I present to you, the second to last chapter! *confetti and glitter everywhere* And I actually met my deadline. Bam.
Anyway, I went to work on the last bit of this like a boss some of yesterday - most of my time consisted of Mario Kart-ing and revelling in gifts in general - and most of today. There will be another chapter, the epilogue, in due time. I'll have some important parting words in that and whatnot.
All questions answered in here. Author's note at the bottom. There will be some time skips, but they're plainly labeled.
I made a January ficmix that you can listen to as well. Check my profile for the link if you'd like to listen; it'll be there soon-ish.
I don't own Death Note.
First-Foot Day and New Year's
December 29, 12:40 AM
Without saying a word in response, the weary man went to grab a forgotten chair in the corner. It was a simple folding chair made of steel and hadn't been painted any color in particular. The glow of monitors still shutting down remained, reflecting off of the detective's face and painting it a light blue. He stayed silent for a long moment, legs drawn back to his chest and his chin on his knees. Watari did not interrupt L as he sat there in thought, eyes far-off. One of his pale wrists was an angry red color.
The hum of the computers ended as the last one had finally shut down. All that was left was silence.
L's dark eyes lifted back up to meet Watari. There was barely enough light left in the room, but he certainly felt the weight of that gaze. He calmly waited for the detective to break the silence.
L said tonelessly into the quiet, "We will have a confession from Kira by the New Year."
Watari, after a short moment, brought his arms to rest on his own chair's armrests. "I imagine I will be a central player in this scheme. But, are you certain that Light will not take notice of your absence soon? It could raise suspicion and affect your plan adversely…."
"No," L replied swiftly. "He will not notice."
"How, may I ask, do you know this?"
"He is under a mild sedative. I slipped it to him shortly before retiring for the night. He will not awaken for several hours and be unable to notice any lasting effects."
L felt a twinge of something nasty in the pit of his stomach. His face, however, did not give anything away. Watari still waited with a placid demeanor for him to elaborate. On larger cases, it was always this way. His final, decisive move would be explained in detail to Watari in what was ultimately a business-like manner. They would sit in silence and L would go about talking languidly the next moves on the board and Watari would listen. There were no dramatic visual aids, raised voices, or gesticulations of any sort. They only sat and spoke softly, as if at a funeral reception. Just L and Watari.
"As for Kira…though I have told Light and the task force otherwise, I am still certain that Miss Amane is the second Kira. We will focus on this first, but everything we speak of from this moment must be kept in absolute secrecy. I will not talk about it again under any circumstances. That is, until everything has been set in motion."
Watari shifted in his seat ever so slightly. "How then will we proceed with Miss Amane, then?"
"Misa Amane…will have surveillance cameras placed in her residence. It will be, in fact, very much like what was in the Yagami household." L's voice went on not unlike someone still wading through a dream. Detached but just barely there at all. He would read a newspaper article in a similar manner. "She has been invited to a rather long photo shoot the morning of the twenty-ninth quite some ways away from our present location, but not too far. In this time you will set up the camera equipment. It will be recording from all rooms as soon as possible and you will need to monitor those feeds the moment she returns. We are looking for one thing in particular to confirm her identity as the second Kira and to proceed to the next step."
Feeling that L expected a response, Watari said, "You're under the impression that she's in the possession of a Death Note?"
"I am absolutely sure of that fact. However, she will show us where it is. I imagine this will happen very quickly. The following day, in fact. You will arrange for Miss Amane to be invited to dinner with a famous film producer. This will buy you time to go where she has hidden her Death Note and produce a replica of it. You will leave the replica behind the following day, New Year's Eve, and bring the true one here. Please hide it somewhere that I would not find it."
L drew his legs closer, if that were at all possible.
"This will buy you an entire day to make sure that the copy is flawless. Moreover, there is a large segment of time for the switch to be made. Because, you see, Misa Amane will be invited to the floor I share with Light. She will participate in celebratory activities and undoubtedly be distracted by the prospect of being around him."
Watari's eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"What of Miss Amane's eyes?"
Seemingly unbothered, L went on, "Ah, yes. Her eyes. I was hoping you did not forget."
"If she still has those eyes, as you suspect she did, then she will know your name. This could prove to be –"
"Dangerous? The possibility of me being placed in danger is nearly zero percent. Also, I want her to know my name. That is why I'm inviting her over in the first place."
It took everything for a grimace not to make its way to Watari's face. Never had L been so bold as to give away something which was practically as vital as his life: his name. Every shred of his past had been erased to hide that piece of information, to shield him from those who sought to have him erased. Miss Amane would only serve to be even more of a liability.
L continued, "Assuredly, upon arriving back to her residence, she will write down my name in her notebook. She wants me to die. Or rather, she would have me die to please Kira, to please Light."
A soft and abrupt sigh found its way from his lips. It would have gone unnoticed with the whir of computers at work, processing data. His gaze shifted downward.
"Light is fully aware that he is still in suspicion. What will occur after Misa writes my name will be his final test. It's not to prove his identity of Kira. Like Misa, that fact is almost assured. My primary goal will be to witness his reaction as I die."
Watari fought to keep his voice from rising. L could hear the subdued distress even while staring past the tiles on the floor into nothing.
"As you die?"
"Yes. At least, that is how it will appear to Light. I will have on my person that evening a drug, a toxin made from the nectar of the rhododendron ponticum, to induce a state outwardly similar to death. Juliet-eqsue, if you will… I'll need you to acquire it and slip it into my underwear drawer." L ratted off his plans, still with that eerie sort of calm. He had barely moved a muscle since sitting as if he were but a statue. "I need you to send to my cell phone two text messages. One will be as soon as the Death Note is in view of the cameras. This will be done with your mobile number that is recognized on my phone. The second will be sent to me the second Misa Amane finishes writing my name on the paper. The second message arriving upon that time is crucial and must be recognized as a different contact on my phone. The contents of both of these messages are inconsequential, however. In fact, it would be best for me not to know what they contain beforehand."
L blinked, his face as blank as ever. The circles beneath his eyes were only more pronounced in the shadows they sat in. "As for Light's reaction to this event, I need it all to be recorded. I will only be able to observe so much as the drug kicks in. I will administer it as soon as I receive the second text. It goes into effect in under a minute, but longer than thirty seconds. It will appear as though I have finally received a heart-attack from Kira. This will be Light's only solution. If not, it will be verified. Immediately he could find suspicion in the messages, but there would be no clues in them. Moreover, the first message from your number would not coincide with the forty second rule of the notebooks. It would easily surpass that amount of time."
"So from what I gather…" Watari finally spoke again, having sorted through the information L had so easily rattled off, "you are certain Light is Kira still, and he would display some sort of reaction to give this away? I'm uncertain if he'd be foolish enough to do such a thing, and how he could confirm that your passing was due to Miss Amane's notebook . Much seems to be left to chance, L."
L did not shout. There was no anger in his voice, nor was there annoyance. His theories, when challenged, often bred a mild agitation in the detective.
If anything, there was perhaps just a twinge of dejection.
Watari saw before him for a brief flash a young, forlorn boy with wild charcoal hair.
"Light is not aware of the fact that there are cameras in our residence. I have told him that our floor does not for the sake of my safety. Even if he thinks otherwise, it is inconsequential. He will either mourn my passing or revel in it. I want to see into his eyes as he witnesses me slip away. I want to see if he feels any shred of guilt or remorse or…." L paused and frowned. "If he truly cannot feel poorly for any of what he has done, even for just a moment, then he is lost. I will not be able to do any more for him. I sincerely hope he can feel anything at all."
Watari asked, "And if he does?"
"If Light manages to feel any kind of remorse for what he has done, then he will get a second chance. However, I've gotten ahead of myself. I apologize."
Watari kept silent. He did not dare, nor could think of anything, to say. L looked as though he would at any moment curl even further into himself and never come back out. He held the weary eyes of a man with a weight on his shoulders for far too long a time.
A child, and yet a far-aged man. The perfect personification of an enigma.
"Shortly after I succumb to the toxin you will need to retrieve me, despite whatever state Light may be in. He may falsely mourn for me, or he may not; it could very well be sincere. In either case he will be reluctant to hand me over quite so easily. The toxin will wear off without an antidote. I should be able to recover fully in an hour. At most, two. Upon waking I want to view both the footage recorded from when I was administering the toxin and a live feed playing simultaneously. From these I will make my final decision."
L loosened his grip on his legs ever so slightly. His enormous black eyes lifted back up to meet Watari's gaze.
"Is there anything you wish to comment on or ask about? Otherwise, I will be returning to the bedroom. We will not meet again until I am watching that set of videos."
"There is, actually."
L blinked. Behind those eyes, Watari could see his mind processing and determining an explanation before any words had even gotten a chance to leave his mouth. The detective did not make any sound to encourage or discourage him to continue. He remained mute.
Watari's gaze didn't waver from L's penetrating stare.
"Why is Light Yagami worthy of a second chance?"
"I was wondering if you would ask that..." he said softly, almost to himself. "This entire last major effort, despite the incredibly low possibility of error, is still a wager. I do fear that Light has been putting on a tremendous show. It's entirely possible. However, what I fear perhaps even more is returning on New Year's to a grieving Light who would not forgive me.
"As for 'why'…. Well, it may sound incredibly selfish of me, but I can't seem to bring myself to consider handing him over to the authorities. He has a brilliant mind and it would be put to waste. Light is my first friend and –"
"L," Watari interjected softly, "you're not lying to me, that much I can tell. But, you're avoiding the centerpiece of your decision."
"…this is true." Nothing passed over his face.
He said not a word more, only staring back at Watari.
The elder gentleman sighed. "Very well. I did not plan on letting you know, but I have kept the cameras on your level on, despite your wishes."
There was not a single twitch of anything on the detective's face. He hid behind his blank expression like a security blanket.
"I love him."
December 31, 10:51 PM
Senses flooded over L with the paralyzing force of a waterfall. At once his lungs cried for air, as if he'd been drowning. They stung – it had been far too much air, too fast. It was all he could do to control his rapid breathing as he became aware of the terrible cold he felt. Ice water pumped through his veins and there was a thin film of sweat everywhere on his body. Wracked with shivers he curled into himself. Something told him that he was lying on a bed but there was no way to tell; there was darkness all around him. The horror of being in a casket flashed through his still-hazy thoughts. He groped in the nothing but failed to touch anything at all. There was no sound except his own shaking breaths.
He managed to push himself into a sitting position but his arms still wrapped securely around his legs.
And then a weight settled itself on his shoulders. He felt for whatever it was and felt the warm cloth of a blanket or quilt. All too eagerly he pulled it around his frame, desperate to shake off the chill of near-death. L could acutely feel the blanket's stitching and so he thought of Light. Perhaps he'd merely woken in the middle of the night and it was still pitch-black, then Light gave him a blanket. The stars wouldn't be glowing anymore but they could turn on Animal Planet again and…
L turned his head to look over his shoulder but mist was still in his eyes. He could faintly see the image of a man, but it wasn't Light. He could hear their voice. Watari.
"L, are you all right? Thank god you're awake…"
L attempted to respond to him but not even a hoarse whisper could pass his lips. His throat felt raw, as if he hadn't had anything to drink in days. But before he could scarcely register it a glass was brought to his lips and it seemed blessedly cool. He drank greedily. It tasted better than any tea or coffee.
He knew he'd been sitting and shivering for some time, but the cold began to dissipate and blobs of color floated in and out of view. He sat there, quiet, with his blanket wrapped tightly and wide eyes blinking constantly. The dark had never been so horrifying and he wanted to be rid of it at once.
There were more soft sounds around L. Watari walked some distance away, his shoes against the tile floor. He used a knife to cut something; the metal hit against a plate twice. The elderly man returned and set what L assumed to be a slice of cake close to where he sat, the fork sliding around with a brief scraping groan. Yet he did not touch it.
It happened without warning. Somewhere between knowing his lungs ached less and less and feeling his body draw in some feeble warmth he had suddenly realized why he woke up at an inscrutable hour in the dark with only Watari for company. Light thought he was dead. And so in a flash L threw to the side his blanket, feet on the ground, and scrambled for a chair in front of a wall of glowing screens. In his haste a foot brushed over a glob of cake icing and he left a few partial footprints on his way to a chair.
He gripped the edge of the table tightly to keep himself steady. Dizziness made the world spin.
"When…" he rasped, trying to find his voice, "when did I begin to feel the full effects of the drug?"
Watari responded at once.
"Approximately at twenty forty-six. It's currently twenty-two fifty-eight."
L brought a shaky hand from the table to rub his temple. Blurry images still floated and he tried to keep back thinking of what he thought he would see. And so it was a moment before he responded, "In that case, please divide up the screens into eight different groups. The first group will display the feed from all of the cameras on my floor from twenty forty-six to twenty-one six, the second from twenty-one six to twenty-one twenty-six, and so on in twenty minute intervals to the present time of twenty-two fifty-eight. The last group will be real time."
Watari's footsteps advanced toward him. The blanket and the plate of cake returned. He felt the weight of it settle on his shoulders once more. He decided to stare at the cake, which he could now perceive just barely as a soft yellow vanilla, until he could see the fine details of each crumb. L dreaded bringing his gaze up to the screen. No matter how much or how little Kira lived in Light anymore, nothing on the cameras could make him happy.
He drew the blanket tighter. Minutes passed, heavier than they should have been, and he lifted his eyes to the waiting screens. One finger pressed play.
Light slept now, but not as he usually did. When the older footage had run through L remained transfixed to the screens showing the live feed. Their bedroom was varying shades of green; the door stayed shut and so there was darkness, but he could still see Light. Light and the bear. He held it in his sleep with a sort of desperation, as if it would turn into smoke once he let it go. L had been held by Light like that before, the city lights not quite able to creep into their window and into the bedroom.
But the first few feeds burned in his mind, and though they had long since been done playing still flashed through his vision, as if the final breaths of nightmares when he woke.
He could hardly remember the first scene, feeling more like an outsider than the person on the recordings. L left Light in the living room to go to the kitchen. He reached high to open a cupboard door, on the tips of his toes, and it swung open. The camera barely showed the corner of the box of sugar cubes, placed before even the snack cakes and cocoa mix. And yet he didn't grab for it. A hand still held onto the edge of the counter while the other reached for something in his pocket instead. The two pills he'd found between folded underwear were thrown in his mouth and he poured sugar cubes into a bowl. As soon as he let go of the counter he fell.
That portion of recordings cut off before Watari finally came, and so the kitchen's feed remained frozen on the monitors. Light kept stroking his hair, not knowing what else to do. L's eyes wandered occasionally from the other scenes and always found him staring at that one. He'd look away, though, when he realized what he was doing. His chest ached so he kept his knees against his body, holding himself together.
Misa was animated when she came but Light was not. The bone-white Shinigami loomed over them both. Light received a notebook from Misa's shaking hands. She left, only having stood before her beloved Light for scarcely three minutes. The ghastly figure followed through the slammed door and again Light was left alone.
He'd never touched the cake. L watched Light unravel from any angle he could possibly desire. He hid in the chair with the blanket around him, burdened with knowing he made what he now saw. Only fifteen minutes remained of the year and all the feeds had long since finished playing, save the last group. Light still slept with the bear. L sat in a cold chair floors away. He'd seen Light sleep before – many nights, in fact. L found himself constantly glancing over and spent time – always more than he intended to – watching him sleep. He was lovely. But now he had to watch him through the eyes of a camera, unable to reach out and touch the copper strands of his hair or his cheek. Light didn't stretch out, serene in his sleep, but instead curled into himself and hid from the bedroom, from the cold.
Watari's voice came suddenly, though L made no sign of being surprised. His dark eyes stayed on the screens.
"L, it's nearly time." He stood a few feet away, L surmised. The same voice he always heard.
His gaze lingered on Light as his bare feet returned to the floor, hands resting on the edge of the desk as if wary of losing his balance. His legs were still weak but his arms dropped to his sides, making his way to the door. Watari put something into his arms and he took it. A glass bottle, nearly too weighty. Already the door had been opened for him and the light of the hallway spilled into the dark room. His feet carried him out as he held the bottle to his chest. The door closed with a soft click behind him and he wandered down the long hall, lost.
Light's knees buckled beneath him almost immediately, barely getting a feeble hold on the wall. His strangled scream died quickly on his lips, replaced by fast heaves of air in and out of his lungs. His mind kept reeling at what he had seen, knowing how impossible, how horribly impossible it could've been. Eyes pressed tightly together, he feared looking back out into the hall to see nothing more than the sight that had greeted him. It couldn't be. It couldn't be.
As soon as he'd opened the door just a hair, just enough for a single eye, he came face to face with a haunted, starless-black eye. Everything had turned silent in that moment and froze, Watched Night suspended.
Light's heart pounded in his head. He told himself that he had to be dreaming still, or his mind had conjured some cruel hallucination. Grief and panic rushed all the way down to his fingertips. They trembled holding the fur of the bear. He willed the image away, those eyes staring into him, but didn't dare open his own.
Watched Night returned to its steady rhythm, as if a droning bass drum. He could only hear it and his own breathing. The door didn't creak open or closed. There were no footsteps. He settled his body onto the floor with his back to the wall and the bear to his heart. Eternities passed between tolls. He kept his eyes shut.
There was a soft sound, air moving. Maybe it was the air through the vents. It couldn't be anything else. He was alone in the building and Watari was floors away. Watari was with L. L couldn't be standing on the other side of the door.
A soft voice crept into the hall from where the door stood and his heart ached to hear it.
"Light, please let me in…"
He pressed his mouth into the bear's soft fur, afraid that he would scream again but only a choked sound came from deep in his chest. He tried to count the number of times the low bell chimed. Light's frayed mind lost count more than once. Why did he have to hear that voice again? He feared that the dream, the hallucination, the phantom on the other side would call to him again and yet he wanted to drink in the sound if only to trick himself into believing he was really there for a moment. When none came he spoke out into the air, not daring to look. He could barely hear himself over his own heartbeat.
"You're not…real. You can't be." His voice trembled, struggling to coax out words. "I saw you die."
He prayed he wouldn't hear him again, that he would wake up. He remembered those eyes in the kitchen and he couldn't bear to see them in the doorway. He was alone. L was dead.
But L's voice returned, painted with soft desperation.
"Light, please, let me in. I'm here, outside the door."
"No," Light heard himself say at once, and shocked he paused before he could find what little of a voice he had still. "You can't be. It's impossible. Your name, it got written down. You died."
"Just-…stop. It's not you. Not really."
L's fingers ghosted next to the doorknob but didn't dare touch it, as if afraid to be burned. He could see only a sliver of Light. He wanted nothing more than to beg to be let in so he could just touch him, to confirm that he wasn't worlds away on a television screen. The degree of his vulnerability, something he never imagined to see in Light Yagami, threatened to frighten him. But true to Light's request he kept his lips together and watched from the hall.
Light's breathing, an erratic thing, seemed loud in the present silence.
"You have to be a ghost," Light said suddenly, his panic subdued into more of a whisper. "I would have thought…I would have thought that of all people, Misora would have been able to. She didn't so…so then maybe it meant dying by the note meant that you couldn't come back as a ghost. You would, though. You won't give up on this for anything, will you?"
He harshly inhaled, as if robbed for breath.
"Shit, I…I never even wanted this anymore. Do you even get to know that now? You probably got some kind of divine debriefing; you've always known more than I expected. Always. I never, never would have wanted to have admitted it to myself. But why didn't you do anything about it? You could have saved yourself from this, from me."
Light moved his trembling fingers into his hair and thought of L's. His stomach clenched more, twisted countless times already.
"Did you really love me so much that you let this happen…so…I was the lucky one? I'm sorry, but I'm not really feeling too fucking lucky right now. How could you-" Light felt pain in his scalp from his fingernails, but it was nothing compared to the things steeping inside of him finding their way to his lips. The bear in his lap stared patiently. "I should have said something. I should have realized sooner…not now. Not when it's damned useless."
He shifted his gaze from the black button eyes to the carpet. They were too familiar.
"Did you know too, L, that only until after you died did I realize that I loved you?" Patterns twisted in the carpet and it was beginning to make him feel dizzy. His head felt heavy, his everything felt heavy. "Some timing."
L finally realized his tightening grip on the smooth neck of the champagne bottle in his hand and his own need for air. He couldn't stand his own silence any longer; his fears and guilt festered when he thought he could see more and more that Light was unraveling. L's face was stone.
Carefully into the quiet L spoke, "Light, I would like for you to listen to me for just one moment."
The boy's whole body tensed and looked as though he fought not to look to the door, to where he was. Light didn't utter a word.
"I want you to try something for me. You'll need your Death Note and the television in the living room."
A low, sad sort of laugh rattled from him.
"Christ, I can't get rid of it…even you…"
"Fine, after that what do you want? Carry on with judgment of the wicked, the scum? Is that what you want me to do?" He let his arms drop to carefully wrap around the stuffed bear. It returned to his chest. "It's what I do best."
"Only one name," L replied, even softer. "Just one. That's all I ask."
"Any particulars, then? I aim to please."
"No. Turn on the TV. The first person you see with a name. That's all."
However, Light made no signs that he would move. He sat so still but even from the small glimpse the crack afforded L he could she a storm just beneath the skin. Light's composure had long since disintegrated, a thing which he had constantly tended. It could slip in those times when L forgot his own side of the bedroom or when he tasted those lips, but now he had left it someplace else. He felt as though he were watching a phantom of the young man he'd woken next to.
Perhaps that was all that was left anymore. Yet he banished the thought and forced memories of any other day back to the surface. Some were as smooth and fleeting as pearls of glass, rolling into the crevices and shadows to hide from him. He dared not look away from Light. Light was there, mere feet away, and he willed his tired mind to remember him perfectly.
Light's anger calmed but his weariness fell on him again.
"What does all of this mean? What's this supposed to do?"
"Once you do this, I promise to tell you."
Light's thumb moved across a velveteen ear on the bear. He looked elsewhere, past the walls and did nothing else. L waited. The perspiration from the chilled champagne licked the skin on his hand. He supposed he could drop it but he put out any thoughts of moving, as if it would make Light flee and thus ruin it all. He felt the moments drip away, sliding off his fingers and onto the ground. L held more tightly onto the neck.
Eyes closed, Light let his head fall back to rest on the wall.
Words, nearly too soft for L to hear, crept into the silence. They reached from somewhere L had never seen, always guarded, perhaps forgotten by Light himself.
"I don't think you've ever really promised anything to me."
Gently he set the bear down on the floor, propped up by the wall as he was. A hand returned to straighten it, tilted to the side just slightly. It hovered above the soft head and then drew back to his empty lap. "Fine."
Neither spoke. The request, perhaps the challenge, slowly poured a concoction of anxiety into the air. L certainly felt it slither across his still-clammy skin and wondered if it had any effect on the boy retreating from him down the hall. Hardwood turned to carpet and he couldn't hear the footsteps any longer, as if he vanished. Past feeling foolish for doing so L strained to hear anything to extinguish that gnawing thought. The very concept was impossible, and laughably so. Light couldn't vanish. And yet he dismissed once upon a time the very notion of gods of death.
Humans could die so suddenly but they never just vanished.
He nearly forgot he was holding the champagne bottle in his hand; the muscles and bones in that hand ached but he kept it there.
A sound came so suddenly that L's mind distinguished its arrival with considerable delay, shaken from his thoughts. He analyzed it mercilessly, frantically, as it reached his ears; a male voice, though not Light's. The soft and nearly imperceptible white noise of a running television lurked under it all. No drama in it, it was professional. A news reporter. A word or two drifted down the hall, soft and timid like a wary child, and L still tried to hear anything else at all – "Kira" passed a stranger's lips – but there was only the living room television.
L had no watch but his own sense of time had always been accurate. Twenty seconds had passed as if days. Still-fresh memories of December mornings flitted through, filled with images of Light breathing into a pillow with tousled hair. They reminded him of what he would lose, those passing everyday moments filled with seconds that passed so much more quickly. Had Light mourned the end of those sorts of things? The man on the news continued his report uninterrupted. Thirty seconds.
Ever since the clock struck midnight each television set had been turned on, focused almost exclusively on the major news channels. Watari provided statistics not long ago. Sakura TV's viewers eclipsed all others. He suspected they were the only ones eagerly waiting an anonymous phone call, untraceable and thrilling. It wouldn't come. Whatever channel Light had chosen had nothing of the theatrics, that much he could tell. They felt the tension, too.
L's stomach lurched when his own countdown ended.
Light would know. Light was wounded terribly and hardly himself. The detective could imagine that face smeared with anger, with betrayal. He could not ever prepare himself to close the door on Light's hate and walk back down the hall alone, to hide in the dark of the surveillance room with cake and Watari. Yet he pretended he could handle it when the time came. If the time came.
He froze entirely and tightened his forgetful grip on the glass bottle as he heard a pair of hurried feet. L kept his face that slipped on with familiarity, showing nothing beneath the surface. The sound grew louder, a bump into the wall along the way, and before he could scarcely blink a trembling hand grabbed the edge of the door. More emotions flashed across Light's face looking out into the hall than L could begin to calculate, but the wary hope in those frantic eyes caught him.
L stared soundlessly while Light's mouth opened, struggling to find words.
Light's words came, tense and hushed, though he still couldn't understand what he saw or what he had seen. Those eyes never left him.
"How…how are you here?" He took in a shaking breath; words fled from him.
Carefully, ever so carefully, he opened the door a bit more to better see what he had thought was a figment in the hall. It stayed and did not disappear. L did not disappear. The silence weighed more and more on the young man in between the two hallways. But just when Light feared that no answer would come at all a cool hand came to rest on his cheek and a pair of lips met his own. L's smell, the feel of his touch, and everything else that he had become so familiar with flooded over him and he suddenly knew how real the person kissing him was. No dreams or hallucinations could have been so vivid or so cruel. Eager, he drank in those lips cared for nothing else.
All he could focus on was having L again, to pull him closer and shut the door, to have him all to himself. Light's hands released the door and reached out to where L stood, wanting to bury his fingers in his inky black hair and draw him inside. But as he felt the detective lean toward him, surely to make a step forward, he drew away from the kiss and hadn't left the empty outside hallway. His hand lingered, though, on Light's cheek and his face hadn't traveled far. Light could feel L's warm breath, as ragged as his own.
He parted his lips to speak but L's voice was swifter.
"May I come in, Light?"
Light nearly wanted to laugh but it only came out as a short exhale. "You have to ask?"
"Yes. Tradition and all that."
"Christ, L…" Still hungry for touch, Light moved closer and let a hand fall to his side and gingerly take L's. The other man naturally accepted the touch and held it securely; the simplicity of it nearly distracted Light entirely. "Yes, you may."
"Do lead the way."
Before turning and starting back to the hall Light's gaze lingered a second more on L's face. The part of him that was ceaselessly calculating and observing noticed how L appeared to have taken on a somewhat sickly color; his skin, normally what he thought of as a shade of porcelain looked more translucent. He was tired. And yet in those eyes of his he saw something similar to the sad sort of love L had before in the luxury car floors below – had it been only a day ago? – but instead of sadness he swore there was something else. Something guarded. Certainly Light couldn't get over the fact that L stood before him, breathing and blessedly alive. The swirling confusion still hadn't left, his mind felt spent from the hours stretching behind him, and above all he felt happier than he could remember.
L quietly closed the door behind them as they walked down the hallway to the living room. The sound of the television reached Light's ears again and grounded him from his haze of joy all too suddenly.
L's name was in the notebook, assuming it was his real name and Misa was not mistaken. The notebook failed to have killed both L and the reporter on the screen. L's heartbeat had stopped in the kitchen. L hid something from him. He was already putting pieces together, turning them this way and that, and so he was surprised when they already reached the living room.
He became startled when he felt L's hand draw away. With quiet curiosity he watched as L walked past, not even glancing at the television screen as he went directly to the coffee table. The Death Note rested directly in the center, open. His pen was hastily dropped beside it and still uncapped. L set down his champagne bottle and it made a soft click as it touched the hard surface. He peered down at the ink on the page, face impassive, and within a second or so he began to reach for the pages – and he stopped.
Light watched without a word. The detective waited another moment, as if waiting for any sign of protest, but when none came his spindly fingers touched the lined paper and he went back a single page. Light knew what was on it without needing to bother to look. It was the page he'd refused to write upon, the one that had on it Misa's feminine scrawl. But L only seemed to glance at it for a second before gently closing the notebook.
He went to take his seat on the couch, sitting precariously on an end cushion. L's large eyes traveled back to Light's. Light kept the gaze as he went to take his own place beside L. He set his hands on his knees and drew in a breath. The detective made no move to interrupt him.
His words were fluid and soft, betraying nothing at all. "Did you have the fake notebook made and given to Misa?"
Light allowed confusion to return to his face, eyebrows furrowed. There was little use in pretending.
"If you did that, then you expected her to use it and – "
"What happened?" Light couldn't keep his voice quite so low anymore. "What happened at the party? In the kitchen? All this month, maybe? I could guess at how long you've been planning whatever this is, or was. But whatever it aimed to do, I…I don't really like the answers I'm coming up with…"
Something told Light, deep in the recesses of his fears that spawned with Kira, that this was the end. That familiar paranoia whispered that perhaps L would have gone this far to finish him. That he would bring himself to love Light just to bring down Kira, if that was what it took. Though in everything he shared with L there had been nothing he suspected to be false. How he, in those times when he succumbed to sleep at night, clung to Light and those dark lashes covered the bags beneath his eyes. When he smiled at him in the dark of the lighthouse.
L's voice remained neutral and he had not moved. "If you will let me, I will explain it to you. All of it. I just ask for no interruptions."
Light paused to stare into L's eyes. The gaze was still returned, unwavering.
"Good." L folded his arms across his knees and rested his chin on them, making his body appear even more curled up. He looked musingly at some spot in the room, as if sorting his thoughts like they were a stack of uneven papers. "Please forgive me if I sound callous throughout. It's necessary. For a while, at least.
"Days ago – the twenty-ninth, to be exact – I visited Watari during the late hours of the night. I made certain not to wake you with the use of a mild sedative in your tea. You would fail to notice as it set in and when you woke the next morning. That night I would set in motion a plan that I had been shaping days before that. The first objective was to plant numerous video cameras within Misa's residence. The second was to switch her Death Note with a fake, created by Watari. Misa was out on both occasions, one purposefully arranged for my purposes and the other purely coincidental.
"Misa knew fully well Kira's goal: to kill L. I supplied her with that opportunity, to acquire my name. As the second Kira with eyes granting her the ability to read anyone's name this would be an easy task. She would – and did – this unwaveringly for you. As soon as she arrived home she took out her Death Note to write my name. She was correct in spelling it, by the way."
L looked down at his toes. Light still remained motionless and hung on every word.
"As soon as she did bring out her notebook I received an alert from Watari on my phone. The second came in the kitchen when Misa began to write, again from Watari but with another number entirely. That signaled me to consume two pills containing a toxin from the plant rhododendron ponticum. They produced a state identical to death, slowing my heartbeat and breathing to indistinguishable lows. I would venture even if you were a doctor you would have declared me legally dead. Watari's vital sensors picked up on my distress and he came to acquire me. I awoke shortly before eleven o'clock at night. Once the lingering side-effects wore-off sufficiently I attended to watching the security footage on our floor. I had instructed Watari before not to plant such devices but he did so anyway, as I expected. I watched until ten or so before midnight but I was at your door at the strike of twelve. Though in regards to the goal of all of this…I needed to see your reaction."
L brought his large black eyes to rest on Light and met a perfectly unreadable face. His eyes, however, told a different story. L had come to the assumption that no one else could see Light's eyes as astutely as he could, for no matter how hard the young man fought to keep his control there had always been something flashing in them. As soon as he saw flickers of anxiety L drew his sight away. He kept his arms securely wrapped atop his knees, bringing himself to continue.
"As you know well, I've firmly believed you to be Kira for as long as we have known each other. Despite this there was no sufficient evidence, none at all, to link you to that name. Of course now I have recorded footage that would more than certainly prove your guilt, but it's no simple matter of getting the evidence to throw you in prison or whatever Interpol would choose. Your reaction was not just important to the case, but to me; personally, that is. I wanted to see how twisted you had become. I wanted to see if you were capable of feeling anything at all for my passing. You did."
Images of the kitchen returned to L. He pursed his lips into a thin line and listened to Light's carefully measured breaths for a moment. Peace seemed to hang on a feeble thread. His voice returned, not as level and practiced as he had hoped, but quieter.
"I could never apologize enough for what had to transpire. Though had you reveled in your victory as Kira would, concerned only with your success, I would not have met you at the door. My orders to Watari were if I deemed you incapable of remorse, of anything at all, that he would call the police at once and Interpol shortly afterward. Case closed. But that didn't happen, and so we are both in check." L turned his head to Light again, watching as he processed the mass of information that he was given with brutal efficiency. L couldn't ever tire of it. But he made his lips move again, eager to lay out the board. "You have my name and I evidence against you. One cannot move against the other without himself being in danger of having his king taken. A more favorable set of circumstances, I would say. Oh, and you may speak. I am, for the most part, finished."
But Light did not respond immediately. He had never once throughout tore his gaze away from L, nor had he broken his agreement of silence. L felt his toes curl into the plush cushion below him as the silence hung in the air. The television was just as good as off; not a single word from the news reporter registered. L pondered for a moment how the man would never know how close he had been from dying on national television. Dying by Kira's hand.
Light's words finally came to him, soft yet not a whisper. His face still betrayed little but his eyes desperately searched L's, hungry for an answer.
"Was there any chance that you could have actually died?"
L regarded him a moment before speaking. He said calmly and with the same low volume, "Yes."
A frown tried to tug at the corners of Light's lips but he kept it at bay.
L glanced at the TV remote that sat on the coffee table. He contemplated turning off the set but he felt reluctant to move from his perch on the couch, when things still felt fragile. Light knew he still had more to say on the matter and so he wouldn't release his tension or the emotions he kept from reaching the surface. There were other pieces still to play and he was not entirely sure how L would move his.
"Light, I –" L began, stopping briefly but continued with the same cool manner, "I have two more main items of interest. The first is…an adjustable ultimatum. Though I have examined a Death Note myself, I cannot fully outline how the ultimatum should work until I am aware of what role your shinigami plays. It would be foolish to assume that it would be the same as the one I had met before."
"Ryuk." Light said it with some bitterness. "And you're right; he's nothing like Rem. He cares very little for human affairs, especially mine. He only volunteers information if it suits him. The only reason that he left the shinigami realm was to find some 'amusement.' And so if he fails to find me amusing or interesting, if he grows bored, then he plans to write my name in his Death Note."
"So Kira cannot give up totally his mission without dying himself. I was hoping things would not be quite like that, but…it can be managed." L brought a thumb to his mouth and toyed with his bottom lip. "Very well. Then it goes as follows: In order for us to proceed from this point you must agree to work jointly with me for an indefinite amount of time. I dislike the notebook, to put it lightly, but it appears we can't just lock it away and hope 'Ryuk' doesn't notice that you've been neglecting it. Though not every case is dealt with on computer screens and perhaps this will appeal to him. At times you will do field work. It would also be wise to learn a thing or two from Watari's typical duties; there may come a day when I may need you for that, to do what he does. But keep in mind that if you agree to these terms, your ties to home and potentially your family will disintegrate. This lifestyle is nothing short of dangerous. "
"Well, then." Light shifted his position, moving an arm to rest on the back of the chair. "I'll agree to your terms."
L turned to look at the young man beside him, eyes wide and fixed. Most of the horrors he had imagined would occur vanished just like that, as soon as the words left Light's mouth. Light agreed to a truce, peace, a partnership. Even though he had been confident that Light wouldn't reject his offer, he couldn't help but to stare in a silent sort of wonder from the situation. Light continued to talk and so L listened on, distracted from what he'd planned to bring up next.
"I'm sure you know as well as I that this won't bring an end to the Death Note killings. Excluding Ryuk's, three Death Notes have entered the human realm. I feel confident in venturing that nothing like this has happened before, and the likelihood that more will appear is a very real possibility. Chance brought them all to the same country; they could spring up anywhere and there's no telling how many Shinigami and notebooks exist. There's more to the notebooks than what it says in the rules, and I've picked up things about shinigami themselves. I'll provide whatever assistance in that area that you require and…" Light paused and glanced at his wrist, the one which still rested on his lap. He looked fixedly at the time, contemplating something, before resuming. "I need you to be able to see and hear Ryuk. But before I do, there's something I need you to promise me."
L blinked his eyes, curious. Highly curious, to be truthful.
"And what would that be?"
Any trace of ease or relief that managed to creep into Light's face was swept away, replaced instead with a solemn look. L felt frozen by the look and so he became startled when he felt the warmth of Light's hand take one of his again. Light inhaled a whispery breath to speak again, tightening ever so slightly his grip on L's thin fingers.
"Never write a name on paper from a Death Note." He brought his other hand to again rest on L's cheek, as if to reaffirm to himself that he was real. "Please."
L replied almost at once, saying softly, "I promise."
Light released a sigh and his shoulders slackened a bit. With reluctance he drew both hands away from L's skin and switched his attention back to his wristwatch. He pressed in the small knob on the side with a practiced touch; a click sounded and suddenly the watch was no longer as innocent as a gift from his father. Between two fingers Light pulled out a small, folded square of notebook paper and held it between himself and L. L did nothing other than observe the paper and Light, which made Light speak up again.
"All you have to do is touch it; you don't need the whole notebook to see a shinigami. A single finger should be fine. Ryuk's not in here, at least not now, so it'll be as if nothing really happened." Light kept his hand steadily holding it, one of his final secrets.
A careful hand reached out from L, poking the piece of notebook paper only for a fraction of a section before drawing back. His large eyes scanned what he could see of the room without turning his head but, as Light had said, there were no monsters to be seen lurking around. Light meanwhile carefully placed the folded square back into the back of his wristwatch, sliding it closed securely. It weighed on his wrist more than it should have now. They returned to looking to each other again, laying down plans while feeling the unforgiving grip of the past twenty-four hours around their necks. Light caught himself again and again being shocked at how so easily L sat there across from him, poking at his lip with a thumb, breathing. Alive.
The question that had been burning a hole in the pit of Light's stomach finally surfaced.
"Why didn't you come sooner?"
L's mouth formed a straight line. He held himself closely, as he had before.
"Don't make the mistake to think that I didn't want to come sooner. No, as soon as I had any coherence in my mind and I could remember what had happened…" L's chin rested against his chest, face partially buried by his arms. There still seemed to be that strange divider between them, transparent. Light had crossed it once, yes, but the moment had been all too brief. L continued softly, "But, there was the security footage. I had to be sure, absolutely certain, in my decision. That, and I found that it's customary for the visitor in the First-Foot Day tradition to arrive at the stroke of midnight. They tend also to have dark hair, a tad bit tall, and bringing a gift…"
L's gaze passed over the bottle of champagne for a moment. Light's face became troubled again by a look of confusion, and so L saw fit to continue. Some of the darkness had left his voice. His arms became more lax, sliding down from his knees to encircle more his shins.
"It's more of North English or Scottish folklore, to be truthful. And, coincidentally, our flight destination is England…"
Still trying to register L's words, Light replied hesitantly, "Flight destination…? Excuse me?"
"Why yes. We are scheduled to leave in approximately an hour for the London airport. You won't be needing a passport or any documentation like that, don't worry." L paused to take in the processing occurring in Light's mind, his eyes flashing all sorts of emotions and keeping together feebly his controlled visage. L continued on in his seemingly casual tone, as if it were any other day. "After all, I've come to understand that it's often wise to take a vacation after a vacation. Ours in particular seems to have been especially taxing and warrants another break especially. Wouldn't you say so, Light?"
"We're going to England?"
"Well, yes. Though you could debate that it's early morning."
"We're leaving today and everyone is waiting for something to happen. Just like that."
"No, there is a last matter of business for the both of us before we get packing. I do agree that without some response from Kira, things could become…messy." L lazily stretched an arm to grab the champagne bottle on the coffee table and read some of the script on the label passingly. "Eventually there's the matter of addressing Interpol about this shift in affairs. But, that doesn't need to be so soon. All we need now is a video from Kira to calm the masses a bit without promoting any unnecessary paranoia or violence. That's all."
"Okay, while I understand and agree to issuing this new video…" Light's eyebrows had become considerably furrowed again and he made some feeble, sweeping gesture with a hand. "What does this vacation entail? Why England, of all places?"
Fluidly, in a single motion, L shifted his body to better face Light. Rather than balancing on the balls of his feet and curled protectively he had folded beneath him his legs, as if he had gone to sit at pray at one of the temples. It made them close, as close as they had been in between the two hallways and Light could feel L's breath tickle his skin. He couldn't find his voice again and could only watch L with wide eyes. The detective searched his face for a moment.
"There is one more thing I'd like to ask." L's fingers twitched on his lap, though he stayed completely still otherwise. Light similarly made no move, only able to stare. This prompted L to continue, softly, "Was it true what you said to me before you would let me in? That you loved me?"
Sadness –that confession came alone on the couch, memories from a crinkled candy wrapper – passed through Light's amber eyes, his mouth just slightly parting to speak. His reply came barely above a whisper.
He had his chance now. His heart was beating madly; how couldn't L hear it, being so close?
"Yes." Light swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry and mind unbelieving of it all. He forced himself to manage more, to say the one thing that he ached to expel from his chest but feared more than anything. L appeared suspended and so Light said, "I love you."
Scarcely after he saw something spark in those enormous dark eyes was L upon him. He felt his back and head collide onto the couch cushions below. L's legs were on either side of him and a mouth quickly met his own, kissing him with a longing that sent shivers through his body. Light was quick to respond to it. Somewhere between snaking his arms around L's back and kissing him hungrily, he realized that nothing could have compared to how he felt in that moment. L had so brutally been whisked away, leaving Light with regret that drowned him, filling his lungs with cold water. And here he was again, warm and alive, and they were in love. He didn't care to ever leave the couch again. L's shirt, terribly mussed, had traveled up his back and his soft skin brushed Light's fingertips. L felt the jolt of the sensation and kissed Light all the more deeply. Light wanting nothing more than to feel more, touching the vertebrae of L's spine beneath that skin when –
Unmercifully, Light's cell phone rang. Answering it hardly seemed appealing and so he begged that L would dismiss the disturbance as well, but he was not so lucky. Too quickly L drew away from Light, Light's cell phone already fished out of his pocket and against L's ear. Light shot him an incredulous look but he only received a pointing index finger, signaling for him to be quiet.
There was some talk on the other end, then L responded with an air of normalcy, "Oh, hello Yagami-san. Your son is currently occupied so I took the liberty of answering his phone. Is there something you'd like for me to relay to him?" L paused and listened to Soichiro's response, a hand resting on Light's chest. "Oh, yes. I'll certainly tell him that you and your family wanted to wish him a happy New Year's. I extend the same wishes to the Yagami household. However, there is some items of interest that I'd like to discuss with you before you return to the festivities."
Light sighed. L noticed the look he was receiving and, with a hand carefully covering the cell's microphone, bent down to place a trail of kisses up Light's neck. He only stopped when he reached Light's jawbone, moving his hand from the phone to place a finger on Light's lips.
"Yes, yes. Since it is finally January we can begin to discuss the Kira case again." L contemplatively trailed his finger from Light's lips and slowly down his neck. "However, Light-kun and I will be out of the country for two weeks or so. Feel free to use the investigation headquarters while we are out. I'll be in correspondence, of course."
Light shivered at the feather-light touch, eyes scarcely open. He could, though, still hear his father's voice shouting into L's ear. L pulled the device a few inches away and listened from that distance a short while before bringing it back to his ear to interrupt Soichiro.
"Please calm down, Yagami-san. Light-kun will be extremely safe. This is, in fact, to assure his and my safety. There have been break-throughs in my investigating that has made our present location…undesirable. You and the rest of the force are entirely in the clear, however. I will have an email sent to you within the next hour or two. Happy New Year's." And with a click L silenced the phone, making sure to hold down the end call button to turn it off entirely.
"There," he said, setting the cell phone of the coffee table and then turning his gaze back to Light. "Now would you care for some quality champagne, packing luggage, or – "
Before L got the chance to list their options, Light pulled him back down for a kiss. Light's fingers dove into L's dark hair and kept him close.
Dressed from head to toe in scarves, coats, and warm gloves, the pair entered the small jet stationed in the Tokyo airport's private section. Every inch of their bodies was peppered with snowflakes from the still ruthless winter weather. L was first to shed his coat and shake the offending snow from his black hair. Watari passed by, having closed the door securely, and went to station himself within the cockpit. Light set his own coat across the same row of seats L unceremoniously tossed his, humored by the fact that L ridding himself of snow looked like a cat that had accidentally fallen into a bathtub and crawled back out, eager to get dry again. Their suitcases had already been loaded on and their only items of they brought with them had been L's sturdy laptop case.
L motioned surveyed the seats available – there were ten or so rows, all of which were empty on L's personal jet – and brought the case with him to the third row from the front. He raised every armrest except the one on the side of the aisle, then motioned for Light to enter first. Light complied and went to seat himself near the window, rubbing his weary eyes. He had never been a night owl and it was past one in the morning, not to mention the toll of the most recent events…
Once he'd become situated, L sat some distance away. At once he set the laptop case on his lap, popped open the lid, and had procured the blue Snuggie he received for Christmas. He folded the thing into what perhaps resembled a pillow and set it beside him. While he took out his computer and had it plugged into an outlet he cast Light a curious look.
"In all honesty Light, you should try to get some sleep." He pressed the power button with a single finger and better adjusted his screen. "You're very obviously exhausted and staying up would serve little purpose on this long flight. I'll be using this time to email those officials who associate themselves with Interpol for our next meeting and several heads of office from different nations. Despite my typing proficiency, it's going to be a long and tedious process."
Light covered his mouth, fighting off a yawn. It proved unsuccessful but once it had passed he managed, "Yeah, I guess so… Wake me up when we're close?"
"But of course."
Light noticed finally how L calculated very well the length of seats that would be needed for him to rest comfortably, and so he adjusted himself accordingly. The tips of his toes just barely touched the wall of the aircraft, his head directly on the makeshift Snuggie pillow. It smelled faintly of L and Light wondered if during those early mornings he'd used it at all, since he couldn't ever recall having seen him don the ridiculous thing. Though before he closed his eyes and sought sleep, he gazed up at L's focused face. It was only a moment before L switched his attention to see if Light had dozed off or not, already in the middle of his first email.
"Is something the matter, Light?"
"Yeah, but…" Light frowned slightly. "You will still be there when I wake up, won't you?"
L gaze softened a bit. He reached down with a hand to place a few fingers below Light's chin, aligning his face better so he could lean down and place a brief kiss on his lips.
"I'll still be here, Light. Goodnight."
Light eventually let his eyes droop closed and within five minutes he was soundly asleep. As L would type away on his laptop, bathed in the glow of the bright screen, he would occasionally take breaks from the monotony and watch Light's form slumber beside him. He let a hand drop down and stroke his auburn hair, careful not to wake him with the gentlest of touches. Forty-five minutes ago the video with Kira's message to the public had aired nationally and eventually internationally, but with every passing moment he regarded the beauty of Light so close next to him it all seemed more infinitely farther away.
A/N: Thanks so much for the lovely reviews! As always, let me know what you thought. I'll be at work on the Epilogue now which will be very, very fun indeed. :) Be on the lookout! I'll try to get it up before I drag myself back into school on the third of January.