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amor vincit omnia

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"Clover, is that you?"

"Not Clover. Sorry." Alice drops down her bag at the front door of the apartment at the same time Light appears, right on cue, from around the corner. Maybe he feels the vibration of her belongings as they collide against the carpet, but as usual, there's always that feeling in the pit of Alice's stomach telling her he knows exactly why she's here.

Hell, as far as she's concerned, Light knows everything.

"I hope I didn't startle you," she continues, and Light doesn't move from his spot against the wall. "I should have called and told you I'd be coming over... it just slipped my mind."

"No need," he says softly. There's a certain warmth to his pale, thin smile, and even though his eyes are shut tight, there's a warmth there, too. "You do have a key to our apartment, after all. That makes you just as welcome here as Clover and myself, doesn't it?"

"True," Alice replies, suddenly stiff as she awkwardly makes her way to the couch. She pats the seat beside her, forgetting for a moment that Light can't actually see that particular gesture, so she tucks a strand of raven hair behind her ear instead. "I... um..."

"Clover isn't here right now, as you might have surmised," he says before she can ask him to join her on the couch, but he slowly makes his way closer even without the invitation. "She'll be home from work soon, I imagine. I can keep you company if you'd like to wait on her—or not, if you'd prefer to be alone."

"Don't be ridiculous, you know I love spending time with you, Light." Alice laughs, rolling her eyes at the subtle modesty he always emits to close friends and strangers alike. "In fact, I actually came here to see you, anyway."

"Me?" He raises an eyebrow in mock-surprise, finally lowering himself onto the sofa beside her. Not too close, not too far away—a perfect distance between them he must have judged by listening to the clear proximity of Alice's voice. "I'm not in trouble, am I?" He laughs and it lingers softly between them, only outlived by the growing curve of his smile.

Alice gives him a gentle shove. "Of course not," she scoffs. "Just because I work for the government doesn't mean that I'm always their eyes and ears, you know." Her face darkens. "No... this isn't about work, or anything like that."

Light's silence prods her forward, forcing her to continue ever onward. 

"I... I wanted to ask you something. About... well, Clover, naturally. She is our common denominator."

"Well, I'm all ears." His expression hadn't changed in the slightest. In fact, it hardly ever did. "What is it, then?"

Alice takes a moment to clear her throat, which had tightened considerably since her last attempt at words. "A-As you know, Clover and I will be discussing an important mission tomorrow evening. I'm sure you're busy preparing as well, so I'll make this brief." She stops to remember her question. "I was wondering if... if Clover has said anything to you."

Has she always been such a coward? Alice curses herself for dancing around her true intentions like this, like a hapless child too shy to ask an adult for help. This man can surely smell her fear, even now.

"About the mission?" Light asks, genuinely curious in their exchange. He's already moved in closer. "Not much, really, other than just preparing herself."

"No..." Alice starts, resigned to her own pointless denial. "Not the mission. I meant, has she said anything in particular... about... me?"

"In particular? No."

Alice feels her heart drop to her lap, a loud thump against her chest.

"In general, and practically at all other times throughout the day?" His smile turns more devious. "Absolutely."

"I-I see," Alice says, intrigued and relieved all at once. Light has always enjoyed toying with her like this... "Only good things, I hope?"

"If you're wondering what Clover thinks of you... I can't help but feel like you should already know."

"What do you mean...?"

"She worships you, Alice. I've never seen her look up to someone so fervently—well, aside from me, of course." He chuckles. "I've always been a sort of role model for her, but now... I can't help but feel relieved she's found someone else to look up to."

"Oh," Alice manages, more of a breath than a coherent reply. "I'm... flattered to hear you say that. And truthfully, I was hoping you'd say as much. I value mine and Clover's friendship more than—well, more than I'd ever expected. She's, um, really something, isn't she?"

"Always has been. And I couldn't ask for a more supportive little sister. She's more than just my eyes... she's everything to me."

Even Alice knows she couldn't possibly fathom everything the two have been through together. And it was apparent by how beautifully close they were. An invisible bond that you didn't need some kind of morphogentic resonance to see.

Alice finds herself grasping at the fabric of her skirt, wrinkling it between her fingertips. "I... know this might be awkward to say, but... I can't stop thinking about her, Light. Not just at work... I find myself constantly worrying about her." She swallows hard against the uncomfortable knot in her throat. "I almost can't bear the thought of exposing her to more danger. And yet..."

Light is motionless beside her, listening to every letter. He's always been a good listener. But that isn't what she wants right now. She doesn't want a listener.

What does she want, then? Someone to scold her? Smack some sense into her? Perhaps she'd be more content with a swift kick to the shin, at the very least, to remind her that she sounds like an absolute idiot right now.

Was it guilt? Were the feelings she felt for Clover some sort of strange, twisted pity for getting her wrapped into her agency to begin with? Were it not for Alice, Clover and Light could be living out the rest of their lives away from the tragedies they'd already survived twice now.

They shouldn't have to deal with Alice's bullshit now, too.

Maybe she wants Light to tell her that. That Clover secretly hates her for it. And that Alice pities Clover above all, and that there isn't anything else that could possibly explain why she lies awake at night thinking only about her. There's no other explanation. Not for her feelings, and not for the loathsome way her mouth goes dry like this even thinking about Clover Field.

"Hmm..."

But, as always... Light seems to have plans of his own.

"Are you perhaps trying to tell me, in some roundabout way, that you have feelings for my sister?"

Damn it all...!

Light corrects himself. "Feelings of the... romantic variety, I mean."

What the hell?

"Am I... that transparent?" Alice quips, somehow, in a quick recovery of wits; she instinctively feels like she's stumbled but regained her footing at the last possible second before tumbling off a ledge.

And Light is grinning like a fool. "You must be, if even a blind man can see right through you."

"That's not what I meant, and you know it!" she says with balled-up fists. Hopefully he can't feel the warmth radiating from her burning cheeks... she's already embarrassed enough as it is. "Ugh, I... I can't believe this..."

"I'm not angry if you're attracted to my sister, if that's what you're worried about." He crosses his arms over his chest, as if to prove a point. "We might be closer than most siblings, but I'm hardly the jealous type."

"You are not making this any better...!" Alice hears herself like she's in a tunnel, her giggle a mixture of annoyance and exasperation as it echoes in her head. "Why are you so okay with the thought of Clover and I—" 

She can't finish that sentence.

"Well, for one, I do believe Clover shares a lot of the same feelings." Light is always the voice of reason in the midst of chaos—at a time like now, when it feels like the room is on fire but there's no exit. "I'd hate to embarrass you further, but if you truly want to know... I can tell you why I've drawn that particular conclusion."

Alice's silence has yet to betray her. Of course she wants to know... doesn't she? 

"Ever since we first met you in the desert, Clover has always gone out of her way to describe you to me in great, vivid detail. She's genuinely upset, sometimes, I think, that I can't see your beauty for myself. She's always told me that you're the strongest, most beautiful woman she's ever laid eyes on, and that sometimes it's scary how ethereal you truly are... like a queen, she says, or perhaps even a goddess. She says that sometimes she feels nervous even standing beside you, because she doesn't feel like she deserves to be in your presence."

"Clover... really... said all that?" Alice feels like her eyes could pop out of their sockets any minute now. There's no room in her head for them, or for anything else.

"Of course I told her that she's silly, and that you're far too wonderful of a person to think such things." He pauses, and a frown begins to dawn on his face. "I told her that I believe you came into our lives for a reason. And that you surely felt the same way about us." He waits for clarification. "Do you not?"

"I..." Alice wants to reach forward and grab his hand, but she doesn't, in fear of startling him. And then he'd feel her shaking, too. "Of course I do. You and Clover... you both saved me when I needed it the most. And I'm not talking about the desert. I'm talking about..."

She didn't need to say it. Light nodded with the certainty she always expected of him, wise well above his years.

...Smarter even than Alice herself, perhaps.

"I know we've only known each other a short time, but... I love you both. Dearly."

"The feelings, I assure you, are all mutual. And I'm aware of that." Light stops, chewing on his lip in a way that could deceive his true intentions if one didn't know him better. "Clover, however, is a little more delicate. Perhaps you should tell her yourself, before it's too late."

"Too... late?" Alice feels a quick pang of guilt—or is it something else?—in her head, like a headache making its looming presence known. "What do you mean by that?"

"The SOIS... our occupation isn't without danger. We've already seen proof of that once. Need I say more?"

"So you really don't... hate me? Even after everything we've been through? And for putting her in even more danger, even now?" It hurts so much Alice can hardly say it without trembling. Because I hate myself for it, she decides against adding at the last second.

"Clover has made this decision on her own. You haven't forced her into anything she hasn't already agreed to and accepted herself."

He's not wrong, and Alice knows it. Still, it doesn't hurt to hear it a million times over and over again.

"And how could I possibly hate you, knowing how happy Clover is around you? Hearing her pulse quicken anytime your name is mentioned? I can almost see her blushing even now..."

"Give me a break." Alice looks away. Now he's just being ridiculous. "Have you already planned out our wedding, too, big brother?"

Light smiles assuredly. "I'm not sure that you've earned that privilege quite yet, but I'll most definitely be beside myself if that time ever comes."

"Y-You jerk, I was obviously just joking with you—!" 

The doorknob jiggles and turns shortly after. 

"I'm hoo-oome," a petite pink-haired girl announces as she waltzes through the front door, and the aura changes almost instantly once she's in the room. "Oh! Alice!" Clover's still wearing her waitress uniform and smells vaguely of cooking grease and soda. Her big blue eyes can never quite contain her surprise, or any other relevant emotion going through her pretty little head. "I... I was just about to call you over later!"

"Thought I'd save you the trouble." Alice sends a wink her way, the same greeting she always gives Clover when it's just the two of them, if only just to see the younger girl tense up and giggle in response.

"What, no hello for me?" Light feigns what could possibly classify as a pout, if he didn't look so damned satisfied. "When Alice is around, it's like I'm invisible."

Clover lets out a dramatic sigh. "Oh please, Light! Don't be so jealous! You know I love you, big brother."

"Not as much as she loves me, though, just to clarify." Alice nudges her elbow into him, and he tries his best to contain a quiet chuckle, as if it was a secret. 

"I'll save the hugs for later, guys! I've gotta shower pronto... I smell like nasty, rotten tomato bisque and no, I didn't spill it on myself this time, thank you very much!" Clover rushes past the two of them only to spin around and lock eyes with Alice half a second later. "Hey, Alice?"

"Yes?" She smiles warmly as Clover gazes back at her, eyes wide and unblinking underneath long, lovely lashes and glittery freckles.

"I was wondering if tonight, you'd like to—"

"I was hoping you'd want to go out tonight, too," Alice finishes for her. Is she so brave because Light is sitting beside her, looking even more smug than usual? "Shower up, okay? I'd like to... take you somewhere nice tonight. I'll do your make-up if you'd like."

"O-Ooh!" Clover exclaims, clapping her hands together in excitement. "Can we go to that fancy VIP place you said you could get us into?! The one with the red carpet and the casinos?"

"You read my mind," Alice reveals. "It's a date, then. Of course, you're more than welcome to go with us, Light—"

"I would admittedly love to, but sadly I'm expected to play tonight at a local coffee shop." He shrugs. "Though I do expect to hear all about this fancy VIP venue later."

"Of course," Clover nods, eyes darting happily between the two of them. 

For just a moment, it's as if nothing else exists. 

No missions, no SOIS. No terrorists... no death...

Alice savors it, both the sweet and the bittersweet, and lets any doubt melt under her tongue like a bad aftertaste. 

Because she was going to tell Clover everything.

That was her only mission tonight.