Back at Wammy's, Watari's office was a warm, welcoming room that had always made L feel like he was living inside a Victorian novel, all sober woods and chimneys and comfortable convention. In his first months there, he would appear in the office at random times and take a seat in front of Watari, saying nothing, enjoying the warm sun rays in summer and the flames playing in the chimney in the winter. Watari would ask him what was wrong, and he would start talking about anything, everything, what he had learned at his last Anthropology class, what he would like to visit soon, how the teacher's methods could be improved; he would talk to Watari because there was no one else that he felt lke he could talk to, and the old man would understand, smile patiently and reply half-distractedly, making L feel like more than a letter, even though he knew that he wasn't much more.
The man had always had a taste for grandeur and, now grown up, L had difficulties understanding how could his office back in England hold that atmosphere of classical comfort and intimacy, while Tokyo was host for a massive structure of glass build for a group of less than a dozen people at his indications. Here his office was large, but practically minimalistic, and the simple beige-brown colour scheme had something craftily fake about it. If he hadn't known better, L would have said that Watari, with his nineteen century looks and manners, didn't fit there.
He entered the room, nodded shortly in the man's direction and took the seat across him- equality, but not intimacy. A business meeting. Watari put his hands together under his chin in a careful gesture, but his eyes could read sincere preoccupation.
'Have you decided anything until now?' he asked in English.
'I already told you,' L replied. 'We can't possibly leave with a case in progress and a main suspect chained to me.' Watari looked at him almost scoldingly, but L was a grown man, and he could make his own decisions. 'It's a bit ironic of you proposing that, since you were the one with the idea of all this, anyway,' L continued, gesturing lazily towards the room.
'I agree that this is not the most…opportune moment for a return, but surely you understand my priorities.'
'Of course. But, as you already know, my priorities differ from yours,' L replied.
'Less than you believe. I know you don't enjoy it here. It would do you well to take a break for a few days. I'm not asking for more than that.'
'We can't take a break, Watari. If there are no leads for now, it doesn't mean that we can afford to risk a few days for…' L paused, pursing his lips.
'For a dying child, who has always looked up to you as a model in her life,' the old man said with gravity.
'Exactly. For a dying child, who will die no matter if I'm there to tell her empty words or not,' L said and they weren't pleasant words to say, but he needed to say them, because the world deserved nothing but the truth, even when it hurt. Especially when it hurt. Watari's gaze told him that he had spoken with unnecessary harshness, and he couldn't not silently agree.
'I'm barely the right person to teach you a lesson on humanity,' Watari responded after a short pause. He sounded weary. 'But I care about the children, and we all care about you. You make it sound like a moral imperative, but I know that caring about them is not a duty for you. Don't turn it into one.'
L looked at him still, noting the honesty in his words. Sometimes it was so difficult to understand how people thought, how their minds and hearts really worked, because it seemed like an awful lot of complication for nothing in particular. Yes, he cared about the children at Wammy's, but he also knew that they admired the idea of him just like he, as a child, had admired the idea of being an essential part of a bigger machine, crafting his life in an almost artistic way- it was a lie, and he didn't want to feed their deception.
He did want to help, though, even if other people's definition of help barely matched his own, even if he refused to admit it sometimes. He did want to get out of this bloody glass building and breathe the rain again. Watari's offer was…tempting. It itched him to leave the Kira case when new leads could appear in any second, but he could work from a distance too, and somewhere hidden in his mind, he dreaded the moment when this would come to an end, because the end meant Light being convicted, and that, for some reason, didn't seem like the right thing at all.
He visited Wammy's often, but he didn't live there, because the place didn't bring back quite the best memories. He preferred to live in an apartment in central London, quiet enough to think and to work, noisy enough to make him feel alive (part of the machine). He knew R well enough, though. She was a pale girl of twelve or thirteen who had been diagnosed with leukemia a few years before. She was one of the best and she hadn't let her illness bring her down- quiet, but fierce, she had always regarded him with a sort of silent adoration that he never knew what to make of.
He couldn't chase death, or make pain more bearable, but he supposed it would be nice to see her again. The egotistical motivation, as always- but L knew that motivation wasn't something that he could choose.
He sighed, closing his eyes. 'What about him?'
'The boy?' Watari asked, a smile playing on his lips at L's unspoken agreement. 'I suppose he should stay here. It would be reckless to expose the children to such danger. If he really is Kira…'
'He is,' L said shortly, touching the tip of his nose. 'But he poses no threat. He can only kill with a face and a name, and the children's names are safe. I doubt he can surpass Matt's skills. Plus, I have my reasons to believe that in his current state, he doesn't remember being Kira. He would be with me twenty-four seven.' He spoke fast, on a low tone, thinking along. 'I can't possibly leave him unattended.'
'I understand,' Watari replied, but he didn't sound entirely convinced. 'If it's necessary…'
'Then, I am glad that we're going home,' Watari smiled, and L couldn't help but shade a smile back, even though it, too, felt heavy.
Light woke up to an empty room. The bed at his right was unmade, giving off the impression of a carelessness that was characteristic of his roommate. Roommate- it sounded so casual, as if they were living together, as if they were normal people leading normal lives, socializing with people their age instead of living in a glass bubble, chained to each other. Roommates? Chain-pals, rather. At that specific moment, though, Light shared the chain with the bedpost, and he couldn't decide whether it was a more or less agreeable companion than L.
It was the second time when he found himself in this situation, but at least the previous time it he had agreed to it. In any case, it wasn't very flattering. He exhaled loudly, rationalizing anger and calculating the possibility of the chain extending enough for him to reach the bathroom. Fortunately enough, it only took a few minutes for L to return.
`Next time you tie me up to a bed consent will be required, if you don't mind,' Light said bitterly, but not quite.
`Good morning to you too,' L replied pleasantly. Light raised an eyebrow and the detective sighed, removing the chain from the bedpost and attaching it back to his wrist.
`I apologize. I hadn't expected you to wake up for at least an hour more,' the detective replied on monotone and Light had to refrain from rolling his eyes. Well, at least L had been full of good intentions, but the fact that he believed unawareness to be more comfortable than conscience while in an unpleasant situation didn't tell Light very nice things about him.
Few things did that anymore, actually.
'It's a bit rude to decide for other people, isn't it?' he continued on a light tone , out of curiosity more than of any real wish to annoy L, but when he turned around from the sombre mahogany closet where his clothes were stacked in and arranged, the detective's narrowed eyes were fixing him in a steady look.
'Well, you prefer to decide for yourself, don't you, Light-kun? You decided that you wanted to be imprisoned and supervised. Making one's own decisions allows the possibility of perfect timing, doesn't it?' His tone was low and had a threatening aura to it; it came out of nowhere and it unsettled Light, as much as he liked to pretend that he knew what L was going at, as much as he should have gotten used to the detective's unexpected fits of accusation.
'Don't,' he replied, not looking at L. 'You believe me. You know.'
'What do I know?'
'That I'm…' Light took a deep breath; he hated this, he hated that L made him say it, uncover it from the dust and mould that he would rather leave it rot under. He hated the game, and he was tired of pretending not to play it. 'That I'm not Kira now.'
That word, there- it made all the difference in the world, and made L's eyes widen for the slightest of a second. He visibly relaxed, and his attitude returned from overtly determined to unreadable.
If he didn't know better, Light could have said that L looked resigned.
'Yes, I'm sorry. It must've slipped my mind,' he said absent-mindedly. Light added nothing more, letting silence linger on, wondering what did L talk about with Watari this time and trying to ignore, without more success than usual, that panic button in the back of his mind that told him that any moment could be the one when he fully remembers being Kira, and becomes something entirely different once again.
It was like an ever-present full possibility encumbered in each second- the memory, the awareness, the rich, corrupting feeling of holding the world in his hands. He knew that he would have left a way out for himself, some way of triggering his memories.
He was afraid to consciously think of the options he could have provided himself with. He was too scared of getting it right.
When he got out of the shower, L was carefully following a ritual of folding his clothes and placing them in a small black case. His laptop was playing a languid electronic melody, the vocalist sang about his name and knowing who he was and it was a strangely fitting soundtrack for L's calm, coordinated motions. There was a quiet determination in his gestures, and Light could tell that L looked almost disappointed when he stepped out of the bathroom. It made sense; they barely had any intimacy, and even when they were in different rooms, the conscience of the other's presence at the opposite end of the chain didn't help any impression of freedom.
`Where are we going?` Light asked, only briefly aware of using the plural pronoun form, still caught in the image of L focused on apparently meaningless things, such as building jelly towers or arranging strawberries or, it seems, folding clothes. There was a strange sense of fascination to it, like he was fully living in the present moment, caught between the walls of his own patterned actions, but without being a captive. It was... beautiful, despite his dishevelled appearance and apparently unaesthetic features. Light had read about rituals and he supposed that these little patterns were L's way of finding peace of mind in the middle of his flooded train of thought. Disciplining the mind through acting upon the body, the concrete. Light knew; for him, too, routine was often more than routine.
'England,' the detective replied. `There has been a shift in priorities, it seems.'
'Something that suddenly made the Kira case fall second,' Light replied, mentally going through a list of things that could be more important than the case. Nothing was ever more important than the case. Not enough to send them off to England, anyway. L had invested all his energy in searching for- hunting- playing with Kira, the way Light supposed he always did when focusing on a job until his life revolved around it. What could be more important?
`Not quite. The case is still my priority, but we can work from London for a few days. The team will stay here and they will report if anything notable happens, and we can always take the first flight back in case of an emergency, though I doubt it will be the case.'
Because you're working under the assumption that Kira will be with you all along, Light almost said, and the L in his head replied, Naturally.
`What are we doing there?`
L stopped still for a moment, eyes wandering upwards as if he was searching for the right answer, and said,
`What do you mean, mourning?` Light asked cautiously and L sighed, as if opening his mouth to say one more word would be an impossibly useless matter.
'One of the children at the orphanage that I grew up in is very sick. Doctors don't give her much time.'
'Not mourning, then. Helping.'
'Well, there isn't much help to be given, is it?' L seemed to talk to himself more than to Light, curling unspoken words around him like a shell to guide him from evil; Light didn't know what to make of it, but the thought of L feigning indifference to protect himself from possible feelings was somehow worse than L not having any feelings in the first place.
`There is always moral support, and you know that.' L didn't seem quite content with the perspective of leaving to England- perhaps Watari had convinced him? Emotional manipulation? No, L wasn't that weak. The other option was that he genuinely cared about the girl.
L shrugged. `Offering moral support implies having moral values of one's own,' he droned, closing his case. He slouched on the floor, leaning with his back against the bed.
'Which you obviously do have,' Light stated questioningly and L smiled, a rare thing, not his fake, irritating justice-will-prevail smile, but a genuine expression. It was sad, though- a hint of bitterness in the way his lips curled upwards, his eyes still stern and penetrating.
`Do you believe that?' he asked, looking at Light.
'I… would like it to be true, yes,' Light replied, shielding honesty in a casual tone.
'Why?' Light didn't know if to label the spark in L's eyes as curiosity or malice. Both, perhaps.
'I'd like to know that the man who imprisoned me had the right to do it, more than legally so. And… I guess I'd also be a bit disappointed if it weren't true.'
'Disappointed in me?'
'In the image that I had of you, rather,' Light admitted.
`You are grown up and intelligent enough to know that people aren't what you make of them, of course,' L questioned, raising an eyebrow.
`Then, you know what to expect of me.'
'As little as that could possibly be, I'd still expect you to pretend for the sake of comforting someone who's on their death bed. Someone you care about,' Light added, looking at L expectantly. L fixed him with clear eyes, ebony black that could have stripped Light of all his pretenses as well as it could have stared into nothingness, wide-eyed and oblivious. L nodded, a sign of misplaced approval.
'Fair enough,' he said. 'We are leaving tomorrow morning.'
L played an unsettling song the entire evening, passive-aggressive rhythm and staccato drums, a quiet storm of disquieted feeling boiling under words about razor eyes, walls and human duets. Light kept quiet, bearing with the storm for the sake of not being dragged into it.
A/N: I am rather bad at writing things that actually have a plot. I hope I'm doing at least some things right.