L started to wonder about Light Yagami when he caught him, for the third day in a row, sitting at his computer staring blankly at the screen, fingers resting on the keys and doing absolutely nothing. It took three repetitions of his name to get him to respond.
"Are you preoccupied by something?" Light blinked at him, seeming puzzled. This was somewhat disconcerting, given the amount of usual puzzlement Light showed, which was none. "You've been staring at the same window for thirteen minutes and thirty-four seconds."
"Oh," he said, "I'm just distracted."
Yes, there was definitely something amiss. He narrowed his eyes and determined to watch more closely. Perhaps Kira's resolve was cracking. If it was, he had to be ready to pounce.
The next day, at one o' clock in the afternoon, Light Yagami put his head on his laptop and fell asleep within two minutes of closing his eyes, the computer beeping in protest of the pressure on its keys. L sat there, timing how long it would take for Light to wake up. Unfortunately, Matsuda walked in.
"Is Light asleep?" He asked, loudly, and just like that Light wasn't anymore. He brushed off concerns with seeming ease and turned back to the computer. L felt something almost like worry and frowned along the table, but unfortunately Light either didn't notice or chose to ignore him.
The next day, Light was attempting to explain something to L when he stopped midway through his sentence, blinked, and said quite clearly, "I'm sorry, I forgot what I was saying," and L knew for certain there was something wrong. It was a good thing, he decided, that he could keep an eye on Light all the time. Whatever was getting to his normally perfect façade, he would uncover it eventually. He made a mental note to tell Watari, and then Light leaned forward and vomited on his shoes.
L looked up to tell Light to be more careful what he ate, but Light was staring at him with bleary, puzzled eyes. "I don't feel so good," he said, and slid limply to the floor. L caught his head before it hit the coffee table and frowned at the clamminess of his cheeks.
This was most definitely not as he had planned.
He did the only thing he could think to do. He called Watari.
Light, L thought sourly, even had to be sick better than everyone else. 103.9 degrees Fahrenheit fever, Watari had announced, and if it had gone .1 of a degree higher there would be nothing to be done but to take him to a hospital. As it was, Watari seemed inclined to do so anyway.
"No," L had said adamantly. "I am not going to a hospital."
"Who said you were going?" Watari wanted to know, and L held up the arm that still bore a handcuff.
"I'm not letting him out of my sight."
And Watari's expression had turned sour, slightly, and he had said that fine, but that made it his job to make sure that Soichiro Yagami's son didn't die of pneumonia or some other opportunistic infection.
He looked down at Light's face, pale and still, hair plastered to his forehead and soaked with sweat. His eyes moved rapidly under his shuttered eyelids. "This is very inconvenient," he informed the unconscious boy. "I'd accuse you of stalling if you didn't look so miserable."
L tried Light's forehead again, uselessly hoping that somehow the fever had gone down. It hadn't. Light murmured something in his sleep that sounded like 'don't eat me.' L tucked the blankets more firmly around him. "I won't, I promise," he assured him solemnly, "As long as you don't start looking like a piece of cake."
Halfway through the night, just when L was wondering if he could at least ask Watari to bring him some cake, please, Light woke up. "I don' wanna go," he said, urgently, to no one that L could see.
L straightened, almost hopefully. Perhaps something would come out of this that he could use. "Go where?"
"I don' wanna," Light said, growing more agitated. "No! I won't!"
L reached out, pushed his shoulders almost gently down. "Won't what, Light-kun?"
"Narnia isn't real, Sayu! Besides…s'dinner…maybe dad'll be home…"
L leaned back as Light sank back into incoherent muttering. Useless. This was useless.
The next time Light woke up, L was almost nodding off. "Ryuzaki," he said, and he sounded so lucid and coherent that L shot upright eagerly.
"There's something," Light said, perfectly still. "Something I need to tell you…"
"Tell me," L demanded, leaning forward. Was this – something vital, something that would make sense of everything?
"Something's sitting on my chest," Light said, solemnly, "So I can hardly breathe at all. Can you tell it to get off? S'funny…looks kind of like you."
L leaned back and sighed. Hopeless. He shouldn't get so excited. "You're delirious," he said. "Go back to sleep, Light."
"Okay," Light said meekly, and went back to sleep. L stared at him, frowning, and felt again something like worry. He reached over and picked up the phone.
"Watari," he said, "Do you think you can bring a smoothie upstairs? With a straw." No sponge baths, he determined, firmly. He drew the line completely at cold sponge baths. Or mopping Light's forehead. Monitoring him at all times was not the same as playing nursemaid.
He checked Light's temperature again, though it was a bit of a challenge with him asleep. Still stubbornly 103.9. "Get better," he said, firmly, and irritably. "You're holding everything up."
The first reflex any human being ever learned was how to suckle. At the moment, Light seemed to have forgotten even that. Half propped up, eyes glazed and unfocused, he stared at the proferred smoothie and then looked up at L.
"Strawberries?" he said, voice raspy and thick like his mouth and throat were full of cotton.
"Just take it," L said tersely, "You haven't eaten anything for two days, and barely drank anything either." He hoped that his expression looked exasperated, and not concerned. Wammy stood by the door.
"No," Light said plaintively, sounding more like a child than a genius. "I don't want it."
"Would you take some Tylenol, Yagami-kun?" Wammy offered from the door, and L shot him a glare.
"Just try a little," he said, trying to be coaxing. "It'll help. I promise." He guided the straw to Light's lips, and Light looked at him balefully but at least took the straw feebly in his mouth and sucked up a mouthful of pink liquid, and then another. And turned his head away.
"Tastes nasty," he complained. "I think I'll take the Tylenol," and he turned over and fell asleep with his face in the pillow again, the back of his neck flushed violently red.
"I think," Wammy started to say, setting the cup of water and two red pills down on the bedside table.
"No," L said firmly. "No hospital."
Wammy left and L watched Light sleep. He drooled onto the pillow, mouth set in a little frown. He looked young, and tired, and sick.
Three hours later he woke up and vomited pink all over the sheets. "I told you I didn't like strawberries," he said blearily, and L frowned and got up while Wammy pulled the sheets off, fetched a washcloth from the bathroom and dabbed hopefully at his forehead. "Get off," Light said, and pushed weakly at his arm, but by then he was unconscious again.
L woke up and found that he had been asleep, and that now Light Yagami was curled up with his hands over his ears and crying. "Nonono," he was saying, "Nonono, it's not true, it's not true…"
"Light-kun?" L said, rubbing his eyes and feeling a little frustrated at himself. It was only boredom, of course, but why was he consigning himself to this? Light probably would get better more quickly in a hospital, and they would keep just as good a watch on him there. It wasn't as though he was in any condition to waltz out. "Are you awake?"
"You can't make me," said Light thickly, through his unaccustomed tears. What was visible of his face was wet, unevenly flushed pink. "No, stop it – you can't make it true – you can't make me say-"
L frowned. "Light-kun," he said a little more loudly, "No one is," but Light's fists clenched and his voice rose to a scream: "No! No! I'm innocent, I'm innocent!" And at that point L decided that things were getting out of hand and reached out, shook Light's shoulder gently.
Light's eyes snapped open and he recoiled, sharply. "Get away from me," he hissed, wild-eyed, staring. "Get away from me, I'm not going to be your – your scapegoat – I need to go home-" and with that, his head seemed to clear, eyes widening, round as saucers.
And then he was on his feet and heading for the door, seemingly heedless of the chain connecting them and his own shaking, malnutritioned body. L scrambled to his feet but stayed where he was.
"What do you think you're doing?" He demanded, "You can't just-" Light stumbled and caught himself, shaking, against the door's handle. He turned back, the dark circles under his eyes huge.
"I'm not Kira," Light said desperately, "I'm not. Please believe me. Please. I need you to believe me."
L slid around that question, frowning. A spike in the fever? What… "You're sick," he said, calmly. "Come sit down before you fall down and we can talk." The fear was raw and naked and sudden in Light's eyes.
"All right – never mind, I'll say anything you want me to, anything, just let me out of here, please…"
What on earth, L wondered, had Light been dreaming about? Certainly not Narnia, by the looks of it. "Light," he said after a moment, trying for patient, "What exactly do you think I'm going to do to you?"
"I won't say it," Light said blurrily. "It's not true." L gave up on having his questions answered and stood, edged toward Light, who backed into the door, looking like a cornered animal.
"You're pathetic," he informed Light, stopping. "I hope you don't get sick often because it really doesn't do anything for you." At that point, however, Light's sudden burst of mad energy seemed to wear off, and he staggered, folding neatly in half. L grunted, catching his head and easing his body to the ground, somehow ending up with Light-kun's auburn head in his lap. He took the opportunity to check the boy's forehead. Still no change.
He eased out his phone and called Watari, frowning down at Light's drawn face. "All right," he said grudgingly. "Maybe just for a few days. But I want full access at any time."
After he'd hung up the phone and put it down, Light's eyes opened, his breathing picking up too fast. "I'm not Kira," he said again, deliriously, and L sighed.
"Certainly not right now," he informed the boy on his lap, and Light stiffened.
"Don't put me back there," he said plaintively, and it took L a long time to figure out what he meant.
"No," he said, "I won't." And couldn't help an exasperated sigh. "Not exactly."
Light-kun, however, was already far gone.
The distant sound of something whirring unevenly cut through his haze with brutal clarity. Tzzz tzz tzz thunk tzz tzz thunk tzz- it whined through his head like a steal drill when everything else felt like cotton, muffled and fuzzy and thick. His mouth and eyes were full of sand, his head was full of fluff, and every part of his body ached mercilessly. He tried to remember what had happened, but all he could come up with were disjointed, disconnected pieces that didn't fit together. Trying to drink a smoothie that tasted like Pepto-Bismol, lying with his head on Ryuzaki's lap, hazy memorize of L cutting him to ribbons with knives like razors, demanding that he confess, confess, confess…
He forced his eyes open and through the grit of the sand and the blur of his headache, made out owl eyes staring down at him like saucers. What are you doing here, he meant to ask, but it came out "hnnnh."
"Interesting," said L, and Light hated him intensely. Something tugged as he shifted, and his head lolled sideways to look at the IV in his arm connected to a hanging bag of clear solution. I've died, he thought blurrily. I've died and gone to hell.
"Are you actually conscious or just pretending?" L asked, and Light swallowed hard, and regretted it. It felt like his throat was full of gravel.
"Father?" He managed to ask. L shrugged.
"You didn't recognize him the last time he was here. I decided it would probably be better to wait before trying again." That didn't sound right. Light frowned, trying to remember. Yes, there was his father, bending over him…
Don't kill me, Dad! I'm innocent!
"Oh," he managed to say. He felt hot, and tried to push the covers off. L pulled them back up and glanced at something he couldn't see, then reached across and pushed a button.
"Up again," he said in his laconic voice, eyes still on Light, "Time for another dose." He released the button, and turned back toward the bed. "Funny. You get more lucid when your fever's up. How do you feel?"
Fever. Ah. That made sense. Light hadn't been sick since he was ten – not even a cold. Maybe that was why he was feeling so awful. He could feel himself sweating. His pajama shirt was soaked with it. "Hot," he complained.
The door opened and a nurse hovered in the doorway for a moment before Ryuzaki stood up with a nod, retreating to lean against the wall. Light's neck ached and he gave up on holding his head up, going back to staring at the ceiling and the broken fan. "Can you turn that off?" he complained. "It's giving me a headache."
The nurse looked at L. L nodded, and she smiled at Light. "Of course, Yagami-san. We can turn the fan off."
Light wanted to strangle someone, but his arms hurt too much, and he wasn't sure he could lift them if he tried. He took the pills obediently, which seemed to surprise the nurse, and swallowed the orange juice greedily.
And promptly spat it back out. "This tastes like dirt," he said loudly, "What are you trying to do-?" The nurse opened her mouth, but L's voice slid easily over her.
"That's all right. If Light-kun doesn't want juice, he doesn't have to have it. Thank you."
She nodded, and then looked back to Light, seeming newly determined. "And how do you feel?" Like dying. "Any trouble breathing, nausea?"
"No," he said, tersely, and she looked at L again. "No," the detective agreed.
"I can answer for myself," Light snapped.
"You haven't been clear where you are for the last week, Light-kun," L informed him calmly. "I don't think anyone's going to trust your answers for a while. Certainly not until your temperature is below 39 degrees Celsius."
"I'm going to sleep," Light announced, after a moment, because he didn't like to think about that. L came and sat down again, next to the bed, where he'd been when Light awoke.
"Good. Let me know if you change your mind."
The pillow smelled like disinfectant. He fell asleep with his face in it anyway.~
Everything was fuzzy and everything hurt. Someone was rubbing his shoulders and murmuring something in another language; he tried to choke but his reflexes wouldn't answer. He could hear the soft, steady beat of a heart monitor somewhere very far away through the fog. The occasional distant prick of a needle, a sharp pain compared to the constant, dull, aching of his muscles. He'd never felt so dead in his entire life.
Some of it was dreams, or at least he thought, like the tiger with L's face chewing on his head or Misa hugging him around the ribs so hard that he could feel them cracking. He woke up with black eyes in his face and yelled frantically, trying to push them away, get away from me! I won't talk to you! And they blinked and were gone, as another needle slipped into his arm and squirted its poison into his veins, sucking him powerfully down.
He tossed and turned, half in and half out of sleep. "I'm never getting sick again," he remembered mumbling, and someone had squeezed his hand like they had heard.
He let the sound of the beeping heart monitor lull him slowly into restless unconsciousness.
It was dark when Light opened his eyes. They felt sticky, full of glue, and his mouth still tasted like sand; he felt pitifully limp and weak and his throat ached. He glanced down at his arm and the IV was still there, pumping something into his bloodstream, and the beep of a heart monitor was still steady and soothing by his ear. He felt dizzy and strange and disoriented, and stared at the ceiling, trying to make sense of what had happened.
L sounded exhausted, and turned the bedside lamp on. He looked even paler in the light, examining Light's face. He coughed, weakly. "—hi."
L breathed out, looked up at something over Light's head, and seemed to slump. "The fever broke last night," he said, "They said there might be a relapse, but it looks like you're almost back down to normal."
He didn't feel normal. Light felt tired and drained and empty. "How long?" he managed to rasp.
"Ten days," L said wearily, and then added, "Since you were hospitalized. Before that, probably four. At least that I noticed."
No wonder I feel so awful.
"Your throat probably hurts," L said. "They just took out the feeding tube yesterday." Light almost flushed with shame. He hated to be so helpless, so weak, but he still… L paused. "Next time you're getting sick, let someone know before you keel over."
Embarrassment heated his blood almost as badly as the fever. He could feel himself blushing, this time, and remembered throwing up on his own shoes. "Dad?"
"Is probably just glad you're alive." L looked serious, for once, even with his hands shoved deep in his pockets and shoes kicked off. "They weren't sure for a while there. When was the last time you were sick?"
"Never." Light looked down at the blanket folded down around his waist and grimaced. His chest looked hollow even to him. His hands on the blanket were barely more than bone. He must have nearly starved to death. Maybe the fever had broken, but he was till far from well.
Light tried to push himself up, feebly, and L pushed him back down, one hand on each shoulder. "What are you," he started, surprised. L seemed to be examining his face, his eyes.
"Don't do that again," L said suddenly. "I was worried." And he slouched out of the room, leaving Light staring blankly after him wondering if he was still a little delirious. He closed his eyes and fell back asleep, and this time he didn't dream at all.