"Hey, Mello—cut it out!"
The words floated to him through the layers of inky nothingness as something poked at him mercilessly.
"Am I dead?" He thought as the annoying poking sensation came again. Surely Ryuk would have told him that Mu involved being poked for all eternity… On second thought maybe he wouldn't have. He was an asshole that way. Light stirred at the escalating chittering sounds grating on the edge of his consciousness.
"Shit he's awake!"
Light's eyes opened a crack and he caught a flurry of movement all around him. Normally this would have concerned him greatly but for some reason his thoughts were coming to him very slowly. Groggily Light glanced around the room out of the corner of his eye. He had yet to wake up enough to remember how to move the rest of his body and the world around him was still hazy. It was a strange room he had never been in before-some kind of office or study, Westernized-style… maybe Victorian.
And there was Ryuk (Light had never been so glad to see his ugly face—at least it was familiar) looming behind him as always but looking exceptionally amused. That meant something either very good or very bad had just happened to him. Light was guessing it was the latter.
Alright, calm down. What's the last thing you remember?
The last thing he remembered was Ryuuzaki asking him to meet with him in his hotel room...
"Ryuuzaki!" Light bolted upright in alarm.
...but Ryuuzaki hadn't been there and the room had filled with knockout gas.
Light tried to cut through the persistent mental haze to assess the situation. He was lying on (or had been unceremoniously dumped onto) a rather expensive-looking red candy-striped sofa. This wasn't the hotel room. This probably wasn't even in Japan…
Light shifted on the couch and he felt the comforting weight of the Death Note where he had sewn it into the lining of his jacket… He couldn't believe this! They hadn't even searched him? Maybe whoever had taken him had assumed that Kira would never carry the murder weapon on him. Normally that would have been right but when those crazies took the hotel hostage it hadn't exactly been a normal day. Seeing his father and Ryuuzaki (the invincible L?) being ordered around at gunpoint… it broke something in him, clearly, since he made such a stupid mistake! What he should have done as Kira was sit back and let his enemies finish each other off. What he did do… hadn't made much sense to him and it landed him here.
Why? Why couldn't I just… Light clenched his fist. They threatened my father! And even L deserves better than being shot in the head by some petty thug! …Doesn't he? But… dead is dead… So why?
Light blinked in confusion and several sets of eyes blinked back. That's when he made the brilliant observation that he was surrounded by children. (Well, that explained the annoying chittering and the poking.) And not just any children-they all looked vaguely like Ryuuzaki—many of them had big eyes with dark circles around them, some of them sat hunched almost but not quite the way Ryuuzaki sat… That was creepy… it was like he was surrounded by a mob of tiny zombie Ls.
Maybe they're L's kids? Light stifled a giggle. Somehow he just couldn't picture L having children or having sex for that matter… at least not with a woman... Light idly wondered what they drugged him with as he tried to dislodge that uncomfortable mental image of L having sex. He wasn't… There was no way he could possibly be getting aroused by that! He wasn't gay! And certainly not with L! Light desperately thought unnsexy thoughts culminating with the image of Ryuk having sex and he threw up in his mouth a little bit.
"You're awake," buzzed a familiar voice filter, Light startled and quickly found the source. He pulled himself up from the sofa and stalked towards the laptop on the desk where a familiar gothic letter L lit up the screen. Light pushed past the noisy mob of kids. Some of them were whining at him, asking him questions, pulling his sleeve, or otherwise demanding his attention. Light ignored L's collection of mini-me Children of the Corn for the time being and focused solely on that laptop.
"Quiet kids, mommy and daddy are talking," Light idly muttered to the whining children.
When Light and L had one their mental face-offs the rest of the world might as well not exist. It was just the two of them in a world of their own—they were two gods locked in epic battle for the fate of humanity. For Light, the distractions ceased to matter. There was only L—his equal, his opposite, his perfect nemesis. Hate like this only comes once in a lifetime.
So L was behind this… or did some annoying third party DARE to get in the way of our game? It is possible. L has other enemies… (Is Ryuuzaki okay?) Is this really MY L talking to me right now or is it some sort of proxy or copy cat? Why did he bring me here?
At one point Light had volunteered to let L lock him up in order to show that he was cooperating with this investigation but he only offered because he knew L would never go for it because Light's father, the Chief of Police, would never allow it… But if L was doing it now… he was so very screwed.
"Ryuuz… L! Kidnapping is a serious criminal offense!"
There was an odd buzzing on the mike. Perhaps it was a sigh. "Surely you know why you are here, Light-kun. Only people on the taskforce knew about the attack on the hotel. Kira intervened when Souichiro Yagami, your father was threatened. And I traced the hack to the government site back to your computer. It all points to you, Light," the disembodied voice said tersely.
"I swear, it's a mistake! I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for…"
"Light Yagami, you are Kira! Are you ready to tell me how you kill?"
"Kira?" The children gasped. For a moment Light had forgotten they were there. They had gone eerily quiet when L began talking but now they all seemed to come alive at the announcement of his identity. Some of them backed away while others glared at him defiantly, but all of them were dissecting him with L's trademarked wide-eyed stare… it was like someone had photoshopped L's eyes onto a whole classroom of children. It was… uncanny to say the least.
"I'm not Kira. Look at that, L! You're needlessly scaring the kids!"
"Hardly," the laptop replied.
"…Why are there kids here?"
"Naturally there would be children in an orphanage, Light-kun."
"Wait… you're detaining me in an orphanage?"
"Correct. If you attempt to leave the grounds… you see that band around your ankle? It will administer a powerful sedative that will put you into a medically induced coma until we choose to give you the counter drug… IF we choose to give you the counter drug..."
"Unbelievable! This… this is illegal and unethical and… you're violating so many human rights right now…" Light sputtered for once so angry he could barely communicate.
"If I turned you over to the authorities they would tear you apart looking for the source of your powers, and assuming Light-kun with his pretty face would survive one night in prison they would execute you soon afterwards. Be grateful that I am protecting you, Light-kun."
Light gawked at the computer screen as he realized the implications of that statement.
"You think I'm… and… That… that doesn't make sense!" When L first announced himself as Kira's eternal rival he had gloated on how he would see him sentenced to death…
"YOU PROMISED!" A blonde boy in black pajamas suddenly wailed, interrupting Kira and L's special moment. "L! You promised me you'd find Kira and have him executed!"
Light was disturbed by this. The blonde kid was small, thin, probably no older than Sayu, and he was very serious about wanting him dead.
"I admit that Kira's murder spree has made me question my own stance on capital punishment. I believe criminals like Light-kun can be rehabilitated."
"I'm not a criminal! I'm not Kira! You've got this all wrong! How could you get this so wrong?"
"Fine! If you won't do it…!" The ignored blonde boy suddenly had a shard of glass in hand and was lunging at Light. He was stopped just short of reaching his target when he was restrained by a boy wearing goggles.
"Mello has just earned detention and no chocolate for an entire week..."
"That isn't fair! He's Kira!" Mello shouted.
"Two weeks," came the emotionless reply.
Mello fell silent.
"You are allowed to act in self-defense but I do not want Light-kun harmed. He is now a resident of this House and all that that entails."
A pall of reverent silence fell over the room.
"I am entrusting you all with a very important mission. I need you to keep an eye on Kira. He's very cunning. Remember what I told you about monsters…"
"He's a monster that always tells lies," the white-haired boy replied, looking up from his puzzle to lock eyes with Light and give him a creepy grin. Light hated him instantly. He had all of L's obnoxiousness and none of his… better qualities? It made him miss the real L's company…
That's ridiculous. I do not miss L! The bastard just left me here to rot… wherever this is. With no chance to… there's NO evidence! It's just his word against mine!
"That's right…" L agreed with the creepy child. "He will be rehabilitated here."
"L, wait…" Light pleaded.
"Daddy?" Light whirled around, about to shout in frustration at whoever dared touch him only to find it was one of the youngest children, a small girl tugging at his hand.
"You said 'mommy and daddy are talking.' So Kira must be daddy and L must be mommy!"
The pall of silence broke and the other children began snickering.
Have they never seen Ryuuzaki in person?
"That… It was a joke! I—" Light began to explain but the little girl looked so heartbroken that he stopped.
Orphans. Ryuuzaki said they were orphans!
"I don't believe this! Ryuuzaki you would leave someone you think is… alone with a bunch of emotionally vulnerable orphans? What the f—, what is wrong with you? That's child endangerment!"
But L had already cut out his transmission and Light was just shouting at an empty screen.
The girl began to cry.
Light squirmed. "Hey, I'm sorry. It's okay… I'm not mad at you, okay? I'm sorry I shouted it's just Ryuuzaki… L was being… mean."
"He spared you ungrateful life, Kira. How is that mean?" The blonde who tried to kill him seethed, still looking very much like he wanted to murder him, though he was restrained in the arms of Goggleman.
"L isn't mean! You're mean!" Goggles agreed.
"L is mean! Because… because…" Light found himself at a loss to explain the complexities of their relationship to a bunch of kids (and spin it in his favor) when he was finding he himself didn't fully understand it. Why would L go out of his way to protect someone he thought was Kira? They were just enemies, right? "Because he's wrong and it hurts because I consider him to be a very good friend of mine. Imagine if your best friend hated you for something you didn't do! Wouldn't that make you feel angry?"
When Light finished his monologue he glanced back to see that his audience, all the children, were peering at him curiously. Light wondered why they didn't seem to be afraid of him after what L had told them.
Of course L had told them that I'm Kira and therefore dangerous…
"Kira and L are best friends?" enthused one of the girls.
But… when I was that age "dangerous" meant cool and interesting... Well come to think of it, it's something he never quite grew out of—he was still fascinated by dangerous things like Shinigami and murder notebooks...
"Why heart attacks? Why not make their heads explode or something?" Pestered one of the boys.
"I read about heart attacks! It's like a really painful way to die!"
For them it must be like going to a day at the zoo. See the funny animals. Lions and tigers and Kiras! Oh my!
"I'm not Kira!" Light declared with obvious annoyance.
"Yeah right!" scoffed that disturbed blonde child that tried to kill him.
Mello… they called him… No, don't even go there! He's just a kid!
"You're not L's friend!" barked out a black-haired British boy in glasses.
Light's eyes narrowed. "What makes you say that?"
"L doesn't have friends, dummy!"
This… L-factory. School for Ls? In any case this place seems to be teaching these kids to have no respect, to be rude and confrontational. These poor kids are in desperate need of a more positive role model… What am I thinking? I already have a whole world to be guiding! I can't get distracted by something like this… right? Dammit, I really need to be figuring out how to escape…
Light chuckled. "Really, that's funny. He said he was my friend."
"Then he lied. He's a liar!"
Light blinked in confusion. "Did he lie to you?"
"He promised he'd visit after he caught and executed you, Kira."
Light was stunned by this new tidbit of information. All throughout the case L kept discussing his impending death to Light's… discomfort. Sometimes Light suspected that L went into the case fully expecting Kira would kill him… (maybe even counting on it?) Sometimes Light suspected he had a deathwish what with the way he taunted and humiliated the God of the New World) and he promised these kids he'd come home…
L, are you really that much of a bastard?
"I'm not Kira. My name is Light and I'm sure L is very busy... searching for the real Kira."
"Just confess already so L can come home!" The blonde rolled his eyes as he retrieved a chocolate bar from his pocket.
"L said no chocolate." The white-haired boy commented without looking up from his puzzle.
"Fuck that! L isn't here!" Mello shot back and took a big bite out of the chocolate bar before the girl with the black pig tails, in an obviously suicidal move, knocked it out of his hand.
"Mello, no! You'll get in worse trouble and you'll get us all in troub—" she began but before she could finish Mello struck her. All present could only watch in horror as the girl stumbled backwards and fell through the glass top coffee table.
"NO!" While the others were still in shock Light rushed in, kneeling beside the girl. To everyone's relief she opened her eyes and began bawling. That was a good sign—it would have been far worse if she remained silent.
Light produced some disinfectant wipes and a roll of bandages from his jacket pocket. Miraculously she only had a few shallow cuts. After Light treated her injuries the girl clung to him, continuing to cry against him. "Daddy! It hurts!"
That's right. It was the girl that had taken to calling me…
"Please, it hurts!"
At a loss Light awkwardly hugged her back and tried to say something reassuring but nothing seemed to work. "You're alright now, okay? I won't let anyone hurt you."
"He hurt me!"
Light glared murderously at Mello. "YOU— YOU DON'T DO THAT!"
Mello was so stunned with guilt he didn't even bother to mouth back at the source. "M-my chocolate…!" Mello protested weakly. He hadn't meant to…
"IT DOESN'T MATTER!"
"YOU SAW WHAT SHE DID!" Mello roared back defensively.
"YOU DON'T HIT GIRLS! EVER!" Light scolded, without even realizing it repeating the same words his own father had drilled into his skull since he was very young, after his baby sister had first come into the world—that he had to be careful around her, he had to protect her—that's what a Big Brother does... "I don't care what she did or how annoying she is! You're a man, aren't you? Suck it up!"
Light mentally declared victory when Mello flinched and a shocked silence fell after his angry outburst… only to be broken when Goggles piped up coming to his buddy's defense. "Never? That's rather traditionalist. What about battered men? What if she was like an axe murderer or something?"
Light ignored them and continued to fuss over the injured girl. The other children watched with interest... and jealousy.
"Then Kira would be whipped" chimed in the white-haired boy. "You carry that stuff with you?" He asked innocently about the bandages, staring at Light with a dangerous interest "Why? Do you get into fights a lot or something?"
Light sighed. "Force of habit. My sister…" Light began to explain but fell silent as the reality of the situation began to sink in. He was going to visit Sayu at her softball practice after his meeting with Ryuuzaki but that was who knew how many hours (Days?) ago. Was she okay? (Would he ever even see her again?)
I have to get out of here.
Meanwhile some of the other kids chattered about Light's shouting.
"Eek! Scary!" another of the girls squeaked out.
"Did you see that scary face?" another "whispered" loudly so that it was audible to everyone. "He's definitely Kira!"
Light rolled his eyes.
"Quiet you guys, I want to hear about Kira's sister!" piped another. "Does she kill people too?"
Light sighed. "Forget it."
"There," Light addressed the girl clinging to his leg that he had just finished bandaging up "Is that better?"
"Can you… kiss it and make it better?"
Light sighed but obliged her. "Alright?"
The girl frowned. "It still hurts."
Light sighed again. "That's to be expected. You know, you need to learn to pick you battles. That wasn't too smart picking a fight like that."
"He was being bad!"
"That's true, and standing up against injustice is admirable. However I've been here five minutes and I can see that kid's unstable. It was foolish to attack him directly."
"Then… can you kill Mello for me?" the girl asked innocently.
"What?" Light asked in shock.
"He's really mean! He's always mean to me!"
"Me too!" another child chimed in.
"C'mon, he's obviously going to be a criminal one day..."
"Do it Kira!"
Light looked absolutely disgusted. "He's a child! You're classmate!"
"Less competition," shrugged another boy.
Alright, Light conceded that maybe they weren't the Children of the Corn... they were more like Lord of the Flies...
"I'm not a child!" Mello snapped. "You guys!" The blonde gaped at all his classmates who were apparently okay with him being dead.
"Come on, he tried to kill you even!" another egged Kira on.
"OH, FUCK YOU! ALL OF YOU! YOU CAN ALL JUST SUCK MY DICK!" the blonde raged and stormed off.
"Language!" Light scolded after him. Mello slammed the door. "Alright kids Ethics 101. This is an orphanage. That means it's a killing-free zone." The mob of children groaned in disappointment. "…And instead of leaping straight to "murder" perhaps we might try talking it out with Mello about what bothers you first…"
"Please? I want to see some blood! That would be so awesome!"
"Hey Kira, how many people would you say you killed?"
"None, because I'm not Kira. And my name is Light. I'd appreciate if you used it…"
"I'm Linda!" piped up the little girl "Can't I call you daddy instead? Please…?"
"I—" Light was about to protest but she was looking at him with those huge puppy eyes again. Damn that girl's adorableness. She reminded Light painfully of his sister. He could never deny his little sister anything either. "Alright."
"He's Kira!" the white-haired boy said disgustedly, his curly bangs falling into his face.
"I know, but he's nice! He reminds me of my dad!"
"Wasn't your dad an assassin for hire?" the albino prodded.
"That doesn't matter! He was my father and he was always nice to me!"
Linda..."You… you shouldn't tell me your names. I'm not Kira but L thinks I am..."
"He's probably right. He's L," The white-haired boy stated it as if that was all the explanation necessary. Apparently it was as all the other children nodded in agreement.
"You don't get to be L by being wrong," Goggles agreed.
"Well he's wrong in this case. But like it or not I am a suspect and you shouldn't expose yourselves to unnecessary danger..."
"You can't touch us! We're using aliases!" announced the resident blonde drama queen from the door. Mello was back or maybe (more likely) he never really left and just stayed to listen at the door.
"Mello, shut up!" hissed Goggles.
"Bite me, Matt!"
Light strolled over to where Mello was, his footfalls echoing in the suddenly silent room until he was standing right in front of him. Light imagined that if his life was a TV show there would no doubt be some awesome lighting effect and an echoing of Latin choirs as he stared down his challenger… and reached out and poked him in the chest.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm touching you, now."
Mello's eyes narrowed in anger and (though he was loathe to admit it) grudging respect that Light would dare to touch him after Mello tried to shank him earlier. That took cojones considering, as far as he knew, Mello might have another home-made weapon on hand. (He didn't but that was beside the point.)
"So you touch kids?" inquired the albino.
"What?" Mello and Light demanded in unison.
"Kira touched Mello~."
Mello looked horrified. "SHUT UP, NEAR!"
Light made a face. "How crude. Is that what L teaches you at this school?"
"You must admit, the way you said it, it was just asking for it" said Matt.
"Take it up with L. I learned it from him." Light grumbled. He was far more respectful of personal space than a certain detective he couldn't name... Light was struck by a horrified thought: A wealthy, powerful man that was a law unto himself that counted a whole ranch of children as his property... What if L's real name is Michael Jackson? He could have faked his death to become a world famous detective. "Wait, L doesn't… does he?"
Mello stared at him searchingly.
"Why do you care, Kira?"
"We never even see him," Near murmured from across the room, his white locks had again fallen in his face.
Light turned and began to walk away.
"Hey!" Mello shouted. "Hey, Kira!" Mello growled as Light continued to ignore him. "Light! I asked you a question! And why did you just touch me?"
Light turned and locked eyes with the younger teen "You shouldn't be so brash. There's a saying where I come from. 'The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.' You might consider it. You'll live longer."
"Bullshit," the blonde sneered.
"You really should watch your language too."
"Yes, Dad." Mello said mockingly.
From behind Light, Linda stuck out her tongue.