I thought I saw the devil this morning,
Looking in the mirror, drop of rum on my tongue
With a warning.
To help me see myself clearer...
- 'I'll Be Good', Jaymes Young
Coffee scorched Light's tongue as he sat on the edge of the bed, trying hard to keep his eyes open. He had determined not long before that he would not be able to sleep with the glare of L's laptop and the incessant sound of his typing, so he had given up the endeavour in favour of working on the case. If he could not sleep, he might at least spend the time doing his best to hasten the moment when his name was cleared and he no longer had to be handcuffed to an insane insomniac.
...At least L had allowed him to make himself a cup of coffee. It was something, he supposed - after all, he'd half expected the detective to deny him even that.
Silas Johnson, age thirty two, in good health, died of heart attack on... On... Light frowned. The date was staring right at him, but his eyes refused to make numbers of the squiggles on the page. They just blurred together into a wavy black line. The coffee wasn't helping. Black dots began to creep in around the edge of his vision...
His heart was beating at more than ten times its normal rate. At this rate, I'm going to die of a non-Kira-induced heart attack before Soichiro even presses the trigger, his mind supplied hysterically. He searched for words that would convince his father of his innocence - or at least convince him not to kill him! - and came up blank. That wasn't right, it wasn't right, Light always had the right words, the words to charm anyone, smooth over any misunderstanding and assure those around him of his perfection, his blamelessness. Those words couldn't abandon him now, when he needed them most - but they had, and all he was left with the the cold bite of steel against his skin and his father's unforgiving eyes. Please, he recanted like a prayer, though he didn't know to whom - Light had never truly believed in a higher power, had balked at the concept of bending his knee to a force he couldn't see, but now there had to be some God who would save him, some God who believed in justice and wouldn't allow an innocent boy to die in this desolate, empty field at the hands of his own father - please, I don't want to die, I can't die, I can't die -
Light's eyes jerked open. His papers had slipped off his knees and were strewn untidily in front of him. He frowned. He should have had the presence of mind to organise them them better - now he would have to re-order them, and L would certainly take note of his sloppiness. Even through a haze of sleepiness and a headache, he was hyper-aware of those dark eyes watching him. From this moment forwards, he could not afford to slip even a millimetre. He was as awake and aware and on edge as he had been during that tennis match, but he wasn't playing for his pride or an empty title as victor any more. The stakes now were his life.
Cold steel against his forehead and his own father's eyes as hard and cold as a stranger's - As an executioner's - He lifted his mug of coffee and took another sip. This played the double role of keeping him awake (he would not drift off again - in that grey area half-ways between waking and sleeping he was at his most vulnerable, and he could not afford vulnerabilty) and concealing the shaking of his hand. He could hear the wheels turning in L's mind. 'I can see from your shaking that you're afraid, Light-kun. If you were innocent, you would have nothing to fear. From your reaction, I deduce a ten-percent increase in the likelihood of you being Kira.'
Focus. Light forced himself to unclench his teeth. He had a case to work on, and only when it was solved would he be free from this sort of scrutiny. Light retrieved Silas Johnson's file and resumed reading, determined this time to make it to the end. The man had died in an American prison two months ago. He'd been sentenced for shooting five teenagers on their way home from a nightclub. He'd pled insanity. A psychologist had been reviewing his case when Kira had killed him. Light couldn't suppress a surge of vindictive satisfaction. Good. I'm glad. He deserved to die. He knew those were bad thoughts, Kira-like thoughts, but he was too emotionally drained to care. His mind had no sympathy to spare for Johnson. All he could think of was the victims. Between seventeen and nineteen years old. A few years younger than himself and Misa. Had they had time to pray for an escape before hearing the deafening bang that was to end their lives? Time to reflect on the unfairness of it, to stare into their killer's eyes and know that there would be no mercy, no relenting?
His gaze flickered to the unruly mess of hair that was the back of L's head, and his stomach squirmed uneasily. You're just being paranoid now, Light. He can't read your mind. After all, if L could read minds, he would know that Light was innocent and they wouldn't be in this situation.
"Have you found anything, Light-kun?" Think of the devil. The detective's voice was deceptively mild, but Light knew the threats and accusations that lay beneath. He didn't have the energy or enthusiasm to engage L in a verbal sparring match just then.
"Nothing particularly new or significant," he answered with equal tonelessness, hoping to terminate the fledgling discussion there, while it was still in safe and neutral waters. "I was just reviewing some of the older Kira victims, to see if I could find any new information from that time-period."
"I see." L turned to meet Light's gaze, pressing the tip of his thumb against his lower lip. His dark eyes gave nothing away. "Perhaps Light-kun would find it easier to concentrate if he slept for a while."
If he hadn't been afraid that hostile reactions would raise his Kira percentage, Light would have glared daggers at L. The bastard knew precisely why Light couldn't sleep.
"Perhaps if you removed these handcuffs, I'd find sleep easier," Light couldn't abstain from saying. He cursed himself as soon as the words left his mouth. He'd just told himself he couldn't slip up even half a millimetre, and here he was, protesting captivity. Sleeplessness had loosened his lips, and that was dangerous, but sleep would be even more dangerous. With the state his mind was in, he had no idea what he might say in his dreams.
"Light-kun wishes his handcuffs to be removed already?" L had the audacity to sound amused at Light's predicament. It occurred to Light that L could probably give him a run for his money as the sociopathic maybe-killer among them. You're enjoying yourself, aren't you, L? This is the best game you've played in years, and asking my father to press a gun to my head was just your crowning move. Count me impressed. You have no real suspect, but you are more than competent when it comes to traumatising your own co-workers.
Light heaved a sigh full of all the weariness, frustration and anger he had accumulated over the course of the day. "Yes, Ryuuzaki. Of course I want them off, though I have no illusion that you will oblige. And it isn't suspicious at all. Anyone would prefer not to be chained up like this."
Ryuuzaki studied him for a full minute with those silent, searching eyes of his. For anyone else, it would have been rude to stare so long, but Light had long learned that such social norms didn't apply to L. He itched to tell L to get lost, but he'd already lost control too much that night. Instead he met the gaze equally until L relented.
"Yes, I suppose you are right," he murmured, returning to his laptop. Light leant back, intending to return to his own work, but at long last his body betrayed him and his eyes fluttered shut of their own accord.
To Light's surprise, his sleep was deep and dreamless and he awoke feeling much calmer. His hands were steady for what seemed to be the first time in months. His mind was sharp and clear, his features coolly composed. He felt entirely himself again. Except, of course, for the solid band of metal encircling his wrist. He took a moment to adjust it. He didn't like having it there, for more reasons than just the obvious. He suspected he would never be entirely comfortable with the touch of metal to his skin again.
"Ah, Light-kun. You're awake." L was crouched on a chair by the bed, chin resting on his knees. Unnerving as it was to think that the older man had been watching him sleep, Light had to appreciate that he had been allowed to sleep. Considering L's chronic insomnia and his general disregard for his fellow man, Light hadn't dared hope for such a concession.
"I think I'm going to tidy myself up a bit," Light said, running a hand through his hair, which had become uncharacteristically tangled overnight. "If that's all right with you, that is." There was only a small bite to the last remark. Light couldn't resist feeling resentful that he had to ask for permission to do something as simple as brush his hair. He had slept in his clothes, too, but he decided he would just have to smooth them out and hope they looked presentable. He preferred to delay the awkward question of just how exactly he was supposed to get changed like this for as long as possible.
"That's fine with me," L answered nonchalantly, his hands buried in his pockets. Light did his best to ignore him as he went about his morning routine.
Looking at himself in the bathroom mirror, Light was shocked by the sight of his own face. He had felt much more composed when he'd woken up, but apparently it hadn't reflected in his appearance. Or perhaps it had, and he'd looked worse the night before. His caramel eyes were raw, red-rimmed and wider than he'd ever recalled keeping them before - though considering it had been months since he'd even seen his own reflection, his memory may well have been playing tricks on him. His imprisonment had only lasted a month, but already his memories from before seemed patchy, unreal and detached, like moments of someone else's life that he was viewing on camera. His face was gaunt now, his hair lank and matted. His posture was still far better than L's, but he found it hard to keep his shoulders up with that proud rigidity that had been his before. I'll have to do the best I can to fix this, but it won't happen overnight.
He rinsed his face, brushed his teeth and did his best to fix his hair, doing his level best to pretend he didn't see the dark shape hovering restlessly behind his shoulder. He would not be rushed by L. The man had imprisoned him, faked his execution, handcuffed him... he could damn well let Light take as long as he wanted in the bathroom.
Now that he'd tidied himself up a bit, he took the opportunity to study himself in the mirror again. Light was used to gauging his appearance in the mirror. In his position - top-scoring pupil, popular, admired and respected - it was a necessity. Do I look professional? Respectable? Is there anything about me that could be seen as sloppy or careless? Now, though, he was searching for something different. He scanned his own face with the eyes of a detective, trying to see what it held that could have convinced L that he was a cold-hearted murderer. Was it the glint in his eyes? No, there was no glint; weeks spent in confinement had snuffed it out. The curl in his smile? True, the smile he forced failed to look completely genuine, but it didn't seem malevolent to him either. Try as he might, he couldn't fathom what had convinced L that the boy in the mirror was anything but what he seemed: a successful boy genius full of youth and innocence with a bright future ahead of him, if somewhat worn down by his recent treatment.
It frustrated him. Light had always known how to make sure those around him saw exactly what they wanted to. His parents wanted a studious, dutiful son; he could give them that. His sister wanted a caring and attentive older brother to look up to, he could do that as well. But L wanted a sociopathic mass murderer, and if Light gave him what he was looking for it was his execution, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out how not to. It seemed no matter what he did, L would find a way to read it as a move calculated to hide some deep, dark secret.
Light knew what murders looked like. He had stayed up most of the previous night looking through the case files of several ones Kira had deemed fit to kill. They were feral, with a wild look in their eyes, an almost inhuman level of callousness in their gazes that betrayed them instantly.
Callous. Was he callous? It wasn't a word he would ever have thought to apply to himself before. Certainly, he could remember having felt... apathetic. Disengaged. But that was different, surely? It was normal enough for someone of his intellect to find the Japanese high school system a little dull. It was hardly something that would mark him out as... as a killer. No matter how hard he looked, he found no resemblance between his face and those he had studied in his files the night before.
But then... Kira is no ordinary criminal. Even as he condemns him, L must understand this. Perhaps he presumes that there would be little to no resemblance between Kira and other criminals. But if that was the case, then Light was in the dark. How could he make sure not to show L anything suggestive of guilt if he didn't know what exactly L expected from Kira?
"Light-kun?" A dull voice inquired from behind him. "Have you finished?"
Light splashed water over his face one last time, imagining as he did so that it would wash away all traces of Kira-ness so that the next time he found himself with a gun levelled at his head and his words failed him, his face could speak of his innocence in their place. "I have now," he answered as he dried himself off with a towel.
"Come on, then," L said, giving a tug, and Light had no choice but to follow like a dog going after its master.