Title: Ad Arcana
Pairings: LightxL, MelloxMatt, some form of BBxL, possible others in less important roles (and revealing them would spoil the plot :D)
Genre: romance, mystery, drama, supernatural, slight horror... it's a long list. :'D
Warnings: Yaoi and yuri (romantic and/or sexual relationships between two men or two women), violence, blood, character death, mentioned (sexual) child abuse, hinted non-con
Summary: AU 19th century London. Murder and mayhem had always seemed to shadow their steps wherever they walked, but this time the bloody trail brushed theirs a little too close. LightxL
Disclaimers: Most of you probably know that "red rum" is from a movie called The Shining... Obviously, it's "murder" spelled backwards.
I've been told that The Death and Burial of Cock Robin is a well-known nursery rhyme; I came across it while reading the Cain Saga by Kaori Yuki. It was used in a murder case context in the manga as well, so it definitely wasn't my idea to use it this way. Only the additional stanza is my work. I'm merely making use of the good idea and the lovely characters of Death Note.
A/N: I messed with their ages – deliberately, how scandalous. :D And I know I'm better at humor, but I hope you'll give this a chance.
Also, I'm the slowest updater in the world. D: Expect the worst but always hope for the best. I study full time and work part time, and spend the rest of my already very scarce time being a social butterfly. I. Write. Slowly.
Publishing this today because today (or yesterday, because it's past midnight...) is, in the Finnish calendar, the name day of Valo, which is "light" in Finnish. The notion was so lame that I just HAD to publish something today, and quite frankly, I didn't have anything else ready. XD Happy name day Light-o.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star," a young boy sang to melody of his music box, "How I wonder what you are... Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky..."
The young man sitting opposite to him extended his dark wooden cane to part the curtains of the window of their train compartment. "Matt, it's raining, and the curtains were down. You can't possibly see the stars."
The boy, Matt, shot his caretaker – a brother? A parent? An uncle? A friend? Matt wasn't sure what to call him – a half annoyed, half amused glance. "You take everything so literally, Sir."
The weird young man smiled his weird little smile and leaned back in his seat. The light hanging from the roof of the compartment was swinging along the movements of the train, and the golden gleam of it danced on the nobleman's pale, delicate face, creating deep shadows under his dark eyes. "Please, don't call me that," he chided. "You are now officially a Lawliet as well. You are my half brother – the child of my poor late mother and a servant. Never forget that, and never say anything else."
Matt smiled slightly, looking at the small music box he held on his palms. The man had given it to him three weeks ago, after practically adopting him. "But that's not really the truth," he said.
The young lord reached out and snapped the music box shut, a stern look on his face as he looked at the boy. "Never – say – anything – else," he repeated, stressing every word. "You are old enough to understand that in this world, the wealthier you are, the truer your words are, no matter how much you lie – and I am wealthy and powerful enough to claim that the sky is green. If I say you're my half brother, people will soon start remembering that my mother did have a red-headed manservant roughly fifteen years ago, and that she fell ill soon after he was fired for stealing. They'll remember that my father traveled a lot, that my mother was lonely, and that after the servant left, she was kept hidden in the castle for the rest of her miserable life. If I tell them the right things, they'll even remember a maid escaping from the castle one night, a small bundle in her arms, a year after Lady Lawliet was locked up in her tower, and right before my father returned from his journey."
"Did Lady Lawliet have a red-headed manservant?" Matt asked sharply.
"No," the younger Lord Lawliet frowned disapprovingly, as if there was a red-headed servant somewhere that had failed to show up at the Lawliet castle when he had been supposed to, "but one had auburn hair. That should be close enough. Now tell me: what is your name?"
"No. Not anymore. Matt, don't you understand?" L Lawliet sighed and ran a hand through his wild, raven black hair. "I don't have anyone else left. This is the only way I can keep you. Won't you please be my family?"
The boy sighed as well, blowing his red, overgrown bangs out of his eyes. They fell right back. "Fine. My name is Matt Lawliet. I apologize for my rudeness, oh ladies and gentlemen, for I have only been noble for three weeks and trash for fourteen years, and therefore can't know how to behave."
"Please cut out the sarcasm." L regarded him with confused eyes. "I don't understand. Aren't you happy to have a family? A home? I honestly thought I was, for once, doing something selfless by taking a street orphan under my wing."
The redhead shrugged, swinging his skinny legs back and forth, back and forth. "I am. It's just... I know I'm just a street kid and that I used to lie and steal for a living, but when my Papa lived, he kept telling me that lies would always come to daylight eventually. Based on my experience, he was right."
"It's nothing but a little white lie that gives me a brother and you a home. How could that harm anyone?"
Matt cocked his head to the side, eying the young, black-haired earl with his deep, brown eyes. "Brother, have you ever heard the story about the boy who guarded the sheep?"
L shook his head. "My childhood wasn't very normal. I know very few stories. Please, enlighten me."
"Well, like I said, the boy guarded the sheep of a small village, and at least once a day, he yelled, 'Wolves, wolves! Help, or they'll eat the sheep!', and all the men of the village came to chase the wolves away. And every time, they would realize that the boy had fooled them for fun. Then one day, the wolves really came, and the boy called for help. But now everyone thought he was just lying, and they wouldn't come to his aid no matter how much he yelled, and the wolves ate him."
L tapped his cane against his lips, looking thoughtful. "Actually, the wolves wouldn't have attacked the boy if there was a flock of helpless sheep available -"
"Lies," Matt interrupted, "tend to get bigger and bigger as time goes by. Because we tell everyone that I'm Lady Lawliet's bastard child, they'll soon start comparing your looks with those of your parents, wondering if you're theirs either. You'll have to lie more to cover up the original lies. Someone will start remembering or finding out things, and if what you have told me of your family is anything to go by, there's a whole pile of skeletons in the closets of the Lawliet Castle. Something will come up – maybe a real half brother, maybe the auburn-haired servant who's supposed to be my father, maybe a whole family tree full of forbidden relationships will be revealed."
L heaved a frustrated sigh, looking out of the window with a slightly sulky expression on his face. "Well, then tell me how you would have handled the situation, Mr Jeevas!"
Matt smiled, winding his music box again and opening its lid. Earl Lawliet could be so childish at times, so childish that Matt often felt like their ages were reversed. "I would have been happy to be your servant, bring you tea and call you Master Lawliet. That way, I could have stayed forever by your side. That way, I would have had a home, and you some to take care of you and someone to listen to you. That way, I wouldn't have to be scared of future. But, seeing as I have already been adopted into your family, I'll just hold my head high and try to be worth the title."
The earl didn't reply to that. Matt wasn't sure whether it was because the man was so touched, or because he was trying to understand why anyone would prefer a servant's life to that of a nobleman. L Lawliet had always led a glamorous, luxurious life, however miserable it might have been; he would never understand his new brother's attachment to his simple rogue life.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star," Matt sang quietly, wondering if L would realize that he was the star of his song. "How I wonder what you are..."
"Who killed Cock Robin? I, said the Sparrow, with my bow and arrow – brother, brother, have you heard? Lord Lawliet has returned!"
Light Yagami turned to look at his younger sister, whom he had heard approaching miles away because of her annoying habit to sing as she skipped the corridors of the Yagami Manor. Sayu had just returned from the town with her maid, and he had been expecting a long and tiresome report of her day, the color and material of her new dress, Lady Takada's rumored fiance, or just about anything that he had no interest in, but this was something new.
"He has? Any idea where he's been for the last seven years?" he muttered, feigning disinterest and keeping his eyes on the newspaper he was reading.
Sayu shrugged her shoulders, dancing around the table to peck her brother's cheek. "No one knows. But I heard he'll be at the ball tonight, so you can ask him yourself." Her painted lips twisted into a mischievous smile. "Personally, Lightie."
Light shot an irritated glance at the 15-year-old girl and shook her small, white hands off his shoulder. "Are you implying something?"
"Oh, I would never!" Sayu blinked her wide, warm brown eyes innocently. Light knew how much havoc and destruction those eyes had wreaked among the young noblemen of London, and wasn't fooled by them. "I just thought that since Lord Lawliet was a childhood friend of my dear brother, he'd be delighted to meet him again..."
Light swatted his sister with the newspaper and turned back to his coffee. "I understand that, but as you know, Lawliet's disappearance was surrounded by mysteries. If he's alive and hasn't bothered to contact me, his supposedly only friend, in seven years, I see no reason to continue where we left off."
"Mm-hmm." Sayu smiled knowingly and glanced at his knuckles, which had paled slightly because he was gripping the paper with so much force. "Well, I still hope you'll accompany me to the ball," she chirped, leaning in to steal another peck on the young man's temple, and skipped off to her room.
"Of course I will", Light called after her. "The hounds will eat you alive if I leave you unsupervised for a minute! I humbly admit that I'm the most gorgeous, most intelligent and strongest older brother a girl can have, but not even I can beat hundreds of lovestruck fools in one night!" He took a sip of his coffee before adding, half shouting, "And if you're thinking about wearing that green dress you wore last time, forget it! You can show off your... chest when you're older and no longer my responsibility!"
He could hear the girl's bright, bubbly laughter from the stairs, and swore to himself that if she dared to show anything under her collarbones, he'd never let her go to a ball again. He worshiped his sister, but sometimes it was hard to live here alone with her... and the servants, of course. But their mother had passed away some years ago, and their father, Duke Yagami, lived mostly in the main castle in north, taking care of their family estate. He had sent his children to live in the city house so they could have the finest education and the best social connections, and had probably no idea of the long line of broken hearts both his son and daughter left behind wherever they went.
So L Lawliet had returned. Light looked at the newspaper; it was completely crumbled in his grip. Sighing, he folded the paper and put it aside, drowning himself into sweet, sweet coffee before his servant would make him change his clothes for the ball.
Yes, he had missed L – sorely. He had been fourteen when the other one had disappeared right after his 15th birthday; they had been friends for what had felt like an eternity for two young souls, and they had been convinced they were inseparable. Well, at least Light had been. Despite what had happened on L's 15th birthday, what had made the other boy flee without so much as a note to anyone, when Light had grown from boy to man, it had been those dark eyes and delicate, white features he had seen in his dreams. Later, he had gotten the reputation of a ladies' man, and it had taken very long from even himself to realize that all the girls he deemed worthy of his time were fair-skinned and dark-haired.
But none of them was quite as beautiful as the mysterious heir of Lawliets, and not a single one was even close to his intelligence.
And years ago, Light's dreams had turned into nightmares, his graving had given way to hatred, and the girls he now chose were blonde and dumb. What had once existed between the two very young noblemen had been nothing but a childish promise; the insecurity caused by their bodies and minds reaching adulthood at mismatched times had made them confuse friendship with love – but it still stung that L had never returned. No one said no to Light Yagami, and no one broke a promise made to him.
And now the man was apparently back, and Light was suddenly reminded of the disarray his thoughts had been in for the first two years after he had left. The old Earl Lawliet had died a year ago, and Light had never thought the dark-eyed youth would still come back to demand what was his.
What would he do now?
"Have you heard? Young Lord Lawliet..."
"Yes, he's here! I can't believe it! I thought he was dead!"
"Well, he's an earl now, and that horrible man – may he rest in peace and never come back to haunt this world – is dead. Why wouldn't he return?"
"But why didn't he return a year ago, when old Lawliet died?"
"I heard he brought a young boy with him..."
"That's correct, and he doesn't treat him like a servant. Who could it be?"
"He's got red hair. Isn't it obvious? The Lawliets have always been a family with dark, dark secrets. My father said there was something truly strange and unsettling about Lord Lawliet's disappearance. Maybe the boy is a witch..."
"Hush! How can you say something disrespectful like that? No nobleman would have dealings with witches and demons!"
"Say whatever you want. There has always been something wrong with the Lawliets, and our poor late Earl was probably the most wicked of them all. I wouldn't be surprised if his son was just as bad..."
"Be quiet! Young L Lawliet may have been a shy and strange kid, but never evil!"
"Oh, look! There they are!"
Light rolled his eyes at the whispered gossiping taking place near him; Lady Takada, Lady Amane, Sir Matsuda and some other less important people were definitely enjoying having fresh blood to taint with their rumors. Not that they were intentionally trying to damage anyone – well, most of them, at least – but that was what their gossiping usually led to.
But now they were momentarily quiet, and Light followed their eyes to a young man who had just entered the hall. The man's back was turned to him as he bowed to Lord Takada, the host of the ball, and nudged the red-headed boy standing next to him to remind him to bow as well. Light took a few steps backwards so he could regard the man from the safety of an alcove without being noticed himself.
The new Earl Lawliet turned and let his gaze scan the ballroom. Light's heart seemed to stop entirely for a moment when those dark, wide eyes brushed past him.
L had changed; or rather, he hadn't. While Light had grown into a handsome, well-built young man, delicate and slim in a noble way, but broad-shouldered enough to appear strong and reliable, L had merely gained height. The raven-haired man was still as thin as he had been all those years ago, his already fair skin had turned paper-white. His dark eyes, which had always been shadowed by his bangs, had sunken even deeper into his skull, and he looked like he hadn't slept at all after leaving. His hands, as he placed one of them on the red-headed kid's shoulder and introduced him to Lord Takada, looked so fragile that Light was surprised they weren't shaking from the effort. His back was ever so slightly bent, as if he had been weighed down by many burdens. He was no longer beautiful like the sad-eyed child he had been, but attractive in a darker, more mysterious way.
Light couldn't take his eyes off him.
"Ah! Earl Lawlieeet!" Lady Misa Amane called cheerily as the man walked past them. L stopped as he heard her voice, and it seemed to Light that his shoulders slumped a bit more, before he turned with a small, polite smile.
"Miss Misa," he greeted, joining the ring of noble social butterflies with the redhead shuffling right behind him. "Long time no see."
"Well, you can hardly blame that on us!" Misa giggled, holding out her glove-clad hand for L to brush his lips against. "Where on earth have you been?"
L smiled a little, a smile that was just as polite as it was false. "My father sent me to live with my uncle in Winchester. I finished my education there and left to travel around Europe before returning home. A year ago, I received the word of my poor father's passing, but there were... some things more than obscure in his testament, so I had to make one more journey before coming back."
The ring of heirs and heiresses made understanding noises. "Oh! And who is this?" Misa asked then, tilting her pretty, blonde head to look at the boy L had brought with him.
This time, L's smile was slightly more genuine. "This is the obscurity in the testament that I mentioned. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to my long lost brother, Matthew Lawliet."
"Pleased to meet you," Matthew greeted them smoothly. "But please, call me Matt." He was small for his age, but stood as tall as he could and held his head high like a proper nobleman; but Light could see a faint flicker of uncertainty in those brown eyes, and his movements were slightly hesitant, as if he had to go the hierarchy of the others through in his mind before bowing to them. This kid had not been labeled as 'noble' all his life.
"Oh my!" Misa and the other girls gushed; Lady Kiyomi Takada didn't squeal like the others did, but she eyed the boy with curiosity as well. The young men of the small circle surrounded the youth with numerous questions, and in a quiet, almost insecure voice, he started to tell them how he had lived in the streets and in multiple orphanages before L had finally found him and told him of his bloodline. As the nobles listened, enthralled by the story, L saw his chance and sneaked into a nearby balcony to have a moment of peace, as he had never enjoyed being around so many people.
Unfortunately, Light's eyes had been glued to him all night, and as the raven-haired man disappeared behind the curtain, the young duke-to-be left his hiding place in the alcove and followed him silently.
"Well, they say the murderer always returns to the crime scene, but I must say, I never believed you would be stupid enough to do it."
L, who had been leaning to the railing and watching the cloudy sky, froze at his words. For a moment, Light stood there staring at his childhood friend's back in the dark; then, slowly, the other man turned to face him.
"... Light?" He blinked his huge eyes and attempted a tentative smile. "It's been so long..."
"That's right," Light said grossly. "And why is that? I rather thought we had something to talk about after what happened last time we met – and then you go and disappear on me for seven years."
L's smile vanished and was replaced with a frown. "I thought my father told everyone I was sent to Winchester to study," he replied, leaning back against the railing. "Which was, in a way, the truth."
"I didn't believe it," Light said quietly, walking slowly closer. "You would have never left without saying goodbye to me... or so I thought."
A look of pain flashed on L's pale face and he lowered his eyes. "I would have never left at all had it been my decision."
Light closed the remaining distance between them and hooked his finger under the other man's chin, making him look up with startled, wary eyes. Light stared back at them and was no longer sure whether it was anger or something completely else that was burning within him. "Red rum, red rum," he whispered slowly. "Ever seen a red rum, L Lawliet? I thought you said we were too old to play red rum anymore. Or could it be that's exactly why you decided to twist it the other way around?"
L's already huge eyes had widened at his first words. Light could see his own reflection in them, they were so close to each other. "I didn't kill her, Light," the raven-haired man managed to force out.
"Funny, because I saw you do it," Light hissed, gripping the other man's arms with much more force than he had intended. He couldn't help it; memories were flashing in front of his eyes, memories he had kept blocked for years... the corpse of a maid, lying on the ground like a broken rag doll, the look in her unseeing eyes, and the figure looking at him from the broken window...
"Light... I was in my room when she died," L tried to convince him, an edge of panic in his voice. Light could see from his eyes that he had suddenly become very aware of the vast empty space behind him, and the cold marble against the small of his back. "I could barely even move – Light, let's not talk about this here. Why don't I come visit you tomorrow and explain everything –"
L's breath hitched when Light released one of his arms to bring his hand to the back of the raven-haired man's head and leaned closer. Light could feel his sharp intake of breath on his own lips...
"Well, now. I didn't know this balcony was adults only."
The two young noblemen jumped hastily away from each other, L almost stumbling over the railing. Light caught him and helped him regain his balance, but retreated his hands quickly under the judging eyes of Matt Lawliet.
"Brother," the boy said in a deeply irritated voice, stressing the word, "if you ever dare to dump me again like that, I swear I'll..."
A piercing scream shattered the air and drowned whatever threat Matt had been about to say. It was followed by gasps and more screaming, and the sound of someone running.
"Murder! Murder!" someone was shouting. "Fetch a doctor! Get the police here!"
A short glance was exchanged between the two noblemen, and then Light had dashed off, followed closely by L, who only stopped to place his hands on Matt's shoulders for a second. "Stay with the crowd!" he told the boy before rushing after the auburn-haired nobleman.
The ballroom was in a chaos. Men were roaring, women were screaming, everyone was running around and no one was doing anything useful.
"Oh, God! Why? God!" Lady Kiyomi Takada was wailing, holding onto Matsuda and sobbing against his shoulder. Matsuda had wrapped his arms tightly around the distraught woman, staring into emptiness with the eyes of someone who was trying to swallow his own tears.
Light turned around at his sister's voice, and suddenly his arms were full of black, curled hair and that cursed green dress. "Sayu? Are you all right?" He took the sobbing girl by her arms, holding her out to inspect her, much like he had held L only minutes ago, though far more gently.
"I'm fine," she hiccuped, clutching his jacket and burying her face into it again. "But oh Light, they say it's Lady Amane...! Oh, God..."
Light turned around; there was a wounded woman in a maid's outfit, unconscious and held by one of the elderly lords, who was still calling for a doctor... Light followed the bloody footprints she had apparently made before collapsing, L was already running that way – Light shoved his sister into the arms of the red-headed kid who had followed them and ran after him.
He almost crashed into L, who had stopped dead on his tracks after entering the corridor the bloody footsteps came from.
"Light!" the raven-haired man let out a strangled gasp and took his wrist in a deathlike grip. "Look!"
Light looked, and for the rest of his life, he wished he hadn't.
Misa Amane was slumped against the wall at the end of the corridor. Her head had lolled to the left, and her blue eyes were wide and empty. Her beautiful blonde locks were flowing over her blood red dress, and her hands were resting uselessly on the floor. Her chest had been slashed twice; the cuts formed a neat X. An arrow was stuck right between her breasts, in the point where the two cuts crossed each other.
Above her head, the wall had been painted with something red and still wet.
It said, I killed Cock Robin.
1) What kind of a 19th century England is that supposed to be? Ever heard of history lessons?
Yeah, well, I've never been to London, and I don't know all that much about the history of England. And it seems to clash with my plot slightly, so I'm not going to even try to make them match. :'D Think of this as an alternate universe fic in more than just one way. It's a whole another world, a whole another London, and a whole another Death Note cast...
I'm also aware that most of the Death Note names don't exactly sound like English names, but... too bad. XD I did consider calling Light Nightgod instead of Yagami (that would be because Yagami is written with the kanji of "night" and "god" in Japanese), but dismissed the idea because it didn't fit my plot. I think I'm going to use that in some other story.
2) Misa died D: / \o/
I feel kinda bad for killing her D: I actually like her, at least when she isn't trying to stuff her enviable model body between my OTP. So Misa fans: don't worry, I'll treat her well here. And Misa haters: rejoice, for she is dead.