Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note.

There are some days when L can't help but believe that he isn't smart enough to be the world's greatest detective.

Because even though he likes convincing himself that he's actually using the better judgment hiding under his better judgment, L's actually neglecting all logic and sense for once.

But today, L thinks that Light might not be Kira.

Stress on the might. But still. Light might not be.

He certainly won't be sharing this contemplation with his suspect. But the thought is making the film behind L's eyes which darken the world a little bit brighter. It isn't all Kira versus L. It isn't all chatter about suspects and captures and tautological murders.

It's not like he has any solid evidence. All of his proof is a meddled brain seeking out wishy-washy reasons that vaguely point in a direction that L subconsciously wants to believe. Small things. Things like Light is actually smiling today or Light is just a student, and they even sound ridiculous in his head as he's thinking them, mostly because L is a man of reason. Solid reason.

The fact that he's plucking logic from places where there is none concerns his mental state for the case, but L is still under the impression that he has control over his absurd assumptions about his suspect.

After all.

It's only a might.

O O O O O

L does not realize the level of ludicrousness of his actions until after he is poised on his mattress in a crouch, owlish eyes blinking through the darkness. A few stray rays of illumination work their way through the windows, straight on L's nose, pallid and porcelain-like from the moon's ashen glow.

L is perfectly aware that if Light is to suddenly awaken from the penetrating chirp of a cricket or the noisy hum of the radiator, his eyes will inevitably land upon L's, cold and distant and watching him through the ghastly hours of the morning, and the aftermaths won't be pleasant.

Still, a part of him is too engrossed in his work to mind the possibility of Light awakening and chastising the detective's eerie habits. After all, L and him share a room, only one bed apart and six feet away. He isn't perched on a creaky branch with a box of doughnuts and his grandfather's binoculars outside the window, spying on his suspect much like an obsessive voyeur might, but rather off-handedly observing him through the eyes of a detective analyzing a possible criminal.

Yes, it's a professional duty.

L likes to think that it is.

He blinks. He squirms his toes. The sheets wrinkle beneath his feet into subtle question marks creasing the linens. Light shifts so his kneecap is visible through his comforter.

A killer's sleeping pattern, L muses, trapping his thumb between his teeth, is a questionable thing.

He doesn't exactly expect Light's jaw to fall open and release guffaws of manic laughter or the pulse points on his neck to twitch in a thoroughly deranged manner in the midst of his sleep, because despite the obvious surface flaws, Light Yagami is not insane.

L sighs. It would almost be easier if he is.

Still, it is not Light's sanity that is being called into question, but his humanity, or lack thereof.

Wordlessly still, L hops out of his position on his mattress, flexing his knees as he slouches across the carpet to kneel by Light's bed. His examination is bordering on disturbing and L knows that his coworkers would be admonishing him for his unorthodox method of solving cases, but L is too fascinated by the results of his experiment to mind.

L is not a man to call a boy handsome nor is he one to call a woman beautiful. His visual senses have been stunted and neglected over the years concerning curly hair and pretty smiles, and now all he can detect are hollow eyes and bitter rictuses. He considers it one of his more inhuman traits, but it's moments like these that remind him all too coldly that he is more human than L likes to admit.

There's something very tranquil and alluring about Light's demeanor, astonishingly peaceful, unlike his pugnacious self during his conscious hours. His auburn hair is pooled out over his cobalt pillowcase and his parted lips are one halcyon line. L's eyes flicker to his chest, heaving up and down steadily with his even breathing, implying that Light has already slipped into the arms of slumber.

L exhales.

A part of him imagines Kira never sleeping, never dormant, like a monster fueled on murder instead of the human acts of sleep and breakfast.

Kira can't sleep like Light Yagami does.

He's never watched a killer sleep before. He's only watched them live and then, ultimately, die. A sudden cumbersome tension fills the air, the situation at hand a little thorny. L feels vaguely out of his element, out of his world of logic and reason and flawless bullet points, and shifts on his kneecaps. He feels almost as if he's invading Light's personal space, a foible L has been chastised for multiple times and dismissed as another human annoyance he defies, and it's awkward.

It's all very professional, really, and L thinks it's okay.

O O O O O

It certainly isn't a good thing that L doesn't associate his prime Kira suspect as Kira anymore.

They used to be the same person in his mind. Light Yagami, maskless, and Light Yagami, hidden, nothing but a cover of textbooks and toothy smiles. L used to see Kira as a chameleon, swift with his disguises and able to morph into an infallible college boy without the heart of a killer, all the same man stealing the tongues and grins of others, of humans.

Now he doesn't remember Light Yagami as Kira. They're two different units now; Kira and Light Yagami, killer and student respectively. And that's all.

L's a little worried, frankly, because although he refuses to acknowledge his retrogressing accusations as personal ties to the case, he knows that he's doing the contrary to moving forward in his duty of catching Kira. He's not any steps closer. He's backing away from his prime suspect, and at the mere thought of L the detective confessing defeat and retreating, his well-earned ego deflates a little.

Still, the pain of admitting that he might be wrong is dulled by the overwhelming sense of relief that a seventeen-year-old boy is not capable of mass murder without a haunt in his eyes. Light is a student, an overachiever if his father's praises are well-founded, and a boy whose life is nothing but vacuum filters, potato chip bags and textbooks battered at the spine. The murderer and the student are polarized opposites.

L glances over his shoulder. Light definitely isn't a student anymore. His eyes are tortured and worn with fatigue, the side effects of catching Kira wearing down his handsome face, but underneath the grim lines around his jaw, L likes to imagine that Light Yagami still resides, pretty rubicund ties and shiny shoes and all.

"Light-kun should smile more," L is saying, and Light looks up from his keyboard, distractedly, "he looks younger that way."

"Are you saying I look old?"

"Light-kun likes maneuvering my innocent remarks into insults," drawls L, speaking to his monitor dully, "He is not old. I like remembering that Light is still a kid."

"I'm not a kid–"

"Once again, offense where there is none to be found. Smile, Light-kun."

It's forced and doesn't make Light's face all too attractive, all authenticity poorly feigned. L frowns a bit, but can't help but think, at least he remembers how to smile.

He doesn't think Kira remembers.

Today, even though it's all too stupid, L thinks that Light might not be Kira.

O O O O O

L has never been particularly squeamish about blood.

It's sticky and runny and the process of it making its appearance is never an all too pleasant one, but to L, blood has never looked more beautiful.

Light is grumbling on the floor, puling and whining at best, his trousers furled up to his knee as he dabs delicately at a kitchen-tile induced laceration bleeding openly by his ankle.

"New shoes," he mumbles, off-handedly, addressing the sink, "they're slippery on tile."

There had been a mutual agreement for morning coffee amongst the task force and Light agreed to supply it, and an approximate four minutes later a mighty thud and a string of muffled curse words had gathered the attention of the task force.

L still isn't quite sure how Light managed to injure himself on the tile, but the means of his wound aren't important as he slouches by the younger man and hands him an alcohol-soaked towel by the grip of his thumb and index finger.

"Here," he supplies shortly, and slides his palms back into his pockets.

Light nods curtly and pins his lip between his teeth as he daintily arranges the towel over his wound. A few drops of runny blood run down to his foot. L stares at it.

It's watery and crimson, pooling at the crooks of Light's skin to form a small pond of carmine fluid among his flesh. Up by his calf, Light's blood is already crusty and dry, a dull brown tone plaguing his skin.

L isn't a surgeon for a reason. He has never been all too intrigued by anatomy and the removal and replacements of organs, nor has he found blood all too interesting. He's not the type to flinch and wrinkle up his features at the sight of it; he's stumbled across too many murder scenes as a detective to become ill because of it, but he has yet to find it extraordinarily helpful in solving his cases.

Until now.

Kira is immature and childish, and childish enough to narcissistically title himself as God, a label the public also frequently refers to him as, and Gods don't bleed. They don't bleed blood, they don't trip over air and scrape their flesh open on shiny kitchen floors. They don't whimper on floors and fuss over tiny cuts and scrapes.

L swipes his fingertip across Light's shin, smearing a dollop of blood onto his thumb. Ephemerally pausing his whimpering, Light watches L with a knit to his eyebrows.

"That's disgusting, Ryuzaki. It's my blood, not wine. Help me clean it up."

L shrugs distractedly at Light's barks and a small, faint smile plays its way onto his mouth, "Light-kun's blood is very red."

"…yes." Light agrees, slowly, wiggling in discomfort, "Ryuzaki, could you get me a bandage already?"

L likes to think that Kira doesn't need bandages; Kira is a monster. Kira doesn't bleed blood, not runny red blood; he's not human enough. He likes to imagine that Light Yagami bleeds everywhere, very red, very very red. And for the first time in his ripe lifetime, the thought of blood comforts him, and reminds him that today, Light might not be Kira.

They're opposites, he likes to think, polar opposites, and there's only so good acting can be.

So today, even though his reasons are based on an incident with slippery soles and ivory tiles, L thinks that Light might not be Kira.

O O O O O

It's the silly things, really, that mean the most to L.

He's slumped against a door, shoulder bones digging onto the door handle as he drums his knuckles against his thighs and waits patiently. The stifled sound of water, noisy and fast, can be heard through the door as L presses his ear against the wood. He wiggles his toes and stares out the window, the steadily rising sun reminding him of the time.

"Light-kun," he calls out softly, "I would like to use the bathroom."

"Just a second, Ryuzaki!" Light snaps, and then, just for added emphasis, "Jesus Christ. So impatient."

L can practically hear Light sardonically scoffing through the wall, and he contemplates as to how much maintenance such a small mop of hair really needs. He twirls his own around his thumb, untamable and boisterously loud and bushy. L knows that his appearance is lacking compared to Light's pampered face, complete with a five-dollar smile and a pimple-less forehead, but then again, Light spends forty-six minutes in the bathroom after a night of sleep.

Forty-seven.

L is a rather patient man, even for trivial things like this, but then again, he thinks that his generosity toward Light's high-maintenance morning rituals is simply because he likes to believe that it is impossible for a murderer like Kira to spend more than two minutes in the bathroom in the morning.

He imagines Kira, a burly man, a few intimidating muscles in his arms and scruff on his chin. A shaggy mess of hair and dark eyes hidden by the shadow of his bangs, hollow cheekbones tainted with prickly stubbles.

Light Yagami, if anything, is not a scruffy man.

Always clean-shaven to the touch and hair always silky by his ear, Light fusses over his appearance as though he's an insecure schoolgirl dressing to impress in junior high. Kira's only insecurity is how many criminals he can kill off by the hour.

The sound of a blow dryer roaring to life interrupts L's thoughts of Light's comb collection, and he smiles, heaving himself up from the floor.

"Light-kun."

"What is it, Ryuzaki, I told you just one seco–"

"It's all right, Light-kun, I won't interrupt him from his acne cream ritual which I believe he still needs to apply for the next eight minutes."

A silence, sweet as sugar, follows. L resists the urge to chuckle as the hair drier momentarily whirs to a stop.

"…er. Thanks."

"I'll bring coffee to Light-kun's desk." L says.

"Right."

Today, L thinks Light might not be Kira.

Kira doesn't need acne cream. Light Yagami breaks out every Wednesday.

O O O O O

On Thursday nights, when Watari brings L dessert before dinner and thirteen more criminals die within teatime, he likes to wonder if Kira has a family to eat dinner with.

When L sits and thinks about it, he doesn't see lacy tablecloths and mustard-colored salt shakers next to rosemary-accented pot roasts, he sees crudely made TV dinners burnt to a crisp at the edges and frozen in the middle. He's not one to initiate friendly chats amongst the task force while he's slurping down his third helping of strawberry ice cream for dinner, but he imagines that Kira doesn't do much talking either.

He's not much of a family man in L's head. He doesn't wear frilly aprons and he doesn't carry up handmade trays of breakfast in bed for his wife and kids. He's probably never made bacon in his life.

Then again, neither has L, but that isn't the point.

After finding Light missing from his desk during lunch break and being unable to locate him in the building, L wouldn't have ever assumed that his coworker was laboring over a peach-colored plastic bowl and wearing flour on his cheekbone.

"Is Light-kun extraordinarily hungry for lunch today?"

"Shut up, Ryuzaki," Light snarls, and the faintest hint of pink embarrassment dots his cheeks, "I… wanted cake."

It's not like L expected a big excuse, but the fact that Light feels the need to make excuses anyway amuses him. He slumps forward with a peak of interest to his normally dull expression and sticks a thumb in the mysterious blend of substances Light has managed to morph into one lumpy batter, licking it away with a curious tongue.

"It's my mom's recipe," Light says immediately, as though justifying his cake's poor taste with an excuse that helpfully points accusatory arrows toward someone other than himself.

"It's intriguing," L nods, "I did not know Light-kun bakes."

"Hnn," replies Light, for lack of anything better to say.

It's vaguely entertaining when Light creates his concoction, bits of chocolate at the edges, but it's more amusing when he takes out the finished product and presents it with an aura of ego floating around his head. His ego is promptly killed when his cake sags in protest and caves in.

"Oh, Light-kun," L drawls, a hint of dismay tugging at his voice, the sweet scent of sugar wafting over to his nostrils, "you are not a baker."

Light grumbles and tosses Watari's plushy oven mittens, adorned with tiny jalapenos, across the kitchen. They land in the dishwater with a plop, floating dully.

"It probably still tastes good." Light mumbles wryly, staring at his deflated masterpiece. L shrugs and tugs it toward his chest with a thumb, scooping out a handful with three fingers acting as a shovel.

Today, he thinks that Light might not be Kira.

Kira doesn't make chocolate cakes for lunch.

And he doesn't burn them either.

O O O O O

L does not remember the last time he has truly smiled.

When Watari brings this up, a small little worried furrow to his brow and edge of concern at his voice, L always dismisses the subject. He finds it easy to lie, even to Watari, and tells him that smiling is superfluous to him and always has been. Watari wants reassurance that the closest thing to a family he has is still human, and L is willing to offer him those lies.

Really, he hasn't had a reason to smile in years.

Perhaps more.

L tilts his head to the left and for a split second, his brain pauses.

He knows that society believes grins to enhance a face. Shiny teeth and widespread lips, smile for the camera and grin for grandma, they pretty up even the most horrifying of all expressions. They cover the bad with a shiny film and replace it with a smile for the world to see.

It says I'm happy.

Light pulls this number one too many times.

There's only so many times a day a camera is thrust in one's face to capture moments in time and only so many times a day when a man has incentive to be happy. And when working in an office designed with a pallet of gray as dull as stormy clouds and used purely for the function of imprisoning mass murderers lurking among society like a hidden shadow waiting to strike, smiling should not be anyone's priority.

L has small smiles, smiles of triumph, smiles of victory, smiles that don't evince happiness but rather competitive messages of glee that speak I beat you. Then there's the slightly smaller smiles, almost default, reserved for when handed platters of intricately-made strawberry sundaes and cherry cheesecakes. They're rare, rare to the point where L gives off the aura of severe depression to those around him, but are in fact genuine.

For the longest of times, L believed that Light had no genuine smile. He is an actor, not a man who learned how to smile himself but was taught, and therefore can manage nothing but feigned beams that have been honed to the point of perfection.

But for a man who knows the feeling of not wanting to smile more than anyone, he can detect it in another man as well.

Except for today.

L can't stop staring.

It was a nanosecond at best, perhaps less, but L's mind is set on repeat. But Light was smiling. Honestly, utterly, absolutely smiling. Just the tip of his teeth visible, a gentle tug to the corner of his lips as though strings were pulling at his mouth, and above all, happiness. Light emitted happiness like a radiator emitted heat, and for another split second after the split second that L detected a hint of authenticity to his grin, he felt the contagious tingle of a smile playing itself onto his own mouth.

Despite his better judgment, L smiles.

No one sees.

Today, L thinks Light might not be Kira.

O O O O O

Although he realizes that it is just a myth he's fallen victim to, L believes that Gods don't cry.

As idols to the public and hope to the society, they can't cry. Crying is weakness. It might be the one thing L and Light can agree on without their discussion evolving into a hands-on argument that includes tossing of angry fists.

Light Yagami likes to seem like a strong man. Set jaws, phlegmatic lines for smiles, ironed jackets and matching socks. Appearance means everything. And although L's social skills are lacking by this point in his stunted life experiences as references, he doubts that a wrinkled shirt or a missing button will belittle Light's reputation, Light never has missing buttons. It's so perfect, it's suspicious, and that is the one thing that Light Yagami isn't expecting. Being told he's too perfect to be real.

L can figure that out in a nanosecond.

What he wants to figure out is if Light actually is a strong man.

Normally L would be glad to find that Light is not as strong as he seems, as impeccably perfect and as infallibly unbreakable, mostly because L wants to believe that Light can die, a trait which Kira clings to like a starving man to a crumb. He knows that Light has feigned a lot of smiles and played a lot of laughs, and frankly, L is a little peeved.

He expects that Light, in natural form, is an angry man. Competitive, childish, aggressive, and manipulative.

Today, L thinks Light might not be Kira.

But that's only because L caught Light crying today.

He was standing in the doorway of their bedroom for what must have been at least twenty minutes, eclipsed in the shadows and the door itself, only a single eye canopied in ebony lashes watching Light's back as he sat cross-legged on his bedspread and wept like his tear ducts had been clawed open.

L despises crying. Tears are salty and swollen eyelids are painful. And worst of all, puffy eyes and tear-streaked cheeks aside, L doesn't like surrendering himself to emotions. He locks them away behind his skeleton, cold and distant, because without emotions, there is just justice.

Frankly, he's a little frightened of tears. He knows Light is as well. Both of them are too strong for tears, men of war, men of law, not men of raw emotions like love and hate. All L's ever seen is hate. Hate, hate, hate, husbands detesting their wives, supposedly innocuous youthful teenagers killing classmates, love melting away after the ardor for humanity is gone. It's when the tears are gone too.

His weeping is quiet, muffled in his palms and barely audible from the doorway, but the sound itself is unmistakable. A broken boy, pulled apart at the seams, stitched together in all the wrong places. L pictures the teddy bears he used to know, one missing beady black eye, gnawed fur, patched stomachs, wool poking out at aged seams, neglected and forgotten once broken.

Oh, Light-kun, L bites his thumb for lack of anything else to bite onto, ever-so-silent, who has broken you?

And although L would never admit it, but he's never found crying more beautiful before in his life.

O O O O O

He has no frame of reference. But compared to the various textures and fabrics that L has avoided touching over decades, like pillowcases and laundry sheets, he believes the softest of all of those things are Light's lips.

Once tasted, L is rewarded with the bitter tang of salt, spicy and loitering on his tongue until Christmas is over, but even for such a radical sweet-tooth, he doesn't mind.

Soft, soft, soft. And wet. Wetly soft.

He knows how literature describes osculation in a neat box with a pretty scarlet bow; velvety lips, gentle tongues, demanding teeth, and slow tempo, like a piano song at a funeral procession. It's always the same, summarized as crudely and pleasantly as possible, and since L is all too familiar with the exaggeration and dolling up of society's advertising, he doesn't believe the literature. He doesn't even believe in velvety lips. Especially not from Light Yagami.

He doesn't like the words velvety or slow. They're much too vague to create an adequate description of Light's mouth, constantly moving, constantly going.

Whether he's refusing to stop rambling at the lack of veracity behind Kira accusations being pointed squarely at his chest or he's licking at the entrance of L's mouth, one way or another, Light's mouth cannot keep still. His tongue, like the rest of him, needs to be the center of attention.

Still, soft. Very soft. The feel of his lips, no matter how repugnant, is alluring, and L dares enough to kiss back with his own mouth, always dotted with sugar. Light's hand cups L's jaw, right up to the point where his ear meets his neck, and slides his thumb there, warm and gentle. All very gentle.

L has never kissed Kira and hopes that he won't have the opportunity granted to him in the future even if his curiosity is finding that questionable thought intriguing, but he imagines that Kira doesn't have soft lips. L remembers watching children play in the snow, chewing on their icy fists and giggling as they make children-sized imprints through the snow on the ground. Their lips were always chapped and pink, raw at the corners. Kira's, he imagines, are similar, always cold, always bitter, chapped and tearing. His tongue, were it ever to invade the crevices of L's mouth, would probably resemble an omnipresent dentist's tool prodding commandingly here and there, slimy and wet.

L sinks out of his unpleasant thoughts and back to the task at hand. He wonders how soft his own lips are, how soft they could be after years of gnawing on them and dousing them with sugar-coated strawberries.

For a nanosecond, L realizes that Light Yagami is almost more human than he is, and instead of being mortified, L revels in that second of glee.

Today, L thinks Light might not be Kira.

O O O O O

Today, L thinks Light might not be Kira.

Might, might, might. It's always a might. It has to be.

It would be easier, perhaps, if Light isn't his suspect. If Light isn't his friend. If Light was a homeless runaway or a frat brother he knew for his notorious bullying or a cousin twice removed, this would be easier. There wouldn't have to be a might.

He likes to imagine that one day, justice wouldn't have to prevail and maybe, just maybe, neither would L. Rights and wrongs pushed aside.

He likes to imagine that Light Yagami can go back to school and wear book bags on shoulders that aren't stiff and tense at their default position. He likes to imagine that he's wrong, extremely wrong, about Light Yagami. He's not Kira. Not today, not tomorrow. He's the polar opposite of Kira.

Or at least, L likes to believe that.

But it's not like he could ever say that out loud.

It's just a bunch of sillies and blurs, and for a man built on reason, that's not good enough. Mights aren't good enough. A part of him, the logical part, realizes that the only polarization truly occurring is between himself and Light. Himself and Kira.

Still.

Today, Light might not be Kira.

L glances over his shoulder and, with too many emotions to be allowed, he realizes he wants to say it. He wants to ask him if he's Kira and he wants to hear a no he can actually believe in response.

But instead, because he can't, he really can't, because it's all just a might, L turns to Light and says, "Seventeen percent chance you are Kira, Light-kun."

"You've got be kidding me, Ryuzaki," Light says, growling, "that's two percent up for no reason at all."

It's what he says every time.