SUMMARY: People change
A/N: This should have been specfic (I don't do AUs! I don't!) but I write too damn slowly. Seriously, I started this fic around Page 38. Thanks to absenceofmind for the initial beta, to amasugiru for pointing out the major plot failure (though it took me an additonal three days to catch on >.<;;;), and to takadainmate for talking me through it.
Seemed a shame not to finish it regardless of the jossing, so here it is.
Light turns and looks at Ryuk. The expression in his shadowed eyes is as sharp and brutal as a knife's edge. Ryuk doesn't particularly care about Light's fate one way or the other; even if Light manages to evade capture forever, his full lifespan is but the blink of an eye to a shinigami.
But still, there's something thrilling about watching the unwavering dedication of purpose with which this particular human pursues his goals.
"Ryuk," Light asks, eyes fired with steely curiosity, "What would happen if most of the Death Note's pages were to be destroyed?"
"To the Note itself? Nothing," grins Ryuk. "After all, haven't you been throwing bits and pieces of it out all the time? They're incinerated with all the other trash, aren't they? If destroying them destroyed the Death Note too, you would have known about it long before now."
Light is obviously annoyed that this hadn't occurred to him sooner. He despises committing any misstep which might compromise his greater purpose. But the annoyance is soon replaced with the hard, satisfied smile that sends chills of joy down Ryuk's spine. Something interesting is going to happen.
"Well then," Light says, and rips all the pages with his handwriting on them from the Note.
His eyes could burst at any moment. It feels as if they're water balloons filled to the rupturing point, and they're so swollen with fatigue and malnutrition that the ever-present circles which ring them have become actual bruises.
Still, he forces another mouthful of cake down through the dryness in his throat and tries to ignore the way his calves are protesting the horrid manner in which he's sitting, the contortions he forces his body to undergo in an effort to appear as the L they expect to see.
He longs for the days when he spent an hour each night sitting zazen.
But the constant diet of processed junk coupled with a lack of exercise has had the same effect, in the end, as meditation. He'd hated it originally, could hardly concentrate through the haze of sugar and caffeine assaulting his brain, but then had come the wonderful moment when he broke through it all, and now the trance state of sleep deprivation and a blood sugar level that is much too high have shifted his brain into the detached floating state he needs it to be in in order to solve riddles. He no longer misses the meditation.
I realised something, Light. I wanted you to be Kira.
And in that moment, he had been perfectly honest.
I wanted you to be Kira.
I hate you. I hate the way you're so handsome, so effortlessly popular. I hate the way that you couldn't care less about it. I hate how you can have any girl you want, just by smiling at her. Hate the way that you're every bit as intelligent as I am, but you were never bullied, never punished for it. And why not? You're just like me, after all.
Even if you weren't Kira, I would hate you as much as if you were.
Only, L has to admit that Light isn't Kira, at least not now. Still, it's extremely probable that Light was Kira at some point, and L uses this likelihood to keep him in line. The chain about their wrists links them like an umbilical cord, mother to child, caregiver to dependant.
Light's life will never be normal again, not even if L ever decides to let him go free. At least L has the satisfaction of that fact.
"When will you unchain my son, Ryuzaki?" Light's father demands from somewhere in the room behind him. He is tired of waiting for L to do it, tired of the visible reminder the chain presents that Light is still under suspicion, that L does not deem it safe for Light to return home.
"When we catch Kira," L says to Yagami's son. "We can catch him, you and I." He says this and truly believes it.
"Yeah," Light smiles wanly.
The shadows are back under his eyes.
L watches Light's reflection in the computer screens in front of them. Light's eyes are darting back and forth, pupils widening and contracting in a pattern that has nothing to do with the images he's pretending to monitor.
L knows this face, and the meaning of its current expression. It's obvious that Light is thinking about something, putting pieces together that L has not, and L would stop at nothing to know what they are. But Light is clever, and he has no option except to wait and hope that Light will give something away.
Light reaches into a pocket with his unchained hand and withdraws a wrinkled scrap of notebook paper. He worries it back and forth between his hands as he pretends to watch the monitors, and the shadows under his eyes deepen.
L can't help but think that the notebook paper is somehow integral to Light's current state of mind, but that's ridiculous, because it's just a scrap of paper. Besides, L's already seen what Light's written on it, which amounts to nothing more than random observations about the case and timestamps from the sections of tapes he wants to go back and review.
Still, Light has kept it with him since the day he ripped it out of a notebook they'd found as they were searching the abandoned Yotsuba complex. One moment they'd been rifling through cupboards and filing cabinets, and the next moment L's attention had been violently attracted by the sudden jerk on the chain as Light stiffened and gasped.
"What is it, Light-kun?" he'd demanded, jumping to his feet, the contents of the file he'd been perusing tumbling from heedless hands.
"Nothing. It's nothing, I--" Light had stared at the notebook he held in his hands as if transfixed. He was extremely pale.
L had said nothing, merely watched in fascination at the transformation taking place before him. A faint sheen of sweat had appeared on Light's face, and his hands shook slightly as they turned the pages of the notebook.
L had drawn closer, one cautious step at a time, careful not to startle Light into concealing the conflict occurring in his eyes. He had wanted, oh he had wanted, to know what it was that had so upset Light. "Light-kun?" he asked again.
Light's eyes were still fixed on the notebook. He'd laughed weakly, then held it up for L to see. "Looks like something a kid could buy at a 100 Yen shop," Light had said. "That's why it caught my eye," he'd continued, "because it doesn't look like something that anyone at Yotsuba would own." He'd swallowed.
L had agreed. "Does it look like it could provide any clues?"
Light had raised his eyes to look at L, and then his whole body had jerked, pupils widening in horror as he stared at something over L's shoulder. But when L turned to look behind him, there was nothing there but the wall.
"Is something the matter, Light-kun?" he asked, because it was very clear that something was. Fine, hair-light tremors were traveling the length of Light's body.
"No," Light said, and scrubbed a hand over his eyes. "Just felt as though someone stepped on my grave, that's all." He'd laughed shakily, and tried to smile, but the smile was not convincing.
"May I see the notebook?" L had asked.
Light swallowed again. "Sure," he'd said. "There's nothing in it though, just blank pages." He ripped one out and held it up as evidence, but made no move to hand the notebook to L, who was about to reach out and take it from Light's hands when the door behind them slammed open and they both whirled, notebook forgotten, to defend themselves.
It was Matsuda, wild-eyed and out of breath from his dash up the stairs; it was just like the idiot to forget he could take the elevators.
"Ryuzaki, Light!" he'd gasped between breaths. "You have to come; Chief Yagami thinks they've just killed someone else!"
And then he and Light had raced out of the room on Matsuda's heels, all thoughts of the notebook, and Light's strange behavior, momentarily forgotten.
He'd been back to look later, of course, had found the notebook right where Light had dropped when they'd fled the room, but it was exactly as Light had described. Just an old, blank notebook; whatever incriminating evidence had been written on its pages must have been torn out long ago. L hadn't even felt the sort of psychic panic that had so obviously assailed Light upon touching the notebook. He had been vaguely disappointed, but eventually dismissed the whole event for a red herring.
He wasn't so sure of that now, especially not with Light holding onto that piece of paper as though it were some sort of protective talisman.
But it was only a notebook, L thinks as he stares at Light in the monitors. I held it in my hands. It was only a notebook.
"Why do you think someone would do those things?" Light asks later that evening as they're preparing for bed.
"Do what things?"
"Do the things Kira has done?"
It would be such a blatantly facetious question, only Light is asking with such obvious sincerity. He looks clearly puzzled by it. No, he looks lost.
L looks at Light and inserts a fingertip between his lips. "Why are you asking?" he responds. "Will my answer help you to solve the case?"
Light shudders at his words. "No, it won't. But I want to know what you think, Ryuzaki," he says. Something flickers in his eyes. "What would make someone do those things?"
It is, after its fashion, a very sensible question. What would make someone do those things? It is the sort of question people have been asking themselves the world over.
It is not the sort of question Light Yagami would ever ask of anyone.
"I think Kira does those things because he lacks the capacity to be human," L says, and watches for what mark, if any, these words will have on Light.
But Light only nods, then rolls onto his side and goes to sleep, leaving L once again feeling vaguely cheated, although by what he could not say.
Nothing out of the ordinary happens as they wake the next day, nor as they're stumbling about in the bathroom, getting in one another's way, nor as they settle down in front of the monitors for another endless day of scrutinizing the glaring computer screens for the missing link that will lead them to Kira.
The days after that pass much as the days before, although something is clearly driving Light to distraction. L watches, fascinated, as Light stares into the distance as if seeing something there that no one else can. L has even seen Light's lips move, although he can never make out what Light is saying.
One time L wakes in the middle of the night to find Light sitting upright beside him, staring blankly at the disintegrating piece of notebook paper as he crumples it, over and over, between his fingers.
L lies without moving a single muscle, watching Light. His conviction grows stronger with each passing second. Light. Knows. Something.
L considers for a long while, and decides the gamble is worth the risk. "Light-kun," he says.
Light tears his eyes from the paper to glance briefly at L before dropping them back to his hands.
"I know," says L, and lets the question of just what it is that he knows hang unanswered in the air.
When Light meets his eyes again it is with a force like two bullet trains colliding. "No. You don't," he says flatly, and it isn't until long after Light falls asleep again that L recognises the expression in Light's eyes for what it was.
L mulls it over the next morning along with his coffee and cake. Beside him, Light barely touches his breakfast.
I wasn't wrong, he thinks. I do know. I just do not know what. Or rather, how. But you know, don't you, Light Yagami?
And I will wait until you slip and show me.
He could almost believe it had been a dream, were it not for the dark circles ringing Light's eyes. Light's father sees them too; he is awash with concern for his son, hovering over them both as they stare at the monitors until L has had enough and orders him out of the room on a trivial errand.
"He's just worried about his son, Ryuzaki," says Matsuda, who has remained behind. "This whole thing with the chains is really getting to the kid."
There is a faint twitch from Light's end of the chain, though he gives no other sign of having heard Matsuda, who is talking about Light as if he weren't in the room at all.
"Light's under a lot of stress; even you must see that." Matsuda smiles, trying his best to be conciliatory, but he's still in such awe of L that he won't risk offending him outright.
"Look," he continues, taking off his suit coat and tossing it over the arm of a nearby empty chair. "Why not let the kid rest? We'll keep an eye on him.
"It would take a load off Chief Yagami's mind," he finishes.
"No," says L, without bothering to look at him. "Go find me the Kagura file."
Matsuda looks at him for a long moment, but finally gets up and leaves, saying nothing.
It happens so suddenly that L has no warning, no time to prepare. One moment they are sitting as always, watching the video screens, and the next there's a sharp tug on the chain and he is reeling back over the arm of his chair, lightening lancing across his vision from the impact of the butt of Matsuda's pistol, which Light has just rammed into his temple.
L falls to the floor and for several moments all is chaos. Matsuda's pistol. The idiot must have taken his shoulder holster off with his coat; why had L not registered this? He rolls over, groaning, and waits for his vision to clear so that he stands a chance of defending himself, and then realises with a sudden stab of abject panic that he can roll over, that he's no longer bound to Light.
He brings himself to hands and knees and stares in incomprehension at the empty manacle on the floor beside him. Light has smashed it open and gone. He must have lost consciousness. But for how long?
And then he's on his feet, staggering as fast as his legs can carry him toward the exit when there's another bang that rattles the doors on their hinges and makes his ears ring. Adrenaline shocks through his system and he runs on now steady legs into the next room in time to witness the last muscle spasms moving through the remains of Light's body. He is vaguely aware of muffled shouting coming through the walls, and the sound of running feet.
A host of images flash through L's mind. The look in Light's eyes when he'd asked L, "How do you think it feels to be accused of being Kira?" and L had responded, "I imagine it would feel horrible." The way the shadows under Light's eyes had disappeared like the snapping of fingers when he'd begun to insist on his innocence. The sincerity with which he'd told L over and over, "You and I will solve this case!" His rage when L had said, "I wanted you to be Kira." The haunted look that had never left his eyes since the day they'd searched the Yotsuba building. His helplessness when he'd asked, "What would make someone do the things Kira has done?" The way he'd sometimes stare into the distance; the way he'd talk to people that no one else in the room could see.
He is vaguely aware of Light's father charging into the room. Hands grip his shoulders like vises, shaking him so violently that he is certain his brain must be bruising against the walls of his skull as Chief Yagami's voice sobs, "What have you done to my son! Ryuzaki, what have you done to my son! Light, oh god, Light!"
L's own hands are clenched around Light's shoulders, fingers scrabbling for purchase on the blood and cranial matter that slicks the remains of Light's face and neck, and through the roaring in his ears he can hear his own voice screaming, "What did you know! God damn you, Light Yagami, what did you know?"
As always, comments/criticisms are happily received.