Champagne Petals
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Not mine.

- Seven -

It's two minutes into class and Light's already bored and lonely, because L's slipped away again, and she might be taking the opportunity to remove the ringleaders of an international prostitution scheme, but it's barely a challenge to be taking notes and names at the same time, and she stifles a sigh and idly starts planning out the rest of the day, detours for an apple she wouldn't otherwise be able to pick up for Ryuk, a half-formed plan for eliminating whatever new scum rises to the top after she's skimmed the leadership of the prostitution ring off.

Ryuuga could be anywhere right now, plotting anything, chasing down the false trails she's laid or, worse, chasing her down, and she can't stand it, the attacks that she can't see coming, and she'll just drive herself into a spiral thinking about it, so she inhales deep and clean and turns a smile towards the lovely girl who's been trying to catch her attention for the last eight minutes.

"I'm sorry Takada-san, what were you saying...?"

Takada-san, Light decides murderously, an hour later, is somewhat annoying. She should know better than to assume that someone with good grades actually has a brain, really, and maybe that's unkind, maybe she should sympathize more, but this is tiresome, remembering how to play this game at its painfully sluggish pace, remembering how to smile and flatter a pretty girl who clearly is besotted with her, who would never dream of laughing in her face, who would never lift a hand against her, who wears her hair just right and smiles so sweetly and is the undisputed queen of To-oh, who is everything Light stopped pretending to be halfway through high school, who's content floating in the useless little closed bubble that the university's formed, who has no major career goals of interest, who wants to become involved in television of all the worthless things, who's never even thought about breaking free from the mold, tackling a career of worth and making an effort to make things different-

Ryuuga's been spoiling her from the beginning. It's an excellent tactic, really, Light thinks, to level the playing field, to coax her into dropping the mirrored shield she'd once wielded, to coax her into not caring, and their battlefield is littered with the shattered remains of a thousand lives, including her own, however fake it used to be.

She doesn't much care to pick the shards back up again and slot them into place, she doesn't much care to start playing for an idiot audience, not again, maybe not ever, and Takada is an anchor on her arm and it's only been an hour, she shouldn't feel like she's sinking, and she can't drown when she's learning to fly, she won't fall into this, not now, not ever again-

And then she lifts her eyes, and Ryuuga is there, perched on a bench and waving madly, a vacuous smile on her face, and Light inhales sharply and doesn't mind the pinprick of Takada's nails into her skin, because this petty, pretty thing might make a decent tool someday but right now she's just a nuisance, and the last thing Light needs is to lug dead weight into a prize fight.

"Excuse me, Takada-san," Light says with a rueful chuckle, "it looks like Ryuuga's gotten sick of waiting for me to get out of class. Guess she decided to skip today."

"I see," Takada says, her voice calm but her eyes tense, and she'll need to work on that, if she wants that future in broadcasting. She might prove useful someday if that's really what she's been planning for, her infatuation all but guarantees it, but Light can't help feeling a little disgusted.

Kira's duty shouldn't be this easy but people are so stupid and self-involved that they can't even save themselves, and it's pathetic, it's so ridiculously sad that she had to become Kira in the first place, all because everyone else is too weak to try and change anything, all because everyone else is too afraid to lose their precious social standing, everone else is too afraid to speak out or even try, everyone else is too afraid to die.

Coward, she thinks viciously, you worthless coward, get your filthy paws off of me and she smiles softly and tilts her head down and smiles at Takada, sugar-sweet and gentle.

"I'll call you later, all right?" Light says, because she might want to claw her eyes out but she should nuture this, because it won't hurt to flirt with other girls to tease Ryuuga, because any new cover she can invent is another false trail to lead, and Takada's making this pathetically easy.

It doesn't wipe the tension off of her face, but Takada pulls a passable smile and says, "Of course, Yagami-san."

Light takes a step forward, hoping that she'll get the point, and it takes a moment, but she finally lets go. "Until later, Takada-san," Light says pointedly, and Takada smiles again, a bit more smugly this time, and says, "I'll talk to you later, Yagami-san."

She walks away with her head held high, and Light rolls her eyes once she's sure she won't turn around again. The she sighs, shakes her head slightly, and turns to greet the source of the quiet footsteps that did more to drive Takada away than her own attempts at extricating herself from Takada's grasping little claws.

"Light-kun had a leech attached to her arm, and she put it there on purpose," Ryuuga announces, and Light has to admit it's an apt comparison. She kind of wants to disinfect her arm now. "Has she not heard that bloodletting is considered an ineffective treatment for disease?"

"Her name is Takada, you know," Light says dryly, mildly insulted by the insinuation but choosing to ignore it because she refuses to make a face at Ryuuga when they're both in public. "And she's sweet enough, if a bit dull. A little harmless flirtation isn't going to hurt anything."

Ryuuga tilts her head to the side and gives her a blank look, but her eyes are just a little more narrowed than usual. "Isn't going to hurt you," she corrects.

"I can't only talk to you, you know," Light says, nudging her softly with an elbow, "and it's rude not to reply when people want to speak with you. Besides, she's pretty and it's always better to be nice to your admirers."

"That's because they so often turn into stalkers," Ryuuga says mildly, which is not actually what Light was going to say but is a fairly good point. "Perhaps you should dump her for your own good."

Light laughs and reaches for her hand. "If she's making you jealous then I'm definitely not dumping her," she says happily, lacing their fingers together. It always seems like Ryuuga should be cool to the touch, like a painting or a statue, like antifreeze should run in her veins instead of blood, and Light's surprised every time by her warmth, even though she shouldn't be.

Light's always considered the poets useless, wasting their oratory on beauty and wonder and pondering the interminable human condition, but she's starting to gain more of an appreciation for them now that there's something in the world that actually leaves her a little breathless, now that there's something in the world that actually makes her smile.

"Using another as a pawn in one's game is a very Kira-like maneuver," Ryuuga is saying, setting their joined hands to swinging, and Light bites down the urge to laugh, reconsiders, then laughs anyway.

"And it's a proven L-maneuver," she retorts, gently chiding, voice still lilting a little with laughter. It's a lovely sound, she knows, because she'd practiced it until it was perfect, until complete strangers paused on streetcorners to watch her as she passed. Ryuuga, however, is a different story, so she squeezes her hand and contines, "Everybody in Kanto saw that broadcast."

"As you were meant to, Yagami-kun," Ryuuga drawls, a hint of mischief in her voice, "but the man I chose was guilty of many horrible crimes. Dear Takada-san is not."

Not yet, anyway, Light thinks, but when the time is right, she'll become a murderer. Takada would probably be willing to be one now, but Light will slaughter anyone who dares get near Ryuuga with her bare hands, if necessary. "It's hardly my fault I'm beautiful, brilliant, and seemingly unattached," Light says cheerfully, "I really don't know what to do with all of that unwanted attention."

Collapse under the weight of it, maybe, but that was before, and she's a god now, she's not bound by petty mortal rules any longer, she's free.

Ryuuga, as always, remains unimpressed. It's kind of cute. "It is precisely your fault, and yes you do."

Light squeezes her hand again, because she's feeling content and affectionate, because there's more reality in this moment than in the first eighteen years of her life combined, and the sun is shining and sakura petals are falling in her hair, and it's a little amusing how swiftly her moods swing when Ryuuga's near, it's a little amusing how silly and infatuated she feels when she's spent all of this time very carefully plotting how to kill the girl who's making her smile. "Well, yes, but it's not my fault that others don't seem to notice it's my fault."

"How very like Kira," Ryuuga drawls, and she'd like to turn and smother her in kisses, she'd like to turn and sweep her off her feet, she'd like to turn and kill all the world around them until they were all that remained, just a goddess and her consort, alpha and omega, always and forever.

What a worthless world to stand between them.

"How very like every woman in a society like this one, who has been trained to present a specific face to the world in all circumstances and is punished when she fails to adhere to those socially-mandated standards."

Ryuuga snorts. "How very like every human in every society."

Touché, Light thinks, but also a lie, if you are who you say you are. "I can hardly be singled out for choices mimicked by all members of the species-or most of them, at least."

Ryuuga ignores the jibe. "Ah, but Light-kun, of course you can."

"Only by you, Ryuuga," Light retorts, "everyone else would go for the sane option."

"That," Ryuuga says, a smirk curving her lips, "is precisely my point."

"What, that you're insane?" Light says brightly, and laughs when Ryuuga squeezes her hand just a little too hard, tilts her head back and smiles up at the sky and Ryuk, winging his way back to her now that there's entertainment to be had. "I still say you're jealous, if you're flattering me with your attentions so."

"Hmm," Ryuuga replies, "but do you not automatically assume that you're the only one deserving of my attentions?"

Well, she is. "I already told you I'd battle Kira for the honor."

"An interesting concept, considering that you are she."

It sends a little thrill down Light's spine every time she says that, so careless and so very certain, and Ryuuga will never be able to prove it but she'll always know that she's right. "I'm not, and if it would win you, I'd take on every serial killer there is." Because she has, as it's a duty, and maybe it's a little bit of a joy, that purging the world of its filth has also won this, a hand in her own and a knife at her throat, a shinigami at her side and the world at her feet.

Ryuuga flashes her a quick, tiny smile, and there's nothing at all pretty about it, she's not at all beautiful, and Ryuk's laughing at her, floating along above and cackling about their banter, and maybe he's her best friend too, maybe he's wonderful for giving her all she needed to finally start living a life that's worthy of her.

"I hardly think outdoing them is the way to charm me, Light-kun," Ryuuga says, which is the most blatant lie Light's heard all day, even including the history lecture she'd been subjected to earlier.

"And yet you've been lured to me despite my own innocence. My charms must extend beyond your suspicions of me, as there was no need to get so close-you're risking yourself far too much for such a game."

If she ever finds out that Ryuuga's playacted like this for any other case, she'll kill everyone involved in that investigation, tear out whatever eyes might have looked upon her, and rip out the heart of whoever it was that she ventured out for. She has to keep her safe until the right moment, after all.

"I am very fond of games, Light-kun, as well you know."

"I'd noticed."

"As are you."

Light closes her eyes for a moment, counts out the seconds and then exhales, turning a rueful smile on Ryuuga, tempered with gentle exasperation. "...I don't think I have to tell you that it'd been a long time since I felt like playing before I met you."

"Before the incident which sparked the birth of Kira," Ryuuga corrects.

Light pauses mid-step, then turns to face her fully, schooling her face into stillness and seriousness save for eyes half-lidded and a voice pitched low and gentle. "No," she says deliberately, "not until you."

Looking into those dark eyes, holding her hand, standing in the spring sunshine beneath her shinigami's shadow, it's hardly even a lie at all.

"I am flattered that Light-kun finds me a worthy opponent," Ryuuga says, but the tone of her voice says Kira and there's a fine glaze of sarcasm against the smoothness of the words. "To that end, I wonder, should Light-kun like to play a game with me?"

Light blinks, letting the surprise flood her features. "A new game?" she inquires tentatively, like this is a new dance instead of just another step, like the music's skipped tracks without her knowing.

"Look at where we are, Light-kun."

Light turns and glances, blinks again, then turns back to Ryuuga and raises an inquisitive eyebrow. "Are you seriously suggesting that we play tennis?"

"Why not?"

Because the thought of Ryuuga in proper tennis-playing attire kind of makes her brain balk, which is something that has never happened before as far as Light can recall. "In all this time we've never done anything involving physical exertion. Truth be told up 'til now I hadn't thought it something you would concern yourself with."

"Perhaps I find the idea of physical exertion with Light-kun... invigorating."

Light's surprised into laughter that's much louder than she'd usually allow, but it fits the situation, so she lets it go and ignores Ryuk's startled cackling. "I do find it charming when you flirt back so enthusiastically, but what purpose will this serve? We hardly need to establish a closer relationship for the purposes of your investigation, and if you want to see me in a short skirt all you need to do is ask."

"In a short skirt and physically exerting yourself?" Ryuuga asks, and sometimes she's remarkably like a boy, really, but it's a little surprising that Light doesn't hate it at all.

This time it's Light that snorts. "Hopefully by the time the physical exertion came around I would no longer be wearing the short skirt-unless you're into that sort of thing?"

"I am sure I would be content with whatever Light-kun wished, but I propose this game for other motives."

"I'm not sure whether or not to be disappointed in that," Light admits, shaking her head ruefully, "And your motives are?"

"I find myself pondering an invitation which Light-kun would desire greatly, and yet conflicted, for Kira would desire it greatly as well. And truthfully, it is something that I myself desire for purely selfish motives. So I am proposing a duel. Should Light-kun win, I shall extend the invitation she would so desire."

Light blinks. Considers. Lets her eyes widen just enough to look innocent, then calculating, very carefully letting her lips curve into a faint smile. "And should I lose?"

"Reciprocity. You must extend me an invitation I would desire, one which both myself and L would desire greatly."

Light closes her eyes, inhales deeply, then breathes out slowly, counting three heartbeats before she opens her eyes again and responds. "Unfortunately for you, I am not Kira, and thus cannot offer anything either of you would desire."

Ryuuga takes a step forward, smiling slightly. "And yet you are a Kira suspect." She tugs her hand free and lifts it in a careless gesture, "and a very pretty one," she finishes, patting her cheek delicately, and Light laughs again and tries to lean into her hand, but as always she pulls back much too quickly, and she's not quite fast enough to catch her.

"If you were a boy I'd have punched you for that," Light tells her cheerfully, "but I'll admit I'm intrigued by the idea of a match with you that can only have a favorable outcome for the both of us."

"It's a good thing I'm not a boy, then," Ryuuga says seriously. "Because I would have punched you back, and people tend to frown on that sort of thing."

Light laughs.

The next day is wonderful, playing tennis in the sunshine and sipping tea in the shadow of fake greenery, trading barbs and insinuations over the teasing notes she's written to L-"I can't believe Kira is flirting with you!"-but she's completely dumbfounded when their cell phones go off in the same instant, completely shocked by the news, and she hops in the back seat of the limo with her and curls against her side on the drive to the hospital.

Through the panic and noise and the slowly-settling aftermath, her mother sends her a very sharp look, but she's kept her hands to herself since her feet hit the pavement, and there's nothing at all to prove that she and Ryuuga are any more than passing acquaintances, there's nothing at all to substantiate her suspicions, or Sayu's, and it rapidly becomes clear that her father has no idea what she's been up to, not really, even though he's a member of the investigative team, even when that's what drove him here.

He looks very fragile in the bed, and Light thinks again of mortality, but Soichiro Yagami has never seemed afraid of that, and she might have her issues with him, but her father is an honorable man and her mother is steadfast and her sister is a vibrant thing, and she'll make the world safe for them, she'll take what's been given to her and save their lives.

Kira, after all, is a benevolent god.

The night air is cool as she walks outside, a faint breeze ruffling her hair and chilling her skin, bringing with it the scent of exhaust and fried food, the chatter of pedestrians and a thousand distant horns honking, and Light wanders down towards the steps, pausing before she begins the descent towards the sidewalk, wondering if just maybe...

She's barely been there a moment before the doors open again and Ryuuga drifts through them, taking a long moment to just watch Light before she ambles over and comes to a halt beside her.

They watch the traffic pass by for several long moments before Light turns and presses a chaste kiss to her cheek. "Thank you," she says softly, "for taking me here."

"Your father is a valuable member of the Kira task force," Ryuuga says blandly, "it was no trouble."

Light studies her in the dimness, backlit by the hospital's facade and passing headlights gleaming against her hair, ink-black in the darkness. "And until he recovers?" she asks eventually, "Have our plans changed since this afternoon?"

"No change, Yagami-kun," Ryuuga says mildly, not bothering to look at her. "I'll contact you with the information you'll need to access task force headquarters."

"...I'd hoped we could go out tonight," Light says cautiously, taking a tentative step forward, "I... could use someone to talk to, if you wouldn't mind."

"Not now, Yagami-kun," Ryuuga says, and it shouldn't feel like a slap in the face but it does.

"...oh," is what Light says, hunching in on herself a little instead of snarling at her, instead of lunging for her throat, because this is the perfect moment for Kira to strike, when everything's off-balance, but she can't afford to look that ruthless, so she sticks for looking lost instead. "Of course, you've got lots of logistics to think of." She pastes a small smile on her face, taking care to look pained and awkward and young and unsure instead of murderously angry. "You can indulge me later, I'm sure."

"Mmm," Ryuuga says, and Light suddenly wants to shake her, because she's right there and she's not even watching her, she's right there and suddenly she's not playing the game anymore, and then Ryuuga turns and looks at her and her breath catches so suddenly that it almost hurts.

"You're ruthless enough to have done this on purpose," Ryuuga says, voice mild but with eyes like eternity, and for a moment the dance is frozen, and in the stillness it's her enemy's true face that's the mask, porcelain-pale and perfect.

Light's never seen anything so beautiful.

There's a long moment of quiet while they study one another, while Tokyo pulses like a heartbeat around them, while passing cars scream by and late-shift nurses sidle past, and Light wonders if it will always be like this with her, because of her, a string of sparkling moments stretching out against an endless sea. "...Ryuuga?" she questions delicately, savoring the appellation on her tongue, savoring the purity of the lie, "What are you...?"

Ryuuga-L, L, she's really and truly L-doesn't take Light's invitation, doesn't even acknowledge it, just continues speaking in that careful blank tone that's her real voice, finally.

"You could have. But I know that you didn't."

Another moment, perfect, jewel-like in its stillness, and Light breathes in shallowly, anticipation buzzing in her veins, waiting for the blow.

"Something to consider, Kira-kun."

And then L turns and walks back into the hospital, melting back into Ryuuga as she goes, leaving Kira still in her wake and Light standing on the steps, staring after her, but she's not reeling from the hit, a surgical strike to her pride, she's reeling from the contact, eyes wide and pulse racing, and maybe this thrill is the real addiction, and the imminent divinity merely an aftereffect.

When Ryuk swoops down to settle at her side, Light stays stock-still for several long moments before she turns slowly away, casting a long glance behind her before she takes the first step down.

"I just saw her," she breathes as she starts down the stairs, feeling a giddy smile start tugging at her lips, "All this time we've been playing and I finally saw her and she's perfect!"

Her arms drift up to lock around her chest, where the scraps of the note are tucked between soft cotton and bare skin, and she closes her eyes and thinks of this, one perfect day and one perfect night, and maybe it was an accident but she still won it, enough time and sweetness to catch that one perfect glimpse of L behind Ryuuga's impeccable mask, and she'll have to thank her father for this somehow, when the whole world knows it's her own.

There's a laugh bubbling in her chest as she turns her face to the sky, to her ever-present shadow, and it spills past her lips almost of its own volition. "Ryuk!" she calls happily, unafraid this far away from the hospital doors, safely out of reach of prying eyes. "Ryuk, you saw her too, didn't you?"

He swoops closer, enough that he's looming and black feathers are tickling her skin, and maybe there's electricity humming beneath her skin, maybe she's stolen some of his magic, maybe there's some truth to the myth that when you kill a man you steal his life force and make it your own. "Huh? Saw who?"

"Saw L," Light says, and laughs into the sparkling spread of the city below her, the stars stretched out like dim jewels beyond the glow of the neon lights, and she might not have a shinigami's wings but every step she takes feels like flying.

AN: I loathe this site's formatting. It's best to read my fic at my website, LJ or DW, or AO3, because this is intolerable.