Author's Note: Huge final chapter to tie things up ftw! \o/
Critiques will be accepted. Complaints will be forwarded to Doctor Gregory House. XD
chapter vi. the best thing
Something was buzzing.
Light mumbled a string of words that, had he been properly awake, probably would have been unprintable, and sent a hand venturing out from under the comforter to fumble for his phone on the nightstand. His fingers found the alarm clock, and a box of tissues, and—
—brushed the side of the phone, sending its vibrating trajectory right off of the edge.
"Sonofabitch," he muttered, prying his face from the pillowcase and directing his bleary gaze towards the floor.
"Hello, Light-kun," L said, smiling up at him.
Starting violently, Light made a noise like EEP and automatically hid his face in the pillow again.
The phone was still buzzing.
Light peeked in time to see L flip it open and dangle it by his ear.
"Hello, Amane-san," he said. There was a pause. "I'm well; how are you?" Another pause. "Yes, he is available now, as I have most unkindly awoken him." Still another; L chuckled. "Oh, absolutely. He has a singular talent for sleeping late."
Light growled, and L very absently ruffled his hair, which efficiently erased every thought in his head.
Naturally, it was then that L handed him the phone.
Light cleared his throat twice and brought the phone to his ear. "Hi, Misa," he managed.
"Light!" she squealed. "I've been so worried about you, but they wouldn't give me the new number until things had settled down—"
They never had recovered his phone from Wergild's complex. Which he supposed wasn't all that surprising; and which, given L's bottomless bank account, was the least of his worries—particularly since now he had a flashy new one with a camera.
Mornings made him want to die.
All right, no; they just made him want to go back to sleep.
Misa was asking if he was okay, and he hoped they'd been smart enough not to tell her about the gunshot wounds and various other assorted miseries.
"I'm fine," he promised. "We're just staying under the radar for a little while."
She was quiet for a moment. "Yagami-san said you and Ryuzaki are going to England," she remarked.
Light glanced at L, who was unabashedly listening in. "We haven't quite talked it over," he answered.
He imagined Misa sticking out her bottom lip. "Do you have to go?"
Scrubbing at his eyes with his free hand, Light sent L another look. "I don't really know yet," he hedged. "I'll tell you when I know for sure, how about that?"
Sighing forlornly, Misa conceded, "I guess." Within the span of a second, of course, she was all perkiness and pep again. "Did you get the package that I sent you?"
Another raised eyebrow was turned upon L, who, tellingly enough, merely blinked indifferently.
"What package?" he prompted unnecessarily.
"My care package," Misa told him. "With cookies and a card and a note I wrote you." There was a beat, but before Light had a chance to respond, Misa preempted him. "You didn't get it," she concluded, "did you?"
"I haven't really gotten any mail…"
"…ah. Well, that's okay. I can keep a secret."
Light frowned. "What does…"
"Don't worry about it, darling!" Misa sang. "Have fun in England! Are you going to see the museums? And Stonehenge? You should see Stonehenge, darling."
Light sought for words to speak in reply, but they scuttled away like cockroaches disappearing beneath a refrigerator.
…case in point.
"I… will see what I can arrange" was the best he could do. "I'll send you something back; would you like that?"
What a stupid question.
"That would be amazing, sweetheart!" she enthused. "Do you still have my old address? I think they're going to let me go home soon. Or you could just send it to Matsu, and he could pass it along."
"I'll figure something out," Light promised numbly.
"Thank you, Light," Misa sighed happily. "Guess Misa-Misa should let you get back to important detective work. I love you, darling."
Something tightened in his chest and began to ache. He knew, now, what the word meant. He knew the empty agony of it, of giving it, radiating with it—and projecting the warmth directly into a void.
He knew how she must feel if she'd realized the truth.
"Take care, Misa," he said softly.
She chirped back a parting salutation, and then the line went dead.
Light snapped his phone shut and looked at L, sitting up straight for the purpose.
"You're obstructing my mail, now?" he inquired.
"It might be better," L replied carefully, "if Light-kun did not have any direct contact with outside materials, particularly materials sent from people involved in the case."
Light looked down at the crumpled sheets. "You don't trust me," he summarized.
L shook his head, silky hair swinging. "I trust Light-kun," he insisted. "I don't trust Kira. And, whatever else we've seen, I believe that Kira has already acted—that he has already moved. If we react as he presumed we would, Light-kun may fall into his hands again, if that is indeed his intent. If physically distancing Light-kun from the case can prevent such a contingency from being realized, I am willing to go to every effort to keep him away."
Light crossed his legs and ran his hands over his face. So this was what nuclear bombs felt like.
And then he remembered something else Misa had said, something else that didn't quite fit.
"'I think they're going to let me go home soon'?" he repeated, raising his head again to watch L's face for a reaction.
As always, he didn't get anything more than the usual placid blinking.
"Amane-san sent you a piece of the Death Note," L said.
His stomach dropped, and his heart leapt into his throat and throbbed there, strangling him. Blood roared in his ears.
The overall feeling was not too unlike getting shot, as he now knew very well.
"You think touching the Note will make me Kira again," Light heard his voice declare, sounding significantly steadier than the rest of him.
"I suspected that the transmission of the power might be connected to the notebook," L murmured, "and Higuchi has since confirmed the theory in his confessions. I don't know where exactly Kira, as an entity, is incarnated, or if he has a form to speak of, but if you touch that notebook, we may lose everything, and I'm not willing to risk that."
The tips of Light's fingers were tingling. "And you think he's laid a trap. That he's anticipated this."
I am Kira. I was Kira. That—thing—was a part of me, was me—
He wanted another bath. He wanted to scour the crawling knowledge from his skin.
L nodded confirmation.
"And Misa," Light extrapolated shakily, "is the second Kira."
L frowned, swiping the thumb against his lips again. "Perhaps not as such—not now, at least. I think she has been contacted, somehow, but I don't think she has regained the power." He sat down, uninvited, on the edge of Light's bed and pulled up his knees, wrapping his free arm around them and tapping the pad of his thumb against his bottom lip. Light tried to focus on what he was saying, which was not an easy task. "There must be more than one notebook; I'll try to get the shinigami to verify it, though I doubt she'll play fair. Amane-san is aware of what happened before, but she doesn't have the notebook that she had then."
"How do you know?" Light asked feebly.
L smiled contentedly. "If she did," he responded, "I would most likely be dead."
That did it.
Light lay down and tugged the comforter out from under L's feet. The other man looked startled.
"I'm going back to bed," Light explained.
But he stroked Light's hair until he fell asleep.
By the next afternoon, the bruises on L's dislocated-and-relocated thumb had almost disappeared, and the searing pain in Light's abdomen had faded to a bearable humming hurt, like a radiator behind a wall, which he could tune out and ignore.
So it was that they boarded a plane and made their way towards England.
There had been some emotional farewells at the airport. His mother and Sayu had each cried a little—he supposed because as much as he'd been absent all this time, he'd never been out of the country—and, hugging Dad tightly, he'd actually thought for a second that his father was never going to let him go.
Matsuda gave him a hug, too. Misa was conspicuously absent, and Light wasn't sure whether to be guilt-ridden or relieved.
L and Watari had a quiet conversation just before the security checkpoint, and then the latter clasped the former's white hand for a long moment, smiling.
Light liked that.
He had, of course, deliberately neglected to mention that he'd never actually been on an international flight before, let alone one that would ferry them across two continents.
As expected, L understood immediately from the rapt attention he paid to the safety lecture and the way his fingers clenched around the armrests as the plane first shuddered into the air. Accordingly, he made a point of covering Light's hand with his, blithely disregarding the looks the gesture garnered from their fellow passengers.
"It's statistically safer to be by the aisle, Light-kun," L informed him. "You're much more likely to survive should the plane crash." The man in the window-seat next to Light looked perturbed. "I wouldn't worry about that, however," L went on pleasantly, "since the odds of the plane crashing—or, for that matter, being hijacked—are extraordinarily low compared to much more ordinarily dangerous things like household accidents and driving on the highway."
Light grinned despite himself. "Very comforting, Ryuzaki," he commented.
Weirdly, though, it was.
L tilted his head like a puppy, eyes wide. "Did you know, Light-kun, that the rate of death by suicide is twice that of homicide?" He paused. "Or it was before Kira, at least, when that study was done."
Light grinned a little wider. "People are staring at you," he noted, which of course caused most of them to look hastily away.
L looped his arm through Light's and nestled in against his shoulder. "That's because they're jealous I have your attention," he replied.
A sleek black car swooped up to the sidewalk outside the terminal, and Light recoiled instinctively from the tinted windows and polished paint. L, however, stepped unconcernedly forward and tossed his bag into the trunk. When Light had tentatively followed suit, he found L already opening the back door for him.
"After you, Light-kun," he urged.
Well, if L said it was okay…
Soft leather seats welcomed him, and he met the kind smile of an elderly man with gleaming glasses and twinkling eyes, who extended a hand around the seatback.
"I'm Roger," he said in English. "I take it you're the famous Light Yagami?"
There was a genuineness to his manner that banished any potential for an insult.
Light shook the man's warm hand, smiling cautiously back. "Famous and not infamous, I hope," he responded. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
Sliding into place beside him, L flashed Roger a smile of his own. "I hope you've left—"
"—Amos in charge?" Roger supplied, winking. "Don't worry. I told the boys they wouldn't be allowed to stay up to meet you unless they were on their best behavior."
Light looked uncertainly at L. "Where exactly are we going?" he asked.
L stroked his arm with a long-fingered hand. Petting Light seemed to be L's new favorite way of distracting him.
It definitely worked.
"Somewhere," L answered, "where no one will send any packages."
Light was drowsing against the headrest, L's fingers woven through his, when the car slowed, gravel crunching beneath the tire treads, to a stop. Stirring, he sat up and scraped a hand across his eyes, still feeling weak and bleary from his interminable stint in the dense stagnancy of the plane, and peered out the windshield. A wrought-iron gate was giving way, opening a long drive, pale in the night, from the spread of which there rose a vast, almost fantastical mansion—a great, grand house of gray stone and shale roof, a friendly fortress, tremendous and imposing but somehow radiant with an undeniable warmth. With security.
Roger pulled right up to the front steps and parked. L's grin gleamed in the dark.
"Wh…" Light managed, staring stupidly at the towering façade.
"Welcome," L told him, "to Wammy's House."
Before Light had even come close to processing the place—let alone the situation—L was ushering him up the steps, and Roger was unlocking the broad front door, and then he had stepped over the threshold and into an alternate reality that barely overlapped with the one he'd left among the airport's unfeeling plastic and steel. There was worn stone beneath his feet, frayed rugs stretching out ahead, art on the walls, thick velvet curtains drawn demurely shut for the night, an immense fireplace standing proudly in the room beyond, visible just around a corner…
It was then that a blond rocket soared down the stairs and collided with L.
"You're here!" it cried triumphantly.
L laid a hand on the head that was currently burying its face affectionately in his chest, a catlike temperament infused with a puppy's indomitable enthusiasm.
"You're up late," L replied, and the human projectile peeled itself away from hugging L long enough to reveal that it was, in fact, a boy of about Sayu's age, dressed in black and possessed of a slightly mad grin, vivid yellow bangs sliding into a set of bright blue eyes.
"Amos said," the boy reported, "and I quote, 'Since you two managed to refrain from blowing anything up or inflicting any permanent psychological trauma, you can stay up until L comes home.'"
A strange shiver dribbled down Light's spine at the word.
Maybe L felt it, too; his indulgent smile was wide and wholehearted.
The dynamo caught sight of Light and hastily released his grip on L, retreating a pace and standing up straighter.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded.
"Please be polite, Mello," L reprimanded gently. "This is Light Yagami, and he's my guest." The boy eyed Light, half-suspicious, half-defiant. "Light-kun," L remarked, "this is Mello."
"It's nice to meet you," Light said in English. Mello muttered something in return, and Light shot at L, in Japanese this time, "I wasn't aware I'd be babysitting."
L's smile was slightly wicked now. He knew something Light didn't.
Something, Light imagined, that he was about to find out.
Mello wrinkled his nose and replied, in slightly accented Japanese, "We don't need a babysitter. Plus we'd tear you to pieces."
"They would," L noted airily, looking to the foot of the stairs. "Hello, Matt; hello, Near."
A slim redhead pushed a pair of goggles onto his forehead, revealing curious green eyes and the strip of freckles across his nose, and a smaller boy with startling white hair and huge pale eyes, dressed all in white, hovered just behind him, sizing Light up cautiously.
"I take it you've been good?" Roger asked from behind Light's shoulder, directing the question at the newcomers, who nodded wordlessly as they descended the rest of the way.
It was strange, Light noted, that any progeny of L's would be shy—though Near's reservation seemed to be based more in wariness than genuine social anxiety.
Matt reached them first and hugged L tightly before stepping back to make way for his colorless colleague, who threaded little arms around L's waist in turn. Near turned his white face up to meet L's eyes.
"We missed you," he said.
L smiled softly and laid a hand over the unruly loose curls. "I have missed being here."
"How did the case go?" Mello piped up, hands twisting excitedly in the hem of his shirt. "You must've won, or you wouldn't be here."
Light was a bit startled before he realized that the sort of children who would greet L in the foyer would know.
L smiled again. "Why don't I explain the details tomorrow morning?" he proposed. "I know Light-kun and I are tired from traveling, and I'm sure you three have had a very productive day as well."
As if it was some sort of complicated code—which, given the circumstances, perhaps it was—Matt and Mello very obediently snatched the suitcases and started careening up the stairs, likely more than loudly enough to wake anyone in the House who'd dared try to sleep.
L followed them, and Near followed him, and Light, helplessly out of his element, followed the both of them, up the stairs and down a hall, where a door was opened, and his suitcase was shoved unceremoniously through it. Wincing, he trailed it in, dodged Mello as the boy scampered back out, discovered a cozy living space, and turned in time to see L bidding his apprentices—or whatever, precisely, they were—a fond goodnight. The process required giving out three more hugs, which the older two claimed slightly self-consciously but with no small fervor.
That done, as Matt and Mello bounded down the stairs with Near in tow, L picked up his suitcase, smiled at Light, and continued along the hall, presumably towards a room of his own.
Numbly, Light sank down on the bed, the mattress creaking sympathetically.
This place—it was warm, deeply warm, warm in the floorboards and the walls, because it was a safe place. L had opened it to him, and he was safe here.
He also felt more alone than he ever had in his life.
They all knew the codes, the passwords—these children could reach L, find L, step forward and put both arms around him; they could be assured of him, because he loved them, and it was the sort of love that didn't fail or fade. It was unconditional and insuppressible.
And he… had nothing. No buzzwords, no keys, and not a lot of hope.
He curled up on the bed and closed his eyes. He wanted to go home. He wanted the certainty of it, the absolutes, the stasis. At least he knew what he had there, whether or not it amounted to much. Whether or not it fulfilled him, it was a constant.
He folded his arms and buried his face in them. He was stuck here, trapped with a multitude of people who could finish L's sentences faster, who hugged him before bed, who could claim him, and who belonged to him in return. People who had the things Light wanted and didn't even know how lucky they were.
He opened his eyes. L stood in the doorway, hands in his pockets, looking so innocent that Light wanted to hurt him.
He was tangible when he was bleeding. He was real.
"Are you settled?" L asked, the slight tilt of his head betraying his efforts to analyze the situation before he waded deeper into it. "Is the room all right?"
Light looked at him until the other man shifted his weight.
"What are we doing, L?" he asked into the stretching silence.
A shadow of a frown crossed L's face. "What d—"
"What am I?" Light cut in. "What am I to you? I let myself believe it was a euphemism, but I think I really am—I'm a guest. Visiting. I'm not meant to stay; it's not supposed to be permanent. I thought maybe you were always like that, but they're in. You're capable of letting people get close. Just not me."
L looked away, and his voice was low but intent. "Light-kun—"
"No," Light interrupted again. "Think about it. I had it all wrong before—thinking you'd only be willing to face it in the dark. It's the opposite; it's always backwards with you—on the plane, in the car, I'm yours, but the second we're safe, I'm outside again. Is it that you really can't indulge it when there aren't social restraints? Or am I part of your mask now—another accessory for the act?"
Both of L's hands rose to the doorframe, gliding aimlessly up and down the uneven places in the paint.
"Can we talk in the kitchen?" he asked quietly. "I can't think."
…he had to think about this?
Light heaved himself up, crossed the room, and swept past him out the door, ignoring the inconvenient fact that he had no idea where the kitchen was located.
That was what trial and error was for.
Fortunately, Wammy's had been very logically designed, and Light found the right room on his second try. He stood by the window and looked out at the night, trying to push back the weary ache that the microwave clock's fatalism set in his bones. L retrieved a piece of cake from the fridge, divested it of its plastic wrap protection, and silently sat down at the table to go at it with a fork.
Light was determined not to entertain deviant thoughts, and, by virtue of pure willpower, mostly succeeded.
L set his fork down with half of the cake left.
"Light," he said softly, "I have never in my life attempted to do what I'm doing now. I am fast discovering that the theory and the reality are worlds apart. Help me. Tell me what you want me to be."
Light wheeled on him. "I want you to be you," he retorted, more harshly than he'd intended. "Isn't that the whole point?"
L didn't bat an eyelash. Light feared his petulance was getting predictable. "What do you want me to do, then?" L prompted. "I meant what I said, Light, but all I can guarantee is that I will try. Do you want public displays of affection? You can have them. Physical intimacy? You've got it." With a sudden dark-eyed violence, he pushed the plate across the table, the fork clattering off early in its trajectory, ceramic grating against the wood. "Take it all, Light. It's yours."
"You would," Light said, hearing a hollow laugh claw free of his throat. "You would mock me for loving you."
L's eyes smoldered, and venom seethed on his tongue. "Do you remember what I said Misa sent you, Light?" he asked coldly. "She sent you a note reminiscing about all the wonderful things you'd done for her. It was covered in heart-shaped stickers, and it was written on a piece of the Death Note. I don't know how or when she managed to tear out a page, but she knows that you were Kira—knows it as a certainty. She wouldn't take that risk otherwise; the girl is smarter than she pretends to be, because intelligence isn't cute and doesn't sell."
Light's mouth was dry all over again. "But you didn't arrest her," he recalled slowly.
…she hadn't been at the airport.
He swallowed. "Did you?"
"No, Light," L answered, knuckles going white where his fingers clenched about his knees. "Because you wouldn't have wanted me to."
Light splayed a hand on the countertop, trying to find an anchor. "What did you do wi—"
"I burned it."
Light looked up sharply. "The rule was fake after all."
L nodded once.
A hot tension was rising in Light's chest, grasping his shoulders, tightening them. "And if it hadn't been," he continued flatly, "you would be dead." His voice was rising as his patience wore dangerously thin. "You played the odds. You gambled your life on a longshot, L—without even asking what I thought either way." His lip was curling, and he didn't care to stop it. "After everything we worked through together, you trusted our own damn judgment, and you just fucking went for it, because it's not like anyone would give a shit if you died, it's not like you're irreplaceable, it's not like anyone cares about you more than you care about your fucking self—"
L was on his feet, standing straighter than Light had ever seen him, and his eyes were ablaze.
"Will you stop thinking about you for five seconds?" he snapped. "Open your eyes, Light. I talked to the shinigami. I let Misa go free. I brought you here, to a place most people have never seen, to a place most people shouldn't see, because it protects children who can't afford to be seen—because I believe in you. I am trying, Light, to save you, and I have been all along. Do you think Kira would surrender you? Do you think he could find an apter subject, an apter object, a better possession, in the whole of the world? Not a chance. You are the best thing he ever could have happened on, and he's not going to let you go. Neither, Light, am I."
"Back to the dominance battle," Light sneered. "L versus Kira, the grudge match of the century. White and black again, just the way you like it—just the case, none of those damn feelings getting in the way."
L slammed his hand down on the table so hard the dishes jumped.
"Do you honestly think I would have given this fucking much if it was just the case?"
Light was shouting, too. Some part of him remembered that children were trying to sleep.
"You don't feel anything!"
"Hit me, and I'll bruise!" L fired back. "Cut me, and I'll bleed! Touch me, and I'll feel, Light! I'm a human being, whether I like it or not! I've spent my entire life trying to disconnect, to disentangle, to be impartial and to be just, and one fine day, you waltzed in and made that impossible. And now you come here thinking you've been cheated, telling me to feel? Why don't you kill me, Light? Why don't you destroy everything I've ever built? You've been doing a good job so far, but I wish you'd hurry, because I feel it, and it hurts like hell."
The fight went out of Light's thudding heart, and into the vacuum seeped despair. He sat down on the floor, the handle of the cabinet door digging into his back, and covered his face so that L wouldn't see him crying.
L knew. L always knew.
Denim whispered on the linoleum, and L sat beside him and slid his arms around Light's shoulders, leaning his head against Light's, cake-scented breath brushing by him.
"We're not simple people, Light-kun," he sighed. "We're selfish, and we're cold, and we're never simple."
"I love you," Light managed. "That's simple."
Two slender fingers guided his jaw, drawing his face from his hands, tiling his chin. Tear trails slicked his cheeks, but he met L's gaze through blurry eyes as best he could.
"You know it's not that easy," L said.
"Yeah," Light said. "I know."
L took a deep breath, angled his head, and kissed him—gently, warmly, kindly.
Light discounted that decorum thing and set an elbow on the table, the better to prop his chin on his palm. L was in the process of outlining the Kira case to the boys—extremely creatively and evasively, leaving out heaping quantities of information without forsaking anything too crucial.
L was good at lying, after all. Lying, and bending the truth.
Mello was eating chocolate in cereal format, and Matt had a bowl of the marshmallow-laden stuff, the composition of which favored the carbohydrate cataclysm part of the combination. Between the two of them, Light had lost his appetite.
Near was slowly and systematically spooning unflavored oatmeal into his mouth. At least someone here was sane.
Or had a sensitive stomach, anyway.
L was approaching the end of the sordid tale, and Mello's spoon was dripping milk onto the table as he held it halfway to his mouth, completely rapt.
Light vaguely hoped L would finish with "And then we all died." Mello might drop the spoon altogether.
Instead, he concluded with a small smile and "Persist, and persevere. Nothing is impossible to understand."
Light begged to differ, but he didn't have time to interject before L had taken to bare feet and met Light's eyes. The slightest motion of his head said, Shall we go?
Light shrugged and stood, and L excused them and led the way up the stairs.
"I've concluded," L announced as they started into the hall, "that you want proof of my affections, rather than merely my assurances."
Light smiled thinly. "I'm a detective, L," he reminded him. "I like evidence."
"Evidently," L replied.
They'd passed Light's door, but just as he began to realize the significance, one of L's slim, strong hands closed around his wrist, jerked him into the furthest room, and shoved him up against the door. Almost before the mechanism had clicked shut behind him, L's fingers were clenched in the front of his shirt, and a hot mouth ghosted over his neck.
Light grinned wickedly.
He curled his fingers in L's thick hair and pulled him in for a destructive kiss.
L made a contented noise in the back of his throat, and Light ducked to nip gently at his white neck. L's fingers worked the buttons on his shirt, pushing his collar impatiently aside in favor of outlining intricate tracery on his skin. Light murmured, and L sighed softly in answer, nails grazing Light's shoulder beneath the constricting fabric, his free hand fumbling past Light's waist for—
L locked the door, then spread the hand responsible on the small of Light's back.
L gripped his shirt to pull him further into a room that was mostly pale and plain—he had substantially more important things to do than to observe it in detail—and pushed him down on the bed, the down comforter cool where his shirt had slipped, L's hands warm as they fought the rest of the buttons free—
Light's heart pattered wildly in his ears, and his breaths hitched, catching in his throat, as he ran his hands down L's sides. L's fingers wandered down his ribs, the gray eyes bright and curious watching the procession. L looked up to meet Light's gaze, and at the bewilderment in it, he smiled gently and… stopped.
Gently, contentedly, L draped himself over Light instead of venturing further, nestling his head into the curve of Light's neck, soft hair against flushed skin.
"There's time, Light-kun," he murmured, lips curling into another smile. "There's forever."
"Something's digging into my thigh," Light announced.
L laughed—which wasn't very nice—and then shifted to slide a hand into his pocket in order to retrieve its contents. He offered his prize up for scrutiny.
It was small, glass, pink, and very familiar.
"That would be my heart, Light-kun," he remarked.
Light wrapped his fingers around L's, closing both their hands around it. "It's nice," he decided.
"It's yours," L said.
…yeah, his mother was never getting that thing back.
He didn't even want to think about the symbolism that would have entailed.
I cannot say that I was ready for this
But when worlds collide
And all that I have is all that I want
The words seem to flow
And the thoughts, they keep running
And all that I have is yours
And all that I am is yours
– "The Sun and the Moon" – Mae