Author's Note: Sorry that it's so late—the first week of school was only three days, but it still kicked my sorry ass, and then my computer decided to malfunction so badly that I don't even want to bore you with the details. Then the second week of school decided to kick my ass even more! XD The fact that there's a chapter at all we owe, of course, to Eltea, who lent me her old computer until mine miraculously changed its mind. XD
Other than that… thank you all for reading this far and enjoying the fic. :) (If you haven't enjoyed it but have still read this far, I'm not sure what to tell you… XD) I've had a fantastic time with it, and you've all been great.
That said, if you don't dig it when a fic ends with a big pile of fluff, you should probably close the window immediately and find something else to do. XD
But yes. An immeasurable thank you to Eltea, a massive one to Jenwryn as well, and a saluting one to you, dear reader. :D
Chapter XV. Sound Advice
Light had been having a quiet, pleasant dream when he was awakened by a slightly tinny burst of music.
"He's all that—he's all that I wanted, he's all that I needed, he's all that I have; my baby, he's all that—he gives me this feeling, he makes me believe it, and my love never ends—"
Light supposed that cheesy dance-pop was a step up from techno when it came to Lawliet's ringtone.
Well, it wasn't the worst thing he'd ever woken up to. He'd been to college, after all.
Lawliet's hand, fumbling on the bedside table, finally grabbed the phone, which he brought to his ear.
"Good morning, Matsuda," he mumbled.
Light was going to kill his partner as soon as it was no longer eight-thirty in the morning on a Sunday.
Lawliet was listening intently to the dead man on the other end of the line. "Yes, that would be the plan." He paused. "Yes, I am in bed… Yes, but I don't see what difference… Yes, it was a 'long night'; we took the boys to the movie theater, and Mello got Mountain Dew at the soda machine while we weren't looking… I sincerely doubt that that is 'what they all say,' Matsuda; I find it difficult to believe that all of 'them' have made the tremendously wonderful error of adopting three teenaged children… I know it's a figure of speech; I just think it's a misleading… On the contrary, I think I'm a lot of fun… Yes, I imagine that Light-kun would know."
It was as this point that Light stopped grinning to himself and started wishing he hadn't overheard a word of this conversation.
"Yes, all right. We will see you then. Goodbye."
"I'm going to murder that man," Light decided as Lawliet set the phone aside.
"I should hate to have to arrest you for justifiable homicide," Lawliet replied, squirming across the empty patch of the bed to curl up with Light, who had no objections whatsoever to this event. "Perhaps we should murder him together and go on the run."
Light ruffled Lawliet's hair, a process which was entirely pointless but rather enjoyable nonetheless. A drowsy Lawliet repossessed his hand and started mouthing warmly at his knuckles.
Lawliet had a vaguely unnerving tendency to chew on his finally-official boyfriend if he hadn't had breakfast.
Not that Light minded at all.
Furthermore, he had only just begun to favor Lawliet's swanlike neck with sloppy morning kisses when someone pounded on the door.
"I heard voices!" Mello called. "Have you both got pants on?"
As a matter of pure habit, Light and Lawliet glanced down at themselves and then at each other. Light was wearing a tee-shirt and plaid drawstring pants, and Lawliet had on his white flannel pajamas with the ice cream cone motif.
For a long time, Light had been dying to know where Lawliet had found pajamas like that in a size to fit a fully-grown male, and then he had remembered the existence of the internet.
"Yes," was Lawliet's unwise answer to Mello's question, an answer which sent the door banging open and brought a familiar procession of children bursting into the room.
Mello made a beeline for the bed and leapt heedlessly onto it, aiming for the miniscule space between Lawliet and Light.
Only desperately fast reflexes saved Light's ribcage from a great deal of irreparable damage.
Mello bounced contentedly as Near climbed up onto the foot of the bed, where Matt immediately joined him.
"I can't believe you're still in bed!" Mello was exclaiming. "We're having a party!"
"Not for another three and a quarter hours, Mello," Lawliet reminded him.
"So?" Mello prompted. "That's not that long!"
"Mello," Light cut in, "you know that you're only allowed to have one bowl of Cocoa Puffs. The next one has to be Cheerios."
Mello stopped bouncing to maximize the efficiency of his puppy eyes. "Just this once? We're having a party!"
"A fact of which Light-kun and I are acutely aware," Lawliet confirmed, getting out of the bed and rubbing at his eyes with the back of his wrist. "Why don't we find something that you three can do to help prepare?"
Mello catapulted off the bed and was the first one out the door, Matt and Near trailing, Lawliet ushering them all towards the kitchen, and then everything went remarkably quiet.
Light spread out on the empty bed, stretching, and passed a hand over the spot of warmth where Lawliet had been. He smiled, shook his head, and dragged himself off of the mattress in search of something to wear.
Three and a half hours of clearing dishes, hastily dusting the mantel and its disregarded kin, stocking the refrigerator, letting the boys go wild with paper streamers, and greeting the incoming guests later, they had a house full of cops and children.
Light was not entirely sure whether this was a monumental success or sufficient cause to fling oneself out a second-story window.
In either case, everyone was armed with soda cans and snack food, and the adults occupied the living room couches while Matt, Mello, and Near regaled Yumi and the baby with their block-building prowess. As Matsuda launched into the story of the artistically-gifted vandals who had signed their names beneath every tag hoping that a talent scout would happen by, Mogi caught Light's sleeve and pulled him into the hallway.
Light was waiting for "Sorry to break it to you, but this party sucks more than spending Christmas in the office"—and Light would know—but that wasn't what Mogi said.
"I'm sure you've thought of this…" He glanced back at the room, then tugged Light a little further down the hall. "But… be careful with him."
Ever the height of brilliance, he eventually managed, "What?"
"Lawliet," Mogi told him gently. "He doesn't really know anything about relationships, practically speaking, because he's never had one, but he thinks he knows everything—which makes it even more important that you keep an eye out. He's too proud to admit it, too, and I can't imagine him sitting you down for a heart-to-heart if something was going wrong."
Light attempted to conjure the mental image, but it proved about as elusive as a slept-in morning with Mello in the house.
Light maintained confidence, however, in the fact that Lawliet was an extremely fast learner.
"It's not that I don't trust you, Light," Mogi added, a better compliment than he probably knew; "but you could wreck him. What I mean is—tread lightly."
That just wasn't fair.
Light mustered a smile. "I see your point, and… I will. Thank you."
Mogi beamed back. "Good. Otherwise, I might have to knock some sense into you, and they'd probably never find all the pieces."
That Light could imagine.
Mogi clapped his shoulder with just enough raw power to reinforce the thought, and Light swallowed a wince. As they returned to the festivities, he wondered who exactly had nominated Kanzo Mogi as the office's relationship guru—and how the hell they'd known that it would work.
"Easiest arrest we've ever made," Matsuda was announcing smugly. "Other than the eighteen-year-old crime of passion arsonist who went all Tell-Tale Gasoline Can and turned himself in."
As if to punctuate the statement, Mello went on his tip-toes to lay a final block on top of his precarious tower.
It teetered, and then it fell.
Yumi squeaked in dismay, both hands over her mouth, and Near rubbed ruefully at his head, looking depressingly accustomed to this type of abuse.
Quillish handed him a cookie.
"Why don't you go play outside?" he suggested. "Do any of you have your cell phones?"
"I have mine!" Matt piped up eagerly. "I set it to ring to the Tetris theme song! You wanna hear?"
In a rush of pattering feet serenaded by a very distinctive tune emanating from the phone—and from Matt as he sang along—the quartet vanished out the front door.
Light was going to have the Tetris theme stuck in his head for at least two weeks.
Lawliet was standing with his hands in his pockets, contentedly watching the way the kids had gone.
"It is always wise," he noted idly, "to date a man who makes good cookies."
Matsuda stroked his chin. "That's… actually very sound advice."
"Take it to heart," Naomi agreed. "And to stomach."
"Amen," Eriko solemnly remarked.
Satisfied with the consensus, Lawliet selected another cookie and crammed it into his mouth.
The Aizawas' youngest daughter, who had lately come to terms with the concept of crawling across the floor, made short work of the carpet and started tugging at Light's pants leg.
"Cookies aside," Matsuda mused, "I hope Lawliet doesn't get jealous of your popularity with the ladies, Light."
The baby put the captured fistful of fabric in her mouth.
"Or not," Matsuda amended brightly.
A game of Trivial Pursuit was in full swing (and it was swinging, because every person in the room had commentary for every question—and because everyone had agreed that Light, Lawliet, and Quillish had to be on different teams for anyone else to stand a chance) when they heard a sound from the front hall that sent tremors of trepidation rippling down Light's spine.
It was Mello, Matt, and Yumi laughing gleefully.
Light was assessing the major likelihoods—they had decorated all the cars in the driveway with toilet paper; they had tied Near to a tree and left him there; they had jumped fully-clothed into the neighbors' swimming pool—when all four of the children turned the corner and entered the room.
Near was holding a small, fluffy, slightly disheveled cream-colored puppy, which was pawing at his collar and licking at his cheek, and the others looked absolutely ecstatic.
"Can we keep him?" Matt and Mello cried at top volume.
"Absolutely not," Light said—at the exact same moment that Lawliet beamed and answered, "Of course you can."
They shared a look, and Lawliet offered a pleading face that rivaled even Near's.
Matsuda giggled. "It's good-cop, bad-cop," he pointed out.
Everyone else in the room was staring at Light like he had put the puppy in a trashcan and dragged it out to the curb.
Sighing, he glanced at Quillish, who shrugged and smiled.
Light turned to the boys.
"As long as I don't have to feed it," he said.
Two weeks later, Light poured kibble into the bowl and leaned against the counter, nursing his coffee cup as the dog went at her breakfast with gusto.
For of course she was a she.
The vet who had given her all the necessary shots hadn't had a clue what kind of dog she was, so they didn't know how big she was going to get—though she was certainly working on "of a size to devour burglars," which Light supposed wasn't really a bad thing—and the boys had named her Wammy so that, as a member of Quillish's household, her official title would be "Double Wammy."
Light called her Double Trouble.
And, privately, Puppyface.
The latter was really only because "Sweetie Pie" and "Cupcake" were expressly reserved for when he wanted to drive Lawliet insane.
Lawliet had a tendency to address him as "Snookums-kun" until he stopped.
Damn that crafty, crafty man.
Puppyface finished doing her ravenous wolf impression and sat up to stare at him imploringly.
"Not a chance," Light told her. "The way Matt sneaks you biscuits, you're going to get fat even without my help."
Puppyface composed her namesake into the most mournful expression Light had ever seen.
Light resisted her considerable powers of persuasion—though he did crouch down and scratch behind her ears.
He was only human, after all.
A familiar cadence of tatting on the floor in the hall heralded the entrance of a certain dark-haired, bleary-eyed individual who had last been seen holding a pillow over his head while Light's alarm blared.
Light grinned. "'Morning, sunshine."
"'Morning, sunlight," Lawliet mumbled back.
Lawliet proceeded to the mug cabinet—the mugs had required one all to themselves since Light had contributed his collection—and fumbled amongst its denizens, ending up with a specimen that read, I take it black, like my mood until I've had some.
Light smiled over the rim of his, which advised him to Be loved.
While the water boiled, Lawliet wandered over and settled his chin on Light's shoulder.
Light fluffed his hair a little more, and Lawliet retaliated by stretching up to his full height and starting to chew, lick at, and suck on various parts of Light's ear.
Light's knees went very wobbly, and he steadied himself against the countertop, rightfully concerned that his coffee mug might slip right out of his hand.
L made losing so much fun.
"You're traumatizing the dog," Light managed, the statement sounding much less forceful and convincing than he would have liked.
"She's not traumatized," Lawliet murmured, his breath hot and moist against Light's neck. He took a moment to glance over for consultation. "Are you, Double Wammy?"
Puppyface wagged her tail.
The strange thing about coming to work now was that it was like Aizawa had said—it was impossible not to worry when you'd seen both sides of the world; when you knew the marvelous as well as the mortifying, and you knew how much of the former the latter threatened every day.
But, somehow, being conscious of the stakes made all of it that much more worthwhile.
Another benefit of the new arrangement of Light's life was that, at 8:59, Lawliet grabbed his tie and dragged him in for a kiss before they parted for their respective desks.
"All enthusiastic making out should be relegated to the downstairs office," Aizawa declared as he walked past them, "as part of the hazing process for the interns."
Matsuda just clapped Light's shoulder in an approving way.
Eventually, of course, Light had to sit down at his workspace and get down to business, but the rest of his Monday really didn't look too bad.
He laid his briefcase on the desk and cracked it open, and on top of all the neatly-ordered, meticulously-alphabetized case files, there lay a single piece of candy.
It was a Valentine's Day Dove chocolate.
Light looked both ways, struggling not to blush, and then leaned down to inspect it a little more closely. The wrapper was wrinkled—almost as if someone had carefully removed it and put it back.
Light unfolded it, cocooning the chocolate in a Kleenex to save it for later, and flattened out the foil.
It read, Chocolate always loves you back.
Or it would have, if someone hadn't scribbled out the "Choco" and the "ate."
Light's cheeks were very warm now, and his heart was a little warmer still. He taped the wrapper to the side of his computer monitor and bent to his work grinning.
Yes, it was going to be a very good day.
That the bookstores divide into romance and mystery suggests the two most powerful fantasies are someone to love and someone to blame.