Author's Note: Wow! It's been too long since I posted, or written in general, really. I got consumed by Script Frenzy in April, which is a pathetic but true excuse. :P If you haven't tried it, you should, cuz it was awesome.
Also, I discovered the lovely Greek phrase that inspired this title thanks to Oliver Sacks' "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." Very good book. :)
Thanks to chibi-hime123 for betaing this at 1 AM. Love ya.
Oh yeah - and I don't own DN.
"Agápe. Philia. Éros. Storge." - Greek words for four different kinds of love. "Chronia polla." - Happy birthday.
It is October 31, and Light is carefully arranging his bangs around his pumpkin mask. The color doesn't quite complement his light hair, but all his friends are dressing as pumpkins, and he knows that to do anything else would be to stand out.
Light has always been different, but he still does his best to adjust his mask and walk out looking like everyone else.
When he gets downstairs, his mother coos and wields her camera and wants him to wear a coat, and he plays his part perfectly. He fidgets just a bit during the photo and holds Sayu close and protests for a moment before allowing the coat to be slipped over his bright orange body.
All he really wants to do is pose like the beautiful angel that he is and shove away Sayu and her smelly diaper and wear a coat that matches his costume, but that would be suspicious and he has to fit in.
Sachiko and Sayu and Light get into their car and drive down to Light's elementary school for Halloween goodies, and Light's pumpkin mask screams out a terrible grin.
"Light-kun, are you excited for all the candy?"
"Yes, mother! Very excited."
"Don't forget to brush your teeth!"
"Yes, I won't forget."
Light hasn't missed a brush since he was old enough to hold the toothbrush, and he certainly won't forget tonight of all nights.
So they clamber out of the car, and join the stream of pumpkins and witches into the school.
Light has never felt more hidden in his life, and he can't determine whether he loathes or craves the feeling.
"Sayu-chan, hurry up! Light-kun, wait up for us. Light-kun? Where are you?"
And just like that, Light is free. He pretends not to hear his mother's increasingly frantic calls, and blends in, his mask sealing him away from the world. He can do whatever he likes, because he is anonymous and omnipotent, capable of conquering the world without anyone knowing it is him. He has never felt more powerful.
Kamisama! Kamisama! Kamisama!
He runs, his little pumpkin legs pumping as he dashes through the crowd, and laughs and laughs a terrible pumpkin laugh.
Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk…
He takes more candy than he is allowed to and cuts in line, because he is Kamisama now, and there is nothing anyone else can do about it.
The smaller children look up at him in awe as he passes by them, because even they realize his power.
"Light-kun! Yagami Light!"
But then he sees his mother, and he comes crashing back to earth from his celestial cloud.
Is he now a fallen angel?
He flips back his mask, and calls out to her, looking appropriately worried, and she comes hurrying to wrap him in a crushing embrace, close to tears as she reprimands and reprimands and reprimands him for running off.
"I'm sorry, mother! I got separated from you and thought I should just follow the crowd until I found you."
"Oh, you must have been so frightened!"
"I'll stay close next time – I promise!"
She hugs him closer and decides they've had quite enough for one night, and they should go home now. Light nods agreeably and Sayu is content with the small sucker she is licking, so they begin walking towards the car. On the way, Light's classmates see him with his mask up, and shout and wave to him, and he waves back with a smile.
It's all so dreadfully dull.
Light realizes once they are in the car that he forgot all his candy at the school.
Really, though, that was Kamisama's candy, and not Light's.
He goes upstairs and showers and brushes his teeth and changes into his pajamas, and climbs under the covers.
Just like every night before, and every night to come, and for a moment it is wildly frightening that the future looks so boring.
But then he sees his pumpkin mask on the floor.
And he scrambles out of bed.
And eagerly pulls the mask onto his face and his pumpkin self grins and grins and laughs and laughs along to the silent chants in his mind.
Kamisama! Kamisama! Kamisama!
It is nearly the end of the school day, mid-afternoon sunlight filtering into the classroom to tickle Light's adolescently curved cheeks, and Light wants nothing more than to leap out of the window and escape into the clouds.
But he restrains himself, trimmed fingernails digging into the tabletop, because he knows the story of Icarus well, and though this middle school penitentiary is a hell worse than Crete, it would be terribly ironic for a boy named Light to be killed by the sun.
Giggles explode as gunfire behind his back, this simile strengthened by the patter of paper scraps hitting his shoulder blades. One particularly lucky fragment sails over his shoulder and lands with a soft patter on his textbook. The giggles grow louder and even dissolve into the occasional snort and dreadfully unsanitary sputter.
Perhaps some things are worse than death.
For a moment, Light debates between ignoring the pink, flowered note; flicking it off the edge of his desk; and constructing several nuclear bombs, attaching equally revolting notes to them, and setting them off at his smitten classmates' doorsteps.
Another heart-encrusted projectile strikes him in the back of the ear; the clock on which Light has been focusing flashes red.
This group of besotted schoolgirls initially displayed their affection innocently enough. The crushes started last year, when deluded girls and boys finally relinquished their cootie based prejudices and began noticing the appeal of the opposite gender. Light, being by far the most intelligent, kind, attractive, and mature, was the natural choice for class idol.
Light acknowledges that he is remarkably intelligent, kind, attractive, and mature, not out of disdain or conceit, but rather out of an acumen that renders the world in a stark, easily judged and sorted black and white. This knowledge, however, does nothing to distill the resentment bubbling in his gut as he recalls how they bombard him with foolish declarations of love and croon sappy pop songs across the hallway and etch his name into bathroom stalls. The faintly flattering has transformed into disrespectful and the vaguely amusing into enraging.
How much would you love me if you knew of the murderous fantasies I've entertained?
The bell rings, shattering the dark daydream that etches angry lines into Light's brow, and Light notices with more than an inkling of surprise that he has gouged crescent moons into the surface of his desk.
For a brief moment, he envisions those same crescent moons biting into the pasty flesh of the girl who has just trailed her fingers along his back on her way out, and he feels her pert nose cracking under his knuckles and her loud larynx being crushed under his palms and her batting eyelashes being yanked out from their follicles—
You'd all be better off dead.
The thought is so real and vivid and true and terrible terrible terrible that it scares him. His once ferociously bent fingers curl into frightened fists, and his stomach twists with a terrible wrench, and his appendages are so weak that his textbook slips from his hands when he tries to pick it up and his knees buckle when he tries to stand and his elbow buckles when he tries to catch himself on a table.
"Light-kun! Are you alright?"
Slender arms steady him and twine around his upper arm and a wave of all too familiar perfume alerts him to the fact that this small, fragile child is his admirer and just a moment ago he wanted to kill a girl like her and this very fact makes him nauseous.
But he must not alert anyone to the fact that he is anything other than a dizzy sixth grader, he must act normal, like everyone else, like all the other foolish but sane children in his class. "Yes, I'm alright, Keiko-chan."
The girl is delighted at the fact that he knows her name, if her slight intake of breath and sudden lack of strength is any indication. Light easily slips out of her slack grip and gives a polite smile. "Thank you very much. See you tomorrow, Keiko-chan."
"A-ah, goodbye Light-kun!" Her breath is light and intoxicated by his presence.
As Light exits through the bustling hallways, he feels eyes running up and down his body as millipedes, and dreads tomorrow's stares, which he knows will be even more invasive and plentiful after Keiko stammers to her friends about her exchange with the beloved Yagami Light.
It takes so much out of Light to act normal, and as he grows, it becomes both more natural and more strenuous. His practiced smiles and pleasantries come out with greater ease, and he has learned how to read others' expressions and fix his own to fit theirs. But with age also comes demons that lick at his heart and hiss into his ears and divulge, "They're worthless, those weaklings, those lemmings, those sheep, those pathetic, sniveling half-humans, and you're so much more, you are Yagami Light and you excel at everything because you are more than anything they could ever hope to be and they should serve you and idolize you and worship you and anyone who doesn't deserves to die," even as he smiles and bows and murmurs, "You're worthwhile, an angel, a beauty, a dear friend, a wonderful, glowing person, and I wish I could be more like you and I will help you with your homework and give you advice and say kind words and I hope you live a very, very long time."
It makes him so sick on the inside, far deeper than his stomach or his heart, it's a sickness that penetrates deep into his mind, not in a centralized, removable location, but spread evenly along every neuron, fizzing at every synapse, and Light doesn't know when it started to grow or if he even wants it to go away, but it scares him and delights him and makes him want to laugh and laugh and scream, "Kamisama, kamisama, kamisama!" and whether this is a plea for help or a declaration of pride, he cannot determine.
Light retches into the bushes.
What's happening to me?
Light has started carrying mints with him, just in case something like this happens, because it has been happening with startling frequency. So he wipes his mouth and sucks on three mints so strong that they burn his nose, and the pain is lovely because he imagines that the fumes spin their way up his nasal cavity into his brain and purify whatever dark, sticky masses reside in there.
With chemicals sharply spinning through his head, he adjusts his backpack on his slight shoulders and continues down side streets and back alleys to get to his house. He knows that on days like this, the slightest provocation without a teacher's sharp eagle eyes on the lookout could be terribly dangerous, so he has several alternate routes that he cycles through, all of which are free of the usual middle school traffic.
This is his most indirect route, and after half an hour of skirting garbage and shady, hooded men, Light emerges into the cheer and complacency of his neighborhood and is embraced by a mother who smells like chocolate chip cookies and adoration.
"Hello, Light-kun! Did you have a good day at school today?"
"Yes, mother! It was very good."
"Wonderful! What did you learn?"
"Oh, we learned a lot, just like always. It was very fun."
They run through the script every day, and instead of easing into the script, Light finds himself choking under its pressure, because he wants to scream and tear at his face and hair and clothes and cry, "No! I did not have a good day because it was torturous, oh, I listened to the teachers and caught so many errors, and corrected only some of them, and the students are so dull and inane and their antics are repulsive and, oh, mother dear, please, get me out of there, I can't take it a moment longer, I need something more stimulating, I need to get out of this stifling, grey box, everyone is blind and deaf and if I don't do something soon, I'll take advantage of their limitations and slaughter them all because it kills me to have to watch them and it's me or them and I love myself too much to choose them over me."
But Light doesn't do this.
He hugs his mother and waves to his sister and walks up the stairs and sits down at his desk and takes out his homework, because he has to be normal to survive, so he forces himself to let this mask of normalcy creep down over his face and across his arms and under his fingernails until he is utterly consumed and there is no chance of the real Yagami Light seeping out the edges.
Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.
They are lying in bed, spent, and L is writing letters of the Greek alphabet on Light's cheek.
"Epsilon," Light murmurs, and L remains intrigued by the way his accent colors the word. "Iota. Alpha." There is a moment of perfect still, warm blankets containing their rustles and overworked lungs suppressing their breaths, and then Light triumphantly whispers, "Truth."
And then there is another tickling of L's spider fingers against the curves of Light's smooth face, and in the middle of the word, L gets a bit too close to Light's mouth, and their breaths catch and the pits of their stomachs stir, but L keeps writing and Light keeps spelling out delta-iota-kappa-alpha-iota-omicron-sigma-upsilon-nu-eta and finally, victoriously, "Justice."
Then his brow wrinkles, and L's fingertips move to trace the furrows almost before they get the chance to form. He draws a question mark on Light's forehead.
The furrows deepen, and Light shrugs L's spindly arm away as he sits up. "Must everything come back to the Kira case?" The timbre of his voice has warped darkly, and his bare back is now turned towards his bedmate.
If it was midmorning and the sun was snaking its warm tendrils through the windows and they were both fully clothed, L would've responded differently. He would've carefully arranged his features into an innocent façade, and calmly denied ever making such an implication. But it is, in fact, midnight and frigid gales are hammering at the windowpanes and, except for the covers, they are both stark naked.
"I apologize," L therefore mutters instead. "I didn't intend—"
"Of course you didn't intend," Light snaps scornfully, and L's mouth tightens into a hard line at being cut off. "Someone with your shockingly complete and utter ignorance of social graces—" Light drags his fingers roughly through his auburn locks, which are disconcertingly unkempt, and then clutches a clump in each hand with wild abandon. His mask has been peeling at the edges ever since the handcuffs snapped around his wrist, and it is now at that absolutely infuriating stage, half on and half off, and every so often he has the overwhelming urge to tear it away completely.
"Don't pull out your hair," L chides softly, carefully disentangling Light's hair from his death grip. "You'll be upset in the morning when you discover a bald spot."
"Don't change the subject," Light growls through his teeth, but L knows that a change of subject is just what the young man needs, so he continues unabated.
"Light-kun looks a bit tired. Perhaps his pajamas are getting in the way of him sleeping," L speculates absently as he arranges his companion's hair into its proper position. "A possible solution could be spending the nights unclothed more often."
Light snorts. "You're a shameless pervert, aren't you?"
L doesn't seem bothered by this accusation. "True as that may be, I'm also concerned for your health and don't want to see you sleep deprived."
"Don't act like you don't have any role in my sleep deprivation." Light may sound irritated and ready to strangle L with the bed sheets, but he is also starting to face L directly, which is a good sign. And gives L a better view, besides. "You spend all night pestering me," he continues to complain, "stealing the covers and kicking me in your sleep. And when you're awake, you rustle the sheets and leave crumbs and arrange your pillows incessantly and turn on your laptop when you think I'm not looking and—my God, it's a miracle I get any sleep at all with the way I'm constantly being—"
"Sodomized?" L interjects quite unhelpfully.
Light is so shocked by L's outrageous bluntness that he can do nothing but stare at the straight-faced detective. Then the corner of his lip begins to twitch until intermittent chuckles are spilling from his grinning mouth, and then he has fallen back into a cloud of pillows and is practically roaring with laugher that has been bottled up for several months.
L doesn't think he was quite that amusing, and he is mildly worried about Watari coming in to investigate and finding the head detective and the prime suspect in such a state of undress. But mostly, he is absolutely enthralled by the carefree way Light's eyes crinkle and his shoulders shake and his face absolutely glows with a radiance that makes his given name quite suitable.
"Oh ho," Light chortles, "don't forget that you'rethe one being sodomized just as often, or I'll have to make you remember."
L reveals a toothy grin. "Is that a promise?"
Light has that devilish glint in his eyes that is absolutely impossible to resist, so L doesn't bother trying. Instead, he clambers onto Light's eager form, and within minutes, Watari and pajamas and the Greek alphabet are just about the last things on this mind. Light does end up having to jog L's memory, but that's alright because L has already had his turn twice tonight.
An hour later, L has passed out and Light is lazily writing letters of the Greek alphabet on his back. He is just conscious enough to note that, yes, the detective is indeed asleep and not simply faking, and, yes, he does remember his language classes well enough.
Agápe. Philia. Éros. Storge.
Light finally falls into a deep slumber, just as a startled shiver rolls down L's back, because at least some part of L is never fully unconscious. They both wonder if either of them will remember this in the morning.
Neither of them notices a pale mask lying mournfully on the floor.
Light is idly musing about the wonders of the human mind, capable of such feats that one would never guess that it is nothing more than a wrinkled grey mass of a hundred billion nerve cells firing at two hundred fifty miles an hour, and then he hears it.
Good evening, Light-kun.
The best thing to do when the voice returns is ignore it and deny that his mental health is anything but flawless, so Light continues persistently with this train of thought as if he isn't aware that someone has blown apart the incoming tracks with several tons of dynamite.
On the contrary, I would say these characteristics of the brain are incredible in themselves.
Light wonders whether his own nerve signals zip along at three hundred miles an hour and if that is the sole reason for his brilliance and perfection and divinity and—
Branches are merely scraping against the side of the house, but they might as well have been a raven rapping at his chamber door for how terrified Light is by the sound.
Feeling a bit megalomaniac today, aren't we?
Light doesn't believe in ghosts.
Ha ha ha ha…
But now his fingers are shaking violently and the bed sheets are constricting tighter and tighter and tighter around his body, because he cannot for the life of him think of a noise occurring in nature that is so similar to the rarity that is L's laugh.
I suppose it's even rarer now that I'm dead.
The covers are yanked into an impenetrable cocoon around his body, so Light has difficulty convincing himself that a particularly chilly draft is responsible for the spider fingers careening along his spine.
Do you remember what today is?
The fingers are playing at the edge of Light's mask, sealed on tighter than ever before, but the adhesive seems to melt away at their icy caresses.
Light's diaphragm seems to be frozen into immobility as the fingers begin to trace chi-rho-omicron-nu-iota-alpha on his exposed skin.
I always remember.
And relentlessly they continue pi-omicron-lambda-lambda-alpha and oh, no, please—
Oh, dear God.
Are you afraid to die?
But Light doesn't believe in God, so he isn't quite sure to whom he is directing these desperate, choked, whispered pleas.
Happy 24th, Light-kun.
The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.