Author's Note: AU. L had a (relatively) normal upbringing, and Light obviously isn't Kira… The ages are different… BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! You just have to read it to find out what that is. XD

It's still Valentine's Day in my time zone, damn it. XD Sorry the chapter's short; I… haven't written the rest, which is creative suicide by my muse's rules, but today was busy, and I was rushing to get something done. I may, um, edit this a little later. Enjoy, and I'll try to update soon, though I can't make any promises!


CHOCOLATE ALWAYS LOVES YOU BACK

I. SweeTarts Hearts

Light was frowning and resisting the urge to chew on the end of his pen.

There was nothing more disgusting than being handed a pen that looked like a golf ball for the teethmarks, the tip of which was still damp from somebody's saliva.

It was horribly tempting, however, to ignore all tenets of writing utensil decorum in favor of masticating the thing to little plastic pieces as he strode down the long hall towards Matsuda's office, reading and rereading the mystifying file.

He settled for tapping the thing against his lips, which was a whole lot less revolting, and squinting at the small type.

Vaguely, he heard someone moving towards him, and he stepped blindly rightward to clear the path, assuming the prospective problem would be resolved.

The footsteps' owner, however, did the same thing, and a cataclysmic collision resulted.

Copy paper, paperclips, crime scene photos, and small pastel projectiles flew everywhere, exploding into the air and raining down on the carpet. More than one tiny, brightly-colored object ricocheted off of Light's head where he was sprawled on the floor after crashing into—he focused his dazed eyes to look—someone he'd never seen around here before.

The individual across from him was already crouched on the floor, long-fingered hands darting out to recapture heart-shaped pieces of candy, which he snatched between two fingers to toss back into his cardboard box. The object of Light's scrutiny was a young man with wildly unkempt black hair, tangled sections of which effectively hid his forehead and his ears, jutting out behind his head and brushing against his shoulders, which were hunched almost defensively. Behind the uneven bangs glimmered huge gray eyes, triple-underlined with dark circles that spoke volumes of sleeplessness and exaggerated the stormy color of the irises even more. The man's skin was drastically pale, and he looked ill-at-ease in his white Oxford shirt and slightly wrinkled navy blue slacks—as if he ought to be wearing something much more casual, a hypothesis bolstered by the way the first three buttons of his shirt hung heedlessly undone.

He was also wearing black flip-flops.

Light felt justified in staring where he sat dumbly on the carpet, his once-orderly manila folder somewhere off to his left, dotted with little candies.

And then Light's not-yet-acquaintance did something that made it impossible to stay silent: the man popped one of the candy hearts absently into his mouth.

Light made a face, and the gray eyes met his, a pink tongue poking out to swipe sugar from the closest lip.

"What?" the oddity asked.

"You're eating off the floor," Light responded stupidly, too distracted by the thought of the swarming bacteria to say anything more intelligent.

"Yes," the other man confirmed slowly.

"People walk all over this floor," Light persisted—pointlessly, he had realized.

The man selected another candy and set it on his tongue. "I do this consistently," he noted. "My immune system is accustomed to it. Besides, these were on sale this morning, because of the holiday. SweeTarts Hearts are one of my favorites."

Light blinked—and then he made the conscious decision to extricate himself from this sudden and inexplicable insanity.

"Good for you," he declared, clambering to his feet and seeking out the scattered sheets of his case file. "Now, if you'll excuse me…"

Jamming the papers back into the folder, he picked his way through the remaining candy—because as much as he disapproved of eating off the floor, there was no real reason to make it worse for the lunatic by stepping on the stuff directly—and continued down the hall.

His senior partner/quasi-mentor, Matsuda, for all his foibles, was kind enough to observe the tacit NPA dress code—his tie, while it did sport a motif of cheerful red hearts, at least was straight and even.

Matsuda flipped through the file, the line between his brows deepening.

"This is awful," he muttered, doe eyes alternating mournful regret and righteous outrage. "To kill a child this way. Ten years at this, and I still can't believe how sick some people are."

He paused, turned a leaf, and turned back.

"You're missing one," he announced.

Light shook himself from vindictive thoughts about crushing SweeTarts beneath his heel. "What?"

"You're missing a page," Matsuda repeated. "It skips from six to eight."

Light scowled. "I crashed into a guy in the hallway. I must not have seen it picking up the others. Hey, who is that guy? Black hair, never met the sun, some kind of candy maniac or something…"

Matsuda smiled, eyebrows rising amusedly. "That would be Lawliet," he explained. "He's the new guy—super-genius hotshot straight out of college. Brilliant, eccentric habits aside." He grinned. "Kind of like you."

Light gave him a sardonic look. "I don't eat off the floor."

"But you do line up your pens in alphabetical order by brand name."

Light felt a faint flush creeping into his cheeks and fought it back. "…I didn't think anyone would notice that," he managed.

Matsuda closed the file and handed it back, smiling. "I'm a detective, Light," he pointed out. "I notice things. Find that missing page for me?"

Sighing, Light went to scour the hallway.

His efforts were fruitless.

And candyless; this Lawliet character had found every single fallen SweeTart, leaving nothing behind.

Gritting his teeth, Light proceeded down the hall the way Lawliet had been going and tracked down a puff of unruly black hair bent over a desk. Looked like the newbie was working with Aizawa, which would hopefully teach him a thing or two about civilized conduct.

Light approached. Substantiating his addiction theory, there was a huge dish of candy on Lawliet's desk, the bowl brimming with heart-shaped chocolates in red and gold foil, neon-wrapped lollipops, pink Hershey's kisses, and loose conversation hearts. Salvaged SweeTarts were spread over the desktop by the madman's right hand, and he paused in filling out sections of a complicated form to tuck candies between his lips at intervals.

Light cleared his throat, and Lawliet looked up, gray eyes unperturbed and unblinking.

He regarded his form again. "Take some candy," he said.

It was more an order than an offer, and Light bristled.

"I'm fine," he responded crisply.

"Really," Lawliet countered, "have something. Dark chocolate is actually good for you. Additionally, I prefer to deal with people whose brains are flooded with endorphins."

Light crossed his arms and set his jaw. "I'm fine," he said again. "I just came to ask if you have the missing page from my case file, because it wasn't in the hallway."

Lawliet glanced up from his work again. "Take some candy," he retorted, "and I'll see if I can find it."

Fists clenching automatically as his blood began to boil, Light opened his mouth to tell this arrogant piece of sh… work where to shove his Hershey's kisses—and then realized firstly that Aizawa was sitting two feet away, watching him with a cynical, interested half-smile; and secondly that upturning a bowl of candy on the new guy's head was not the way to demonstrate his professionalism.

He selected a Dove chocolate, meticulously peeled off the foil, and stuck it in his mouth.

He'd better be getting some antioxidants out of this deal.

Lawliet smirked and opened the desk drawer on the top right.

"Hey," Mogi's voice called from behind him. Light looked over his shoulder, sucking on the chocolate. "Who's working on the Sander case?" Light turned fully to say that it had fallen to him and Masuda and found the remarkably solid detective ceasing to wave a hand for attention—and utilizing it instead to point at the trio of children at his side.

"It's mine and Matsu's," Light volunteered, dodging desks to cross the room. He stared down at Mogi's new friends. "Who are they?"

The leader—or so Light gathered from the boy's unrepentantly aggressive stance—was a grubby-faced blond with icy blue eyes, but before he could snap out what would almost certainly have been an insult, Mogi cut in.

"They're friends of Sander's," he explained. "Or, rather, they were."

Light took in the other two—a gangly kid with a strange, worn pair of goggles pushed up into his scruffy red hair and a tiny boy dressed in grimy pajamas, his hair and skin white, his huge eyes an ashen gray. He looked like a plant that had grown in the dark.

"What are they doing here?" Light demanded.

Mogi shrugged. "They're scared," he reported. "Whoever killed Sander might be after them, too."

"Plus we like tryin' to make people miserable," the blond muttered. "Second-favorite hobby."

Light resisted the urge to massage his temples. He had the feeling they were going to succeed.

He realized that he'd crushed the chocolate wrapper in his hand and looked at it idly.

Chocolate, it promised, always loves you back.

He was really hoping the universe at large was feeling the same way.