Light x L

Part 1

L is a reclusive detective who takes his job seriously. Too seriously, in fact. Once he takes note of how neglected and stagnant his life truly is, he decides to make some changes. Challenges arise through an unanticipated meeting. AU

Disclaimer: Characters are the property of the writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata. There may be a few original characters within the scope of the fic - those'll be mine, as is the plot. (I think we all know which elements are from the original story.)

Pitch: (def.)

A substance commonly utilized to bind materials in construction... Tar pitch appears solid, and can be shattered with a hard impact, but it is actually fluid. Pitch flows at room temperature, but extremely slowly. To attain maximum fluidity, to be used, it must be exposed to heat.

Minds are like pitch. To reveal their full potential, they must be exposed to environs that apply stress. They must be challenged.

Part 1: (Economy of Effort)

It was dark, crowded and stifling in the bar at 11 p.m. The A/C was probably on full blast, but the cloying smell of fraternizing humanity was thick in the air and the warmth of recycled breath was not to be defeated. It was uncomfortable and disheartening.

L stared down into his glass as he perched on the chair at his small table. The large ball of chipped ice clinked softly as he took a tentative sip of the whiskey, noting the unfamiliar burning and tingling sensation as he partook of alcohol for the first time.

It was an experiment.

Everything in him was repelled by the setting, but the falsely comforting absence of proper lighting. He was suffocating. Sharp peals of laughter from the people around him were stabbing his nerves mercilessly, as if to kill him faster. The occasional whispers reached his ears, and their mocking was hard to ignore.

What was a man of nearly 26 years of age doing in a bar drinking alone?

He wasn't surprised they found it odd, or that it was incomprehensible that he kept to himself.

But this was only a test.

He was not looking for companionship. Vague thoughts of such had long since died through repeated failures. He needed too much from someone for there to actually be a proper match in existence. He needed a mind and more than casual banter. He needed depth. He needed someone special. He needed someone to prove to him that there was a mind worth delving into that was not his own.

But in the absence of that...there was this.

He was testing his limits. He was challenging himself. Pushing the limits of what he could endure and exposing himself to things he had previously only avoided. To hide in the seclusion of work, and haunt only the corridors of his own mind, would lead him only to decay.

He'd had no idea that alcohol could burn upon his lips in an almost pleasant fashion. He'd held too strongly that the substance would kill his precious brain cells to try it before now. He believed it still, but sacrificed them to this greater purpose.

He had to break out of this cage. He could feel his mind curling in about him, closing steadily and growing in deeper labyrinthine spirals until he could hardly find the wherewithal to see these people for what they were. Humans. Beings with the capacity for emotion, love, sadness, joy. Hopes. Desires. Or was it that he was ceasing to see himself as human... perhaps it was the metallic hum of his own mind that was warping, convincing him that they were the abnormal ones.

Another whisper drifted by.

A tall brunet spared him a glance as the blonde on his arm commented about the way he sat.

He waited until they had passed before forcing his legs into the standard human seating position. As if jointed with stretched springs, his legs longed to assume the tucked position they were so accustomed to. He denied them that, forcing himself to learn normal. He had worn shoes, after all. This was the next logical step.

He would learn these things and adjust, before doing so was an option he could no longer perform, or no longer cared to.

L had finished half of his drink, which was becoming more watered down by the minute, when his cell phone hummed in his pants pocket. Caller ID displayed the name: Watari. He let the call go to voicemail before flipping open the phone and holding it to his head. The message was essentially what he'd expected. Watari was asking him if he might please disclose his intended destination if he insisted on going out like this. It was reasonable, but L never knew quite where his wanderings would take him. Last night, it had been a strip club. He hadn't realized the nature of the establishment until he'd stepped inside. Even with his new, hellbent fortitude to broaden his horizons, the sight of exotic dancers proved too much for him. Spurring his decision of a simple bar for tonight's location, was the idea that he may in fact need alcohol to help him prevail through something so foreign as people dancing erotically for money.

He wasn't trying to be judgmental. In a way, he was just exceedingly sheltered. Worldliness defeated the naive. The gifted naive were no exception.

Watari also wanted a resolution, or at least progress on the latest case.

L was not neglecting his duties... always, in the back of his mind, he was working. Answers took time.

Like tea, the facts and evidence sometimes had to steep. Rushing it would accomplish nothing; staring at a screen would not help it along. It was just as well that he spent his time on this project while he waited. He could claim it as the time off of work that normal people were given. Free time, if you will.

He sighed as he finished the last of the whiskey, drinking up the last of his excuse to stay longer. It was also the last of his justification for tormenting himself any longer.

Back to work, then.

He stood, glancing at the thin cardboard coaster on which he had mindlessly doodled. Some of it was pure abstract lines, some of it was pieces of theory or equations that his mind happened to spit out. The embarrassing part was the gothic-style L that was messily scripted into the corner. He almost took the thing with him, so he could destroy it at a later time, but he made himself leave it there.

It was all a part of his project... this would serve to desensitize him, awful though it felt right now.

He pushed the coaster's existence out of his mind and left the bar.

The night air felt refreshing.

It was a shame it was starting to rain.

The next night was much like the last; and the one before, that and the one before that.

L arrived at the bar early enough to attain a table. He ordered whiskey.

Now, one might ask, if one knew L well enough to know of his sweet tooth, 'Why whiskey?'

It was simple.

He ordered whiskey because it was exactly the type of thing he wouldn't order, given his preference. Everything amounted to that - everything he was doing now was done with the aim of putting himself outside of his comfort zone. He needed to be so far out of that zone that he didn't even recognize it anymore. Only then could he stop.

He dreaded the step where he would be forcing himself to interact with these people... to socialize.

The strip club would be easier, he thought.

Today, he not only wore shoes, he even put in and tied the laces.

The ice clinked in his glass as he drank.

Sure and steady wins the war.

His legs protested the awkward position he made them take since sitting down. People were staring less, he noticed with satisfaction. Not that they weren't staring at all... now it was more like 8 out of every 10 people - a definite improvement over 9.

Unsure of what to do with himself for the remainder, he began to scribble on the coaster. He kept a tiny pen in his pocket in the off chance it would be useful. He rarely needed to write things down to assist his own memory, but at times needed to do so for others. It was normal to carry a pen, was it not?

L felt eyes on the back of his head, which did not surprise him. He ignored the sensation and finished his drink. He'd run out of scribble room.

He left the empty glass of the table and went to secure another. What do these people do here for so many hours? Are their companions that engaging? Was it the promise of sex that kept them coming back so frequently?He was recognizing faces now. The regulars. Many of them did end up leaving with someone on their arm, usually someone new.

L came back to his table. His empty glass and coaster were gone.

Must've cleared them away already, he mused, fishing for his pen to start work on the new piece of cardboard. This time, he doodled the L first, so he'd have to stare at it for the interim. Why a gothic L? He had no idea. Perhaps it was a challenge to his lack of artistry, and a slight jab at his pride. The Great Detective L. So many people believed prestige or wealth could make you happy, but it was not so. He was proof.

Here he was, staring at a ripely pretentious letter that signified the whole of what he was and what he did, fixating on how the lines were wobbly and imprecise, merely because it was easier to criticize his penmanship than the state of his personal affairs.

L Lawliet, you win at LIFE.

A crowd was passed by, boisterous and jostling. He pulled his arms closer to his body, trying to stay out of the way. He did not want to unintentionally engage in communication with anyone yet - be it friendly or rude. He took another sip of his alcohol, now more used to the numbing effect it had on his brain, and settled down to fill in the last two thirds of the white coaster while his mind wandered.

"Excuse me."

L ignored the voice at first, but was made to look up when a tan hand splayed upon the table and the words were repeated.

He was greeted by a tall brunet man who was flashing him an utterly fake smile. L sighed. "Can I help you?" he asked in a monotone, nervously clenching his glass as he forced himself not to cover the coaster.

The brunet looked mildly taken aback, brown eyes widening minutely, but quickly settled back into his cordial expression. "I was wondering if I might borrow your pen?"

L stifled the irritation that surfaced. Typical. Only when they need something. In the spirit of furthering his experiment, though, he offered his pen. "Of course." The young man's hands were graceful, he absently noted as he was relieved of his small silver capsule pen. He was reluctant to part with it - it was custom-made. And, he happened to like it.

"Thank you," the brunet said, turning his smile a few notches brighter. "I'll return it as soon as possible."

L nodded as if it were no big deal, wondering what might have inspired such a well-dressed, charisma-oozing individual to seek him out. Would one of the bar's pens not suffice? The brunet melded back into the crowd.

Would he ever see his pen again?

Surely, he would. If the man tried to avoid it, it would be a simple matter to catch him on the way out.

Three hours later and L was tapping his fingers on the table, still stubbornly awaiting the return of his pen. He had other pens at home, but that was not the point. He liked that one.

At 2 a.m., the barkeep shuffled by his table to tell him they were closing. Now.

L was furious. Here he was, trying to extend and better himself, and some classily-dressed brunet with perfect hair had STOLEN his pen. After L had so kindly lent it to him!

He stood angrily and stalked out of the bar, not seeing someone ghost up to his table afterwards to collect his coaster.

"Something the matter, L?" Watari asked him after he arrived home.

L shut the door of the house they were renting and locked it behind him. "No. Nothing at all." He managed to keep his voice flat, but the effort. The effort. Just who the hell did that pen-stealing prick think he was?! He started up the stairs. Score one for humanity, he thought scathingly.

"There is strawberry cake in the refrigerator," Watari called after him. "I purchased it this evening."

L made himself pause. "I'll have some later... How was your date?" It was proper etiquette to ask. He had to get used to doing these things.

"Lovely, thank you." Watari sounded pleased.

Watari had started seeing a British woman he'd encountered often at the bakery L favored. He hadn't met her as of yet, though eventually his mentor was going to request it of him. L nodded and continued his trek up the stairs.

One might wonder why on earth he was obsessing over a pen he could have re-crafted with his surplus funds...

The answer to that was simple: It was the principle of the thing.

L opened the door to his room and flicked on the light.

Who the hell was that guy? If L saw him again, he would allow himself to sidestep some of his self-imposed benevolence... UGH, the audacity!

He took a deep breath and pushed the pen thing from his mind, firmly, and settled in at his computer. Wiggling his mouse brought the screen to life and he dove into a world of facts and statistics, eager to work on the current case, a world he could understand.


A/N: This took a while to come out, because my beta was very busy. I had her proof two reaaaaally long aBfSF chapters in lieu of this, because the other story is on weekly updates.