A few quick notes before we begin: First, this is an AU, in which there is no Death Note and no shinigami, and some other details will be different as well. I'll be playing around with ages a little, so be aware of that. Primarily, I'm making Mello, Matt, and Near a bit older – around Light's age and maybe even a little older.

Second, there will be multiple pairings in this story, but the main pairing will be L and Light.

Finally, warnings for sex (not explicit), language (all over the fucking place), violence (later), and murder (much later).

Chapter One

Lies and Lovers

July, 2000

Dozens of photographs, each one a snapshot of humanity, lay strewn across the flat surface of a student's desk, a single messy highlight to an otherwise tidy bedroom.

In one, resting towards the center of the desk, a windswept young woman in faded blue jeans stared into the distance against a grass-covered hill, her mouth a thin, resigned line but hope not completely gone from her gaze. To the left of it, a middle-aged man smiled blandly at the camera, his hair greying and the corners of his eyes pinched in annoyance. A few photo's above that, an entire frame was taken by a woman's face, her mouth hanging open and her eyes screwed shut, obviously in the throes of sex. And in another– a sun-kissed child's widened eyes and slackened jaw, her moment of surprise forever locked on film.

Countless photos, people of every age, nationality, and emotion, all frozen in time and scattered across a single schoolboy's desk.

The schoolboy in question, a fourteen-year-old Yagami Light, frowned down at the mass of humanity gathered upon his workplace. In one hand, a pencil tapped in concentrated thought, and the other drummed quietly on an empty sketchbook.

After several quiet, almost expectant moments of careful deliberation, his long fingers gently plucked up one of the photographs – a young, determined boy scowling his stubbornness at an exasperated mother – and he studied it like it held the secrets to all life's mysteries.

Then, gingerly placing it beside the waiting sketchbook, he put his pencil to paper and began to draw.

January, 2005

"Describe the man's nose for me, please, and focus on any details you can remember."

"Um…he had a large nose…somewhat…bulbous, I guess…"

A pause, the only sound one of a pencil's scratching.

"…Like this?"

"Yeah, that looks about right."

"What about his eyes?"

"Well, they were smallish…set pretty close together…almond-shaped…"

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

"And his eyebrows?"

"Um…I don't know. Just average, I guess. I wasn't paying much attention to his eyebrows."

Scratch, scratch, brush, scratch.

"His mouth?"

"His mouth was thin and straight, like a…pencil."

"A pencil?"

"Well, obviously not quite that long."

"Right." Scratching. "Did it look something like this?"

"Yes! That's very good."

"Thank you. Now, what about his cheek structure and general face shape?"

"Um…he had kinda broad cheeks and a round face. I think."

The pencil danced across the page – gentle, sweeping strokes.

"Okay… and what about his hair?"

"It was black and short."

"Do you remember anything else? For example, was it thick, was he beginning to go bald?"

"It was pretty thick."

"Straight, wavy?"


One last pause, longer than the rest, as final details were added and previous lines were darkened and embellished.

"…Alright, I'm about finished… There. Did the man you see look something like this?"

"…Yeah, that looks a lot like him! You're a very good artist, Yagami-san."

"Thank you. That's very kind of you. And thank you for your time, Mochizuki-san. You've been a big help. Now, if you don't mind waiting here a moment, I believe Detective Yoshimoto has a few questions for you."

"Okay, that's fine."

Yagami Light quickly and firmly stepped out of the small interrogation room and into a narrow, florescent-lit hallway. He tucked his pencils into his pocket and, running a critical eye over the sketch in his hand, gently closed the door behind him. He felt reasonably pleased with his work, despite the…limited information he had been given – really, a pencil mouth?

Although, he had to admit it certainly wasn't the strangest description he'd come across during his time as a sketch artist for the police. For the past few months since he'd started, he'd heard everything from "eyes like a squished praying mantis" to "his hair looked like he got electrocuted then had a five-year-old take a pair of scissors to it." Needless to say, he'd heard his share of obscure, unorthodox descriptions, born from indistinct recollections and imperfect, stress-tainted memories.

But then, that was exactly why Light was so skilled at his job. He had an innate talent for recreating faces and capturing the essence of a person's features, even when the witness was vague or unclear. Combined with his natural charm and ability to put even the most nervous witness at ease, it was no wonder he had snagged the job, even at his young age.

And despite what some nasty people might have whispered about when he was first hired, it had nothing to do with his father's high position within the NPA – not that anyone doubted him now, having had plenty of opportunity to see first-hand his skill.

"Yagami-kun!" a deep, enthusiastic voice called out, breaking through his thoughts, and Light looked up from the penciled face in his hands to the cheerful face of Detective Yoshimoto, headed quickly towards him. "Did you finish with the witness?"

"Yes," Light answered, tearing the sketch out of his pad and handing it over, eyeing Yoshimoto's hands first to make sure they had no blatant mess on them that could transfer to the drawing. "She's in there waiting for you."

"Ah, excellent work," Yoshimoto said, smiling down at the sketched face, which stared blankly back, pencil-mouth and all. "This is the first real lead we've had on this case. I was about ready to pull my hair out before Mochizuki-san came in, claiming she saw a strange man leaving the apartment a few hours before the body was found. Honestly, for a while I thought we were chasing a ghost!" he exclaimed, laughing a little too loudly and standing a little too close. "Four murders and no one's seen hid nor hair of the man – until now, of course."

"You're working on that string of murders in the Aioi apartment complex?" Light asked, feigning interest but mostly just concentrating on inconspicuously shifting his weight so he was out of Yoshimoto's surrounding bubble of cheer.

"Unfortunately," the detective grinned, not looking particularly unfortunate. "I think the stress has taken at least five years off my life."

Light smiled politely, discretely checking his watch. "Well, good luck, Yoshimoto-san. I need to head home now – I've got a paper due tomorrow."

Yoshimoto nodded in understanding, a bright smile on his face. "Of course, Yagami-kun! Have a good evening, huh?"

"You as well." With a final parting nod, Light turned and strode down the hallway, his shoes tapping on the grey tiles and the polite smile sliding from his face. Yoshimoto was…nice, but much too cheerful and free with his friendliness, and Light was always left feeling oddly drained after being faced with man's sheer, dauntless energy. Quite frankly, his presence was exhausting.

Light quickly reached the front doors of the police station, dodging potential conversationalists and sharing a familiar nod with the secretary, and was about to push out into the cool night air when another voiced called out to him.



Light turned and smiled at his father, who was walking towards him with a small stack of papers tucked in one hand.

"Hey, Dad," he said, inwardly sighing. It wasn't that he didn't like talking to his dad; he was just tired, ready to go home and crash after a long day filled with tedious classes and vague witnesses with nonsensical descriptions.

"Did you just come in for a sketch?"

No, I came to steal paper clips and write dirty limericks on the bathroom walls.

"Yeah, for Yoshimoto-san's case. They finally got a witness," he answered instead, briefly wondering if he was feeling so snappish because he was tired or because he was hungry.

Probably both, he decided.

Soichiro nodded, absently beginning to flick through the papers in his hand. "Tough case, that one. But Yoshimoto-san's a good detective – not as quick-witted as you, but a solid investigator. I'm sure he'll clear it up in no time."

Light suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. While he knew his dad was as proud of him as ever, always, he also knew he'd never quite given up on his dream of Light following in his footsteps and becoming a detective. And though Light had seriously considered the career, that was one of the reasons he had ultimately decided against it – he didn't want to be forever stuck in his father's shadow.

Even now, his job as forensic artist was a little too close to his father's for comfort, though he only intended to keep it to pay the bills during his time in college.

"Yeah, he is a good detective," Light agreed, pasting on his well-used 'perfect son' smile. "Well, it was really good to see you, Dad, but I better run. I have a paper due tomorrow," he said, repeating the excuse he had used earlier with Yoshimoto.

And it was perfectly true; he did have a paper due tomorrow. That didn't mean, however, that he hadn't already written it.

"Oh, of course," Soichiro said quickly, his eyes softening as he smiled down at Light. "Well, work hard, son. I'm proud of you."

Light smiled back, the expression almost completely genuine this time. "I know. Say hello to Mom and Sayu for me."

"I will. And Light-"

Light paused, about to push through the door.

"-how about you bring that girl you've been seeing to dinner this weekend? You've been dating for two months and we still haven't met her!"

Light grinned sheepishly, pretending to think about it. "I'll ask her," he lied. "But she usually works on the weekends, so it's hard to find a time that works. And we really aren't very serious yet."

"Well alright. But we'd still like to meet her. Goodnight, son," Soichiro said with a fond smile.

"Goodnight, Dad." And Light pushed open the door and stepped out into the night.

As he walked home, grateful as always for the convenient proximity of the station to his apartment, he tried to imagine what would happen if he ever brought the person he was dating home to meet his family. The only word he could come up with to describe the potential situation was 'disastrous'. And possibly 'fatal'.

By the time he reached his apartment, a small but remarkably clean complex within walking distance of his university, he had come up with several highly entertaining (though in reality, they would be terrifying, not entertaining) scenarios in which his family and his lover met, each more explosive than the last. He knew there was no way in hell he'd ever let it happen, but it was worth spending a few fantastical minutes to imagine.

And he had good reason to never let his lover and family within 100 feet of each other. Namely, his lover was loud, his lover was blunt to point of rudeness, his lover was vulgar, and, he concluded as he quietly turned his key in the lock and pushed his door open, his lover was very-

"Light! Jesus, what took you so long? I'm horny as fuck. I think my dick is going to fall off!"

-very male.

Light glared at the blond man sprawled out on his couch like he owned it, one tight, black boot crossed lazily over the other.

Mello was back.

"Mello, get your goddamn boots off my couch. And while that was an utterly charming way to welcome me home, it doesn't make any sense," Light retorted, dropping his backpack on a chair and crossing over to the kitchen. "There's no way your dick can fall off from being too horny. And who says I'm having sex with you tonight? I'm too tired, so why don't you go jack-off in the bathroom and go home?" he suggested moodily, not entirely serious and not entirely joking, as he made his way over to his fridge and pulled out a water bottle.

"Come on, babe," Mello whined. "Don't be such a frigid bitch. I haven't seen you for five days."

"That's not my fault – you're the one with the insane work hours," Light returned, taking a swig of what was supposedly fresh spring water. "And calling me a frigid bitch is definitely not going to increase your chances of getting laid," he added, tossing the bottle on the counter and turning back to dig in the fridge again.

"Bleh," Mello made a face, stretching out on the couch like a large, leather-clad cat. "Don't talk to me about work. I swear my boss is trying to do me in."

Light ignored him and pulled out some leftovers from yesterday's dinner.

Mello had never told him exactly what he did for a living, and Light had never cared enough to press. All he knew was it called for random, odd hours and paid enough for Mello to own a car that cost more than Light's parents' house.

Whatever it was, Light was sure it wasn't entirely legal. And, despite his own job with the police – not to mention his father's – he couldn't quite find it in himself to care what Mello got up to. Their relationship had never been a serious one – that, at least, hadn't been a lie to his father.

Light paused, in the middle of dishing soba into two bowls, and gave Mello a suspicious glance as a sudden thought struck him.

"Mello," he said, eyeing the lanky body on his couch, from the tip of the shimmering, girly blond head to the leather-encased feet still resting obnoxiously on his cushions. "You aren't a prostitute, are you?"

Mello looked momentarily startled, before he let out a bark of laughter and swung himself up off of the couch.

"If I was," he grinned, sauntering towards Light, "just think how much you'd owe me by now."

"Is that a no?" Light questioned dryly, resuming his food dishing.

Mello pressed against Light's back, wrapping his arms around his waist and resting his chin on Light's shoulder.

"No, I am not a prostitute," he said, somehow making it sound like a verbal eye-roll. "Does this mean we can have sex now?"

"No," Light snapped, swatting away the wandering hands trying to sneak into his pants. "I'm going to have dinner – oh shit, hand me a rag, will you? No, they're in the next drawer over…thanks – and then I'm going to bed." Light finished wiping up the bit of food he'd accidentally spilled across the counter, then plucked up his bowl and padded over to his little two-chair table. "I have school tomorrow," he added sternly, though Mello had never shown any sort of consideration for Light's education schedule.

Mello, after grabbing the other bowl of soba, strolled over to the table to lounge in the chair across from Light.

"You say it like it's a bad thing," he said, pinching his chopsticks together experimentally. "Dinner then bed sounds fine to me."

"You know what I mean. Unlike you, I have classes tomorrow, and I actually want to get some sleep before I go."

Light efficiently scooped some noodles into his mouth, taking care not to flick any sauce onto his spotless shirt, and watched as his lover attempted the same task and made a worse mess than a five-year-old.

"You really are hopeless with chopsticks," he said, cringing as a large load of noodles slipped from the sticks and splattered back to Mello's bowl. "How long have you lived in Japan again?"

"Since about two weeks before I met you…so, a little over two months?" Mello answered, squinting up at the ceiling in thought. "And hey, you don't need any utensils to eat chocolate."

He scowled at the noodles as though they'd personally offended him. Light just rolled his eyes, well acquainted with his lover's chocolate addiction.

"You know I have forks too?" Light asked as Mello somehow managed to pick up a single noodle and dangle it into his mouth.

Mello grinned triumphantly as he swallowed his sole success of the meal.

"And then how will I ever learn?" he asked, cocky in his triumph as he tried to repeat the accomplishment.

Light just smirked as Mello's food once more failed to reach his mouth. "I give you three minutes before you give up and get a fork."

Recognizing the challenge for what it was, Mello's eyes gleamed competitively as he smirked right back. "You're on."

"And no using your fingers or just sliding it straight into your mouth," Light clarified. "The food has to go from your bowl to the chopsticks to your mouth."

"Too easy," Mello boasted.

Three minutes later, Mello was still valiantly struggling with the chopsticks but hadn't actually consumed any more of the food. Light just watched, effortlessly eating his own meal, his amusement growing proportionately with Mello's frustration.

Finally, he decided to take pity on him. Leaning casually across the table, he scooped up a bite of Mello's food and held it obligingly in front of the blond's mouth.

"We'll call it a truce," Light said, smiling innocently.

Mello eyed him suspiciously, but accepted the bite into his mouth all the same, his teeth scraping against the plastic of the chopsticks.

Light smirked and reached to wipe Mello's bottom lip softly with his thumb, where a noodle had left behind a drop of sauce. He licked his thumb, his tongue swirling around it then curling back into his mouth, his eyes locked with Mello's.

"You know," Mello said after another mockingly helpful bite, chewing with one side of the mouth and talking with the other, "you can't do something so blatantly sexual and then not have sex tonight."

"Oh really?" Light asked, raising an arched eyebrow. "In that case…" he captured another bite of Mello's food and let it hang for a moment in the air between them. Then, with a smirk, he slipped it casually into his own mouth and settled fully back into his chair. "…I'd better stop, right?"

Mello childishly stuck his tongue out at him. "I'm getting a fork."

Once they both had utensils that didn't result in most of the food ending up on their laps, rather than in their stomachs, the meal was shortly finished up, with the minimal, mandatory teasing and flirting that was integral to their relationship.

After dinner, the dishes were cleaned, Mello automatically helping after weeks of training from his boyfriend.

"So, how long are you going to be around this time before you disappear for days again?" Light asked as he placed the freshly dried bowls into his cupboard.

"Eh," Mello shrugged a careless shoulder, snooping around in Light's fridge and pulling out a jug of juice. "I'm working pretty regular hours this week, but who knows? You know how things pop up."

Light did know, only too well, as he thought back to the many times Mello had been suddenly and unexpectedly called away. He wasn't sure he could even count how many nights (or days) his boyfriend had gotten an apparently urgent call right in the middle of sex and had left Light horny and frustrated, with only his hand for company. It was perhaps the reason Light took such vicious pleasure in denying Mello sex, even though he realized it wasn't exactly the blond's fault.

Mello took a swig of juice straight from the container, causing Light to throw him an annoyed glare.

"Right. Now that you've eaten my food and stuck your boots all over my furniture – you know you're supposed to take them off in Japanese houses, right? – you can go home."

Mello shoved the juice back in the fridge and smirked at Light, then slowly slinked closer. "Come on, Light. You're not really going to make me walk all the way home at his hour," he said, conveniently ignoring the fact that he lived on the floor below Light – hardly a difficult walk. He stole closer, and didn't stop until he was pressed flush against the scowling Light, his hands shamelessly wrapping around to grope at Light's ass. "You're not still mad about last time, are you?"

Smirking blue eyes stared down into Light's – the two were close to the same height, though the blond perhaps had an inch or so on him.

Suddenly Light grinned, his own hands snaking up to play with Mello's hair, pulling himself closer until their mouths were only a few inches apart.

"Mad?" he asked as their breaths mingled, and they both drew in the other's familiar scent. "Why would I be mad?" he half-whispered, one hand slipping around to Mello's lower back to slide beneath the blond's shirt. "It's not as if you took off for the thousandth time, right in the middle of sex." His hand slowly slid higher up the back, pulling Mello's shirt up teasingly with it. "And it's not like it happened right when it was finally my turn to top, either…"

Mello slipped a playful leg between Light's, just a gentle pressure for the moment. "That wasn't my fault, babe," he said, his breath, which always somehow managed to smell like chocolate, brushing softly against Light's lips. "And can I help it you're so damn sexy, especially taking it up the ass?" he said with his usual vulgar eloquence.

Light smirked; he pulled himself closer and closer, until their lips were just a hair's width apart-

-then shoved Mello to the floor and stalked off towards his bedroom, his long fingers already working apart the buttons of his shirt.

"You have no sense of class, decency, or charm, Mello," he called over his shoulder, pausing at the doorway. "I have no idea why I put up with you. Now either get the hell out of my apartment, or get in here and let me fuck you." Then he disappeared into the bedroom without another word.

In the kitchen, Mello picked himself off the floor and, grinning, shucked off his shirt and followed after.

When Light awoke, his sleep-hazed mind was fleetingly disconcerted by the unexpected darkness which still engulfed the room. The blackness was oppressive, unanticipated, and for a short moment his brain was wildly confused by the deviation from his usual waking pattern.

Then he realized he needed to pee – now.

Shaking the clinging drowsiness from his sleep-addled brain, he rolled to his feet and, grabbing a pair of boxers on his way out, quietly shuffled towards the bathroom, slipping through the darkness with cautious, silent ease. Mello had stayed the night, and Light really didn't want to wake him if it could be avoided, as the blond's mood after waking could range anywhere from extremely pissed off to desperately horny. And as Mello was a surprisingly light sleeper, even the slightest unexpected noise could rouse him at the drop of a hat.

Light, in a rather…peculiar experience, had discovered this in the early days of their relationship, when they had just begun spending entire nights together. Even now, he wasn't entirely sure it hadn't been a dream.

They had been in Mello's apartment, curled up on the enormous bed Mello was stubborn enough to insist upon having and rich enough to afford, which barely even fit in the bedroom. One minute Light had been sleeping peacefully, drained from a particularly vigorous round of sex just a few hours earlier, and the next he had been abruptly pulled into consciousness, a rough hand against his mouth and another at his throat. Two suspicious eyes had narrowed at his sleep-glazed pair, then he'd seen recognition and understanding quickly drive out the suspicion.

"Oh, sorry," Mello's voice, roughened from sleep, had whispered as Light was released, and Light wasn't sure but he vaguely thought he might have seen a flash of silver in the hand at his throat as it was pulled away. "I heard a noise, and I thought…" he'd trailed off, leaving the rest of the sentence hanging as he swung off the bed and soundlessly crept towards the door. "I'll check it out."

Light, still stuck in sleep's muddling embrace and not functioning at a level that would find anything strange or potentially worrying about the situation, had merely rolled over and gone back to sleep. He had woken again, briefly, when Mello had climbed back beneath the covers and muttered something about a clock falling off the wall. He'd then burrowed against Light's shoulder, and the two had slipped back into sleep.

The next morning, the clock had been hanging innocently on the wall once more and neither of them spoke of the odd incident again.

With a sigh of relief, Light slipped into the bathroom – wisely leaving the lights off, saving himself from optical pain and temporary blindness – and quickly emptied his bladder into the toilet.

Mello's sleeping habits rarely disturbed Light, on those nights they chose to spend in each other's company; if anything, it was Mello who was inconvenienced, as he was the one more likely to be bothered by Light's occasional tossings and turnings. And he hadn't complained yet.

Light stole back to the bedroom, hands clean and bladder satisfied. In the dim light, he could make out a lump on the bed that he knew to be Mello, and the deep, rhythmic breathing told him his boyfriend was, surprisingly, still asleep.

The unsympathetic alarm clock on the floor informed him, in faint green light, that it was five o'clock in the morning. He glared at it, but it was not intimidated and refused to change its harsh numbers to something more agreeable.

Light knew he wouldn't be able to get to sleep again – not when he'd only need to wake up again in an hour and half.

Which meant he had some time to kill.

Hovering in the doorway of his bedroom, his slumbering lover sprawled out on his bed, Light considered his options. He could shower – though he really didn't need to for another two hours or so, and why risk waking a possible grumpy Mello up earlier than necessary? He also could study for a criminal psychology test he had next week, despite the fact that he already knew the material backwards and forwards.

Or, he could indulge himself.

Light pretended to think about it a moment longer, but he already knew what he'd decided upon.

Indulgence it was, then.

He padded back out of the bedroom and into the living room, where he clicked on a low-level lamp that wasn't bright enough to disturb Mello down the hall but was still enough for Light to see what he was doing. Then, snagging his sketchbook and drawing pencils out of his backpack from where he'd left it on the sofa, he curled up on the chair beside the lamp and began to think.

His eyes gently closed as his mind began sinking into his memory of yesterday – scanning images of face after face after face.

He remembered Yoshimoto's face, with his slit, cheerful eyes and high eyebrows, and the annoyingly full bottom lip that was at odds with his much thinner top lip. He remembered his father, with his lined mouth and kind eyes, his square jaw and prickly moustache. He remembered the long-chinned man he'd bumped into near the subway, and the button-nosed woman who'd smiled shyly at him on campus.

Each face etched itself into his mind as his well-trained memory filled out every line, curve, detail, and subtle nuance of the people he'd come into contact with yesterday. Beautiful faces, ugly faces, unique faces, bland faces – all types paraded through his memory until he had a veritable circus of humanity gathered within his mind.

Light had…what might be considered an unhealthy obsession with faces. He saw no reason to be embarrassed of this, though he knew some people wouldn't care to understand. But for Light, faces held the key to understanding a person, the key to a person's essence.

And nothing gave him a greater thrill than capturing a person's essence on paper. It was almost a compulsion; when he saw an interesting face he'd sometimes be overcome by the need to immortalize it on paper, to express the tiny details that made it unique.

Faces spoke, even when mouths stayed silent.

He had explained it partially to Mello once, when they both were caught in the afterglow of sex that lowered barriers and invited familiarity. Light had been stretched out by Mello's side, who was sitting propped up against the headboard. He'd softly traced patterns into his lover's stomach, while his eyes were busy studying the unique details and personal touches that made Mello's face his own. Mello had spoken up, asking in his typically blunt manner what the fuck Light found so fascinating.

Light had smirked and said, "I'm looking at your face."

"I can understand the appeal. It's pretty fucking sexy, if you ask me," Mello had grinned smugly.

"And you're a conceited ass. But you do have a very interesting face."

"Do I?"

"Mmm," Light had hummed in agreement, before swinging himself up to suddenly straddle Mello's waist. He'd reached forward, gently brushing all of the blond hair out of Mello's face, the strands pale in the dim light. "The thing about faces," he'd whispered, "is every single one is different. And every single one," he'd let his hands linger in Mello's hair, stroking and playing, "has a different story. A face reflects the person inside. Emotions…those can be faked or masked, but your physical appearance is part of who you are."

"I thought you weren't supposed to judge a book by its cover," Mello had joked, running teasing hands along Light's thighs.

"That may be true about books," Light had smirked back down at him, "but people…are another matter entirely. A person's face is an element of themselves, and as such, it tells you something about them, if only because it's part of what makes them unique, what makes them who they are."

"So what do you see of me in my face?"

"Nothing good," Light had scoffed playfully, his grin wicked and his voice low. "In the line of your nose," his finger had begun softly tracing Mello's slender, pointed nose, "I see your impetuousness. You don't listen well, and you jump into things without thinking. Your eyes," his thumb had begun circling the smirking, deep brown eyes, "reflect how driven by emotions you are. You don't have cool, logical eyes, for all your vaunted and, I admit, considerable intelligence. Your eyes are passionate and volatile, quick to flash in anger or laughter. And your jaw…" Light had breathed, as his finger slipped down to run along Mello's jaw, "…in your jaw, I can see your selfishness and your ego."

He'd leaned down then, twisting Mello's head to the side and letting his mouth lightly play with the blond's ear, whispering and biting and sucking. "You're the type to put your own needs ahead of others'. You think of yourself before anything else."

He'd pulled back and rolled his eyes at the blond. "Basically, you're a self-centered, emotional, impetuous brat, and because I know you I can see it in your face. You act without thinking, and you go after what you want, without considering consequences – and I'm willing to bet that's going to come back and bite you in the ass someday."

Mello had captured Light's wrist, pulling it up to his mouth to run his tongue along on the fingers.

"But," he'd grinned, "I'm a damn sexy self-centered, emotional, impetuous brat. And you like me anyway."

Light had risen an elegant eyebrow and trailed his free hand up Mello's chest, unable to deny it, and then all talk of faces and humanity stopped as they slowly lost themselves in each other's body once more.

Now, tucked up in his living room chair, bathed in the soft glow of the side lamp, Light finally let his pencil kiss the page and began to draw.

This was a habit he'd been indulging in ever since he'd first begun drawing, and it was as much of a memory exercise as it was a way to practice his art. It was a test for himself, a way to see how well he could remember and then reproduce faces he'd seen, even the faces of random strangers that only wandered into his life by chance and then wandered out just as quickly.

He started on an easy one: his father. It was a face he'd seen his entire life, one that was as familiar to him as his own – maybe even more familiar. But now, he focused on how it had looked yesterday – the stressed, slightly frazzled look in his eyes that meant he was in the middle of a particularly worrying case, countered by the warm, gentle smile on his face as he talked to his only son.

Next was Yoshimoto. He was easy as well, if only because he almost always looked exactly the same – cheerful and determined and dauntlessly, surprisingly capable. His essence and personality were displayed in the eager lines of his face, his bright, happy eyes, and his firm, dependable jaw; Light carefully and meticulously captured them all on paper.

He moved on to other faces, faces that required more thought and effort, faces he'd only seen for a moment or so before they walked out of his life forever.

Gradually, all sense of self and time were forgotten as he lost himself within the sweeping strokes and tiny dashes of his pencil. His mind was consumed, everything else inconsequential.

Sometimes, drawing faces was just as much of a release for him as sex.

Eventually, Light was so absorbed with his task, etching and brushing and remembering, that he didn't notice as Mello shuffled down the hallway, half-heartedly pulling on his clothes from yesterday, until he was leaning over his shoulder and whispering right in his ear.

"You know you're still in your underwear, right?"

Light looked down and discovered that yes, he was still clad only in a pair of black boxers. Huh.

"Not that I'm complaining, by any means," Mello assured, eyeing the smooth lines of Light's torso and toned legs. Then he noticed the sketchbook balanced on Light's knee. "Drawing again?"

"Mm-hm," Light merely hummed, squinting towards the kitchen to figure out what time it was. Six twenty-eight. He ought to be getting in the shower soon.

"These are nice," Mello murmured, plucking up the sketchbook and flipping through the pages, tucking blond hair behind his ear as he studied the faces. "Who are they?"

"Hm? Oh, just people," Light answered, standing and stretching out stiff muscles. "You want breakfast, or do you need to get going?"

"Mm…I got work, but thanks. Are these people you've seen or made up?" he asked, turning over a page.

"Seen, for the most part," Light answered, strolling over to the kitchen to make some coffee. Had he looked back, he would have seen a shocked expression spread across his lover's face as he stared down at the sketchbook in his hands. But he hadn't, so he didn't.

And because he was busy fishing coffee out of the cupboard, he didn't notice the strange, barely perceptible note in Mello's otherwise casual voice as he asked, "Where did you see this one?"

Light looked back then, squinting across the room to where Mello was holding up the sketchbook, pointing to one of the etched faces.

It was a re-sketch he had done of the man he'd drawn earlier for the witness in the Aioi murder case – the pencil-mouth man.

"Oh," he answered, turning back to his coffee preparations. "I actually didn't see that one. That one's from a description a witness gave yesterday; I just did it again for practice. You want coffee before you go?"

"Nah, I'm good." Mello dropped the sketchbook on the end table, then sauntered over to where Light was flipping on the coffee maker. "My boss'll have my balls if I'm late." He pressed against Light's back, dropping a kiss on his shoulder. "Good to see you again, babe. I can't come tonight, but see you tomorrow?"

"Mm…probably not," Light answered distractedly, leaning against the other, his hand reaching back to play with Mello's hair. "There's a guest professor giving a lecture tomorrow night at the university, and I need to attend for one of my classes. Some big shot psychologist with more doctorates than anyone knows what to do with."

"Okay. I guess I'll see you and your ass Friday." Then Mello slapped Light's ass and headed towards the door before he could react, a satisfied smirk on his face and a swagger in his step.

Light rolled his eyes and poured himself a cup of coffee.