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Soichiro stalked down the hall to his son's bedroom, his head spinning slightly. Part of it was relief at the thought that it was only a scary film at the root of Sayu's terror. Most of it was fury at his son playing a joke like this on Sayu. Soichiro believed that Light hadn't done it out of malice – at least, not serious malice – but he should have known when to stop!
Slamming open the bedroom door, he strode over to Light's bed, stripped the covers off him, grabbed his son's arm and yanked him into a sitting position, then lifted him out of bed and set him on his feet. He didn't do it all that gently, and Light sat down hard, staring up at his father with huge eyes. Soichiro was a strict father, but he wasn't a rough one and he'd never manhandled either of his children in this way.
"Get me that film," Soichiro commanded.
"The film you showed your sister! The film you said was going to kill her!"
Understanding dawned in Light's eyes. "That's...Dad, that was just a joke! It's not my fault she has no sense of—"
"Light, I swore that I would never raise my hand to either of my children and right now I'm finding it very difficult to keep that promise. Do not make it harder for me! Your sister is currently in my bedroom and terrified to the point of hysteria, now bring me that film!"
Light scrambled to his feet and headed for his school bag, rummaged around it in for a few minutes, then brought over a video.
Soichiro snatched the video from his son's trembling hands and broke it in two over his knee, much to Light's dismay.
"Dad, that's not mine! I borrowed it from Kaneda-kun!"
"Oh? And where did Kaneda get it?"
Light opened his mouth, then closed it again and shifted his weight.
Biting his lip, Light said in a very low voice, "We got it from his father's collection."
"And did you have his father's permission to take it?"
Light shook his head once, not looking at his father.
"I see. So the two of you stole it. I had no idea my son was a thief."
The shot hit home and Light stared up at his father. "I'm not a thief! I...we were going to put it back!"
"It doesn't matter whether you were going to put it back or not; you had no right to take it in the first place." Soichiro took a deep breath. "I will call Kaneda-san in the morning and tell him what his son – and mine – did, and offer to replace the film that was broken."
"Well, make sure he knows it wasn't me who broke it," Light mumbled.
"What did you say?"
Soichiro eyed his son coldly, but didn't press the issue.
"If I do end up having to buy a replacement, I'll stop your allowance until you've paid back the cost."
"That's not fair! It was only a joke!"
Soichiro seized Light's wrist, pulling him to his feet. "Come with me!"
He half led, half marched his son into Sayu's room and pulled back one of the taped curtains with some difficulty, revealing the newspaper underneath.
Light stared at it, eyes huge, then turned to Soichiro.
"I didn't know she believed it."
"You hoped she would, Light, or you'd never have shown it to her in the first place."
"I...it was just a joke, Dad. I...yeah, I thought she'd take it seriously, but I thought she'd forget it in a few days. I never meant to scare her this much. I swear. I just thought she'd have nightmares for a while and then that would be it."
"You wanted to give your little sister nightmares?"
"No! I mean...I didn't do it because I wanted her to have them, that was just a...a side effect. Like collateral damage."
Soichiro's hand started itching again and he folded his arms tightly, telling himself that he would not slap his son, no matter how angry Light made him.
"Why did you do it then? What made you want to play such a joke on her in the first place?"
Light squirmed, glaring at the floor. "I don't know."
"You do know, Light. You made the choice. You know why you made it."
"It's just...she's just so irritating! You never had a little sister, you don't know. She's always trotting around after me and my friends, wanting us to play with her and that stupid dumb platypus she carries around. What kind of little girl has a cuddly platypus anyway?"
The kind of little girl whose parents weren't able to get to the store until the very last minute, Soichiro thought but didn't say. It had been a platypus or a grasshopper. Besides, Momo's arrival had had an unexpected bonus; Sayu had been so fascinated by this odd-looking animal that she'd instantly wanted to know more about them, and with the amount of research she'd done, her reading skills had shot up until she was one of the best in her class.
"How did you set up the phone call?"
"Kaneda-kun...we timed the video so we'd know how long it took. He said he was going for a glass of water, but instead he hid outside the lounge and waited until it started, then he called the landline when it was time. You were working late and Mom was asleep, so she wouldn't have heard it."
"How did Kaneda call the landline, Light?"
Studying his bare feet, Light mumbled, "He called it from your study."
"My study." Soichiro's voice was very cold. "I see. Would this be the same study that I specifically forbade you from entering under any circumstances without my permission? And I advise you to think your answer over very carefully before you make it, Light. Flippancy would not be a good move on your part."
"Yeah. That study. Dad, honest, it was just a joke."
"Not to your sister."
"Yeah, I get that!" Light glared at his father. "I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry Sayu was stupid enough to believe—"
"Do not push it," Soichiro growled. "I hope you're pleased with your actions, Light, because I can assure you that nobody else is, least of all me. You'll apologize to Sayu tomorrow and you'll also apologize to Kaneda-san. Understand?"
Light nodded, looking at the ground. "Should I write him a letter?"
"No; I'll take you round to his house on Saturday and you can do it in person."
The boy's head snapped up, alarm written in every line of his face. "B-but—"
"Something to say to me, Light?"
From his son's expression, there were several things Light would have liked to say to Soichiro if only he'd had the nerve, but he shook his head.
"Good. And Light?"
Light glanced up at him, biting his lip. "Yes Dad?"
"I don't want you socializing with Kaneda-kun anymore." Now that he thought about it, a lot of Light's attitude had begun when he'd made friends with Kaneda. Soichiro was well aware of Iruka Kaneda's home life; it seemed to progress exactly how the boy wanted. He ate what he wanted, when he wanted, watched anything he wanted on TV and stayed up as late as he pleased. Compared to that, the Yagami household must seem like a prison.
Light stared at him, shock and anger on his face. "What? You can't do that!"
Soichiro met his son's look with an arctic one of his own.
"Would you like to say that to me again?"
His son bit his lip and looked down. "No. But just because Kaneda-kun doesn't worship his father, that doesn't mean he's bad! And just because we watched that movie, you're saying I can't be friends with him? It's not like being friends with Kaneda-kun is going to turn me into a...a mass murderer or something!"
"It's got nothing to do with that." As far as Soichiro was concerned, sneaking downstairs to watch a movie was nothing more than boyish mischief, easily overlooked. The same could be said for the trick Light played on Sayu, and despite his anger, Soichiro believed his son when he said he hadn't meant for it to go so wrong. "Kaneda-kun's family relationships are his own business."
"Well, I don't see why you can't be more like his father. I'm not a little kid anymore, Dad; I'm twelve! I'm almost a teenager!"
"Who just played a very immature, very cruel trick on his sister!" Soichiro couldn't remember the last time he'd been this angry with anyone, let alone his own son. While a small part of him was pleased by Light's refusal to be intimidated, his son's egocentricity worried him. "And on that subject, Light, you'll tell her what you did and apologize to her tomorrow."
Light nodded once, gaze trained on his feet again. "So, is that it?"
Something flared up in Soichiro at the question; the tone may have been properly respectful, but the words were not.
"No, Light, that is not it. You are grounded. For the rest of the month, you do not go anywhere except to school and cram school."
That one hit home; Light's head snapped up again, eyes wide. "But the Sumidagawa fireworks festival is next week!"
"Too bad. We'll find a sitter for you."
"You're going to go without me?"
Soichiro raised cold eyebrows. "Well, I see no reason why your mother and your sister should have to suffer because of your stupid prank."
"But that's all it was, Dad, a prank! I never set out to scare her, I mean, not really scare her! You can't make me miss the Sumidagawa festival because of that! That's not fair!"
Soichiro quelled his son with a look. "Would you like to miss the Jingu Gaien festival as well?"
Light shut his mouth and shook his head, but there was a mutinous look in his eyes that his father didn't like the look of.
If you don't tell Sachiko, he will. Not only that, but Soichiro believed it wouldn't be a particularly fair telling. All Light would have to do would be to squeeze out a few tears and ease his mother into overturning his father's decision without letting her know it was his father's decision, and he'd be in the perfect position to play one parent off against the other. He wished he could believe his son wouldn't stoop to such a low trick, but experience had taught him otherwise. Light was a good son (or as good as a hyperactive and hyper intelligent twelve year old could reasonably be expected to be) but he wouldn't think twice about manipulating his parents to serve his own ends.
"I'll also tell your mother when I pick her up on Monday," he added.
A cold light flashed through Light's eyes and Soichiro suppressed a sigh. There was no apprehension or guilt in his son's face, only irritation at having his plan thwarted.
Be fair. You just woke him up and punished him; of course he's going to be angry and resentful right now.
"May I ask you something?"
Light looked up at his father, eyes hurt. "Why are you making such a big deal out of this?"
Soichiro raised his eyebrows. "Do you think I'm making a big deal out of it?"
"Yeah. It was just a joke. I'd never hurt Sayu. I swear."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that, at any rate. But you know how impressionable your sister is. If all you'd done was play a trick on her and you'd owned up to her the next day – or even the same night – I would have treated it as nothing more than childish mischief that got a little out of hand, but you went out of your way to set this up and let her go on thinking she was going to die."
"I didn't know what I was doing was that bad!"
Soichiro couldn't see his own expression, but it must have been particularly grim, because Light suddenly went pale and dropped his gaze again.
"Yes you did, Light, because you went out of your way to frighten Sayu into keeping her mouth shut about it by saying that if she told me you were behind it, then she'd die early."
"Well, obviously she didn't believe me, since you're here right now! And if we're talking about bad things, then Sayu shouldn't have been downstairs!"
"Neither should you. And you stole that film from Kaneda-san. I'm also punishing you for that."
Light licked his lips. "Can't I be grounded for two months and still go to the festival? Or maybe be grounded starting after the festival?"
"This is not open to negotiation! You are grounded, end of discussion. Now go back to bed; you've got school in the morning and it's too late for you to be up."
His son opened his mouth, possibly to protest the unfairness of being blamed for Soichiro having woken him up.
Light shut his mouth again with a snap and turned and scampered back to his own room. There was just enough defiance left for him to slam the door hard, but Soichiro could overlook that, or at least was feeling too tired to deal with it right now. The boy had to have some outlet for his emotions, after all. Soichiro just hoped that would be an end to it.
Now to get Sayu back into bed, and then we can all go back to our lives.
He walked out of Sayu's room, picking his way carefully over all the books scattered on the floor from his daughter's makeshift barricade, and back to his own bedroom door. Raising his hand, he knocked on it.
"Sayu, it's me. Open up."
There was a hasty patter of footsteps and a click as the door unlocked and opened the barest crack, just enough for Sayu to peek through.
"I've spoken to your brother," Soichiro continued. "He's admitted that everything he told you about the ghost woman was only a joke, and he's very sorry he scared you."
The door opened wide and Sayu scrutinized her father carefully. "Really?"
"Yes. Come on." Soichiro lifted his daughter up and Sayu curled her arms around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder. "Let's get you into bed."
"Will you stay 'til I fall asleep?"
"Of course." Soichiro carried Sayu through into her own bedroom and managed to negotiate all the woolen trip wires to place his daughter down in her bed and pull the blankets over her, then knelt down by the side of the bed. "Do you know it's now half past eleven at night?"
Sayu stared at him. "Really?"
"See for yourself." Soichiro held out his wrist and let Sayu look at his watch. "So either the ghost woman is running very late, or Light was telling the truth about it only being a joke."
Satisfied, his daughter snuggled back under the covers, yawning hugely.
"Can I stay home from school? Just tomorrow? It's just...I'm really tired and I haven't sleeped much and I just wanna stay in bed. Please?"
It was the first time Sayu had ever asked this. In the normal scheme of things, Soichiro strongly disapproved of his children taking days off school, but given the night – hell, the week – Sayu had just had, he didn't see how he could refuse. Chances were good she'd be too tired to concentrate anyway.
"Alright. But just for tomorrow; on Monday you're going back." That would give Sayu the weekend to recover. "And I expect you to get very high marks on your homework, since your staying home means you'll have had longer to do it than the rest of your classmates."
"Will you stay home with me?" Sayu pleaded, her eyelids drooping.
Soichiro shook his head. "I wish I could, but there's a new member of the NPA coming into my department. I have to be there. I'll call Yamamoto-san next door and ask her to come and keep an eye on you."
"Can't Matsubara-san do whatever it is you have to do?" Sayu persisted.
"Matsubara-san is in America, Sayu."
Sayu wriggled a little and sighed. "I wish we could go to America!"
"Maybe one day," Soichiro said automatically. Ever since starting English lessons at school, Sayu had become fascinated with all things Western and kept trying to persuade her father to transfer to the FBI at regular intervals.
Soichiro wondered idly if it worked the other way around. Were there Western kids out there who were obsessed with all things Japanese? That thought made him smile.
"I'll try and come back early," he added. "And Sayu, before I get back, I expect this room to be cleared. That means I want the newspaper off the windows, the curtains untaped, the barriers put away and all the tripwires tidied up."
Sayu woke up enough to look a little worried. "Okay, but can you do your bathroom door, 'cause I'm not big enough to push that thing back all by myself."
"I'll do everything in my room, Sayu, if you do everything in yours. Fair?"
It wasn't, at least not if you looked at it in terms of division of labor, but Sayu nodded eagerly. Good. That was one major crisis dealt with, although Soichiro couldn't suppress a pang of guilt at his own failure to spot that there was anything wrong with Sayu. Maybe once Sachiko came home, things would get back to normal again...
Sorry about the delay on this one. It was something I put aside to finish 'when I had time' around Resurrection and other things. Anyway, hope you enjoyed it :)