The park echoed with the squeals of small children, skittering across the playground as mothers haphazardly chased after them. Distress twisted their faces at the thought of their children scraping themselves on the asphalt. L snorted, fingers twisting jaggedly into the grass. It wasn’t like it would do them any lasting damage, he thought.
As the squeals drew farther away, L’s back unhunched. It wasn’t that he disliked children, per se. They just didn’t like him. Not many strangers were civil to L, upon first glance. His oddness always put people off, and it was very easy after that for them to do something that meant L wouldn’t speak to them again, if he could help it. The world’s greatest detective had no time for people like that. Still, he couldn’t always smother the acute prick of loneliness that jabbed into him at their words. No human could realistically deal with that much rejection.
Huffing, L curled his legs into his chest. For the most part, he refused to dwell on such emotions, especially when he was supposed to be relaxing.
The caseload had been surprisingly low that week, and after some prompting Watari had ushered the sixteen year old out to the park, in the forlorn hope that he would “socialize” with his peers. Why Watari thought that his peers hung out at playgrounds, L wasn’t sure, but he’d rather not hurt the old man’s feelings; he had done so much for L in the past… Besides, even if Watari had managed to steer him to a venue more populated by teens close to his age, he highly doubted he would have wrung as much enjoyment out of it. Just the thought of L scrunching up in a corner as sweaty teenagers undulated around him made him shudder. No, the park was a much better choice.
L yawned, a rare occurrence, and stretched out his pale limbs from their cramped position. The tension of being coiled for so long made them wobbly, and L once again found himself glad he need not move.
While it wasn’t exactly what Watari would have wanted from his relaxation time, L found he quite enjoyed the quiet solitude of sitting entrenched by bushes. The semi-heavy greenery caused the light to filter in as a rather pleasing bottle green, and the half-warmth, while not too harsh, provided just the right amount of comfort for the sun-deprived teen. The park was quite the pleasant place to spend an afternoon. Except…
It was always no later than three o’clock, sometimes earlier depending on the school schedules, when it started. On weekends and holidays they were usually present by ten.
The patter of feet, possessing the pattern of many someones trying to conceal their noisiness and failing miserably, was always the first thing to alert him to their presence. Then their laughter.
“Look at him, hiding in the bushes. What a loser!” They’d whisper.
“Is he even human? He looks like a frog.”
Eventually, quiet taunts wouldn’t be enough for their amusement. The leader, a gruff looking boy for only being ten, would slink out. He carried a stick most days, though L once caught him with something suspiciously sharp . Most days L could fend him off. A glare would make him scuttle away like a cockroach.
It wasn't enough of a hassle to make him seriously consider relocating, though. He’d much rather weather the taunts for the chance to rest in peace in his little haven.
As L focused on the telltale pattern of footsteps, signaling the beginning of another day of annoyance, he realized something was different. His ears strained harder. There was… a new set of footsteps. Wonderful.
“This is him. The one I was talking to you about. The freak.” A grin had entered the boy’s, the leader’s, voice. He sounded like he was trying to impress someone. A girl, perhaps? Someone just as cruel as him.
“Oh.” The second voice was soft, but definitely masculine. “I… He doesn’t look like a freak.” He sounded withdrawn.
The first boy seemed to pause. “Well, I guess he doesn’t look that freakish now. But you should hear the noises he makes. I heard he ate a kid once, you know.” The boy was definitely smirking.
The other children had grown restless. Small noises fluttered as they shifted on their feet.
“I guess.” Said the second boy. “You know, I bet there’ll be birds by the swings! You can chase them.” The boy had grown quieter. “I don’t think he’ll do anything.”
The first boy sighed. “I guess… If it makes you happy.”
“It does.” The feet pattered away. L slid into a more relaxed position. What a pleasant reprieve…
It was less than an hour before the footsteps returned. Just one set.
“Hi.” The same soft voice from before.
L looked up. Blinked. The boy couldn’t have been more than seven, he was so small.
“Hello.” L said cooly.
“I’m sorry.” He looked it. “It’s just… I thought he was nice. And… I guess I was wrong.”
L didn’t respond. Just stared. The boy seemed sincere, for what it was worth.
“And well, it’s just, he’s the only one who didn’t- who wouldn’t-” He stopped. Took a deep breath. “I didn’t want them to think I was weird. B-back home, they don’t like me and- I just wanted a friend. I didn’t want to be alone.” A strangled sob left the boy as he slumped to the ground. Tears tracked his face. L felt a pang of pity. Empathy.
He sighed, and stood. With only a few strides he loomed over the boy. The boy still sniffled.
L crouched, placing an arm on the boy’s shoulder. He was shaking. Like vibrating glass, seconds from shattering. “I can be your friend.” He wasn’t exactly sure why he said it. Perhaps because he could see himself in the small boy trembling before him. L knew how it felt to be lonely. “It’s not fun to have to be with mean people.”
He pulled the boy closer. A sob, louder than before, left the boy. L stopped, holding him out at arm's length.
“Are you OK?” Had he hurt him?
The small boy shakily nodded. “‘M fine.” And attempted to wriggle forward. L laughed, and let him.
It took a few minutes for the boy to calm down, which he spent curled against L’s chest. The sobs had quieted to even breaths.
“I never did get your name.” He broke the silence.
“And you mentioned something about a ‘back there”? If you don’t mind, of course.”
The boy looked up. “Oh, that. I’m from Japan; my family is on vacation right now.”
“Ah. You don’t have many friends back there, do you?”
Light winced. “They think I’m weird.”
“They think I’m weird here, too. That’s why I don’t have any friends.”
“None?” Light looked aghast. “They don’t like me in Japan, but the kids on my street put up with me at least a little bit. We have to walk to school together, and one of them at least talks to me.” A thoughtful expression scrunched Light’s face. He shyly glanced up at L.“I could be your friend.”
L smiled, pulling him closer. “I’d like that. I’d like that very much.”