death straightened mid-air, as if suddenly attempting to appear impressive. But even he seemed to know it was a wasted effort; in the next few moments, he was back to chewing happily away on his scarlet fruit. I just thought ya might wanna know that the sand will soon be back again.
And for the first time in his life, L's hands skipped on his keyboard.
"Wh— what…?" Whipping around, the young man gawked up at the leering devil, leaping to his feet. "Light will…? Where? When?!"
Ah ah ah, Ryuk chortled, popping the core into his mouth and smirking widely. What fun would that be? No, no, Detective L. I'm not sayin' anything more. You're so smart, you find him. I just figured it'd be more fun if I let you know that it was time to start looking again.
His cackling grew louder, bulging eyes bright. Then with a wave of his claw-like hand, he was gone.
L was left alone, breathing hard in the shadowed silence.
But for the first time in nearly 90 years, he was smiling.