Amane Misa's girly voice always grated on L's ears – especially when she was using it to childishly insist upon her loyalty to her true love – even when L was utilizing these feelings to help with the case. Her excessive feelings for Yagami Raito annoyed him. He allowed no one to know this; in fact, he even encouraged these feelings and praised her loyalty, keeping his face blank and his hands in his pockets the whole time.

"…and her love for Raito-kun is the greatest in the world," he was reciting at her after she pledged herself to help capture Kira for Raito.

She was watching him with her eyes wide, her tiny mouth open in astonishment. "…R…Ryuuzaki-san..." she gasped. She clasped her hands together like a child. "M…Misa may have thought wrongly of you until now… calling you a pervert… you understand me perfectly."

Raito was standing still between them, looking incredulous.

"Yes, Misa-san, you are indeed an excellent woman worthy of Raito-kun." L's voice disguised the bitter irony he felt as he glanced at Misa.

Misa threw her hands up in the air ecstatically. "Thank you, Ryuuzaki." She pranced toward him and bent to peck him on the cheek; her lips were warm, soft, and slightly sticky. L was startled. He found it repulsive, and disgust coiled in his belly, but before he could draw back she had bounded away again, pigtails bobbing, and wrapped herself firmly around Raito's arm.

"What if I fell in love with you?" he said to her, hoping she would take it as a subtle warning to never touch him again. He turned and looked at her, wiping the stickiness off his cheek with one hand. He wished that Raito would also pull away from her touch instead of standing there staring at him.

"Um… that would be..." Misa was speaking again. "Let's just say that we're friends. How about it?" Her expression was too eager, too open. L turned away, not wanting to look at it. She was too easily manipulated.

"Yes," he said, but he wasn't really interested at all in his relationship with Misa. He was more interested in a certain young genius with hair and eyes the color of caramel. "My number of friends has increased again," he said, looking at the ceiling. Raito was silent. What was he thinking?

L suddenly found his hand seized as he was pulled into a circle.

"Yes, Raito's friends are my friends. Let's all get together," Misa was crowing happily as she swung them around. L's other hand reached out, instinctively it seemed, seeking Raito's in the chaos. Raito's fingers were cool and smooth as they slipped into L's palm so they wouldn't fall over; L gripped them tightly. He could feel Raito's eyes on him, and it felt a little weird. After a moment, Misa let go and they immediately separated – as much as they could with the chain connecting them.

"…and Misa will never betray her friends. Just leave it up to me. With our powers combined, the three of us are going to arrest Kira!" Misa continued to celebrate.

Perfect. That was exactly was he needed Misa to say. "Um, about that…" L couldn't keep the tiniest grin from quirking up the corners of his mouth as he prepared to use Misa to reel Raito in. "It appears that Yagami-kun is going to take a different approach from me and go with his father in this investigation, so it would just be you and me, Misa-san…" L kept his face carefully empty as he said it, trying to look innocent.

Misa's enthusiasm fizzled at once. "Huh, what's that…"

L could see from the expression on Raito's face that he was figuring it out; one of the things L secretly loved about Raito was the way he could look into his eyes and see all the puzzle pieces falling together in his mind.

"You play dirty, Ryuuzaki…" Raito finally said. "Then I'll join this side of the investigation as well."

L didn't care about playing dirty. Delighted, he ran one thumb over his mouth, a habit he'd developed after getting sugar frequently stuck to his lips. "No, that's quite alright," he said, knowing what he said now didn't matter. The side of his mouth quirked up again.

"What are you saying? It's decided that Raito is also joining us." She pumped one arm into the air excitedly.

"No, that's not it…" said Raito. "I'm against this method of investigating. It's too dangerous for Misa."

Something twisted in L's stomach.

"Raito, thank you for thinking about me. But let me do it. I want to be useful to you, Raito. I want to be useful and be loved even more by Raito. And Misa…" For a second, Misa slipped into her habit of referring to herself in third person. "If it's for Raito, I can die without any regrets."

There it was again: Misa's undying loyalty for Raito, loudly declared, this time in response to Raito's over-protectiveness of her. L really didn't want to be in the room. Actually, he didn't want Raito in the room, either. He wanted Raito and himself in a different room with Misa somewhere on an entirely different planet. It was completely illogical but… well, there it was.

Anyway, all three of them were on board with the plan now; he'd achieved his objective. A few minutes later, Misa had vanished to do something with her makeup – something that L didn't understand, since she always came back looking exactly the same – and he and Raito were in the hallway, standing under the bright corporate fluorescents. L dug his toes into the stiff carpet; then he turned and dragged Raito off towards the elevator. Raito caught up and walked alongside him. L stuck his hands in his pockets again.

"You must be very much in love with Misa-san to be so protective of her. Isn't that so, Raito-kun?" L said conversationally, his voice somewhat low. They reached the elevator and his finger pressed the down button. The doors slid open at once.

"As I said, Ryuuzaki, I don't think Misa should be involved like this," said Raito as they filed into the elevator together. "It's dangerous for someone so simple-minded."

"Hn…" L turned his eyes on Raito, measuring the way the lights reflected on his hair, turning the caramel strands to pale gold. "You have a good point, but Misa-san volunteered herself. Besides that, you avoided answering my question, Raito-kun."

"Hm? Question?" Raito did that thing where he looked sideways at L and tipped his head back.

They watched each other for a moment. L became distracted by the pulse in Raito's throat, watching the quick swell and ebb of the flesh over his veins. He tried to think back, to remember when he'd fallen for the other boy, but the exact moment was impossible to pinpoint. It could have been the moment he'd had to accept that Raito probably wasn't Kira anymore, or any time he'd seen Raito's earnest efforts to find Kira… or even as far back as the moment Raito had volunteered himself for incarceration. Whenever it was, in the current moment he was finding Raito's fluttering pulse very reassuring. Surely, neither gods nor serial killers had such a heartbeat.

Raito was speaking again. "You mean, if I'm in love with Misa? Don't ask ridiculous questions, Ryuuzaki." He looked away, apparently studying the button panel.

A small catch in Raito's otherwise smooth voice caught L 's ear, but he didn't let it show. "Ridiculous? How disappointing for Misa-san. Raito-kun, you're so rude. You don't care for Misa-san?"

Raito didn't answer; he only turned his head and glared at L. The effect was rather ruined by the fact that L couldn't help but notice how much Raito's eyes looked like chips of amber.

"I see," L said at last. "Well, thanks to Misa-san, you're still part of the investigation." He ran his thumb over his lip. "I should really thank her for that."

"What?" Raito inhaled sharply. He shifted his shoulders, twisting so that he faced L. "Ryuuzaki…" he began suspiciously, "did you enlist Misa just to force me to stay?"

L studiously observed the back of the elevator doors. "Hn…partly."

"Tch. You would. You always go too far, Ryuuzaki."

Just then the elevator doors slid open on the main floor. Raito marched out to rejoin Mr. Yagami and the others; L slouched after him. "I know," he said.

I know.