L has been in Light’s life for several years now and, over time, one thing has become steadily more and more obvious.
No one actually knows Light.
It’s not always an insidious thing, part of a scheme, it’s just something about the way Light talks really. He has a way of directing conversation away with subtle, gentle, tactics and he’s more interested in being likeable than being honest.
L is the kind of man who is, in so many ways, too transparent to be attractive. People know where he stands on everything from major political debates to minor lifestyle choices. He’s not a man who compromises easily. His comfort is important to him and comfort is, often, about being honest. If you want L’s honest opinion you just have to ask, and he’ll tell you. This extends into everything; his refusal to wear shoes unless absolutely necessary, the fact he wears the same clothes almost every day, to his approach to cases and how he handles his family.
L’s approach is eclectic, his own, and people either love it or hate it but L has spent a long time cultivating a position for himself where approval is unnecessary. He’s the world’s greatest detective. It doesn’t matter if you like his outfit or approve of his methods; people need L.
Light has a different approach to life. That’s fine. L has certainly learnt to live with it, though it did frustrate him in the earliest days of their relationship, and now it’s honestly quite impressive. Light’s like an optical illusion. He appears to be many things and people often see reflected in Light whatever they want to hear or see. He’s not so obnoxious that he’ll totally transform himself for another person so he maintains the illusion of some consistency but it’s a caricature.
One of L’s favourite games is talking to people who, for one reason or another, feel they know Light quite well. College classmates, work colleges, relatives…
L will ask them if they know Light well and they, of course, will say something like ‘Oh yeah Light and I go way back!’ and then L will weave in some seemingly inconsequential question like; “let’s order drinks while we wait for Light, how does he take his coffee?”
And then he’ll watch the realization spiral behind their eyes.
Because it’s not that these people don’t care but when prompted they often realize they’ve never asked and Light has never volunteered the information. Light will eat food he doesn’t like, Light will do activities he doesn’t find interesting, all for the sake of being agreeable and likeable. He won’t often express enjoyment but he will encourage other people to talk and not offer his own complaints. He’s often friendly and quiet enough to slip through all sorts of cracks.
L became aware of it very early in the Kira investigation.
Everyone they asked about Light gave a different answer to L’s most innocuous questions. They all agreed Light was a charming, hardworking, and intelligent young man but no one could agree on anything else. Even Soichiro, who had quite firm opinions on Light, shuddered under the weight of prolonged questioning.
“What does Light want to be when he grows up?” L asked.
“A detective, like me,” Soichiro answered readily.
“When did he decide that?” L dug barely a millimetre deeper.
“I—Well—” Soichiro fumbled. “I don’t know, Light’s just always wanted to be a detective.”
L remembers frowning. “What’s his favourite flavour of ice cream?”
“Is that really pertinent to the investigation?” Soichiro blinked, confused.
L stirred his own ice cream in the bowl. “Just a curiosity. Does that mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t think Light likes sweet things.” Soichiro offered lamely, totally uncertain.
Not even his father….? L remembers thinking.
Does anyone know this guy?
L started seeing it in progress when they worked together on the Kira investigation.
Ide asked the question, totally innocent; “hey, Light, what’s your favourite colour?”
“Hmm?” Light lifted his head. “Why do you ask?”
“Missus wants to renew her vows,” Ide charges into a story. “We had a really traditional wedding originally, because our parents were paying, but this time she wants to do something different. Have a theme and stuff, ya know?”
“Well I can understand that, she probably had to make some compromises originally,” Light smiles. “What colour are you hoping for?”
“I dunno, I think gold is cool, but is it too gaudy?”
“Not if you’re careful,” Light supposes. “Gold is nice.”
It’s like a mini tennis match.
Ide serves the first hit, the question.
Light leads him down another tangent, encourages him to do what he actually wants; which is talk about himself and his life, and they never circle back around to resolve the original question.
Yes, the original question is technically irrelevant in the grand scheme of things but what matters is how universal that approach is in Light’s interactions. He deflects and redirects without offering anything about himself in the interaction.
For the record?
Light’s favourite colour is red.
L noted it early, but he didn’t really break down the convention until the resolution of the case. Seems telling someone your deepest, darkest, secret puts a lot of smaller things on the table. L knew a lot about Light’s core during those months. They came to understand each other in a serious way but all the window dressing of personality that makes a person? That didn’t come until after the truth. Then? Then it was a buffet.
L remembers sitting in a in an ice cream parlour, not too long after the fact, and offering his spoon to Light for a mouthful.
“I really don’t like mint,” Light turned him down nonchalantly.
L remembers the subtle rush of mystification in his gut.
It was a totally inconsequential statement. Really quite a normal interaction. But it wasn’t normal for Light to just volunteer information like that. Taking a stance, pro or con, was not something Light did openly for a number of reasons. He was whoever his conversational partner wanted him to be, usually, but at that table he was just Light. Just himself.
L remembers whistling, beckoning a waiter.
“What’re you doing?” Light chuckled.
“Order whatever you want, round two, my treat.” L ordered.
“I’m fine,” Light laughed.
“I insist.” L stressed.
That glow in Light’s eyes was worth way more than a few dollars.
Maybe, in some ways, it’s wrong to condition Light like that but L doesn’t care. He’ll provide positive reinforcement to Light’s honesty until the end of time. It protects him in the long run.
Slowly, slowly, L learnt there are levels.
If someone, a stranger, asked Light; “do you want children?”
Light would say; “I don’t really know, that’s such a big decision! Do you have children?”
If someone he’s known for a while, asked the same question, Light would say: “No, I’m not really interested in children. I like my life the way it is.”
When Sayu asks?
“Ryuzaki has two little brothers, I’m one of their legal guardians, and I’m happy with that. I love watching them grow up, supporting them, I don’t need biological children.”
L wonders, at first, if any of those answers are honest. Pinning Light down is hard. He doesn’t like being cornered just instinctively but L learns to make it a conspiracy not a confrontation.
“The police commissioner, she’s got four kids, as soon as she knows we’re together she’ll ask if we have or want children. What should we say?”
Light will hum, his cheek on L’s thigh and whisper; “tell her we want a child desperately. We want our own family. Tell her that we’re looking into surrogacy—No, adopting. Because you’re an orphan and you want to give another child a loving home. She’ll eat that up.”
L will snort, stroking Light’s hair. “What do you think about children? Would you ever want them?”
“Genetics is such a lottery and babies seem so gross…” Light considers. “I would if you wanted them. But, honestly, I like Mello and Near way better than an infant. I feel like I can have an actual relationship with them. They’re the kind of kids I would want to raise anyway and they’re right there so…”
L will nod, curling over to kiss his forehead.
Giving Light a project is sometimes a tricky balance, L’s learnt. If you ask Light to set up a headquarters he’ll think practical, he’ll consider who will be entering the place…
But if you ask Light to decorate his office and write him a blank cheque? He’ll be so beautifully selfish he’ll have a library ladder and a secret passage installed. Those are the times L sees Light most clearly.
Though, sometimes, and it’s less often now than it used to be but…
L wishes, sometimes, that he could hear what Ryuk hears.
Light spares no niceties to Ryuk. He doesn’t have to be pretty or likeable. And that lack of filter is frankly a little erotic. L will overhear Light making a disgustingly obscene joke to Ryuk and get hard as steel in his jeans.
That said, Light doesn’t exactly like to be vulnerable with Ryuk either.
L’s seen Light cry, really cry, once in four years. The desperation of that pain was so all consuming that L found it hard to breathe just watching. But he noted, as he always does, that while Light locked every door, every window, sent the Shinigami into the rest of the house with the Nintendo switch and hid he did allow L to hold him.
L trusts Light.
That might be unwise.
Sleeping with a loaded gun would be less dangerous than sleeping next to Light but…
L’s pretty good at getting to the truth of things and he knows Light. He knows trusts Light to be honest with him. And, at the end of the day, L’s an awful, selfish, man. He’d take the danger inherent in Light over a harem of easier lovers. None of them would be as intelligent, as fascinating, as desirable…
Some fires are worth watching even if they’re going to kill you one day.
So Light’s favourite ice cream is chocolate, with fudge. His favourite colour is red. He loves architecture and history, and while he’ll never admit it in polite company, he prefers Mario Cart to chess.
Just knowing that, is enough.