Authors' Note: I apologize for the glacial update rate - Real Life is a harsh mistress. I'd hoped that we'd be up to Christmas in the story in time for it to be posted by Christmas this year, but I don't think that we have time. Very sorry. -_-; But thank you to everyone who's favorited, reviewed, and is reading! It makes our day every time we get a notification to that effect.
The title for this chapter is from the song Blinding by Florence + The Machine (an absolute favorite song with us; highly recommended).
Furious Angels I: Nameless Here Forevermore
Chapter 10: Stitching Up The Circuit Boards
L took particular care in arranging the scarf about his throat in the morning, but by the time they came downstairs, Sayu had (mercifully) already left for school. Sachiko appeared to be enjoying a quiet morning in with her husband, but Soichiro seemed to be a little uncomfortable - clearly he couldn't decide if he should have left to report to work, or to consider himself to be on duty, as he was waiting to drive L and Light back to headquarters after breakfast. Light waved off his mother's offer of anything more elaborate than tea and proceeded to introduce L to condensed milk on toast - it seemed unbelievable to both of them that L hadn't tried it already, and it went over quite well.
It was fully mid-morning by the time they arrived back at headquarters, but no one seemed to mind. Yagami Soichiro settled in to work as soon as they arrived, taking up a stack of files, but L barely stopped to greet the others, instead (at a nod from Weddy) proceeding almost directly up the stairs. "I'll be in the server room."
Despite the fact that they were still supposed to remain in pairs, he didn't seem to care if Light followed or not, and didn't wait for him to keep up. They walked together at a quick clip, Light trailing a pace behind and scowling at L's brusqueness, and neither of them spoke. Light wondered if L merely meant to inspect the site of Rem's demise more closely – but this time, when L keyed in the security code to open the doors to the server room, the rush of cold, sterile air that hit them carried with it the sound of half-muffled techno music.
A head of slightly mussed, lank auburn hair came up between the server banks, accompanied by a raised hand in a fingerless glove. As he followed L into the chilly room, Light could see that the boy – no more than fourteen or fifteen years old, as pale as L, dressed in ragged jeans and a neon green and black hoodie – was seated on the floor, surrounded by a collection of electronics: two laptops, a separate hard drive, at least half a dozen memory sticks, and an original GameBoy, as well as the various tools necessary to access the servers' guts. He was also wearing heavy-framed glasses, and the techno beat grew louder as he slipped large headphones down to hang around his neck, presumably so as to converse more easily.
"Hey," L called back, also in English, completely unphased and approaching carefully to avoid stepping on any of the components scattered across the floor.
"It's gonna take some time to recover the files," the redhead said, exchanging the screwdriver in his hand for the GameBoy and doing something with it that resulted in a tinny victory theme, "but I think I can get 'em all back for ya." He grinned, and only then bothered to actually look up, and blinked in mild surprise as he saw Light. The glasses, as it turned out, seemed to be slightly shaded, and magnified his eyes strangely. "Oh, hey."
It was all Light could do to force a polite smile and a nod of greeting. What was L thinking, letting some kid have access to the entire database, much less expecting him to restore it?
"Good to hear. You gonna want lunch?"
"Weddy said she'd bring me a bento," the boy said cheerfully. "I should have this set up to run by dinner though. Wanna go eat somewhere, find an arcade...?"
"Sure." L paused, frowning slightly, as though he couldn't quite figure out why he'd just agreed so readily. He shook his head. "Anyway. It's Ryuuzaki here."
The boy looked up from what he was doing, his expression skeptical. "Really?"
L's tone was flat. "Really. And this is Light -"
"Right-oh," the redhead grinned, speaking in a distinctly faux British accent, far thicker than he'd been using.
"So what name are you using at the moment?" L asked as his eyes narrowed.
"At the moment?" The boy shrugged like he hadn't really thought too much about it. Then he smirked, bending over his work again. "Master Chief."
"Really." At least it wasn't the worst choice. "Come down to the control center when you're ready, all right?"
"Will do." The teenager waved, but he already seemed absorbed in what he was doing again, cradling a hard drive in his lap and looking up to type something on a laptop with one hand.
L turned and exited the room, glancing back just outside to see that Light was following him. "What? He's good," the detective said in response to Light's skeptical expression as the door closed. "You remember the Helper Elf hack with the supersonic blip representing Santa's sleigh on radar in multiple countries? That was him."
"Well, actually, yes…" Light frowned; he remembered, vaguely, watching a news piece about the incident - the radar blips had even been traveling at an appropriate velocity. "But Ryuuzaki, that was years ago. I don't think I was older than eleven when it happened, and he's Sayu's age!"
Of course, Light thought, if the redhead had been hacking into multinational defense systems at age seven, then it was no wonder that the world's greatest detective had him on call; perhaps he would be able to recover the lost data after all. Light supposed he ought to take measures to find out the boy's name in case he became a problem – but that would involve calling Misa again, and for the moment, Light felt he had enough to worry about. He'd have to mention it on the date he'd scheduled with Misa for the next evening.
At some point, Light decided, he was going to have to ask L why there seemed to be such a marked trade-off of fashion sense for intelligence among his associates, although at least Weddy and Aiber understood the value of dry-cleaning. Being the only genius he knew of who wasn't also eccentric, Light was beginning to feel almost… abnormal.
Some hours later, while most of the task force was keeping busy by scouring the media for new information (except for Matsuda and Weddy, who were rather obviously watching Sakura TV purely for its debatable entertainment value), they were interrupted by a multi-tonal fanfare that came blaring out of every set of speakers in the room. Light belatedly recognized it as the victory theme from the Final Fantasy video game series.
Moments later, the auburn kid came strutting in, grinning broadly and flashing a v-for-victory sign with the hand not occupied by his GameBoy. Aiber gave him a high-five as he passed.
"Hey, guys," the boy said, speaking fluent Japanese now. "Hey, Weddy. So, I've got everything up and running…" Tapering off as he shoved his GameBoy into a pocket and registered the stares he was getting from most of the task force, he turned a long-suffering look on L. "You didn't tell them I was here, did you?"
"No, he didn't," Light supplied, glaring sidelong at the detective. Though he was privately relieved that, this time at least, he hadn't been the last person told about a new development, it irked him that Weddy and Aiber apparently already knew the newcomer.
"Neither did you," L pointed out without glancing at Light, poking at his lower lip with one finger as he scrolled through a document on his laptop.
"Don't take it personally, Matt." Aiber, sitting with his feet up on the desk, flicked his newspaper (he was reading the one in Italian now, having finished the French, Polish, and English-language papers earlier that afternoon) in a way that was probably meant to be interpreted as a shrug. "He didn't give us a proper formal introduction either."
"Well, no offense, but I'm a lot more important than you," Matt – no longer merely Master Chief – quipped back, adding, "but I guess that's just how it goes, if even a lovely lady like Miss Weddy gets this treatment."
Light and Weddy both rolled their eyes.
"Far be it from me to fail in my duties as host." L's voice dripped with sarcasm. He closed his laptop, turning his chair away from the desk and hopping out of it. "Everyone, this is -"
"- Matt, my computer specialist." L had gestured with one hand, and now jammed it roughly into his jeans pocket as his other was, a visible signal of his discomfort with the social situation despite his calm voice. "Who has just coded and begun to run a program to recover the case's deleted data from the servers, correct?"
"Correctamundo," Matt said, easily giving up on his chosen alias and apparently unphased by the use of a common name, in spite of undoubtedly being aware of some of the particulars of the case. "Hard part was building the cpu to run it. If anybody goes up to the server room, be careful, it's kind of jury-rigged right now and there's some liquid nitrogen -"
"I think it's safely your domain for the moment," L assured him. "Ah. Weddy, I don't suppose you -"
L stopped short, and blinked, and for just a moment looked entirely bewildered. "No?"
Matt seemed to catch on to something, glancing rapidly between the two. "No worries!" he exclaimed, trotting over to stand next to L. "I should experience the local color, right? That includes public transit. Lead the way. I looked up some arcades -"
"Just a moment!" Soichiro was on his feet, glowering. "You mean to tell us that -"
"The program will have to run at least overnight, probably on into the day tomorrow," L announced calmly, then addressed the teenager. "Unless that estimate has changed?"
"Nope, spot on. Can we go?" Matt looked like he was going to make a comment involving age-related discrimination at any moment.
"So, I should think it's all right to take an early evening," L concluded rather quickly. He gestured to the stack of files that the other task force members had been going over. "Those won't be necessary once the database is recovered."
"Ryuuzaki," Soichiro began sternly again. "I don't believe that it's appropriate right now to-"
"To what?" L seemed to be trying to huddle into his pockets and stare down his elder at the same time. "Keep my word? I did say I'd take him out. Part of the price for services rendered." But he seemed a little helpless as he looked over toward Light. "Light-kun...?"
"Dad, it's fine, I'm going with them." Light waved off his father's concerns with a good-natured smile. "There's really nothing that any of us can do until the database is restored or it's determined that the information is beyond recovery," he added, in an attempt to placate the rest of the task force. None of them seemed willing to believe that a teenager could recover data that was lost to them; Light was somewhat inclined to agree with them, but it occurred to him that, when he'd first expressed an interest in assisting the police with a case, no one had believed he was capable, either, purely because of his age. He felt a sudden, not entirely welcome kinship with Matt. "Really. Even if it doesn't work out, we'd only be behind a few hours in going through the hardcopy files anyway."
Soichiro looked like he wanted to argue, but – faced with both his son and the man who was essentially his superior (and Matt), and the rest of the team looking like they wanted to remain uninvolved – he only grumbled something about "short notice" and nodded his acceptance.
"I'll call you if we stay out late," Light offered by way of compromise. He waved to his father as he turned to follow L and Matt out into the hall, pulling his blazer from the back of a nearby chair, and noticed as he did that Weddy and Aiber were exchanging meaningful looks.
Once they were out in the hall, Light said, "I think my father's worried about you, Ryuuzaki."
"I think he doesn't like being accountable to someone half his age," Matt put in cheerfully, "but yeah, you're probably right." Light wondered how the kid had managed to make a potentially insulting statement sound so positively benign.
"This is less of a problem when I work by proxy," L grumbled.
It seemed a miracle that they were able to get Matt out of the arcade he'd chosen within four hours, but the sheer number of games he'd been interested in had, at least, kept him from becoming too absorbed in any one game for long. Finally, however, he agreed to leave the noisy, dark room punctuated by glowing screens and clusters of neon, in favor of a far more brightly lit (and relatively quiet) dessert café.
Light, for his part, had found the arcade visit strangely uncomfortable – he did enjoy video games from time to time, and even had a console at home (though it had been Ryuuk that used it last), but the thick, warm air inside the arcade seemed stifling. He spent most of the duration of their visit feeling distinctly out-of-place, like he was revisiting some long-lost part of his childhood. Like he'd lost something of the person he had been only a year or so ago.
The dessert café was one Light remembered from Sayu's thirteenth birthday; it served a variety of sweets at all hours, but also offered sandwiches and steamed dishes for those who wanted a meal, and so made an excellent compromise. Matt had been interested in the dessert café phenomenon as well, or so he'd claimed – though he settled in with his game almost as soon as they were seated, and was so engrossed that he didn't even notice the food arriving.
The waitress seemed tired - it was the end of the day, for her - and gave L a skeptical look for the way he was sitting (new sneakers left under his chair, feet on the seat despite it hurting a little, ends of the still-worn scarf tucked behind him) as she set their plates on the table, but she made no comment.
Matt didn't look up from his Game Boy even when L pushed one of the two plates of dumplings he'd ordered into his field of view. "Oh, thanks man," he said, without diverting attention from his game.
L stared, expression fairly impassive but for a slight lowering of his eyelids. Without looking, he picked at one of the desserts he'd selected - a piece of layered lemon cake. "Matt," he said with an air of great patience.
There was no sound, for a moment, but the quiet beeping of the Game Boy.
The game played the unmistakable tones of failure. The teenager wrinkled his nose. "Aww..."
"Matt." L's tone had become decidedly clipped.
"What?" Finally looking up, Matt blinked, as though seeing the dumplings for the first time. "Oh, hey!"
L rested his free hand on his knee, his grip the only visible sign of any annoyance. Matt focused on wolfing down his dumplings (using his fingers, and ignoring the dipping sauce) with his eyes returned to the Game Boy screen.
The detective glanced at Light, but the momentary eye contact fell short of asking for help. "I only wanted to confirm that our arrangement is still in place," L said as sternly as he could manage. "Any information you've come by regarding the case will remain confidential."
"Duh." Matt's gaze remained firmly on his Game Boy. "Did have one question, though. For him." He looked up again through his tinted glasses, this time at Light. "Your sister have a boyfriend?"
Light had finished his own dumplings, and was beginning to pick at the fruit salad he'd ordered – but the redhead's casual question nearly made him drop his fork.
"How do you—" he began, but quickly realized that Matt surely had access to the profiles of everyone involved with the Kira case, which would include the suspects and their families. He leveled a sour look at Matt across the table. "My sister isn't old enough to be dating anyone."
"Sure she is." Matt's amicable smile made Light want to kick him under the table. "She's fourteen, right? And the age of consent in Japan is thirteen, so…"
"Seventeen. Prefectural and municipal laws take precedence."
"That law's for interactions between adults and minors."
Light's eyes narrowed. He wasn't entirely surprised that such an obnoxious foreigner had investigated said law. "She's still to young to be dating anyone."
"I'm younger than she is."
"Your parents are obviously more permissive than mine."
"I don't have parents." Matt grinned like Light had walked into a trap.
Light was unphased. "I never would have suspected. You dress like that all the time, then?"
The redhead snorted. "Nice try. Not my fault I'm light-sensitive. No pun intended. I'm looking into a better solution, for your information." He tapped the shaded glasses with his middle finger.
"I was talking about the overall look." Light gestured casually; the boy had never removed the headphones or hoodie, and in the warm illumination of the café, it was clear that his clothes were a bit the worse for wear. "Sayu appreciates a little more care in one's appearance. Besides, our parents would never approve of her dating a foreigner at her age. A relationship would accomplish nothing."
The teenager's grin took on a slightly smug edge as he pushed his first emptied plate toward the middle of the table and dragged the second closer. "Well, they'll have to come to terms with that kind of thing eventually, won't they?"
"Matt." L glared at the boy with an expression usually reserved for Matsuda.
"What makes you say that?" Light took a bite from his fruit salad with an affected air of disinterest, gaze downcast. The Polite Conversation phase of the interaction seemed to be nearing its end. "Sayu isn't interested in dating right now, anyway. She needs to focus on her classes."
Through some miracle, the boy picked up on the reactions and suddenly went quite vague in his response. "Oh, you know, just... the state of the world..." He swallowed, accepting the deflection. "She really seems to focus on potential relationships more than classes. Having a boyfriend might help her focus better." Obviously it was an entirely logical conclusion.
"She's a teenage girl. Of course she's interested in potential relationships." Light stabbed with his fork at a piece of mandarin orange in his fruit salad with unusual precision. "But you know, everything else aside, you'd be going up against Ryuuga Hideki, the idol. I don't think there's any shame in admitting you're outclassed there." He finally looked up at his opponent again, smirking. From the angle of his head, the expression was particularly disturbing.
It was Matt's turn to be unimpressed. "Yeah, well, you might have a point there. Might be good to let her develop a few more years anyway."
L closed his eyes and lowered his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Light scowled as though he'd a scathing response on the tip of his tongue, but only took another bite of fruit, chewing in a distinctly aggressive manner. "Maybe so. Personally, I've found that women don't really mature until after high school, and that's if you're lucky. What about you? Do you have any siblings?" His voice was flat despite the feigned interest in continuing the conversation.
"Oh, tons. Wait... you're not pissed at me for asking, are you?" Matt grinned, undaunted. "Dude, lighten up, it's a compliment. Your sister's cute. It'd be more insulting if I didn't ask." He swallowed half a dumpling in one bite, apparently without chewing. "You have a girlfriend, you get it, right?"
L sighed with an unmistakable air of begging the discussion to end, and took several unusually large bites from his cake in rapid succession.
"Yeah, I suppose..." Light seemed suspicious of the teenager making any sense whatsoever. "I guess I'm just too traditional. From what I understand, a lot of the English-speaking world has a slightly different stance on relationships between minors than we do here in Japan. Misa's really the first serious girlfriend I've ever had."
Matt snorted. "Seriously? Jeez that's depressing, given how much you seem to avoid her."
L finished his cake, looking morose.
Light smiled thinly. "On the contrary, I don't know what I'd do without her."
"Oh, I don't mean -"
L's fork rattled on his empty plate as he set it down. "Matt."
"- Uh, professionally. I mean she's got a nice rack but other than that..."
Light's jaw clenched and he set his fork down as well, his right hand visibly twitching. "Well, you haven't met her yet, have you? Just wait until you do - I'm sure you'll change your mind."
"Oh, I probably won't get to, sorry to say." Apparently oblivious to Light's reaction, Matt finished another dumpling. "Out of here soon as the database is back up." He turned to L, apparently not wanting him to feel left out of the sparkling conversation. "Hey, think you can get Weddy to wear that catsuit of hers before I go? I want pictures."
"Your taste in women is life-endangering," L sighed, picking up a piece of mochi between thumb and forefinger.
"Oh, come on, you can't tell me you haven't looked." The boy outright leered, but on his gawky, bespectacled form, it came out looking rather comical.
L was suitably unimpressed. "I fail to understand the attraction."
"Seriously? Dude how have you not noticed that her tits are phenomenal."
"I think perhaps I simply do not share your fixation."
"Oh, come on, man!" Matt made a grabbing motion with both hands, palms upward, and jerked his head toward Light. "He can back me up, right? Bet he can't keep his hands off his girlfriend's."
Light simply stared at the display, his expression curiously similar to L's. "I'm not dating Misa just for her bust, you know. I appreciate her devotion. She's been very understanding and patient with this whole mess."
"Wait, you're saying you never even copped a feel?" The redhead gave Light an incredulous stare before shaking his head. "Jeez, you guys are both hopeless. I mean, how can you not want to? They're like..." He grabbed a piece of mochi from L's plate. "Like this, kind of soft and velvety and just squishy enough -"
Watching Matt, L casually bit the piece of mochi in his fingers in half.
Matt stared at him open-mouthed for a moment before finally giving up. "Harsh. You guys are no fun." He managed silence while he finished his second plate of dumplings and drained most of his bubble tea (and ate his stolen piece of mochi), but was the first to stand when L and Light finished their food as well - though how he noticed was beyond either of them, considering that his eyes had returned to his game and remained there the entire time. "Lemme hit the bathroom and then we can get you two back in your Pokéballs," he said, stretching his arms above his head. "You really gotta lighten up, guys."
A few moments after the boy left the table, L sighed, wincing a little as he pushed back and lowered his feet to his sneakers - his position had been more for Matt's benefit than his own. "He's useful, but I'll be impressed if he survives his adolescence."
A few hours into the night, Light woke, and realized that it was L's voice and movements that had roused him. L came awake almost instantly when Light shook him, but said nothing - only lay still for a moment until his body calmed, then turned on his side, his back to Light, to return to sleep.
L woke early. He was crouched with his laptop at the desk when Light awoke, already on his third package of wrapped cupcakes. He'd tried making tea, but grimaced as he sipped - it had over-steeped and no amount of sugar could take the edge from it. He seemed sullen, and barely spoke to Light, who did not press for a reason.
True to Matt's word, the database was recovered by mid-morning; by mid-afternoon the server room was restored to its previous state, for the most part, and Matt himself had disappeared. He was on his way to the airport by the time Misa appeared on the front steps.
In the control room, it was Matsuda that responded to the chime of the front door's intercom. "Oh hey, it's Misa-Misa! We haven't seen her for a while!"
"Days," L said dryly, looking up from his monitor, where he was making a show of reviewing data. He glanced at Light. "I suppose you should go see her."
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