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sometimes you need to dine alone.

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25 December 2028.

Light got a call exactly at 6:15 in the morning. Half dazed, he groggily tried to decipher if it was his cell phone that was ringing or his home telephone. It was his-their-home phone, and he promptly picked it up. After trying to answer his mobile phone, of course. Clover was always the one better with technology. She “had the eyes for it,” he’d tell her, which often got a laugh out of her.

“Hello?” Light mumbled into the correct phone. He hoped it was good news. He needed it to be good news. It couldn’t be anything but good news, he told himself. It was Christmas, after all. He couldn’t have luck that was that bad, right?

However, he doubted it was good news. Good news could wait until after seven, until after Light had trotted down to the kitchen and eaten the holiday-themed cookies Clover had baked this weekend.

“For Aoi,” she had said, jokingly. Light had laughed, but a part of himself cringed, fining it was too early for him to jest about the people that had made him go through yet another terrifying Nonary Game. To jest about the people that had caused his sister to deal with it again, and the nightmares-oh, the nightmares- that they both left the building with.

A voice shocked him out of his painful reverie.

“This is Agent Reynolds from the SOIS.”

Light knew Agent Reynolds. A close conspirator with Alice, his sister’s dearest friend, he had been heavily involved with the raid Alice and Clover had been planning. He now knew that this was either bad news or big news, as Reynolds was a big-shot, fairly high up in the SOIS. He grunted a yes-sounding noise into the receiver, and the message continued.

“We have halted the investigation for your sister.”

“Shit.” Light’s mind basically stopped. Stopped looking for her? Why? She’s been gone only three days. She could have just jetsettted with Alice to some European city for an impromptu girl’s weekend. She didn’t need to be looked for in the first place, right? So why stop now?

“Why?” His voice croaked, still rough from his hours of sleep before.

“It is simple,” Agent Reynolds spoke without emotion. “She was needed for the infiltration on the Free the Soul safe hold today, and has not shown up. We at SOIS,” (but was not Light a part of SOIS, too? And was this not his precious baby sister?) “have decided that it would be wise to focus our resources not on missing operatives, but how we can complete what they have set out to do. In this case, it is to stop Free the Soul.”

Light was shattered. Did SOIS not value Clover enough? Did SOIS not value him enough? Why was Clover gone? Why was he not gone, too? Why could he not reach her through the morphogenetic field? Where was she? His mind swirled into questions upon questions upon questions until it turned into mush. Muttering a shaky okaythanksbye, the phone clattered onto the table beside him.

He released a breath he wished he hadn’t been holding. Light wasn’t relieved, but pissed. He was pissed that he wasn’t in the situation. He wished he wasn’t an esper. He wished he never had been taken for the Nonary Games all those years ago. If he hadn’t been, would have Clover been taken this time? Would have they been at the second games?

Light didn’t know. He had too many questions and not enough places to search for answers.

What he did know was that Christmas without Clover was not something Light wanted to deal with again. A day of joy and happiness? No, Light thought, this holiday will forever be marked with despair and hopelessness for him.

He sat down in the living room and took the cookies Clover had made for Ol’ St. Nick, alternating between eating the cookies and running his fingers over the card Clover had made to accompany the sweets. He smiled, sadly, as he felt the indents of her handwriting, and remembered from when they were young children and she would break the crayons from pressing too hard.

Reminiscing about his childhood seemed to be the only good thing to come out of this saddening predicament.

Sometimes, he realized, you have to dine alone. Sometimes, there is no other choice.

27 December 2028.

It was five days since Clover had disappeared, and Light felt his stomach tighten every time he missed her singing pop songs in the shower, her pouring his coffee in the morning in a mug that he was sure had some silly photograph on it, and her fixing his tie in the morning so it wasn’t crooked.

Without her, he had no morning routine. Their little slice of normal that they have cultivated since the Second Nonary Game ended had vanished.

His sister was gone. Gone, and there was nothing he could do about it.

So instead, he started his morning in silence, he burnt his hand pouring his coffee, singing his finger as he placed it in his cup so it didn’t overflow, and he switched back to clip-on ties.

How was Light to deal with the stabilizing force in his life? Who was going to give him Top 40 songs to learn on his harp? Could he find restaurants like Clover could, that he was sure were pink and covered in over-the-top kitschy décor?

He realized the answer was no. He could not deal with life without Clover, without the coping mechanisms they had developed after the trauma they experienced during two Nonary Games. He was not skilled enough with computers to find sheet music to play on his harp, and, even if he could, it was Clover who read him the notes so he could learn. Clover’s innate ability to find restaurants with the strangest names was not a genetic one, as Light found that he was utterly hopeless in that field.

To try to sustain a lie of normalcy, he ventured off to Clover’s favorite diner, Pink Pancakes, which he would assume was fully pink and decorated with pancake paraphernalia. He hailed a cab, or rather, called for one. Nowadays, always a nervous wreck, he called ahead for a reservation, only to find that they didn’t take reservations normally, but would for him.

He twiddled with his thumbs, nervously, as he sat in the back of the cab, completely unware of his surroundings aside from the constant breathing of the driver and the continuous hum of the motor. He could feel the car turn and stop, but was unsure about where it may have led him.

Driving to the diner with Clover was all radio, with the bass of whatever song was “The Hottest Song of the Week!” thumping through his being. He never had the silence to pay attention to where the car stopped and turned. He never felt the need to. He only smiled, happy that his sister was just that-happy.

The car jolted to a halt, and the cab driver said simply, “Thirteen dollars.” Light offered up his credit card. He couldn’t see bills anymore, after all. He had had-has, he reminded himself to think, has- Clover to help him with that.

Fiddling with the door handle, he struggled for a moment or two, until the driver realized that his passenger was blind. Light was aided out of the car, receiving a gruff “Which store?”, to which the answer was simple:

“The pink one.”

Light swore he could hear a soft chuckle from the kind cabbie. He was dropped off in the doorway, where the waitress promptly seated him.

“Mr. Light, correct?”

He nodded.

“Don’t you usually come here with a girl? Young, pink haired?” The waitress trailed off.

“Yes. My sister, Clover.” His face must have looked sad for a moment there, as she quickly spoke, moving onto what should be a less touchy subject. If he could see, he thought that he could probably see her looking at him with eyes full of sympathy.

“What would you like to eat today?”

“Just a stack of pink pancakes would be wonderful.”

“They’ll be right out!” He could hear the smile in her voice. It reminded him of Clover. She sounded young, happy, like she had a long life and bright future ahead of her.

While he waited, Light took in the place. By the way the light hit his skin, it seemed like the nice waitress sat him where he would sit with Clover on their visits here. And it smelt as overwhelmingly sweet and syrup-filled as ever.

He recalled the first time Clover brought him here. It was shortly after the Second Nonary Game, and they had just been introduced to the SOIS. Light had woken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming.

“Don’t let her sink! Don’t go through that door! Let me out of here! June! Ace!”

Clover heard him immediately, her room adjacent to his.

She had shaken him awake. “Light, get up. Up.”

Herded out of his bed, she turned the water on and shoved him into the shower. He got dressed, and Clover took his hand and led him to her car.

“Where are we going?” He had asked.

“You’ll see,” she promised.

Clover had brought him here, to Pink Pancakes, a gem of a 24-hour, seven days a week diner that she had found the week before.

Its calming sweet scent and its perpetual calming white noise were a respite from the garish world outside. Although Light could not see it himself, Clover told him that the décor was reminiscent of a grandmother’s knitting room.

He heard the click of heels on the (likely) linoleum floor approaching him. His food was approaching.

Not only could he hear the waitress approach him, he could smell it, too.

“Here you go,” she told him, setting the plate in front of him. Light fumbled for the silverware, and was able to start cutting up his pancakes.

He was able to eat quickly, as he had had nothing to eat so far today, as it was usually Clover who got breakfast ready and picked out a restaurant to go eat at for lunch.

Light folded his arms on the table, and tears flowed out of his crystal-clear eyes.

Sometimes you need to dine alone. Sometimes you need to remember the good times and try to eat away the bad times.

22 December 2038.

Ten years have passed since Clover disappeared from his life. For ten whole years Light has awoken to a silent bathroom, for ten whole years he has burnt his finger in his morning coffee, for ten whole years he has worn clip-on ties to work.

Ten whole years of dead ends and pink pancakes. Of waking up in the middle of the night dreaming of a Nonary Game where he survived, but she didn’t. Of knocking on her bedroom door, hoping for a reply. Of recording her favorite late-night television show, although there was no one to watch it.

A decade of agonizing pain, of attempts to cope.

He wasn't sure how much longer he could go denying the fact that she was gone.

So, Light bought an urn.

In it were the ashes of the clothes she wore in the Second Nonary Game. They had been abandoned on the laundry room floor as soon as she acquired a new wardrobe, a new style. It was the closest he would be to having her remains, to be in her presence again.

He went to her door, and opened it for the first time since she had left. He took the urn, and placed it atop her dresser. Light sat himself on her bed, opening up the other container he had brought with him, a box of leftover pink pancakes.

In the room of his missing baby sister, he ate the pink pancakes that she loved so dearly.

Now, Light realizes, sometimes it is nicer to dine with company.