Author's Note: This is the highly-belated other half of RichelleShalark's birthday present, the prompt being "dark."
I had the first three lines sitting around forEVER, and then I was behind in NaNo, behind on homework, and generally having a full-out Emo Day, and this incredibly weird premise came into my head, so… it started to happen. Then it starred to limp along pathetically as I got distracted with other things, and now it is finally here. XD
Plot is like… I have no effing clue what happened; it ended up being far more complex than I anticipated. XD And the timeline exists, but the calendar doesn't—this is vaguely set just after they've started working with Aiber and Wedy, just before they've called Namikawa and gotten his fine ass on their side.
Basically, wait for it—this fic's true colors don't show until the end of this chapter. Shit goes down. Lots of it.
I have nothing against thirteen-year-old girls. In fact, I know a few very awesome ones!
chapter i. let the buyer beware
Lying in the thickening dark, his hands folded behind his head, Light stared into the oblivion spread before him and wondered which was deeper—the blackness that foiled his eyes, or the one that he feared dwelled, starved and slavering, in the well of his soul.
On the upside, he had a future writing lyrics for death-metal bands.
He made the conscious decision to admire the blackness for what it was—the sheen of sunlit ravens' wings; the bitter taint of tar; the singular shade of L's riotous hair.
And therein lurked the problem, a mugger staking territory in one of the narrow alleys of his mind: L and his goddamn sexy hair.
He listened to the quiet breathing that marked the spot where L was curled—so close, but with the chasm of the dark between them. He wrinkled his nose. Angsting about it wasn't going to solve anything. What did he think he was, a thirteen-year-old girl? At this rate, he should start a blog and inundate the internet with poorly-punctuated rants about how his mom wouldn't let him stay out past midnight.
He rolled his eyes, and then he shifted onto his side and closed the eyes in question.
Not that it made a difference, but the gesture was the important part, anyway.
The chain was cold on his bare forearm, but he was tired—tired of the dark, tired of the self-imposed dejection, tired of the world and its ways, tired of himself most of all—and sleep obediently came.
Good boy, he thought hazily as a dream swelled to encompass him. Have a biscuit.
He'd fix it tomorrow. Tomorrow was another day. To-morrow, to-morrow, I love ya, tomorrow; you're only… a day a-way…
Tomorrow, he was going to have that song stuck in his head until he wanted to have a go at his skull with a jackhammer.
Sleep obediently came, all right. Now Light couldn't get it to go the hell away.
He was rubbing his eyes furiously as L led the way into the central room, where the computers were buzzing quietly in that way that always made Light suspect, albeit extremely irrationally, that they could communicate with one another. He moved over to his favorite monitor and pushed at the mouse, spurring the darkened screen to flicker into life again. Sticky notes dangled from the plastic frame around the screen, addendums and reminders scrawled with various pens that invariably ran out of ink halfway through the message, but even after taking an index of them, he felt like he was forgetting something. Perhaps even something important.
He glanced at L, who was poised to progress into the kitchen. This, Light presumed, was L's way of offering subtle hints about the level of priority one should assign to work and to breakfast.
"Is something important going to happen?" he asked.
L tilted his head to one side. "I believe there is some cheesecake left over from last night," he said.
Light supposed that, in L's perception of things, that was pretty damn important.
If there was one thing he'd learned over the last month, it was that arguing with L was like arguing with a particularly attractive—and particularly intractable—brick wall. As much as Light might slam his forehead against the barrier, the mortar was unmoved.
Accordingly, he followed L into the kitchen, where the dumbfounding detective began the familiar task of scouring the refrigerator for desirable items. Success was attained in the form of strawberry-swirled chocolate cheesecake, and then they sat at the table, where L focused exclusively on his newfound prize.
Light set an elbow on the tabletop and a chin on his palm and watched L dig in. The room was silent but for the clink of the fork on the porcelain plate, the whisper of L's pink tongue over the gleaming tines, and the clock on the wall that counted down the seconds towards… what? Untimely death?
Light was hoping it was something rather more pleasant, like, "unexpected awesomeness" or "sudden and inexplicable intellectual nirvana, entailing a startlingly clear understanding of everything that is strange in my intensely bizarre little portion of the world."
L noticed Light's scrutiny and paused, the tines of the fork dimpling his lip. "What is it, Light-kun?" he prompted, tongue reappearing to rescue a smudge of wayward chocolate from where it was stranded at the corner of his mouth.
Counting down towards "backpedaling furiously," then. Better than "untimely death," at least.
"It's very quiet this morning," Light noted. "Shouldn't Mastuda be bursting through the door ready to do our bidding by now?"
L's well-attended lips curled upward at the edges, and he licked another smear of cake from the fork's tines. "I believe," he replied, "that it is Mother's Day."
Light stared at him. Second Sunday of May. Nagging feeling. Inklings of guilt.
"Shit," he said, feelingly, folding his arms on the tabletop. "I haven't talked to my mom in weeks."
L tilted his head in that way that should have looked stupid but never did. "Does Light-kun dislike talking to his mother?" he inquired.
Given that this was about as tactful as L ever got, Light figured he should take what he could get.
"It's not really that I don't like talking to her," he decided, "so much as…" L sliced another small section from his dwindling wedge of cheesecake and brought it to his mouth. God, that was distracting. "…that I've somehow convinced myself that if I don't talk to her from this world, then she isn't in this world."
L blinked a blink that blinked volumes. Then he blinked again, and Light wondered if he should be paying closer attention in case it was Morse code.
With L, you never knew.
"I'm afraid Light-kun has lost me," he announced.
I hope I don't live to see the day.
"What I mean," Light explained, "is that I know it's completely illogical, but I feel like if I don't contact them, it's like they live in a different universe—a universe that doesn't have Kira. You know? I don't like to think about what it's like for them to live in this world. I don't like to think about them being afraid all the time."
There were lines of chocolate on L's tongue, painted there by the fork again.
"It is unfortunate," he agreed, "that our choices of which universe to inhabit are rather limited."
Light nodded absently and then bit the bullet. "If you're willing," he prompted, "can we stop by my house today? My mom'd probably flip."
"As long as she doesn't have a heart attack," L murmured. He frowned. "Though I don't know that it would be wise to allow myself to be seen by the rest of Light-kun's family."
Light raised his eyebrows, smirking a little despite himself. "Ryuzaki," he said, "my mother is the most harmless person on the face of the planet."
L cocked his head to the side again. "Have you conducted surveys to verify this hypothesis?" he inquired.
Light nodded solemnly.
L sighed, pushing his finger against some escaped cake crumbs, which obligingly stuck to it so that he could convey them to his tongue. "I suppose we can risk it," he conceded.
Light leaned back, folding his arms across his chest, and grinned. "My sister, on the other hand…"
Tongue and fingertip still joined, L glanced at him. "Light-kun," he muttered, "has a sadistic sense of humor."
Light was feeling wildly optimistic as they sauntered along the sidewalk, garnering almost zero undue attention. He'd managed to convince L to leave the damn chain behind—though it hadn't been easy, of course. Nothing was easy with L.
Which he supposed he had to admit was half the fun.
"Can we not take the stupid chain for once?" he'd asked just before L reached the door.
L had paused. "'Stupid'?" he repeated. "Light-kun, it is an important precauti—"
"I'm just going to be shopping," Light had countered. "You can follow me around everywhere I go. It'll be exactly the same, except that people won't stare at us and think we're kinky gay lovers."
L had tilted his head, probably wondering if Kira was likely to be homophobic. "I suppose," he had said slowly, "that if Light-kun is willing to give his word…"
"Consider it given," Light had cut in. He thrust his manacled left hand towards his captor. "Now free me from my bonds."
L had fished the key out of a deep pocket and commenced plucking lint off of it, adding under his breath, "Light-kun does not seem to be taking this seriously."
"I," Light had pledged, "have never been more serious in my life."
His beaming grin of sincerity hadn't appeared to cement the point.
Ah, well. You couldn't win them all.
Contentedly, his hands in his pockets, Light peered into display windows and reveled in his liberty. L slouched along behind him, looking slightly paranoid and significantly less than impressed by the shows of enterprising capitalism, until Light finally selected a store that seemed promising.
Strolling down the rows of knickknacks and curios, poking at jewelry boxes, music boxes, and what appeared to be boxes with no particular purpose, Light strove to determine what would suit his mother best. He needed to buy some roses, of course; fortunately all the vendors on the street hadn't lost track of the calendar like he had. But flowers died, and chocolates got eaten (precipitously, if L was around), and he wanted to supplement those kinds of gifts with something permanent. Something lasting.
"Are you going to get anything for your mother, Ryuzaki?" he asked idly.
There was a pause long enough for him to look up and see that L had lifted thumb to lip, uncertainty chasing guardedness across his face.
"I don't have a mother, Light-kun," he said at last.
Oh, boy. That was awkward.
Light ducked his head, examining a glass shelf littered with assorted trinkets more closely. "I'm sorry," he mumbled, kicking himself so hard mentally that it almost actually hurt. "I should've figured, but I didn't realize…"
His fidgeting fingertips lighted on something cold, and he drew from the display a small pink crystal heart.
It was so perfect that he honestly couldn't stop himself from crying, "Aha!"
And not for lack of trying.
Their task completed, they were soon out on the street again, Light with the pink heart tucked into his left breast pocket, the symbolism of which was so glaring that even Matsuda couldn't have missed it. He armed himself with a burgeoning bouquet of roses from one of the eager merchants on the street, and then he and L made their merry way towards the Yagami household.
Light smiled, slightly sadly, as they crossed streets he knew by the sound of his sneakers against the pavement, pattering in the summer with laces trailing, squeaking softly when autumn rains slicked the tarmac until it shone. How long ago had it been that he'd strode these sidewalks, tie at his throat, dressed to the nines, head held high as he marched to class, thinking himself some kind of god among boys? How long had it been since a rather different sort of deity had begun to dictate his life?
It was funny to think that he'd once had no notion of just how small he was. That there had been a time when he hadn't seen the scope of the grand scheme that streamed unconcernedly around him. That he'd had something of an ignorant innocence then, a gleaming bubble holding the rest of the world on the other side.
Well. Things changed.
The fact that his house hadn't, however, was so deeply encouraging that he felt a literal warmth swelling in the center of his chest.
"That's it," he announced, pointing for L's benefit. They were just a crosswalk away.
L paused, an incongruous newcomer superimposed on the familiar landscape. "I don't know if I should go in," he murmured, "but I would also hate to leave Light-kun unattended…"
This again. Light sighed. He felt like a puppy—one that L expected to pee on the rug the second he turned his back.
The urge to whop his captor heartily with the bouquet was a strong one, but Light managed to resist.
"I can refuse to go inside," he offered, "and just stand on the doorstep. You can stay out here and watch to make sure I don't do anything suspicious."
As usual, L deliberately disregarded the thick undertones of sarcasm. "Do you mean that I should loiter out here staring at your house?" he summarized, frowning, a finger rising to his mouth again. "I imagine that would make me look like quite the pervert, Light-kun. How old is your sister?"
Light struggled against the urge to whop himself heartily with the bouquet this time, preferably to the point of blissful unconsciousness.
"Just old enough that you'll definitely have to come inside with me," he replied. "Come on." Without waiting for an answer, he stepped down into the street, glancing both ways. Becoming road-kill was not high on his list of aspirations, and it would have made for a fairly unsatisfying ending to this particular trip.
He was halfway across the street, the median lines stretching beneath his toes, by the time he looked back and confirmed that L was not following.
"There'll probably be cookies," he remarked.
Shaking his head, L shoved his hands in his pockets and stepped delicately down from the sidewalk.
"Why didn't you say so?" he asked.
"Oh, Light!" his mother gasped. "These are lovely! Let me put them in water—please, come in, make yourselves at home—"
The platitude was presumably directed at L, but it still ached a little to think that Light had to make it his home now—that it wasn't on its own anymore.
He darted into the kitchen after his mother, who had begun the search for an appropriate vase, and L lingered in the living room. Apparently, examining the environment that had nurtured what L believed was a Kira Kid took precedence even over following his suspect.
Light took the big glass vase from his mother's hands and kissed her on the cheek. "Do we have any cake?" he whispered.
Sachiko Yagami considered. "Will pie be all right?" she asked.
"Anything really sugary," he answered, hefting the bouquet and peeling away the tinfoil that encircled the stems. "He says it helps him think."
As his mother was setting the wide dish of pie on the counter, a voice chirped out in the living room.
"Hi! Who are you?"
If Sayu ever did encounter a pedophile skulking on the other side of the street staring at the house, she would probably invite him in for tea.
"My name is Ryuzaki," L murmured uncertainly, sounding as though he was hoping to be rescued. "I work with Light-kun…"
"Cool!" Sayu decided. "Want some Pocky?"
Light relaxed. Sayu befriended everyone on sight, and the sharing of sugar would immediately endear L to her in return. That made things easy.
Sure enough, by the time he and his mother reemerged from the kitchen bearing a plate of pie and a vase of roses, Sayu and L were perched on the couch with the little box between them, a stick of strawberry Pocky protruding from each of their mouths.
Once Light's mother had placed the pie on the coffee table, L unfolded from his usual position on the couch, taking to his feet to shake her hand.
"You look familiar," she decided. "Have we met?"
L considered, removing the Pocky to facilitate speech, and touched the index finger of his released hand to his pursed lips. "I did attend school with Light-kun for a while," he noted.
Sachiko's eyes lit up. "And you were the other honored student on the entrance exam," she recalled. "And I believe you visited Soichiro in the hospital, didn't you? Hideki Ryuga, wasn't it? Like the pop star Sayu likes?"
"Mom," Sayu protested from the couch, rolling her eyes emphatically. "Hideki Ryuga was in months ago. He's so uncool now."
L blinked. "Yes," was his response to Light's mother's question. "Though I tend to go by Ryuzaki, since the other Mr. Ryuga is so famous."
It was smoothly done, but then, Light had come to expect as much from L—the more innocent he looked, the faster he was calculating.
If he hadn't known better, he might have gotten to thinking that L could be Kira—which, in some ways, would have made terrifyingly perfect sense. What better cover was there than to conduct a fervent investigation of yourself? It would be only too easy to lead everyone else in circles, especially for so swift and skillful a liar as "Ryuzaki."
Then again, the idea of a megalomaniac of that caliber being addicted to sugar was a fairly strange one. Would he crown himself the world's ruler upon a throne with toe-rests? L for Ludicrous, Light thought.
Besides, if he kept waltzing down that slippery slope, the next thing you knew, he'd be suspecting Matsuda of being a drug lord.
That image was worth a grin.
As was the look on L's face when he found himself forced to choose between French Silk pie and strawberry Pocky.
Generally, L's smiles reflected a kind of subdued, slightly sardonic amusement at the ways of their ridiculous world, but as he and Light started back for the headquarters, having finally convinced Sayu and Light's mother to permit them to leave, there was something of a quiet contentment in the expression.
Light liked that. There was a promise in it—or at least a hope.
Sunset reigned, winking in skyscrapers' countless windows, as they made their way along streets warmed by the fading glow. Most of the flower vendors had closed up shop, but a few were still perched on stools in their little stalls, optimistically scanning the road for the frazzled and the forgetful, who would suddenly realize what had been bothering them all day when they saw the "Mother's Day Special!" signs plastered above the last few buckets of roses and carnations. It was quieter now, calmer, and peaceful.
Light smiled, too. This was right. This was how it was supposed to be.
He turned to L just as a lingering ray of sunlight glinted off of the tinted window of an SUV, and he cringed away, momentarily blinded, trying to laugh it off.
He hadn't had time to form the appropriate noise with his throat before the car screeched to a stop at the curb beside them. He squinted, exhaust fumes prickling in his lungs, and then stared stupidly as the door swung open and a pair of thick hands grasped the back of L's shirt and heaved him into the vehicle.
"Ryuzaki!" he shouted, at the same moment as L cried, "Light-kun, run!"
He should have obeyed.
Instead, he took a step forward.
A single step, as it turned out, was enough to put him in range, at which point a broad-shouldered, bored-looking man in sunglasses reached out, grabbed two fistfuls of his shirtfront, and hauled him into the car.
Author's Note: It's not a cliffhanger; it's a narrative hook!
…okay, it's a cliffhanger. XD
I'll update in two days; please don't track me down and hurt me before then. XD