Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note.
A/N: Prepare for sickening sweetness!
There was a knock on my door, and from the particular soft, even pattern I knew it was Lawliet, one of my most promising students.
"Come in," I told him calmly, covering up how nervous I actually was. L was brilliant, but he was chronically awkward and most of the time he didn't knock. I was afraid of what such a sudden observance of social norms might imply.
One look at him told me I was right. He was slumped over more than normal as he padded silently into the room, the bags under his eyes lightened slightly by an unfamiliar red ring. He didn't meet my eye, simply shoving his hands deep into his pocket and memorizing the complex pattern of the carpet. I knew that, if I asked him, he would be able to draw it later despite its precarious, interlaced Tibetan knot pattern. And all it would have taken was a preliminary glance.
Turning off the monitor of my computer, I turned my chair around to face him. I indicated the chair opposite my desk. "Sit, if you wish."
He didn't move for a long moment, until finally he seemed to decide that he would collapse if he didn't sit down in the near future. Exhaustedly, he dragged himself to the chair and sank into its deep cushion, not even retaining the energy to curl himself up into his normal posture. Something must really be wrong.
"Are you... well, Lawliet?"
He nodded slightly.
He certainly didn't look well. But I supposed that, as usual (and as I had taught him to), he would take my words literally and answer that question specifically. So really I had only succeeded in confirming that he was not physically ill.
"Would you tell me what happened?"
He nodded again, lowering himself a little more into his seat, and worked up the energy to form a decent sentence. Finally, he said, "I regret that I must appear to you in this state, Mr. Wammy."
I waved that away. "Your self-control is almost disturbing, especially for someone as young as you. I've lost track; are you twelve or thirteen now, Lawliet?"
"Twelve, sir." I could detect what might have been a hint of pride in his voice.
"Twelve," I repeated fondly. My, how time could fly. I had already known this child for seven years. I shook my head a bit, smiling, and reminded him, "You were going to tell me why you appear to be so sad."
"I, I believe the phrase I want is, 'got dumped,'" he mumbled.
I didn't keep track of who was dating whom within my establishment, but I was more than aware that there was dating going on, so I nodded supportively. "I see. I'm sorry to hear that, Lawliet," I said gently.
"Thank you," he acknowledged, "but I am less concerned about the severance of the relationship than I am about what was said during the severing."
The child spoke like a thesaurus. My fault, of course. "What did she say?"
Lawliet paused. "Well he..." he started, then glanced up at me quickly. When I didn't rise to my feet, storm over to him, and toss him out of the building, he continued, "said that I was 'too much trouble.'"
"He said that I was difficult to deal with, impossible to have a conversation with, and demanding. He said something about feeling insecure and continued on about how I have apparently given him an inferiority complex. Also something about a lack of affection evident in my mannerisms, tone, and words. He asked if I even liked him."
"Well, did you like him?"
L shrugged a little. "I suppose. I found him... attractive. And I found that he was occasionally able to keep up with me in conversation, if not able to fully reciprocate with an intelligent response. I certainly liked him more than anyone else, having never met anyone else who can."
"And losing him made you feel sad?"
"More like..." he reached for the word in his overabundant vocabulary, "disappointed, I think."
You could always depend upon L to have an unusual reaction to a universally-experienced event. "Disappointed? In what way?"
"Besides yourself, he was the closest I've ever come to a person who could hold my attention."
"You'll find someone else," I assured him. "For all your genius, you are still a child. You have plenty of time."
"I do not agree, Mr. Wammy," he said sadly.
"About which part?" I replied softly. "That you'll find someone else or that you have plenty of time?"
The smile he gave me made my heart freeze over in my chest, because it perfectly clearly told me, 'both.'
But then the smile disappeared and I wondered if it had ever been there or if I was just a paranoid old man. "Forgive me," he said, "for being pretentious in assuming that there is no one up to my level who could love me and interest me, but that is truly how I feel. And if there is... what are the odds that I could ever meet that person if I cannot find such a person at an institution for people like me?"
I had to have been imagining it. I knew I was biased because of my desire for him to not die young (he was always, always right but this time he mustn't be), but... it had to have been my imagination. Shaking my head to clear it and operating under the assumption that I was hallucinating because it was better than the alternative, I said, "You'd be surprised. I speak from experience. Love, in some way, has a habit of happening to everyone at some point, whether they wish for it or not." I was the perfect example of that, although he didn't and wouldn't ever know it. That is the nature of the mentor/student relationship- I will know him, but he will never know me. And he will especially never know about my relationship with the man I'd loved for thirty-five years- the man who did administrative duties for the orphanage- when for the thirty years of my life before that I had intended to never fall in love.
Then a brilliant idea popped into my head. "Give me your left hand, please."
Assuming that I had a point which I would reveal in the immediate future, he obediently put his left hand into my outstretched palm. I turned his hand about, looking closely at his little finger and nodding as if confirming something.
"Yes, I am correct," I said, doing my best to sound satisfied, returning to him his hand and leaning back in my chair.
"May I ask, Mr. Wammy, if there is a method to this particular manifestation of your madness?"
I would have been insulted if it weren't completely true and if I couldn't hear the undertones of adoration in his voice. Instead, I simply replied, "I found it."
"Your red string."
He stared at me for a moment. "Do you mean to tell me that you just checked my pinkie finger for the Japanese myth of the red string connecting two people who are destined to fall in love?"
"And you mean to further tell me that you have successfully located one?"
"Have you lost your mind?" he demanded of me, sitting up a little, managing to bring one leg to him.
"Quite possibly," I conceded, "but I insist upon this one. There is a red string on your finger and it is tied on the other end to someone else's finger. And that person will be the one for you."
"I am perfectly content in myself, Mr. Wammy," he assured me in a way that was almost funny coming from such a small creature, but not funny because of how certain he sounded. "I just thought it would be... nice... to find an equal someday. I will be over this within the hour."
And with that, he rose gracefully to his feet and slumped away.
If not for my pseudo-photographic memory, I doubt that I would have even remembered that conversation when I held the hand of the one I loved, the handcuffs between us like a red string of fate, jingling when we moved to drive us both insane.
But somehow I did remember, at that moment, and I looked over at him where he tried to figure out how, with his back propped against the headboard of our bed, to write without letting go of me. He, like myself, was ambidextrous, so it didn't take him long to decide to just shift the pen to his right, unheld hand. He laughed a little when he tried to physically make the switch and accidentally dropped it over my side of the bed.
I leaned over and plucked it up for him between my thumb and finger, handing it back to him. I didn't want to let go, either. His hand was warm and strong in mine and I intended to continue the contact for as long as possible. Somehow, hand-holding maintained a novelty to me that even intercourse did not. Not that I did not immensely enjoy sleeping with someone like Light.
He gave me a small smile that addled my brain as thanks for fetching the pen for him, and then continued writing. What he was writing, I was unsure, but I assumed that it was related to the Kira case because he seemed, lately, to be just as desperate to solve it as I. Perhaps he was starting to sense that it could only be him.
It would, naturally, be my luck that the one I loved was Kira. After all, who else was my equal? Would I love him if he had never been the brilliant mass-murderer? And would I love him even if he still was?
I disregarded that thought because, in the end, it didn't matter. I loved the creature next to me, and it was beyond either of our warped senses of justice, and beyond either of our stances on the blacks, whites, and greys of good and evil. At this point, it was irreversible anyway, I knew. He could kill me as Kira, or I could turn him in as Kira, or we could catch another Kira entirely and continue our lives, together, and any of those things would be okay. I knew I had passed the point of no return- I would love him, now, no matter what, forever, even if he killed me, even if he were dead.
I watched the tiny shifts of his facial expressions as he wrote. He was so focused that, for a moment, he did not notice that I had lifted up the hand I held and was turning it around in front of my face as if it were a vital piece of evidence. Our fingers were still intertwined.
Finally, he noticed. "What are you doing?" As usual when he asked me that question, he sounded puzzled, annoyed, and amused. I couldn't possibly love him more, but that familiar tone almost succeeded in making me.
"Nothing, Light-kun. It's just that someone once told me I'd meet someone like you."
He followed my gaze to his fingers, frowned for a moment, then didn't raise his face. "Are you... seriously looking for a red string?" he said quietly. No one else could read me like that, and vice-versa. I knew that if I could see his eyes they would be soft and big. "Ryuuzaki, you know that's nonsense, right?"
"You do not seem to believe that," I pointed out.
"I'm Japanese. I grew up with that myth being everywhere. I can't really help but believe it on some level..."
"Where do you suppose the other end of yours is tied, then?" I asked softly.
He looked away in a futile attempt to hide his expression, and mumbled, "I don't have to suppose, idiot."
Gently, as if he were the most precious thing in the world to me (which he would never fully understand he was), I squeezed his hand. Firm, sure, he squeezed mine back, and I knew that the red string between us must have been glowing bright.