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Welcome To The Family

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"Hey, Mello—cut it out!"

The words floated to him through the layers of inky nothingness as something poked at him mercilessly.

"Am I dead?" He thought as the annoying poking sensation came again. Surely Ryuk would have told him that Mu involved being poked for all eternity… On second thought maybe he wouldn't have. He was an asshole that way. Light stirred at the escalating chittering sounds grating on the edge of his consciousness.

"Shit he's awake!"

Light's eyes opened a crack and he caught a flurry of movement all around him. Normally this would have concerned him greatly but for some reason his thoughts were coming to him very slowly. Groggily Light glanced around the room out of the corner of his eye. He had yet to wake up enough to remember how to move the rest of his body and the world around him was still hazy. It was a strange room he had never been in before-some kind of office or study, Westernized-style… maybe Victorian.

And there was Ryuk (Light had never been so glad to see his ugly face—at least it was familiar) looming behind him as always but looking exceptionally amused. That meant something either very good or very bad had just happened to him. Light was guessing it was the latter.

Alright, calm down. What's the last thing you remember?

The last thing he remembered was Ryuuzaki asking him to meet with him in his hotel room...

"Ryuuzaki!" Light bolted upright in alarm.

...but Ryuuzaki hadn't been there and the room had filled with knockout gas.

Light tried to cut through the persistent mental haze to assess the situation. He was lying on (or had been unceremoniously dumped onto) a rather expensive-looking red candy-striped sofa. This wasn't the hotel room. This probably wasn't even in Japan…

Light shifted on the couch and he felt the comforting weight of the Death Note where he had sewn it into the lining of his jacket… He couldn't believe this! They hadn't even searched him? Maybe whoever had taken him had assumed that Kira would never carry the murder weapon on him. Normally that would have been right but when those crazies took the hotel hostage it hadn't exactly been a normal day. Seeing his father and Ryuuzaki (the invincible L?) being ordered around at gunpoint… it broke something in him, clearly, since he made such a stupid mistake! What he should have done as Kira was sit back and let his enemies finish each other off. What he did do… hadn't made much sense to him and it landed him here.

Why? Why couldn't I just… Light clenched his fist. They threatened my father! And even L deserves better than being shot in the head by some petty thug! …Doesn't he? But… dead is dead… So why?

Light blinked in confusion and several sets of eyes blinked back. That's when he made the brilliant observation that he was surrounded by children. (Well, that explained the annoying chittering and the poking.) And not just any children-they all looked vaguely like Ryuuzaki—many of them had big eyes with dark circles around them, some of them sat hunched almost but not quite the way Ryuuzaki sat… That was creepy… it was like he was surrounded by a mob of tiny zombie Ls.

Maybe they're L's kids? Light stifled a giggle. Somehow he just couldn't picture L having children or having sex for that matter… at least not with a woman... Light idly wondered what they drugged him with as he tried to dislodge that uncomfortable mental image of L having sex. He wasn't… There was no way he could possibly be getting aroused by that! He wasn't gay! And certainly not with L! Light desperately thought unnsexy thoughts culminating with the image of Ryuk having sex and he threw up in his mouth a little bit.

"You're awake," buzzed a familiar voice filter, Light startled and quickly found the source. He pulled himself up from the sofa and stalked towards the laptop on the desk where a familiar gothic letter L lit up the screen. Light pushed past the noisy mob of kids. Some of them were whining at him, asking him questions, pulling his sleeve, or otherwise demanding his attention. Light ignored L's collection of mini-me Children of the Corn for the time being and focused solely on that laptop.

"Quiet kids, mommy and daddy are talking," Light idly muttered to the whining children.

When Light and L had one their mental face-offs the rest of the world might as well not exist. It was just the two of them in a world of their own—they were two gods locked in epic battle for the fate of humanity. For Light, the distractions ceased to matter. There was only L—his equal, his opposite, his perfect nemesis. Hate like this only comes once in a lifetime.

So L was behind this… or did some annoying third party DARE to get in the way of our game? It is possible. L has other enemies… (Is Ryuuzaki okay?) Is this really MY L talking to me right now or is it some sort of proxy or copy cat? Why did he bring me here?

At one point Light had volunteered to let L lock him up in order to show that he was cooperating with this investigation but he only offered because he knew L would never go for it because Light's father, the Chief of Police, would never allow it… But if L was doing it now… he was so very screwed.

"Ryuuz… L! Kidnapping is a serious criminal offense!"

There was an odd buzzing on the mike. Perhaps it was a sigh. "Surely you know why you are here, Light-kun. Only people on the taskforce knew about the attack on the hotel. Kira intervened when Souichiro Yagami, your father was threatened. And I traced the hack to the government site back to your computer. It all points to you, Light," the disembodied voice said tersely.

"I swear, it's a mistake! I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for…"

"Light Yagami, you are Kira! Are you ready to tell me how you kill?"

"Kira?" The children gasped. For a moment Light had forgotten they were there. They had gone eerily quiet when L began talking but now they all seemed to come alive at the announcement of his identity. Some of them backed away while others glared at him defiantly, but all of them were dissecting him with L's trademarked wide-eyed stare… it was like someone had photoshopped L's eyes onto a whole classroom of children. It was… uncanny to say the least.

"You're Kira?"

"I'm not Kira. Look at that, L! You're needlessly scaring the kids!"

"Hardly," the laptop replied.

"…Why are there kids here?"

"Naturally there would be children in an orphanage, Light-kun."

"Wait… you're detaining me in an orphanage?"

"Correct. If you attempt to leave the grounds… you see that band around your ankle? It will administer a powerful sedative that will put you into a medically induced coma until we choose to give you the counter drug… IF we choose to give you the counter drug..."

"Unbelievable! This… this is illegal and unethical and… you're violating so many human rights right now…" Light sputtered for once so angry he could barely communicate.

"If I turned you over to the authorities they would tear you apart looking for the source of your powers, and assuming Light-kun with his pretty face would survive one night in prison they would execute you soon afterwards. Be grateful that I am protecting you, Light-kun."

Light gawked at the computer screen as he realized the implications of that statement.

"You think I'm… and… That… that doesn't make sense!" When L first announced himself as Kira's eternal rival he had gloated on how he would see him sentenced to death…

"YOU PROMISED!" A blonde boy in black pajamas suddenly wailed, interrupting Kira and L's special moment. "L! You promised me you'd find Kira and have him executed!"

Light was disturbed by this. The blonde kid was small, thin, probably no older than Sayu, and he was very serious about wanting him dead.

"I admit that Kira's murder spree has made me question my own stance on capital punishment. I believe criminals like Light-kun can be rehabilitated."

"I'm not a criminal! I'm not Kira! You've got this all wrong! How could you get this so wrong?"

"Fine! If you won't do it…!" The ignored blonde boy suddenly had a shard of glass in hand and was lunging at Light. He was stopped just short of reaching his target when he was restrained by a boy wearing goggles.

"Mello has just earned detention and no chocolate for an entire week..."

"That isn't fair! He's Kira!" Mello shouted.

"Two weeks," came the emotionless reply.

Mello fell silent.

"You are allowed to act in self-defense but I do not want Light-kun harmed. He is now a resident of this House and all that that entails."

A pall of reverent silence fell over the room.

"I am entrusting you all with a very important mission. I need you to keep an eye on Kira. He's very cunning. Remember what I told you about monsters…"

"He's a monster that always tells lies," the white-haired boy replied, looking up from his puzzle to lock eyes with Light and give him a creepy grin. Light hated him instantly. He had all of L's obnoxiousness and none of his… better qualities? It made him miss the real L's company…

That's ridiculous. I do not miss L! The bastard just left me here to rot… wherever this is. With no chance to… there's NO evidence! It's just his word against mine!

"That's right…" L agreed with the creepy child. "He will be rehabilitated here."

"L, wait…" Light pleaded.

"Daddy?" Light whirled around, about to shout in frustration at whoever dared touch him only to find it was one of the youngest children, a small girl tugging at his hand.

"What?"

"You said 'mommy and daddy are talking.' So Kira must be daddy and L must be mommy!"

The pall of silence broke and the other children began snickering.

Have they never seen Ryuuzaki in person?

"That… It was a joke! I—" Light began to explain but the little girl looked so heartbroken that he stopped.

Orphans. Ryuuzaki said they were orphans!

"I don't believe this! Ryuuzaki you would leave someone you think is… alone with a bunch of emotionally vulnerable orphans? What the f—, what is wrong with you? That's child endangerment!"

But L had already cut out his transmission and Light was just shouting at an empty screen.

"Dammit!"

The girl began to cry.

Light squirmed. "Hey, I'm sorry. It's okay… I'm not mad at you, okay? I'm sorry I shouted it's just Ryuuzaki… L was being… mean."

"He spared you ungrateful life, Kira. How is that mean?" The blonde who tried to kill him seethed, still looking very much like he wanted to murder him, though he was restrained in the arms of Goggleman.

"L isn't mean! You're mean!" Goggles agreed.

"L is mean! Because… because…" Light found himself at a loss to explain the complexities of their relationship to a bunch of kids (and spin it in his favor) when he was finding he himself didn't fully understand it. Why would L go out of his way to protect someone he thought was Kira? They were just enemies, right? "Because he's wrong and it hurts because I consider him to be a very good friend of mine. Imagine if your best friend hated you for something you didn't do! Wouldn't that make you feel angry?"

When Light finished his monologue he glanced back to see that his audience, all the children, were peering at him curiously. Light wondered why they didn't seem to be afraid of him after what L had told them.

Of course L had told them that I'm Kira and therefore dangerous…

"Kira and L are best friends?" enthused one of the girls.

But… when I was that age "dangerous" meant cool and interesting... Well come to think of it, it's something he never quite grew out of—he was still fascinated by dangerous things like Shinigami and murder notebooks...

"Why heart attacks? Why not make their heads explode or something?" Pestered one of the boys.

"I read about heart attacks! It's like a really painful way to die!"

For them it must be like going to a day at the zoo. See the funny animals. Lions and tigers and Kiras! Oh my!

"I'm not Kira!" Light declared with obvious annoyance.

"Yeah right!" scoffed that disturbed blonde child that tried to kill him.

Mello… they called him… No, don't even go there! He's just a kid!

"You're not L's friend!" barked out a black-haired British boy in glasses.

Light's eyes narrowed. "What makes you say that?"

"L doesn't have friends, dummy!"

This… L-factory. School for Ls? In any case this place seems to be teaching these kids to have no respect, to be rude and confrontational. These poor kids are in desperate need of a more positive role model… What am I thinking? I already have a whole world to be guiding! I can't get distracted by something like this… right? Dammit, I really need to be figuring out how to escape…

Light chuckled. "Really, that's funny. He said he was my friend."

"Then he lied. He's a liar!"

Light blinked in confusion. "Did he lie to you?"

"He promised he'd visit after he caught and executed you, Kira."

Light was stunned by this new tidbit of information. All throughout the case L kept discussing his impending death to Light's… discomfort. Sometimes Light suspected that L went into the case fully expecting Kira would kill him… (maybe even counting on it?) Sometimes Light suspected he had a deathwish what with the way he taunted and humiliated the God of the New World) and he promised these kids he'd come home…

L, are you really that much of a bastard?

"I'm not Kira. My name is Light and I'm sure L is very busy... searching for the real Kira."

"Just confess already so L can come home!" The blonde rolled his eyes as he retrieved a chocolate bar from his pocket.

"L said no chocolate." The white-haired boy commented without looking up from his puzzle.

"Fuck that! L isn't here!" Mello shot back and took a big bite out of the chocolate bar before the girl with the black pig tails, in an obviously suicidal move, knocked it out of his hand.

"Mello, no! You'll get in worse trouble and you'll get us all in troub—" she began but before she could finish Mello struck her. All present could only watch in horror as the girl stumbled backwards and fell through the glass top coffee table.

"NO!" While the others were still in shock Light rushed in, kneeling beside the girl. To everyone's relief she opened her eyes and began bawling. That was a good sign—it would have been far worse if she remained silent.

Light produced some disinfectant wipes and a roll of bandages from his jacket pocket. Miraculously she only had a few shallow cuts. After Light treated her injuries the girl clung to him, continuing to cry against him. "Daddy! It hurts!"

That's right. It was the girl that had taken to calling me…

"Please, it hurts!"

At a loss Light awkwardly hugged her back and tried to say something reassuring but nothing seemed to work. "You're alright now, okay? I won't let anyone hurt you."

"He hurt me!"

Light glared murderously at Mello. "YOU— YOU DON'T DO THAT!"

Mello was so stunned with guilt he didn't even bother to mouth back at the source. "M-my chocolate…!" Mello protested weakly. He hadn't meant to…

"IT DOESN'T MATTER!"

"YOU SAW WHAT SHE DID!" Mello roared back defensively.

"YOU DON'T HIT GIRLS! EVER!" Light scolded, without even realizing it repeating the same words his own father had drilled into his skull since he was very young, after his baby sister had first come into the world—that he had to be careful around her, he had to protect her—that's what a Big Brother does... "I don't care what she did or how annoying she is! You're a man, aren't you? Suck it up!"

Light mentally declared victory when Mello flinched and a shocked silence fell after his angry outburst… only to be broken when Goggles piped up coming to his buddy's defense. "Never? That's rather traditionalist. What about battered men? What if she was like an axe murderer or something?"

Light ignored them and continued to fuss over the injured girl. The other children watched with interest... and jealousy.

"Then Kira would be whipped" chimed in the white-haired boy. "You carry that stuff with you?" He asked innocently about the bandages, staring at Light with a dangerous interest "Why? Do you get into fights a lot or something?"

Light sighed. "Force of habit. My sister…" Light began to explain but fell silent as the reality of the situation began to sink in. He was going to visit Sayu at her softball practice after his meeting with Ryuuzaki but that was who knew how many hours (Days?) ago. Was she okay? (Would he ever even see her again?)

I have to get out of here.

Meanwhile some of the other kids chattered about Light's shouting.

"Eek! Scary!" another of the girls squeaked out.

"Did you see that scary face?" another "whispered" loudly so that it was audible to everyone. "He's definitely Kira!"

Light rolled his eyes.

"Quiet you guys, I want to hear about Kira's sister!" piped another. "Does she kill people too?"

Light sighed. "Forget it."

"Meanie!"

"There," Light addressed the girl clinging to his leg that he had just finished bandaging up "Is that better?"

"Can you… kiss it and make it better?"

Light sighed but obliged her. "Alright?"

The girl frowned. "It still hurts."

Light sighed again. "That's to be expected. You know, you need to learn to pick you battles. That wasn't too smart picking a fight like that."

"He was being bad!"

"That's true, and standing up against injustice is admirable. However I've been here five minutes and I can see that kid's unstable. It was foolish to attack him directly."

"Then… can you kill Mello for me?" the girl asked innocently.

"What?" Light asked in shock.

"He's really mean! He's always mean to me!"

"Me too!" another child chimed in.

"C'mon, he's obviously going to be a criminal one day..."

"Do it Kira!"

Light looked absolutely disgusted. "He's a child! You're classmate!"

"Less competition," shrugged another boy.

Alright, Light conceded that maybe they weren't the Children of the Corn... they were more like Lord of the Flies...

"I'm not a child!" Mello snapped. "You guys!" The blonde gaped at all his classmates who were apparently okay with him being dead.

"Come on, he tried to kill you even!" another egged Kira on.

"OH, FUCK YOU! ALL OF YOU! YOU CAN ALL JUST SUCK MY DICK!" the blonde raged and stormed off.

"Language!" Light scolded after him. Mello slammed the door. "Alright kids Ethics 101. This is an orphanage. That means it's a killing-free zone." The mob of children groaned in disappointment. "…And instead of leaping straight to "murder" perhaps we might try talking it out with Mello about what bothers you first…"

"Boring!"

"Please? I want to see some blood! That would be so awesome!"

"Hey Kira, how many people would you say you killed?"

"None, because I'm not Kira. And my name is Light. I'd appreciate if you used it…"

"I'm Linda!" piped up the little girl "Can't I call you daddy instead? Please…?"

"I—" Light was about to protest but she was looking at him with those huge puppy eyes again. Damn that girl's adorableness. She reminded Light painfully of his sister. He could never deny his little sister anything either. "Alright."

"He's Kira!" the white-haired boy said disgustedly, his curly bangs falling into his face.

"I know, but he's nice! He reminds me of my dad!"

"Wasn't your dad an assassin for hire?" the albino prodded.

"That doesn't matter! He was my father and he was always nice to me!"

Linda..."You… you shouldn't tell me your names. I'm not Kira but L thinks I am..."

"He's probably right. He's L," The white-haired boy stated it as if that was all the explanation necessary. Apparently it was as all the other children nodded in agreement.

"You don't get to be L by being wrong," Goggles agreed.

"Well he's wrong in this case. But like it or not I am a suspect and you shouldn't expose yourselves to unnecessary danger..."

"You can't touch us! We're using aliases!" announced the resident blonde drama queen from the door. Mello was back or maybe (more likely) he never really left and just stayed to listen at the door.

"Mello, shut up!" hissed Goggles.

"Bite me, Matt!"

Light strolled over to where Mello was, his footfalls echoing in the suddenly silent room until he was standing right in front of him. Light imagined that if his life was a TV show there would no doubt be some awesome lighting effect and an echoing of Latin choirs as he stared down his challenger… and reached out and poked him in the chest.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm touching you, now."

Mello's eyes narrowed in anger and (though he was loathe to admit it) grudging respect that Light would dare to touch him after Mello tried to shank him earlier. That took cojones considering, as far as he knew, Mello might have another home-made weapon on hand. (He didn't but that was beside the point.)

"So you touch kids?" inquired the albino.

"What?" Mello and Light demanded in unison.

"Kira touched Mello~."

Mello looked horrified. "SHUT UP, NEAR!"

Light made a face. "How crude. Is that what L teaches you at this school?"

"You must admit, the way you said it, it was just asking for it" said Matt.

"Take it up with L. I learned it from him." Light grumbled. He was far more respectful of personal space than a certain detective he couldn't name... Light was struck by a horrified thought: A wealthy, powerful man that was a law unto himself that counted a whole ranch of children as his property... What if L's real name is Michael Jackson? He could have faked his death to become a world famous detective. "Wait, L doesn't… does he?"

Mello stared at him searchingly.

"Why do you care, Kira?"

"We never even see him," Near murmured from across the room, his white locks had again fallen in his face.

Light turned and began to walk away.

"Hey!" Mello shouted. "Hey, Kira!" Mello growled as Light continued to ignore him. "Light! I asked you a question! And why did you just touch me?"

Light turned and locked eyes with the younger teen "You shouldn't be so brash. There's a saying where I come from. 'The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.' You might consider it. You'll live longer."

"Bullshit," the blonde sneered.

"You really should watch your language too."

"Yes, Dad." Mello said mockingly.

From behind Light, Linda stuck out her tongue.

Chapter Text

Just then a loud, clanging bell screamed to life and for a panicked moment Light thought the place was under attack—it was nothing like the soft, almost doorbell- like chimes of his school.

"It's lunch time!" Linda squealed with great enthusiasm "This way, daddy!"

As the children led him into the cafeteria Light suppressed a shudder. Knowing L's eating habits he feared that the kitchen would constitute nothing but candy but to his immediate relief this was not so:

"Roger orders all sorts of foods from around the world—we can get or make whatever we like!" Linda informed him.

"Except for Mello's chocolate." Near smirked as he trailed in behind Linda and her new "daddy." He shuffled along, red blocky toy robot in hand, and never took his eagle-eye off Kira.

Mello shoved his way past Near cursing "Stupid Sheep!" Of course the staff had been told of L's decree and now all the chocolate was locked away in a state-of-the-art vault that was currently keyed to open for everyone BUT Mello. There was a note on the vault door warning that if anyone were to assist Mello in getting the chocolate inside that there would be grievous consequences… such as no video games for a month.

Matt glanced up at the note, sighed, and then returned his attention back to his DS. L knew them all too well—even though he was never here.

Light quickly surveyed the kitchen as he began preparing his lunch. He was surprised that there was such easy access to the knives all things considered. Of course he had no intention of using them on the kids for a number of reasons—first and foremost it would be killing children (the scum of the Earth who did such a thing were judged by him). Besides, he wanted to stay on L's good side, knives weren't really his style, and again he was a benevolent God—a protector of the innocent—he didn't go around killing children! Only the scum of the earth that totally deserved it! But Light stayed on guard lest Mello or anyone else decide to reenact a scene from Friday the 13th with him as a hapless camp counselor. A disturbed, but predictable, hush fell over the lunchroom of chattering children as Light selected one of the knives for himself. Light could feel all of the children with their L-like eyes watching him intently. The killer rolled his eyes and began cutting the roll of sushi he was preparing into neat little wheels. Light was aware that many had stopped what they were doing and were surrounding him—like the approaching zombie mob—if they thought he was going to take that knife and go on a murderous rampage they were sorely disappointed. Kira kept his cool and continued to peacefully make his lunch. Light looked over in surprise when he saw how Linda, after scrutinizing him for a moment, began retrieving the same ingredients, copying his exact movements, and making her own sushi lunch with great presentation and it was very artfully arranged.

Linda smiled upon seeing Light's questioning look. "That looks good. I've never had it before."

Matt put his DS in his vest pocket and joined them at the counter; apparently in the mood for sushi as well. Then the others followed suit with the pointed exception of Near who looked annoyed by this turn of events (or more specifically at the subject of Wammy's latest fad) and simply selected a plain vanilla yoghurt for himself, and Mello who just stood there in the kitchen, pounding on and screaming obscenities at the chocolate vault. He was seemingly content to let himself starve before deigning to eat a meal that lacked the all essential chocolate food group. As Light regarded all the children that were following his lead (Followers? The idea almost gave him a warm and fuzzy feeling) Light was reminded, once again, that they were not just children, they were genius children—mini-Ls. They never asked for instructions but simply figured it out on their own.

Light found a table in the cafeteria and Linda, smiling, sat down beside him and Matt joined them, to sit with Linda that's all. It wouldn't be nice to leave her all alone with a psychopath, now would it? Of course Matt (the Defender of Justice) would protect her with his vigilance!

Matt (the level 83 Paladin) would occasionally pause his game for short intervals to pick up a sushi roll and eat it ungracefully between his fingers, and every once and a while he would glance over at the kitchen in order to be embarrassed for Mello's sake as the blonde continued to rage against his most unjust punishment for attempted murder. It was the attempted murder of Kira, but still... Matt resumed killing zombies and didn't bother to divert his attention to Linda. She wasn't screaming so no doubt the Princess was not (yet) in peril.

Near also sat across from Light at his table, but it was less than friendly as he kept staring at him with those cold, unblinking eyes. Light simply ignored him as he had learned to do with Ryuuzaki and ate his lunch. But Light was startled out of his peaceful meal by the sharp crashing sound of Mello slamming a chair into the solid metal door that stood between him and his chocolate.

"What is that kid's problem?" Light muttered and from across the table Matt snorted as he continued to mash buttons on his DS.

"Which one?"

"Good point…" Light said, recalling Mello's attempted "welcoming shank."

"Do you want the list?"

Light was surprised by how Matt looked almost eager to unload that list. Unasked Matt began listing off some of Mello's more charming qualities... "He gets chocolate stains all over everything, he's always breaking my stuff, he snores…"

"How about let's start with what's his problem with me?"

"You're Kira."

"I am not…" Light began his usual protest.

"…And you killed his father."

***

Light returned to the kitchen and had spirited away three apples from the fruit bowl into the deep pockets of his sporty red jacket when Near was suddenly there, again doing a perfect imitation of L's wide-eyed stare and standing much too close.

"Shinigami really do love apples?"

"Excuse me?" Light feigned confusion.

"Oh come on, it's a matter of public record—one of the facts of the Kira case. Apparently 'Shinigami love apples.'" Near smiled and Light suppressed a shudder. That kind of smirk belonged on a rapist, not on a little kid. Light began to wonder why Near was an orphan. "Kira murdered three people just to send L that message so it must be important."

"Hmmm… Fascinating."

"Is it true Shinigami wear black robes and carry scythes?"

"How the hell should I know?" Light answered irritably as Ryuk cackled in amusement.

"The apples…"

"…Are a snack for later."

"Really?" Near gave another smirk and a hair twirl as he pressed "I was under the impression you liked potato chips."

"What is this? A school for stalkers?" Light muttered under his breath.

"L let us review your case file when he sent you here."

Light sighed. "Believe it or not, some people don't eat the same thing at every meal. In fact most people like variety—and you get essential vitamins and nutrients that way."

Light ignored Near's continual annoying pestering (his saintly patience wearing thin) in favor of searching the cupboards.

I thought for sure I saw… There it is!

"What are you doing?" the albino asked and was ignored.

Light strode on over to where Mello sat panting, banging the back of his head against the metal door of the vault in desperation and despair. Light stood there for a moment and when Mello didn't register his presence he threw the item he discovered at the younger boy's chest. The blonde grunted, for a moment all the breath being pushed out of his body by the impact. He recovered to glare murderously at the one who had thrown it "What the fuck was that?"

"It's a bag of trail mix."

"Why the fuck did you throw it at me?"

"Consider it a peace offering, an olive branch, whatever. You look hungry. Accept it or not. I don't care. I just figured you'd find it interesting, considering your current… predicament."

Is he saying…?

Mello ripped open the bag to discover nuts, dried fruit ...and chocolate chips.

"You asshole!"

Light arched an eyebrow. "Is that your way of saying 'thank you?'"

"You know I'm not allowed to eat it!" Mello moped, staring at the chocolate chips mournfully.

If he was going to follow the rules now then what was the point of trying to break into L's vault with a chair? Well, aside from the obvious anger issues...

"Trying to tempt me with chocolate? How typical Kira! Back, vile serpent! Returneth to under the rock from whence you came!"

"He gets weird without his chocolate." Matt made his presence known with an exasperated sigh.

"I see your deductive skills need work…" Light chided, once again getting Mello's attention. "Or at least your taste buds. It's not chocolate. It's carob."

Light was met with a blank look.

"Come on, a genius and a chocoholic like you? Don't tell me you've never had carob?"

"What the fuck is carob?"

Light simply smiled and explained. "It looks like chocolate, it tastes like chocolate. But it isn't chocolate."

"So it's like… imitation chocolate?" Mello made a face. He never bothered with chocolate that wasn't of an expensive brand name.

"If it looks like chocolate and tastes like chocolate then its chocolate and Mello can't have it." Near interjected. "Just like when it looks like a manipulative, lying, sociopathic murderer and acts like a manipulative, lying, sociopathic murderer than it is a manipulative, lying, sociopathic murderer; and that's all there is to it."

"L never mentioned carob in Mello's punishment so it's obviously alright for him to eat it, otherwise don't you think they'd put it under lock and key too?"

With some trepidation Mello tried the carob. It was slightly bitter and had a bit nuttier taste than he was used to but it would work as a substitute… for now. The blonde began madly mining his way through the nuts and fruit to get at the carob chips, setting them aside in his own little stock pile.

At this turn of events Near briefly interrupted his new hobby of stalking Kira to glare at Mello "You would follow the letter of the law without honoring the spirit of it? How very Kira-like."

"Shut up, Near…" Mello turned his attention back to Light to mouth off "Thanks, dad." It was said with biting sarcasm… and some other emotion that was dangerously approaching gratitude.

***

"Interesting… they seem to be getting on even better than I hoped…" a certain raven-haired detective said around a mouthful of gummy bears. Chewing was still a bit of a challenge with the pain in his jaw and the awkwardly wrapped bandages. L had received some minor cuts on top of a mild concussion as part of the beating he took to keep the kidnappers occupied while the others enacted their plan to escape.

Unfortunately it didn't work—the terrorists had discovered their plan. Their leader had been about to blow his head off when they had all collapsed from sudden heart attacks. As humiliating as it was to admit… Kira had saved his life.

"L…" Watari began as his ward watched the multiple monitor screens where the children led a bewildered Kira through the hallowed halls of Wammy's House. L felt a similar sense of confusion as he chewed thoughtfully on his sugary treats. Clearly something had changed between them. L wasn't sure when or how this happened exactly and that unsettled him. He was sure Kira wanted him dead before, but now… now Light would die for him? Because surely Light knew the consequences when he took these actions—he had outed himself and an exposed Kira was a dead Kira. He would surely get the death penalty… that is if he'd even lived long enough to see trial.

But was that not the very thing he was fighting against with Kira?

It wasn't L's place to force policies onto the countries of the world. His only duty was to uphold the law but…

L frowned. Though Light, Kira, went about it in the completely wrong way… he did have a point that the system was very flawed. Too many innocents were falsely accused and too many of the guilty exploited the system. And shouldn't the system focus on rehabilitation more than punishment? As it was the criminals that were incarcerated often came out even more dangerous than before!

Light saved my life. He's still young. I'm sure of it. He isn't beyond being rehabilitated. In the right environment he could easily be a force for justice much like myself...

"…You're not serious about this?" Watari asked with some concern. In light of L's most recent decision Watari feared he had taken a worse blow to the head than they had previously thought.

L gave his mentor a blank look. "I'm very serious," he deadpanned as he scooped up some more gummy candies, stretching and squeezing them between his long, slender fingers. "Is there a problem, Watari? This is hardly the first time I've used one of my former enemies to my advantage. You never objected before."

Watari turned away, busying himself with serving L his cake. For a moment L thought that Watari would let it go… "I don't like the idea of having that murderer anywhere near the children."

L paused in his chewing to swallow down the sugary gel of the gummy candies down his throat. "He won't hurt the children."

L startled as Watari slammed the plate of cake down onto the table. "You can't know that!"

The detective gave a rare smile as he retrieved more candies. When he spoke again, it was almost like he was humming softly "He doesn't know their names."

"L.."

"Don't worry so much, Watari. Kira will be kept on a very short leash. And I have every confidence that my successors will keep him in line…"

Watari sighed in exasperation. "It also worries me that you already consider Kira a 'former enemy.'"

L idly slurped up another gummy worm. "As far as I am concerned I have already defeated Kira even if he has yet to realize it."

"Just because he saved your life doesn't change the fact that he's killed thousands!"

Sometimes L wondered if the old man could read his mind. "Yes, I'm well aware of that."

"Then why—?"

"I am going to prove Kira's ideology is wrong, once and for all—by rehabilitating the most prolific killer in recent history."

"I'd still rather you didn't around the kids."

"Light is still practically a kid himself-he's the right age, Watari."

"…Barely."

"Wammy's House is the only place that has a shot at fixing him. There's still time to remold him in the program. Surely you know this—you created it."

The old man looked haunted. "You know as well as I do that the program doesn't always work."

The detective smiled again, more grimly this time. "Well at least he can't come out much worse than he already is." L said as he shoveled a forkful of the cake into his mouth, but no sooner had L swallowed down the treat when his head began to feel woozy and disconnected. L could see that Watari was saying something but his voice seemed distorted, as if he was speaking through a filter—he sounded strange, deep and demonic. L cringed at the sound, and abruptly lost his balance, collapsing sideways out of his chair and onto the floor. At the edge of his awareness, L thought he heard Watari shouting something but he couldn't understand what or why—it just sounded like a meaningless roar. A dark shadow fell across the detective as he struggled to get up and to remain conscious. L looked up, his glazed eyes could scarcely understand what he was seeing but still the detective managed to keep his eyes open, to focus on the face...

"You!" L hissed the word like a curse. Then the room swam around him and then there was only darkness.

Chapter Text

Just as Mello was finishing up a lunch made entirely of carob chips the P.A. system crackled to life:

"Mello and Matt would you escort our guest to my office please?" Roger demanded over the speakers.

"Fuck, Roger!" Mello grumbled at being asked to do this chore.

"…and Mello, you are not to use that kind of language here."

"…is he watching us?" Light asked and Matt was secretly very amused by how paranoid Kira looked—his eyes darted around the room and oddly seemed to focus on one corner of the room for a bit too long to be natural. Matt frowned. He didn't see anything there… The red-headed teen shrugged and nonchalantly returned his attention to his DS.

"Maybe. Maybe not…" (No sense in giving Kira any definite clues about the security of his prison.) "But then that's not hard to guess, knowing Mello…"

"Why thank you, Mattie-dear." The blonde smirked at the "compliment."

"Anytime, S'mello yellow."

"It's this way, Kira," Mello grunted in irritation though inwardly he was very happy with this turn of events—he had been charged with escorting Kira to the office, meaning he was in charge here. That meant he got back a little bit of the dignity he had lost from arguing with Kira. Mello was also secretly pleased that Roger had appointed him (and Matt) but not Near for this all-important task...

"It's Light," Light corrected but he began to follow, intending to cooperate. After all, though the cage was gilded there was no denying he was still a prisoner here. It was in his best interests to be cooperative; at least for the time being…

Mello's eye twitched when he saw how Linda still clung to Light—it somehow subtracted from the "glory" or whatever Mello got out of parading the "defeated Kira" to the principal's office. But when Near stood up and began to follow them, dragging along that stupid, blocky, red toy robot of his, Mello lost his cool.

"Roger asked for me and Matt!"

"You mean, 'Matt and I?'" Near corrected.

"Whatever! The point is we don't need your help we've got it under control! So all of you—get lost!" Mello shouted.

The albino refused to move and just stood there, with his usual apathetic expression on his face. "Roger didn't say that we couldn't accompany you and honestly Mello, I don't trust you to keep your cool. Roger obviously didn't think this through; Mello… you always let your emotions get the better of you," Near taunted in a muted, almost sing-song voice. "You'll screw up and then Kira here will make a break for it."

Light rolled his eyes. "Yeah real nice, Near. First off, again, my name is Light. Second, I'm not Kira. Third… don't be stupid, I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm afraid I don't believe you. Sorry." The pallid boy said insincerely as he tugged at his hair.

Mello scoffed. "Of course you're going to try to escape."

"No, I'm not because that would make zero sense. Just think about it rationally! For starters, I'm not even sure what country I'm in."

"You can't guess?"

Light shot Near a look of an annoyance "Of course I can guess. From the décor and your slight accents I'd assume that we are somewhere in England but in any case have you already forgotten about the lovely friendship bracelet L gave me? Even if I got it off do you think I'd just run, no plan, no Visa, no I.D.? In a foreign country where I'm being framed for murder? You must take me for an idiot!"

"Yes," Near answered honestly. The smug albino could tell that he made Kira angry though he was, disappointingly, much better at concealing his emotions than Mello—Kira's rage only showed in a slight twitch of the eye, blink and you miss it. A shame; Near would have loved to get a rise out of him—taunting Mello was getting predictable and boring. "Nothing personal," Near continued mockingly. "Most people from outside Wammy's are. Indeed, we even have our share of dumb blondes inside Wammy's House."

"That's it! I'm going to kill you, you stupid sheep!" Mello snarled; his duty to guard Kira forgotten in a fit of Near-induced berserk rage.

"Children…" Light derided both of them "Do we have to separate you two?"

"Roger tried that… Didn't work out so well." Matt idly commented from behind his DS. "I believe you're serious about not wanting to escape, at least for now. You'd at least want to assess the situation first." Matt nodded as he mashed buttons. Onscreen his assassin character stabbed a guard in the back.

Light chuckled "Naturally. And in any case I'm sure Ryuuzaki would be rather upset if I left without telling him…"

"What?" Mello stopped trying to kill Near in order to gawk at Light as if he had grown a second head.

"What? I told you, Ryuuzaki, L is my best friend." Light said most saccharinely. "I know he's been through a lot lately what with surviving a hostage crisis and all." Light himself had found L's hostage crisis to be quite an ordeal and he hadn't even physically been there. He only saw what happened on the security feeds. "Yes, I know the brave and powerful L faces death all the time but that one was really bad. They… hurt him…They really would have—" killed him. Light paused as his entire body trembled with some unnamed emotion, most likely barely contained fury. How DARE they? They don't get to kill L. No one gets to kill L! No one but Kira should have that right!

The children exchanged nervous glances as Light seemed lost in thought for a moment and they were privy to seeing Light having a rare display of genuine emotion. It was this rather than Light's eloquent (but obviously bullshitting) speeches that got the kids to start believing his story. It seemed that at least Light thought of L as a friend. Though Kira and L could probably be called "friends" much like Mello and Near could be called "friends"—everyone could see it. Underneath all the quarreling, bullying, back-stabbing, and death threats they really did care about each other.

"In any case, I'm sure L's just under a lot of stress right now and while I know I'm not Kira I should stay here to put his mind at ease until he's got it all sorted out."

Light was surprised when one of the children began tugging on his sleeve.

"What's he like?" asked the black-haired boy with the glasses timidly.

"Huh?"

"L. You've met him in person, haven't you? He's only ever spoken to us from behind a computer screen."

"Hoodwink!" Linda scolded the other student. They really weren't supposed to ask that sort of thing.

"Yes, I have," Light admitted and was met with a hushed, reverent silence.

It's true then. They've never met Ryuuzaki in person. What possible reason could L have for...? If I was in L's position… Light had the dawning realization. I wouldn't want Sayu knowing that I'm Kira. I don't like to think about it but had she discovered my secrets or if she was used by my enemies and then I'd have to… It's no doubt the same for L. He keeps his identity secret to protect them.

"Why would L show himself to Kira and not us?" Mello demanded.

"Isn't it obvious? If L dies after showing himself to a Kira suspect then that suspect is Kira," Near explained in a haughty tone.

"Regardless whether I'm Kira or not L put his life in my hands. I won't betray that trust." Light declared resolutely with his most sincere expression, his eyes shining with righteousness.

Mello and Near (in rare agreement) exchanged a look that clearly read "You've got to be kidding me."

"It's not right that you should know about L and we don't! So spill it!" Mello snarled as he got all up in Light's personal space, trying to intimidate him again. Light suppressed a smirk. The thought that a fourteen-year old kid, even one as volatile as Mello, might intimidate the God of the New World was utterly laughable.

Light was reminded of a story he once heard from one of the police officers while on a ride-along. The officer (Light tried to recall his name, Ide or something) once told him of how a friend of his had trained a particularly vicious German Shepherd—it was a rescue animal that had been raised to be a fighting dog, but the officers managed to retrain it to be one of the best police dogs. But every so often the dog would challenge him for dominance—it would bark, and snarl, and try to bite and its owner would have to remind it of its place. This was done not through force for the dog would meet aggression with aggression and it was important not to back down or show fear—that was also an invitation to attack. No when the dog began to growl…

Light just smiled and gave Mello a friendly pat on the shoulder. The younger teen unwittingly took a step back, expressive blue eyes going wide as Mello was unnerved and disarmed by Light's strange response. The blonde was infuriated but had no idea how to respond seeing as Light was not playing to the script—he was supposed to either fight him or be cowering in fear!

"I'm afraid I can't tell you anything. It's up to L if he wants to tell you his secrets. However if L hasn't told you he probably has a very good reason not to. Besides, if I told you something L didn't want me to that would make L mad and we'd all get in trouble," Light patiently persuaded to his audience—the curious mob of children that looked like they wanted to eat him alive. Even if they didn't accept his authority on this matter they would no doubt respect L's. "Trust me on this. Angry L is not a pretty sight." Cute maybe, but not pretty. Did I really just think that? L's cute when he's angry? Jeez, what the hell did they drug me with? It obviously still has lingering effects.

Meanwhile Mello, embarrassed and infuriated, seemed to realize he had lost control of the situation and again shouted at the other children to leave him and Matt alone to their sacred duty but again Linda refused to move, stubbornly hugging Light.

"For fuck's sake! He's our prisoner, not a teddy bear!" Mello snarled at her, any guilt he had felt for pushing Linda into the coffee table was apparently forgotten.

Linda began to sniffle and then she began to cry.

"Mello…" Light warned in a stern tone, his eyes narrowing dangerously as he spoke.

"What, Kira?"

"Apologize."

"Fuck you!"

"Thank you for your generous offer but no, you're not my type." The older teen sighed with a cavalier flip of his bangs. Mello paled visibly as all around him his classmates snickered and then the blonde exploded into angry screaming that was nigh incomprehensible but sounded suspiciously like "SICKFUCKINGBASTARDFAGOTTYASSKIRA!!" (One word.)

Light just shook his head disparagingly in the face of Mello's little temper tantrum. "See, you shouldn't use that kind of language. It can be misinterpreted. Now, apologize to Linda."

Mello finally managed to regain control of his emotions and now stared at their prisoner with a dangerous calm. "We're going now!" the blonde shouted in his most commanding voice as he tugged at Light's sleeve, attempting to preserve what little dignity he had left as their prisoner continued to make a fool of him in front of his classmates, especially Near who was openly smirking at his failings—which of course pissed Mello off even more. Light didn't budge as Mello attempted to drag him down the hall, becoming a dead weight.

"No."

"Yes, or I'll fucking kill you!"

Light ignored the blonde's theatrics and just stood there, examining his finger nails. "I'd rather not. You see, I've come to like this room. It's nice and familiar. I don't know what's out there. You could be leading me to my death as far as I know."

"No, we won't do that!" Linda exclaimed.

Light just managed to keep the smirk off his face. It looked like his good deed would pay off. Linda would be very helpful in the future. "In any case I'm not going anywhere until you apologize to Linda."

"Oh, really? Well… we'll just see about that!" Mello shouted and redoubled his efforts at tugging at his arm. Light chuckled again—Mello looked like he was about to blow like some sort of blonde Krakatau.

Light refused to give any ground. "What do you weigh, Mello? Ninety pounds?"

"That doesn't matter! I'll make you, Kira!"

"Light," the brunette idly corrected. "And you probably could but, as you can see, I could make this very difficult for you…"

"Matt!" Mello snapped.

"What?" the redhead grunted from behind his game.

"Would it kill you to lend a hand?"

"Maybe—it's Kira after all."

"Matt!"

Mello looked even angrier as Matt ignored him in favor of his DS. "Yeah, yeah, Mells, give me a minute… I'm about to level up."

Mello stormed up to Matt and swatted the DS out of his hand, smashing it on the ground.

Matt gave Mello a death glare that would no doubt have made Kira proud from beneath his goggles. "Good luck with Kira then."

"You guys!" Mello whined in irritation like the bratty teenager that he was when none of the others seemed inclined to get involved in his pissing contest with Kira either.

"What? You seem to have it all under control, Mello." Near smirked as he continued to play with his hair; throwing Mello's earlier self-assured words back in his face.

"Oh fuck you, fuck all of you!"

Near's grin widened. "Nice of you to offer."

Mello's jaw dropped open in disgust and horror and then he resumed glaring murderously between Near and Light as the other kids burst out laughing.

I've created a monster. Light thought as he regarded the childlike but not-in-the-least-bit innocent teen in horror. "Huh. Kids say the darndest things."

The blonde refocused his anger on Kira and began on another tirade that would make a sailor blush as all the other kids laughed at him and Kira looked at him with pity. It was too much.

"Mello, I just want you to apologize to Linda. Is that asking so much? If you'd just show that little bit of decency I'd go with you willingly."

"Alright!" Mello's eyes caught Linda's for a fraction of a second necessary to hiss out "I'm sorry! Okay?"

Light smiled graciously and said "There, was that so hard?" as he finally let the enraged blonde drag him down the hall.

***

Mello, Matt, Light, and all the others quickly arrived at Roger's office where a crotchety old man, presumably Roger glared at them from behind a solid oak desk.

After they arrived the man gave a pointed, irritated sideways glance over to where the grandfather clock ticked audibly against the wall.

"Mello. Matt. Mr. Yagami…" he snapped. It was disorienting. Light was unaccustomed to being addressed as such and he just managed to stop himself from looking around for his father. "I'm so glad you've finally decided to grace us with your presence."

Roger was surprised and more than a little disturbed when Mello didn't mouth back for once. The blonde seemed subdued and overly-fascinated with his sneakers.

"That was my fault. Sorry about that," said the newcomer, Light Yagami, Kira. Roger gave a long-suffering sigh. It looked like L was right—he would fit right in here. Roger regarded the teenaged mass-murderer that had somehow silenced Wammy's own legendary hellion warily as he slowly got out of his chair. "L has requested that I give you this test…"

Roger led him to another room down the hall. It wasn't like any classroom or testing center he'd ever been in before. The environment was very Spartan and it was reminiscent of a prison cell—no windows, no posters, nothing but the door and the plain blue walls of the claustrophobically small room and it was eerily silent inside, lacking even the hum of florescent lighting as the room was only dimly lit by a single light bulb. Light was beginning to get concerned that his earlier "joke" to Mello and Linda that being called to the office was the codeword meaning he should be tortured and killed might've been not too far off the mark after all. Inside there was just a single desk and chair, a paper and pencils.

"There is no time limit. When you're finished just put the test face down on the desk and I'll come by to pick it up. I will be watching on the monitors. After you are finished testing you will no doubt be tired so I'll have the kids show you to the dormitories where you can pick out a room.

"What kind of test is this?" Light asked suspiciously. He was used to L testing his abilities, trying to trap him, but somehow this seemed different.

"It's an intelligence test meant to test the limits of a genius's capabilities."

If I do well won't that make me look like Kira? But if I deliberately do poorly then wouldn't that also make me look like Kira?

"L must expect great things from you to even consider this," said Roger.

Light seemed genuinely caught off guard by that statement—he just stood there with a stunned look on his face for almost a full minute before Roger motioned he should take a seat.

Matt observed this with detached amusement. If he didn't know better he'd say Kira was rather smitten with their mentor.

"No pressure or anything," said Matt.

"And you all need to leave him alone now." Roger scolded the other children.

"No way, we're supposed to watch him!" Mello protested loudly as Roger began herding the other kids out of the tiny room. Light just rolled his eyes. As if he'd try to escape now. Matt was right, he needed to figure out his game plan first.

"Do not try to help or hinder his results. I'm well aware of your every trick," Roger told L's successors sternly and then the door shut with an air of finality, leaving Light alone in the silence but for the occasional demonic cackling of a presence only he could see and hear.

Ryuuzaki expects me to do well. Alright… His will resolute; Light picked up the pencil.

Chapter Text

L awoke in a cold sweat. His body was unused to sleeping for this long and this, paradoxically, made the insomniac feel even more tired. As he came to his senses he let his training take over as he worked, furiously, to banish the horrific nightmare images that had taken hold in his mind. No. It couldn't be him. It was absolutely impossible! He was dead. L saw his body! It wasn't him. It wasn't! Couldn't be. It wasn't. What he had seen—it was a monster and while he was a monster what he had seen just before he blacked out was a monster in the rather literal sense of the word—that man-thing wearing a twisted mockery of his own face, with fangs and claws and glowing red eyes—it was a bugbear, a boogeyman—everything that broken thing had set out to be. Since such monsters do not really exist then it had to have been a hallucination, just an exaggerated nightmare image, nothing more. It was already quite obvious that his kidnappers had drugged his cake. So that was all it was—just a really bad trip. Get a grip World's Greatest Detective—you're much better than this.

As L sorted through his feverish memories perhaps even MORE disturbing than his obvious hallucination was the other he thought he saw before he blacked out. He hadn't seen the other man's face because his kidnapper (yes, kidnapper. For it was this man and not the monster that didn't, couldn't, exist that grabbed him) was wearing a mask but there was enough from seeing the other man's body shape, his eyes, and his hands for the great detective to make an identification—but that was equally impossible! That would mean he had been betrayed… Actually, that was very likely but L didn't want to believe it. Not from such a valuable tool and not after so long…

And Watari! What had happened to Watari? Was he okay? Was he dead? Most likely—after all, if his abductors were just after L what purpose would they have with the man who presented himself to the world as a kindly old butler? L felt a twinge of guilt that the wellbeing of his guardian wasn't the first thing to pop into his mind though all these thoughts had raced through the genius's mind within the space of a few seconds.

The legendary detective focused on breathing deeply, taking care that there was no detectable change in his breathing patterns as he pretended to still be unconscious as he listened for some clue as to his whereabouts but all was silent. So far his only clue was the rock hard mattress that he was laying on which he found vaguely reminiscent of a prison cot. After what L gauged to be about an hour of pretending to be asleep and simply listening to the stillness and the sound of his own breathing L was reasonably sure he was alone at least—and dared to open his eyes. However he soon found that it didn't make any discernible difference—wherever it was he was being held, it was just as dark as the inside of his eyelids.

The world's greatest detective had been left alone in the dark.

***
"I've never seen you have so much trouble with a test before." Ryuk remarked with mirth as the exhausted teen ran a hand over his head in anguish, further mussing his hair. Seeing how Light already looked like he was on the brink of one his infamous, frightening psychotic temper tantrums the Shinigami refrained from commenting on how it almost made him look like "Ryuuzaki." Light worked to calm himself because no doubt L got a kick out of seeing him so frustrated.

Roger wasn't kidding. This was the hardest test Light had ever taken in his life. Admittedly he was a bit spoiled—usually he could just waltz on into any classroom, take a cursory look at the test and just breeze through it and get perfect marks. But this test? This test was actually challenging—and at times even infuriating. It's not like they let him study for it ahead of time either! He was sure he got at least a couple answers wrong because he just didn't know the subject matter and had to guess. That had never happened to him before. He always got a perfect score. Always. This was unacceptable.

Since Roger said there was no time limit Light had gone over the questions he had had trouble with again and again… He had ultimately had to concede this round, his pride could not take the scorn in the old man's voice when he knocked on the door and asked if he was quite finished.

Light smiled pleasantly and handed in his test but inside he was seething.

"No time limit" my ass!

It took all his willpower not to sag across the desk in an undignified fashion. Light wasn't sure how long he had been sitting there wracking his brains for the answers but he was surprised to discover the world outside the windows had grown quite dark. Light sighed, though he had been forced to hand it in he still felt that the test wasn't up to his usual standards because "good enough" wasn't good enough.

"I'll just go grade this then. They're waiting for you in the Commons."

Light exited the hallway to the sight of Linda, Mello, Matt, and Near lounging around in the great study room and dining area. Everyone else had apparently already gone off to bed.

"Took you long enough!" declared the boisterous blonde from where he lounged on a leather couch, putting down the book on theoretical physics he had been reading so he could properly heckle Light. "Did you arrive here in the short bus or something?"

Light sighed with barely contained annoyance and exhaustion, "Isn't it past your bed time?" Light grumbled as he idly massaged his forehead and the bridge of his nose.

"My point exactly!"

"Roger said there was no time limit."

"It only took me a half hour to complete that test!" Mello boasted.

"Perhaps that's why you've always been number two." Said another voice heard from, emanating from the floor, around the general vicinity of where the toy robots were locked in pitched battle.

"Shut up, Near."

Matt rolled his eyes. He sat next to Mello on the couch, once again playing his games, having managed to repair his DS with his pocket toolkit which he always kept on hand in preparation of disasters caused by Hurricane Mello. The tinny notes of the Zelda theme filled the otherwise silent study.

Linda sat cross-legged on the floor, a sketchbook in hand intent on drawing something.

"It's not finished!" She scolded him and quickly hid the picture when he tried to peer over her shoulder to see what she was drawing.

"You must be tired. Roger said to show you—the boy's dorms are this way, daddy! Let's go!"

"Wha—wait a minute!" Light protested weakly as Linda enthusiastically grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him down the hall.

Mello, Matt, and Near exchanged looks and snickered as the little girl with pigtails skipped along, leading the mighty Kira around.

"All the rooms are already taken. You're gonna have to room with someone," Matt commented off-handedly.

Light frowned. He rather valued his privacy or at least his personal space. Privacy was no doubt out of the question seeing as he was L's prisoner and the detective no doubt had set up surveillance cameras everywhere as usual…

"Wait, but what about that room?" Light asked as they passed an eerily empty dormitory.

The others visibly shuddered when they saw which room Light meant.

"You don't want that room!" Linda squeaked out.

"Why the hell is the door even open?" Mello cursed under his breath. He was sure that all the other kids would be too scared to even go near it.

"That's A and B's old room! A died in there! He hung himself! And B went insane! They said he killed at least three people before L caught him!" Linda said in scarcely a whisper.

"Yeah, and it's supposedly haunted" Mello smirked as he explained, authoritatively. "There's a rumor floating around that the last kid that tried to claim that room was found dead—his eyes plucked out!"

"Really? Does that sort of thing happen often at L's school?" Light asked faux innocently.

"It's just a rumor. It never happened," Near assured him.

"It did too!" Mello insisted.

"Are you saying some petty, attention whore of a ghost really killed a student?" Light asked and looked askance locking eyes with Ryuk and unseen and unheard by the others Ryuk comically threw up his claws and vehemently protested his innocence. ("What are you looking at me for? Wasn't me!")

"No, no, no the rest of it!" said Mello. "I know! L himself wanted me to study up on the L.A.B.B. murder cases!"

The L.A.B.B. murder cases! Beyond Birthday...

Light wrote many names in the Death Note but that one was easy to remember—both for the peculiar name and the grisly murders perpetrated by the one who owned it—the very reason Light had written that name in the notebook.

If Light was ever honest with himself (which he wasn't) his close-call with Naomi Misora had sent him into a bit of a panic and he had put even more effort into covering his tracks than he had before. Coming up with more plans and counter plans. He had set up his judgments two weeks in advance, purged his computer of anything that could implicate him as Kira, and had sewn spare sheets of notebook paper into his wallet and clothes. He had also thoroughly researched Raye Penber and Naomi Misora afterwards to assess if there would be any more avenging relatives popping up anytime soon. That's how Light had discovered the Beyond Birthday case—the case was locked and took quite a lot of time and hacking to uncover. Now Light could understand the security precautions—if Beyond had once been a student here then that meant L had been protecting him. Either that or the eccentric detective was secretly a hybristophiliac. Honestly, Light wouldn't be surprised if L was… that or well, anything really. It would explain why he was so dead set against Kira's righteous justice…

"B was one sick fuck," Mello informed them. "He was like totally obsessed with L! No, he wanted to be L, and he wanted to prove once and for all that he was better than L so he set out to create a murder case that L couldn't solve."

Light could agree with Mello's most eloquent assessment but he didn't dare let them know he knew. Just as Light knew it wasn't L that ultimately caught Beyond but Naomi Misora. (It was a real shame she had to go and oppose him like that—she left him no choice. It was a such senseless waste of human life…) In his duty as Kira, Light had delved deep into the case files, searching for the worst humanity had to offer—mass murder, rape, torture, mutilation. Light had seen it all and had judged them all but the BB killings still made him sick. Especially the death of Quarter Queen—a little girl no older than his sister that was brutally beaten to death left face down on the floor just so that Beyond could play his twisted mind games!

"Really?" Matt paused in his button mashing to glare resentfully at Mello. "You never told me about that!"

That was when Mello recalled, belatedly, that L told him he wasn't supposed to mention it to the other students but he had somehow forgotten in his glee. Mello realized, to his horror that he had just been trying to impress Light or rather to show him—to show him up and to show Light he didn't know everything, and that Mello knew something he didn't. Why he was trying to impress Light was something Mello didn't fully understand nor why he was finding that he respected the older teen almost as much as he hated him—it probably had something to do with Kira being a master manipulator and he was playing the hot-headed teen like a piano. The blonde gnashed his teeth at the thought that he let his emotions got the better of him again and hoped against hope that L never found out about his slip.

"Now why would L only tell you?" Near pondered aloud in that sing-song tone again that made it difficult to tell if the albino was being sarcastic or not.

"Well, I figured L thought I was the only one of you losers mature enough to handle it!"

Near smirked. "I really doubt that was it. It's more likely that L's request that you learn about that case in particular had a second hidden meaning that you missed."

"Oh really?" the blonde asked while taking an overly aggressive stance, his hands on his hips, though alas, most of the menace Mello attempted to portray was lost when he took to flipping his long blonde hair "Like what?"

"Now why should I do your homework for you, Mello?" Near muttered as he gave the strand of hair he was playing with another compulsive twirl. No doubt any lesson L had hoped to teach about the dangers of obsession and rivalry would have gone right over the blonde's head...

Meanwhile Light yawned pointedly and pressed his way into the empty room.

"Hey, Light! Weren't you listening! That's B's room!" Mello exclaimed.

"You just told me that this was the only room available," Light remarked coolly.

The kids are scared of it, so that means they are less likely to bother me or mess with my stuff. Also from the stunned silence I'd say that this move has definitely won their respect and of course that would be useful later on...

Light flopped down onto the dusty, white linen-covered bed unconcerned—the picture of serene calm. He had already had Ryuk discreetly check the room for cameras and traps. There were cameras of course, just like there were cameras all over the place but other than that he found nothing more alarming than B's grotesque collection of animal bones underneath the floor boards.

"No, you shouldn't have to sleep there! You... you could room with me!" Linda began but was cut off by Matt.

"Sorry, but no—Roger would never permit co-ed."

"Don't worry about it. Besides, it's not 'B's room' anymore. It's my room."

"You're not afraid a vengeful ghost is going to kill you in your sleep?" Near asked, staring at him with his unblinking black eyes.

"No," said Light.

"…Not even a little bit?" Mello couldn't keep the note of awe from entering his voice at the older teen's blasé attitude towards the whole thing.

"Then I'll make his head explode for you."

"Seriously?"

Light sighed and glanced at Ryuk out of the corner of his eye "If it happens it happens and there's nothing I can do about it. But there's no use living in fear."

Near flashed him what could only be interpreted as a pervy smile. "You know if you get scared you could always sleep with me, Kira."

Light closed his eyes, temporarily shutting out the annoyance from existence. "I think I'll take my chances with the ghosts, thanks."

"...And you would know all about ghosts, wouldn't you?"

Light's eyes shot open and he was irritated to find that Near hadn't taken the hint to leave him alone and now seemed to be in the process of scattering cheap plastic toys all over the floor. Light was beginning to understand why Mello took issue with the quiet white-haired boy.

"No, I think that's you—you're the one that's haunting my room in those white sheets you call clothes," Light spat childishly, his usual politeness fraying with exhaustion and irritation.

"Ooh, burn!"

"Come to think of it, Near does look like a ghost…"

"Hey Near, are you even alive?"

It was odd and very subtle—the look that played across the smallest boy's face. Light only noticed from his interactions with Ryuuzaki. They had hurt his feelings—feelings he didn't know he had.

Near dropped his toy robot and ran off as fast as his short legs would carry him.

"What was that about?" Light asked though it was rather obvious that they had somehow struck a nerve.

"Really, what just happened?" Matt looked equally unnerved by this turn of events. Near usually dished it out as well as he got it and took such remarks in stride. It was really hard to believe that Near actually had feelings.

Mello looked between his classmates and Light before putting on his tough guy act again. "Alright, let's get one thing clear, Kira. No one gets to make fun of Near but me! Got it?"

"What are you talking about? You're the one who upset him—I…"

"Whatever!" sulked the blonde. "Good night, Kira."

"It's Light!"

"Fine. 'Night, Light!"

"Heh. Nightlight…" Matt chuckled.

Light just rolled his eyes. "Yeah, good night…"

"Good night, daddy. Be careful."

Light smiled. It was a real smile. "Good night, Linda. Thank you. I will."

***

Light lay on his back, atop the stiff, dusty bed. Though he was exhausted, he was unable to sleep as his mind kept tracking over the bizarre events of the day.

Did L make that test? Or did L ever have to take that test himself? If so Light hoped he beat his score. He hoped he ground it into dust! And then he would laugh. That would show him! Light just wished he could see the look on his face... But what if the unthinkable happened? What if he did poorly? Light was sure it was less than perfect…

It was wrong! I screwed up! I know… If only I had more time!

Would L… find him a disappointment? (Would L not want to talk to him anymore?)

No. that was impossible! He had to. He'd make him… That was absolutely ridiculous! Why was he worrying about something like that? He was L's main Kira suspect after all! That pest would never stop hounding him until he caught Kira and of course Light was never going to quit…

But… really, what was the true purpose of that test? For that matter, what purpose could L have had for detaining me at a school? Is L trying to brainwash me or something? Well, he shouldn't have bothered. I am resolute in my mission to make a better world. I'll begin making preparations tomorrow. I just need to come up with a good plan. I have two weeks and I have in fact planned for this very scenario! (Okay, maybe not this very scenario; but close enough!)

In case he was ever out of action he had set the judgments up two weeks in advance and though L would no doubt notice the lull in the killings the rest of the world wouldn't notice Kira's absence until that time.

Damn L! What the hell was he thinking, leaving me here!

In truth, Light had gotten very used to their near daily dealings and he well and truly wished that L was here… so he could punch him in the face.

Yeah, L's probably having a good laugh at my expense right now, leaving me to babysit his kids!

L would no doubt contact him to taunt him about it tomorrow—frankly Light was surprised he hadn't already.

"L—" Light snarled aloud and was startled and slightly embarrassed by how breathy his voice sounded and L was probably watching him right now on the cameras.

Light could see the peculiar man clearly in his mind's eye. He would be sitting, crouched in one of those comfy hotel chairs while meticulously licking the chocolate frosting off his doughnuts. Whenever Ryuuzaki did that—no matter what the detective had said or did beforehand, for some reason Light would have trouble staying mad at him. There was just something about the odd man's mannerisms that made him look all… cute and innocent and not like the enemy of Justice Light knew him to be. Yes, L was very manipulative. He had all these kids hero-worshipping him; fooled them into thinking he was a good person. Light was, admittedly, impressed.

That's right. They're HIS kids. Not mine. Damned detective should take a little personal responsibility! Light fidgeted uncomfortably in something almost akin to guilt when he remembered how Near had been driven from his room but… What am I thinking? Surely one of his friends will look after him.

L should be looking after him.

Damn L!

It was all just so… infuriating. The teen glared right where he knew one of the cameras was and was very tempted to flip him off but that would be stupid and incriminating so he instead just passed it off as general moodiness, rolling over on his stomach to hide the growing problem that had been developing in his pants while he was thinking of L. How embarrassing. But there was no way those two things could possibly be connected.

***

Hours after he had regained consciousness L had taken to pacing the length of his cell. He was well aware it wasn't the smartest move but he was well past caring—L was very hungry. The sweet-tooth, unsurprisingly had a high metabolism. He just couldn't survive very long without the sweets Watari provided. He figured it was time to take his chances, to make it clear to whoever had taken him that L was awake and that he demanded sweets! After all, if they wanted him dead it was likely they would have done it already. It was most likely that either the man who grabbed him wanted to ransom him off to one of his many enemies or the man was one of his many enemies and this whole matter was entirely personal and they wanted him to suffer first.

Well, mission accomplished. He hadn't had a proper cake in seven hours, forty-two minutes, and thirty three seconds. L was very cross about it.

Nor could he say he much cared for being left alone the darkness, or being drugged, or the dream images that still occasionally haunted his waking moments, or his hunger.

He didn't like not knowing what happened to Watari.

No, he did not like it at all and when L discovered the person (or persons) responsible for this he fully intended to put his foot in his face (even if it was him!) L's pacing was occasionally broken up with bouts of shouting and pounding on a strip of the metal wall that the great detective had deduced was actually the door. It was very well-hidden and blended seamlessly in with the rest of the wall. It had taken L an hour to find it. It was during another of these pounding and screaming sessions when L nearly fell forward, flat on his face, when the door suddenly swung open.

Chapter Text

Light snuck out in the small hours of the morning when even the insomniac students at Wammy's House were either asleep, or otherwise occupied looking at Internet porn, or maybe even studying. The important thing was that Ryuk's ninja path through the school worked. The wily killer ascended the bell tower of the ancient church that stood on campus grounds. Ryuk had flown all around the campus and had managed to find this, a blind spot away from the cameras where they could chat and Light could feed him apples. Any locked doors that stood in the way of this were just "magically" open long before Light made his way across the campus grounds.

Light praised Ryuk when he saw it—it really was a perfect sanctuary against L's prying eyes.

When he was questioned later (and Light was sure that he would be but this couldn't be helped; Ryuk needed his apples if Light wanted to keep what remained of his sanity) he would just tell them he was out for an early morning jog. It sounded like a believable enough excuse and it's not like he could leave the campus grounds. Once he was sure they weren't being watched Light finally deigned to toss an apple at the whining monster. The Shinigami crouched, gargoyle-like, on the railing, as he watched Light begin work on his new plans.

Ryuk looked thoughtful as he munched on his apple.

"You know, these apples are different from usual. I think it's a sweeter variety."

"Hmm… figures. It's L's kitchen." Light grunted but didn't look up. His attention absorbed by whatever he was scribbling in the sketchbook in front of him. It wasn't the Death Note. It was just a normal notebook he had "borrowed" from the school. Ryuk noticed that Light did that sometimes when he worked his way through complicated planning or (though he would never admit it) trying to work out what had gone wrong.

"It's really juicy. Wanna bite?" Ryuk offered Light the apple he had just been gnawing on.

"Er… No thanks." Light politely declined.

"Why not? It's really good!" The Shinigami tempted.

Light's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why are you offering? That's… not like you."

Of course there was a perfectly rational explanation for the Shinigami's bizarre behavior. While waiting for Light to wake up earlier when he was drugged unconscious the monster had taken to watching the kiddies watch TV and so the Shinigami had learned a valuable lesson—Sharing is Caring. But more importantly, Ryuk had learned that sharing caused magical purple dinosaurs to appear and do a dance number. The Shinigami wanted to see that.

"I thought if you tasted it then maybe you'd know what kind it is and you can get me more later—that is if you escape from this place. Hyuk!"

"You mean when I escape this place," the teen corrected with a self-assured smile. "You doubt me? O ye of little faith." The teen again turned his attention to his sketchbook.

"C'mon, just a little bite?"

Light ducked when Ryuk practically shoved the apple he had slobbered on at his face. The exhausted teen began giggling softly (insanely) and gave him a very strained smile. Ryuk wondered if this was what humans called being at one's wits end or if Light was long past that.

"Really, it's nothing personal, Ryuk. It's just it's been in your mouth. You've been chewing on it. It's unsanitary."

Ryuk chuckled. "I'm a God of Death, remember? Living things are kind of adverse to me and that includes germs. Really, I'm cleaner than you are. Go on, try it. Pleeeeease?"

"Fine!" Light finally snapped as the Shinigami kept pestering him. At this rate he was never going to get his work done! Light reluctantly took the apple and tried to find a corner that wasn't dripping wet. This was probably one of the nastiest things he'd ever done in his sheltered life. As Light reluctantly took a bite Ryuk was disappointed when no singing purple dinosaurs appeared. TV lied to him! Ryuk wondered what would happen if he wrote "TV" in the Death Note. Ryuk was quite put out at the thought that he just shared an apple for nothing but he quickly recovered as he thought of something else that would be funny…

"Oh yeah. You're a dirty boy, Light-o."

The Shinigami snickered as Light started coughing and nearly choked on the bite of apple. Oh yeah. The look on his face was priceless.

"Ryuk, what the hell!"

The monster gave him a perfectly innocent look, leaving the normally fearless teen looking nervous as Ryuk simply moved on. "So… do you know what kind of apple it is?"

Light shot the monster his best 'please die' stare before moving on as well. "It's probably an ambrosia apple. I think our good friends over at Korekanashiya sell mostly fujis... And the ones you keep stealing from the neighbor's garden are red delicious." Light had found he had to study up on apples to be on par with the proper care and feeding of one's Shinigami.

"All human world apples are really sweet and juicy. It's kind of overwhelming. Maybe sometime I can get you an apple from the Shinigami world!"

"Wait, the Shinigami world has apples?"

"Yep!"

"Can they be seen?"

"Yeah… but…"

"Best not, then. It could be used as evidence against me."

"You're no fun," Ryuk pouted."Besides there wouldn't be any evidence! All you have to do is eat all of it, the core as well."

"I'm afraid that's not possible, Ryuk. Apple cores are poisonous to humans."

"Huh?"

"There are trace amounts of cyanide in the seeds. At least that's how it is in the human world."

"I didn't know that. You know, you could have told me that before you made me eat the cores!"

Light sighed and put down his pencil. "I said to humans. You told me Shinigami can't die. I believed you. So if I poisoned you then it's your own damn fault." Light huffed as he resumed scratching down ideas that would no doubt have far-reaching consequences onto the college-ruled sheet of paper.

Ryuk curiously peered over his shoulder. "What are you working on anyway?"

"Well, it's possible to deactivate the leg cuff but it needs to be precise and the release is inside the casing. It can only be deactivated by a key… or by someone who could phase through solid objects… You know Ryuk, if I got the leg cuff off we could go shopping for apples right now…"

Ryuk snickered "Nice try, kid. But this is too much fun."

Light sighed again. "I figured you'd say that." It was worth a shot.

"Of course you did."

As Light went back over his notes, he took to making a slightly feral noise and pulling at his hair.

"You know, you seem very frustrated without L around."

Light regarded the creature out of the corner of his eye and heaved a heavy sigh "What the hell are you going on about now?"

The Shinigami scratched his head as he thought aloud "Say, Light. Do you think maybe if you got L a ring he'd come back and stay with you?"

Light was thoroughly perplexed by the Shinigami's line of questioning. "Why would I want L to stay? Being around L is very irritating! This is like… a vacation. I can just sit back, relax…" and get pestered by L's whining children and Shinigami. Yes just like a vacation. "Besides, L will be back!"

Ryuk chuckled. "You're so sure of that."

"Of course. He's L. He always comes back. I have to be prepared."

"But what if he doesn't?"

Ryuk observed as the human went stock still. "That's impossible. I haven't beaten him yet…" Then the other part of Ryuk's statement registered and he again looked up from his notes. "Wait, a minute, what did you mean by a ring?"

"Are you worried about choosing the right one? I can help you pick one out. Rings are cool! Did you see mine?" Ryuk chattered excitedly as he showed off the collection that adorned his claws. "Say, if you can't go shopping for one because of the cuff and all I could give you one of mine!"

One of his? Was that some kind of Shinigami artifact that could help with his creation of a new world? How… precious. Still, Light was skeptical of Ryuk's generosity. "Seriously, what has gotten into you?"

"It would be entertaining and it's for a good cause, I think! Do you think L would like one with skulls on it?"

"Obviously we're not on the same page here. If you gave me a ring, why would I give it to L?"

The Shinigami looked at the human in exasperation. "Well obviously, it's what comes next!"

"I… don't follow." Light (painfully) admitted.

"You don't know. Seriously?"

"WHAT?"

"Forget it." The Shinigami sulked.

"What comes next? Ryuk!" Ryuk now had Light's full attention.

"It's so obvious; you really should be able to figure this out yourself. You really don't…" Ryuk sniggered and now Light was pestering him for answers. Ryuk was strongly considering not telling him out of spite but then it would be funny to see what Light would do about it. "It's just… you know I observe a lot of human behavior. When humans stare at each other, bicker, fight, and miss each other like you and L do… They usually end up exchanging rings and things in some human ritual and moving in together… Well I guess L already took you home and all so all that's left is for you to give him a ring. So… when are you gonna get him a ring?"

Light finally realized to what Ryuk was referring. He burst out laughing.

"Aw Ryuk, you've got it all wrong! Me… L… we aren't like that. That's… impossible."

"I'm not wrong." Ryuk growled, those three words were said with absolute certainty. That certainty, it threw Light even more than how his "pet's" eyes had taken on a definite red cast as he wore that ever-present twisted, diabolic smile. Most people would be pissing themselves by such a frightening sight but then Light wasn't most people. A God wasn't afraid of such things.

Light folded his arms across his chest as he stood, defiantly before the Death God. "Oh, really?"

"Light, you know I have nothing better to do than observe the two of you and watch your sister's soap operas…"

"You see, Ryuk; that hardly makes you an expert on human behavior..."

"And now that he's gone you're moping."

Light glowered at the Shinigami. "I'm not moping! And what the hell is your problem? Are you trying to live vicariously through me? Why are you suddenly so obsessed with this idea of me and L…?" Light paled. Was Ryuk going to try and force him to hook up with L or something?

Ryuk cackled as if he read his mind. "Watching you hook up with L would be amusing but then watching you kill L would be amusing too. So would watching you play fugitive. Do whatever you want. I don't care, really, as long as I have my apples. You know me, I'm just an observer and this is just an observation—but seriously, all that's missing from this scene would be you prancing around in a schoolgirl uniform pining for your lost love."

Light's glare was absolutely murderous. How ridiculous! This is L we're talking about. The man is beyond irritating! I hate L! I hate him with every fiber of my being! I hate him with all my heart and soul! I've hated him from the first moment he spoke to me and I will hate him for the rest of my life! And I need him here, right now, to show him how much I…

No, this isn't happening! Light's eyes went wide, as he became absolutely stricken by this sudden epiphany.

Ryuk's demonic smile widened, baring fangs as he went in for the kill. "Did you know you call his name in your sleep?"

"SHUT UP!"

Ryuk had seen Light get angry before but he had never seen him get this angry. It was terrifying and beautiful to behold. The Death God trembled in delight. Light's madness was just so much fun. Heads would roll, worlds would burn…

"There is no way! He's a guy!"

"So? C'mon, Light. We both know you're not particularly fond of the girls."

"He's my enemy!"

"Ah! But you had the chance to let him die. You refused to take it," the Shinigami pointed out reasonably. "Even if Shinigami killing people and humans killing people are so different as you claim—it just seems to me that you couldn't let him go."

"No! NO! That's… impossible!"

"And then L had the chance to kill you… and he didn't take it. Did you know he visited you in person while you were out of it? Oh yeah. He waited at your bedside like in that one show where the guy's girlfriend was in a coma."

"W-what happened?" Light managed to croak out.

"Eh? He didn't do much. You know… Just watched you sleep. And touched your face a bit. Oh, he didn't kiss you or anything but he kinda looked like he wanted to. He, you know, brushed your bangs out of your eyes… staring at you a really long time…"

"This isn't happening!" Light repeated.

I—I need L. To talk to him! To clear this up because this is impossible! I can't be… It just can't…

Ryuk watched on as Light seemed to have gone into a state of shock, his bangs fell over his eyes, his expression unreadable, and he would occasionally hear a whispered "impossible" or "not happening!" or a long drawn out "Nooooo!" Ryuk was amused as Light shivered and hugged his knees to his chest in a very L-like position.

Whoops. The Shinigami hadn't realized how soul-shattering that revelation would be for Kira. Now Ryuk feared that he broke his favorite toy. "Er… Light?"

Ryuk prodded as Light rocked back and forth in his emo corner of woe.

"You're not gonna start playing with razor blades like that albino kid, are you?"

Light finally snapped out of it. "WHAT?"

"Oh yeah, I guess you wouldn't know. The one you call Near? I saw him down in the basement when I was searching for cameras. He's, you know, playing with a knife."

Light leapt to his feet and bolted down the stairs of the bell tower. Ryuk glided gracefully along behind him.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Light snapped as he ran.

"You didn't ask. I didn't think it was important anyway."

"Just… show me where he is. Now!" Light commanded.

"No problem!" The Shinigami cackled and gave a mock salute.

So much fun.

Chapter Text

The eerie-looking man practically glowed in the darkened room where he waited for them-his long black hair falling into his face like a vengeful onryo. He was ready for them—as soon as the door to his prison swung open he made his first move—he executed a Gancho Giratoria, a hooking roundhouse kick. The guards were on the floor before they knew what hit them. As more rushed in, the detective dropped to the ground, planting his hands on the floor in order to push off for another kick, aimed at another guard's head—Escorpião, the scorpion kick. L landed a few feet away, just in time to sweep the leg out from another. The detective then coolly walked away from the downed goon squad that were now all either unconscious or groaning in pain—L felt a bit guilty about that but then they shouldn't have gone about kidnapping him—and they should all survive provided they get medical attention. L casually made his way through the near identical corridors. It was all very white, very clean, and lit by very bright fluorescent lights—he was obviously in a hospital of some kind. He would regularly see fortified doors just like his own prison. He would occasionally hear the sound of screaming but he'd worry about that later. First get to safety. Then try to get in contact with Watari or Wammy's House… and then he would eat a chocolate cherry layer cake with vanilla and mint ice cream and rainbow sprinkles on top, and then he would assess the situation and determine how to proceed…

A hospital… AND HIM? They're working together? This is bad. Of course the latter could have just been a nightmare (dammit, it was illogical to believe he was still haunting him after Kira put him in the ground) but the detective had learned to trust his instincts. If Watari had been kidnapped too his best bet was Wammy's. They needed to know. L took a cellphone from one of the downed guards and began texting a quick message to Wammy's as he made his escape when a new set of guards arrived and began shooting at him. That was a bit distracting. L cursed as he accidentally sent the unfinished message to his emergency contact. You see this? This was why he hated cellphones.

Well, he'd worry about that later. L ran in his awkward, embarrassing L way—all elbows and jerky movements—curse his kidnappers for making him run! But awkward or not his running seemed to be effective because now the exit was in sight…

L heard the dart whoosh through the air, but couldn't move fast enough to avoid having it lodged in the side of his neck and then everything began to get fuzzy.

No, not again! The exit's right there!

The detective tried to pull the deadweight of his body forward on his hands and knees, covering the last few inches to the door. The detective bit back a scream when a sleek, black high-heeled shoe was suddenly stomping on his creeping hand. His head spun with the pain and the darkness consumed him again.

***

"Hey, Mells, wake up!" Matt said as he poked and prodded at his slumbering blonde roommate. At Matt's insistent attempts to wake him Mello only grumbled, mumbling something incoherent from beneath the covers.

"Rise and shine, sleepyhead!" Matt sang in an obnoxious, overly cheerful tone of voice. "It's a brand new day full of opportunities and possibilities!"

This time a clear "Fuck you" could be heard from within the pillow. But Matt was insistent with his strategy of annoying the blonde until awake.

"Matt, what the fuck is wrong with you? It's too fucking early, you fucking faggot!" Mello snarled, finally awake and aware, and Matt stifled a laugh. Admittedly, he normally wasn't much of a morning person either. He had only gotten up so early today because his new account on Epic Quest IV activated today and Matt was eager to begin his long-awaited payback against that n00b that got him banned last time…

But then he saw something that might help Mello in his own quest to get into L's good graces—the be-goggled teen had just been making his way back from the bathroom when he came across an interesting sight.

"Oh nothing, it's just Kira."

"What?" The blonde was suddenly awake and alert. "Something happen with Light? …Did the ghost get him?"

"Maybe…" Matt said, cryptically. "I just saw him running down that way like he had all the fiends of Hell after him…"

Mello gaped at his red-headed roommate as if he had grown a second head. It was nigh impossible to imagine that something could scare Light.

"Scared?"Matt smirked upon seeing the blood drain from Mello's face.

"Of course not!" Mello scoffed bravely as he ran Matt's Barbie-doll pink hairbrush through his long blonde hair. He refused to battle ghosts with bed head. He had his dignity. Mello chuckled evilly "But a scared Light? Oh yeah, we totally have to see that!"

Still, Mello took his sweet time getting dressed—and not just getting dressed but in that outfit, the one that Matt had dubbed "The Death of a Thousand Cows." Mello called it getting in touch with his mob heritage. (Matt had laughed at the time only to later realize, to his horror, that the blonde was serious. Mello really thought that was what a "gangsta'" was supposed to look like from watching 80s movies.)

Since Roger usually had conniptions whenever Mello wore "The Death of a Thousand Cows," the blonde usually reserved the skin-tight leather pants for special occasions such as going into town and being seen in public. Matt groaned. He would have much preferred that Mello kept it in their bedroom. Matt didn't like the idea of anyone else getting to see that… It was for his own good, or course! Matt was surprised that Mello hadn't been mistaken for a hooker already.

As Mello laced up his skin-tight leather pants Matt pointed out that if Light actually was being pursued by a vengeful ghost he would be stone cold dead by the time they got there. Mello explained reasonably that if one is to fight a ghost, they must do it in style and besides if something did happen to Light… he would cry a thousand tears.

Mello retrieved various innocuous looking parts hidden around their dorm room and quickly assembled them into a whole...

"A gun?" Matt asked in surprise. "Do you really think that will do anything against a ghost?"

"A ghost? Probably not…" But then Mello didn't happen to have a proton pack on hand. Though he imagined a gun would be useful against Kira should he misbehave…

"L wants Kira alive." Matt reminded him.

Mello rolled his eyes and wondered when did Matt develop psychic powers?

Matt cringed as he watched how Mello stuffed the gun down the front of his pants.

"Alright, let's go."

"Mells… "Matt began, worriedly eyeing the other's crotch "Have you forgotten that valuable lesson 8 Mile taught us?"

"Matt, if you had been paying attention then you'd know it's not loaded."

All his ammo was currently locked away in Roger's office—all because the little albino brat had tattled on him. Mello had somehow managed to convince L and therefore the rest of Wammy's staff to let him keep the gun because "it was all he had left of his father" and besides, it wasn't like he was ever going to shoot anybody with it! (Except maybe Near.)

"I think he went in here." Matt said in a hushed tone as he lead Mello down the hallway, subconsciously taking on a stance mimicking the Ninja Assassin from his games. This was clearly a sneaking mission—that was fairly obvious to the boy in the bright orange shirt. Though apparently Mello disagreed—the boisterous blonde dramatically kicked the door open with his heavy booted heel. But when the door swung open, neither of them was prepared for the sight that greeted them on the other side...

"WHAT THE FUCK?"

Chapter Text

His lungs felt like they were on fire, his heart hammered in his chest from all that running. Light was in excellent shape but he soon discovered Wammy’s House was a rather big campus and he had run the entire way. He was sure he was seen in his haste but that couldn’t be helped. As before Ryuk unlocked the doors for him and so it was with ease that he made his incursion into the basement storage room. Light threw the door open to reveal the dark LEGO-brick kingdom that was sequestered beneath the venerable halls of Wammy’s House—it was dark but for the evil glint of the blade…

"Near! Drop the knife!"

The boy was so startled that his body acted on its own accord to comply with the command—the knife clattered to the ground. Near turned to face the intruder that had somehow invaded his sanctuary—an intruder that was none other than Kira.

"Ok pai!" Near shrieked when Light breached beyond the walls of the LEGO fortress.

"No." Light said simply as he gracefully maneuvered around the piles of toys, kicking the bloodied knife away while quickly scanning for more pointed implements. When the worst he could find were the edge of the LEGO blocks he paused to kneel next to the injured boy who sat crouching on the floor surrounded by a ring of tarot cards placed in a perfect circle as if they were some sort of mystic ward.

"Here, let me have a look at that," Light motioned to Near’s bleeding hand.

"OK PAI!" Near repeated again, louder this time.

"Please." Light said simply, ignoring the other's outburst, and he held out the bandages.

When Near made no move to take them himself Light sighed and grabbed him by the wrist.

"Let go! Don't touch me you crazy, psycho, murderer!" Near hissed. The older boy stoically ignored him and applied disinfectant.

"And… and you smell funny!"

Light’s eyes narrowed dangerously "Take that back."

Near flashed a predatory smile "No."

Now that one stung. He had no idea how long L had kept him drugged. He had (ew) slept in his clothes—he needed to find out if they’d supply him with a change of clothes and if this place knew about those lovely inventions called soap and showers. Knowing L with his greasy hair… but then again knowing L he would never pass up such a voyeuristic opportunity. This place had to have showers.

"Seriously, what is your problem?!"

"Well I'm alone in a basement with a serial killer. That usually doesn't end well." Near replied in a dull monotone before ranting some more in that second language.

It was immensely satisfying to watch how the other boy’s eyes bugged out of his head when Light grinned and replied in that same language "Oh, I understood you perfectly well, nong. You told me to get out and you called me an idiot among other things that don’t bear repeating. Very impressive, Near. You speak like a native. Are you from Thailand?"

The look of horror that flashed upon the younger boys face was all the confirmation he needed.

"Never mind. I won't ask..."

"That's not enough to learn my name." Near whispered.

The killer rolled his eyes. "I don't care about your name! It's just I think you speak the language even better than I do," Light said with a sibilant smile "though in my defense I learned from textbooks."

"OK PAI!"

"I can't 'ok pai.' If I leave you’ll cut yourself again."

"I—I only cut myself like that because you startled me," Near insisted.

Light gave him his patented 'I-don’t-believe-you' glare as he finished bandaging up Near's injured hand. "Is it some sort of cry for attention…?" Light began when he took stock of his surroundings. A bead of sweat trickled down his brow. Had Near really just been whittling when Light barged in and startled him?

Well… that had him feeling like an ass.

Damn Shinigami!

"Look, I—" Light began when Near demanded:

"How did you know?"

Light startled when the pallid boy said those words in a near whisper from where he remained crouched on the floor, hugging his knees to his chest, his face obscured by his curly white bangs. Near reluctantly opened his pajama top revealing the lines of faded scars left from cutting.

"I normally don’t cut that deep. You startled me."

I wasn’t wrong. Near...

It seemed he hadn't cut for a while but was about to start up again.

"It’s not a cry for attention. It just… makes me feel alive. That's all."

"Why?! Why would you do this?"

"I don’t really feel like talking about. More importantly, how did you know?" the boy repeated in his cold monotone in such a way that it could almost be described as "frantically." "How did you even get in here? The door was locked!"

"No it wasn't." Light countered quickly.

Cold black eyes that were so much like Ryuuzaki's bore into his as Near countered in his stern, effeminate voice. "Yes. It was."

The killer shrugged. "Well, it was unlocked when I got here. Maybe you only thought you locked it. More importantly what do you think you're doing?"

"I could ask you the same thing."

Shit! What was he thinking in just rushing down here? How could he possibly explain it?

"I was just out for an early morning jog and I overheard some kids talking. They said you were down here playing with razor blades."

By lying through his teeth, of course!

"~Liar, liar. Pants on fire.~"

Light frowned. "Now that's not very nice."

"Just calling it like it is. What you've said is impossible. No one but me even knows about this place. When I first came down here it was just an old storage room packed full of junk before I cleaned it out. As far as the others know it still is. So how did you know?"

Light forced a laugh. "Well I suppose you got me there, but I don't suppose you'd believe that I just had a nightmare where you had killed yourself down here."

"Do you often have such strange dreams?" Near asked innocently.

"Not typically…"

…Unless of course his dreams of being worshipped as God with L at his feet were prophetic. Then there were the nightmares he used to get about drowning in blood. Or being pursued by the rotting corpses of the evil men he killed but Light wasn’t about to share that information.

"I have mostly normal dreams," Light insisted. "I suppose that’s why this one… freaked me out so much. How's your hand? Do you think we should go to the nurse's office? This place does have a nurse's office, right?"

"Oh, that won’t be necessary Light Yagami. I’m sure you've done enough. Hmmm… Do you suppose dreaming of things to come is one of Kira's special powers?"

"I'm not Kira."

Near smirked. "I didn't say that you were. Yet somehow you magically knew I was down here when no one else did—you even knew what I was doing—and then the door unlocked by itself. You must admit that that's many strange coincidences all around you. L is right to suspect you."

"Surely… someone knows you're down here."

"No. No one does. I come down to be alone. So you see, you're story is full of holes Kir—"

"That's… so sad." Near glanced up in surprise at the killer's tone and noticed how Light was looking at him with something dangerously akin to pity.

"Stop trying to change the subject!"

"And that's dangerous! Don't you get it? You could bleed to death down here and no one would ever know!"

"It doesn’t matter. It's not like anyone would care. They all hate me." Light was taken aback by the venom in Near's normally dull voice. "They hate me because I'm number one," Near said simply while idly playing with a strand of his hair. "Naturally, it's impossible to be the most brilliant in a school for genii without stepping on some toes. They hate me, so I hate them. It keeps it all nice and simple."

Light glanced around seeing the primary colors of the LEGO fortress again and this time understanding its significance.

"So you built these walls to protect yourself..."

"I come here to be alone," Near stated, his white bangs falling over his eyes. "Please leave."

This boy... The way he said it—it was the same posture, the same tone Ryuuzaki used when talking about his impending death. It made Light want to shake some sense into him. That was it Near kind of reminded him of L. Not his L, of course (a knock-off, a poor copy) but still the resemblance was uncanny. He could be L's son had Light imagined the shut-in detective had more uh… worldly experience. Just like Ryuuzaki Near could be all creepy one minute and then have that same emotionally broken "lost puppy" vibe the next that, against his better judgment, made Light want to forgive him his trespasses against Kira and take him in.

Light began to wonder and (though he would never admit it) worry-if L went missing would anyone notice or care?

"L doesn't have friends dummy!"

He does too! Someone has to care. That's the whole point! Someone has to do it! I can save them too!

"Near… Look… I'm really sorry about earlier. I just… don't like people invading my space. I was exhausted and out of my element here but… I know that’s no excuse. It wasn't fair to you. It was rude of me and I apologize."

Near looked up and stared as if seeing him for the first time. No one ever apologized to him unless it was coerced.

"Well, I suppose that's something we have in common. As I've told you I don't like people invading my space either."

"I'm sorry. I understand if you don't want me here. But… please. I have to tell someone. Shall I tell Roger that you're down here?"

Near turned his attention back to his toys. "Go ahead, he doesn't care either."

"Fine. Then I'll just tell Ryuuzaki then."

The toy that Near was fiddling with clattered to the ground. "I-impossible! I mean… H-how do you plan to do that?"

Near's protest remained mostly unspoken but Light remembered Near’s earlier words. "We never even see him."

Light's eyes hardened and his next words came out in a near snarl "He can't ignore me."

"Light!" Near called as the older teen made a move for the door. Light paused and looked back to see Near unabashedly staring at him. "Did you really come down here just to save me?"

"Of course I did! Why wouldn't I?!"

"Well… you don't know me and you don't like me."

"Seriously?" Light resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "It's true I find you a bit annoying but that doesn't mean I hate you and it doesn't mean I want you dead!" Light told Near in all honesty.

He was about to leave again when there was a sudden tug on his sleeve.

"Wait! Don't go. Please?"

Damn L-like puppy eyes! My one weakness!

"A-alright." Light sat down next to Near in silence and just watched what the younger boy was doing. Near began bustling around, arranging the thing he had been working on earlier—a set of custom finger puppets—the craft project he couldn’t finish at the moment because Light had confiscated the knife. Light recognized creepy puppet versions of Mello, Matt, Linda, and… his heart lurched a bit when he saw Ryuuzaki and… Light picked up and inspected the newest finger puppet.

"Why are you making the Hamburglar?"

Near glared at him coldly. "It's Kira!"

"You think the Hamburglar is Kira? I guess that means I'm off the hook."

Near continued to stare. It was too much like Ryuuzaki. Light looked away.

"I think I understand. Instead of going out and making friends you make friends. They're plastic, they can't hurt you, they're safe—you can easily manipulate and control them. That… a bit creepy you know. But I suppose it gives you a sense of power, control…"

"Are we talking about me, or are we talking about you?" Near asked in obvious amusement, "I take it you like power and control. You're practically salivating at the words. Makes sense I suppose for a mass murderer with a God complex. And while I know my hobby isn't exactly healthy I must say it's far less destructive than yours..."

"I'm not Kira," Light grumbled again. Perhaps it would be more efficient to invest in a broken record.

"Really? I don’t know how you can even deny it at this point. I mean look at you, you have a very strong sense of justice, you’re charismatic, egotistical, somehow had magic foreknowledge regarding me, and L suspects you—"

"Oh cool, the X-men!” Light exclaimed suddenly (effectively changing the subject.) Near blinked slowly as the world's most notorious killer held his action figures hostage. "My favorite is Nightcrawler! Man, I love that fuzzy dude! Teleporting is almost as cool as flying and that would be far more useful. He looks scary but he’s a really great guy! That’s a great lesson there, you know—about how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover."

"Yes. Sometimes people seem nice but are rotten to the core." Near murmured.

"…And Gambit is pretty cool, too! I mean he could kill you with a deck of playing cards—how awesome is that?"

"Uh…"

"Man, this brings back so many memories! This one friend of mine, Yamamoto, he's a total otaku—we'd hang out at his place and read all the comics and his mom would serve us potato chips and Mountain Dew. Good times..."

Light was abruptly interrupted from his monologue down memory lane when Near picked up a Storm figurine that shot plastic lightning bolts and fired, hitting Kira right between the eyes. Light glowered at his snow-haired rival.

Oh it was on now.

Light held up the Gambit figure that shot the little pink plastic cards and fired back.

"WHAT THE FUCK?" It was on this sight of Near and Kira attacking each other with action figures that Mello and Matt burst in through the door.

"What? He started it," Light said defensively.

Mello was by far more interested in pointing out and laughing at the stray plastic lightning bolt stuck in Kira's hair.

Chapter Text

Mello smirked in amusement upon discovering his two greatest rivals in a rather compromising position. "Well, well, well, what have we here?" he chuckled, "Near and Kira's secret love nest?"

The hell?!

Light's murderous gaze set upon the two newcomers to Near's basement sanctuary.

"Consider it payback for earlier, Near," Mello said vindictively.

As per usual Near didn’t give him any sort of response. The younger boy's expression was unreadable, hidden behind his curtain of snowy bangs.

Light sighed. "I suppose this sort of thing is what we’ve come to expect from you Mello but really would it kill you to be a little nicer to Near and… Oh. My. God! What the hell are you wearing?" the brunet exclaimed when he finally got a good look at Mello's wardrobe choice in the dim light of the basement.

Matt turned pink in embarrassment as Mello began doing almost a pirouette, shamelessly showing off his leather clad figure and Matt found himself wishing that the "Death of a Thousand Cows" would just die a thousand deaths.

Near and Light aren't supposed to see him like that! Only I— Matt was entirely surprised by his own reaction. Sure his roommate was making a fool of himself, but Mello practically did that all the time! No it was almost like he was feeling… jealous?!

No... I'm just looking out for my best friend, that's all!

"Like what you see, Kira?" Mello gave a self-assured smirk of 'I'm sexy and I know it' as he gave them all a mocking shake of his ass.

"Hard Gay! Sei sei sei sei!" Mocked the voice that only Light could hear. The older teen felt his eye twitch because Ryuk was right—in that shiny black leather Mello really did look like Ramon Razor, the Japanese TV "hero" that "helped" people with unwanted pelvic thrusts, and now he couldn't dislodge that image from his brain.

Alright Ryuk. No more TV for you. "They let you wear that?!" Light said, scandalized. Mello is no older than Sayu, for My sake! Oh GOD NO… if Sayu starts wearing stuff like this I think I'll have a heart attack! "Is there no dress code here?" Even as he asked it, Light was struck by the rather obvious observation that he and his sister had parents that would not let them wear stuff like that and the Wammy's orphans with their 'what-were-you-thinking' teen wardrobes most obviously did not.

"Nope!" Matt said cheerfully. "You might have noticed—it's kind of a free for all and we'd like to keep it that way."

"It better allows us to express our originality" said the boy that looked like L's clone bleached white... Say... maybe Near is L's inner Hollow? Dammit, his brain was still short-circuiting from just being in the general proximity of those tight, low-riding leather pants. No more TV for me either.

"But that’s just... indecent!" Light decried. Looking that sexy should be illegal—especially when 1) it wasn't him and 2) it was on a fourteen year old male!

It's a trap! Light absolutely refused to show the shame and humiliation he was currently feeling. He had never considered it before but... dammit, those stupid pants could turn anyone gay! Perhaps Ryuk had a point when he suggested he was frustrated without... Oh, bad. Now he was imagining how Ryuuzaki would look in those tight leather pants which, to his dismay, did nothing to help his growing problem.

Mello smirked when he noticed just how uncomfortable Light looked. "Hey, why are you complaining so much? Could it be that I'm your type after all?"

"NO!" Light, Matt, and Near snapped in unison and then they all proceeded to eye each other awkwardly as each genius tried to understand the others’ motives for doing so. The awkward silence dragged on for a full five minutes.

Light gave a slight cough before breaking the silence, trying a different tact. "Mello, I don't know if you realize this but... with that outfit and that hair you could easily be mistaken for a girl."

"Take. That. Back!" Mello roared. The blonde then thrust his hand down the front of his pants and for a terrifying moment Light feared that Mello felt the need to prove that he did indeed have a penis. Mello whipped out—it was only a gun. That was only slightly less disturbing.

"Alright, who's the genius that let Mello have a gun?" Near sighed and gave one of his white curls a twirl.

"That would be L." Matt informed them.

Light became preoccupied with massaging his forehead. Ryuuzaki, we will have words...

"Don't worry, it's not loaded," Matt assured him, not bothering to look up from his PSP, as Mello put the gun up against Light's head. Light was not convinced—those were famous last words if he ever heard them.

"You see this, Short Bus!" Mello snarled as he seductively ran his hand up and down his semi-exposed chest and bared midriff. Unnoticed, Matt watched the blonde and sucked in a breath.

"There is no way anyone could mistake me for a girl unless they were a complete retard!"

"Alright I'll admit—you look rather flat-chested for a girl… but you still look like a girl nonetheless."

Light was forced to duck to avoid getting pistol-whipped—he succeeded in evading the enraged blonde by ever so gracefully tripping over Near's LEGOs. "Mello, I'm trying to help you," Light persuaded "C'mon now. Wouldn't you rather hear it now from me than from the weirdo who jumps you in a dark alley somewhere? Do you want to get mistaken for a hooker every time you go out for a stroll?"

"I—"

At that Matt paused in his constant button mashing. "That's exactly what I told him! But he never listens to me." Matt muttered and Mello rounded on him.

"Don't tell me you're taking Kira's side!"

"Only on this particular issue—he does have a point, Mells. Don't get me wrong. I think you look very... nice. It's just..."

"Just what?"

"Uh..."

"Give it to me straight Matt, do I look girly or not!" Mello snarled as he again took to waving his gun around.

Matt swallowed and awkwardly eyed Mello's chest. "Well, I think it's obvious you're a guy..."

"You see—!"

"...but it's the kind of guy who really loves taking it up the arse."

Matt doubled over after Mello punched him in the stomach.

"Hey!" Light scolded at the blonde's violent actions (and was ignored.)

"You said to give it to you straight!" Matt whimpered from the floor, sounding like a kicked puppy.

"You really think I look... But... But this is who I am! This is my thing!" Mello practically wailed in despair at this onslaught on his very identity. Really, were they going to force him into a suit and tie or something now?

Meanwhile the sound of snickering could be heard from the three other adolescent boys in the room: "Your thing?"

"SHUT UP, NEAR!"

"You know you could at least cover up with a leather jacket or something. Yes... that should be sufficient..." to cover up the embarrassing view of Mello's buttcrack. "That would go very nice... and it would look very tough and manly," Light assured him.

"Y-you really think so? I mean, of course! Of course it would!"

Light was so eager to rid himself of that brain-scarring sight he was about to cover Mello up with his own jacket when he remembered a certain little detail about what he had sewn into the jacket lining and how it would be rather disastrous to let Mello get his hands on another weapon, particularly Kira's.

Light blamed his recent mental scarring and lack of sleep.

"On second thought, we shouldn't mix black and color," Light hastily explained his actions as he retreated with his own jacket as Mello tried to wrestle it from his grip, Light succeeded in winning it back by sacrificing his footing, and once again his fall was broken by a LEGO block fortress—the primary-colored blocks exploding dramatically all around him. That was when Kira decided that whoever invented LEGOs was evil. Light recovered with all the dignity and grace of a cat after it falls off a window ledge, willfully ignoring the uproarious laughter of the others, his expression clearly reading something along the lines of 'Nothing's wrong. I didn't do it! You never saw that! I meant to do that!'

"I mean, that just looks tacky!" Light pathologically insisted on giving his excuses, never mind that he was wearing a black dress shirt himself, it was all forgotten in favor of his latest pratfall.

See? Totally meant to do that. Just as planned.

Light nearly had to shout to be heard over the other boys' giggling. The aspiring God of the New World sighed in defeat as he brushed LEGO blocks from his khaki slacks. "So Mello, do you have, like, just a black leather jacket?"

Matt, still chuckling and wiping the slight tears from his eyes, answered him. "Mello? Leather jacket? Hmmmm... he only has a whole closet full of them—oh man, did you SEE that?! BOOM! Awesome! Damn! I wish I had recorded that! That totally needs to be on Yutoob!"

"Do I have leather jackets?" Mello was grinning from ear to ear. "C'mon Light. You can help me pick one out!" Mello demanded as he latched onto Light's wrist now having Kira pegged as both "fun" or more specifically "the stuffy guy it was fun to humiliate" and "the flamboyent dude that knows all about fashion" but was interrupted in dragging an indignant Light to his feet by Near shooting him in between the eyes with his popgun.

"Near, what the fuck?!"

"H-hey!" Light was similarly unnerved when a certain white fluffball was suddenly snuggling against his person—which would have been perfectly innocent and adorable had Near not "slipped" and put his hand none too innocently in Light's lap.

Mello's mouth shot open as he stared. He tried to shut it several times but it just kept popping open again. The blonde finally found his voice when he demanded of Light "Just what did you do to Near?"

"Nothing!" Light insisted. "Near, get off me please." It was nothing personal really—Light was just never a big fan of being touched—or groped for that matter.

"No," said the younger boy as he clung tighter.

"What were you two doing down here?! Oh God, I was right, wasn't I?! This is like your secret love nest!"

"No! Dammit, Near just looked like he could use a friend is all!"

"Yeah, Near looks real friendly, alright," Matt commented as Near continued to grope at Light and Light again cursed L's School for Stalkers and Perverts where the inhabitants did not seem to grasp that it was possible to be friends with someone without it somehow leading to sex. The older teen tried to somehow dislodge the clingy albino boy without hurting him. Light calculated the possibilities and concluded that this was a no-win situation. Protesting his innocence only made him look guiltier—when he shoved Near off he'd cry foul, Light would look like the bad guy, L would murder him... (after all, it's what he would do if he thought someone was molesting his little sister...)

Near persistently clung to Light—his hug a death grip.

"Near doesn't have friends," Mello spat. "He's incapable of making friends. He's like a total asshole! Your time is completely wasted on trying! Hell, Near probably doesn't even understand the meaning of the word!"

"Friend. Noun. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal respect," Near replied in a rather bored tone.

Mello leered at the pale boy. "So Near, do you really feel affection or respect for Kira?”

Near glared coldly at Mello and told him "Your question is irrelevant. The important thing is that I was in the middle of a game with Light Yagami when you interrupted us. I am playing with him now. I've decided... he's mine." Near said simply.

"Like hell!" shouted the blonde, "He's not yours! He's mine!"

What the fu—?!

A bead of sweat rolled down Light's brow as both Mello and Near attached themselves to his arms possessively and argued over him as if he wasn't even there. Light really hoped that this was just a case of sibling rivalry over the "cool new thing" because, now that he thought about it, this was exactly the way the girls at school always acted around him. It would be just his luck that now when he found himself questioning his sexuality that his "curse" suddenly extended to guys. Light dared to send a pleading look at Matt for help but as soon as he locked eyes with the redhead he knew he would be getting no help or sympathy from that particular green-eyed monster.

"Look, I'm flattered, really. But I'm afraid I must disagree. Neither of you can own me for my heart already belongs to another."

That succeeded in getting the bickering teens' attention. "Who?!" Mello demanded. Light felt Near's grip waver just a bit. Success... Maybe... if they really did have a crush Light hoped he hadn't destroyed them too terribly—he would really hate to find out that Near was cutting himself again.

"It's no one you've ever met," Light answered honestly.

"Daddy! There you are!" Luckily Linda found them before things turned too ugly. "C'mon! There's a lot of stuff we need to show you today!"

Light breathed a sigh of relief at the most welcome distraction as Mello and Near resumed arguing over him like he was some shiny new toy. Light rolled his eyes as Mello boldly declared that he'd find out who Kira's "lover" was first.

Light hooked onto Linda's suggestion like a lifeline. "Hey, look you guys. Mello, Near... Matt... it's something all of you can do together!" Light announced with strained enthusiasm. He noticed that Mello and Near were still glaring daggers at each other and Matt was still looking at him with jealousy and irritation.

Dammit, why does this always happen to me? It's not like I ever try to steal anyone's girlfriend… or, in this case, boyfriend(s)?

So is it Mello or Near? Or both? Most likely Mello, what with the way he follows him around like a lost puppy but then if Matt has learned any of L's subtlety then that might be a false lead. But then—the way Near was acting—like I really was the first one to try and be his friend...

"Oh yeah, that's right Roger wanted us to do all that today!" Mello muttered as he resumed tugging insistently at Light's wrist. "Try to keep up, Short Bus!"

"Mello, aren't you forgetting something?" Near asked innocently.

"Oh right... my jacket," Mello groaned. He had nearly forgotten what he had agreed to what with him giving Kira a LEGO block smackdown and Near getting all... creepy.

"Right, your jacket. You'd best run along and get it, Number Two!" Near smirked victoriously as Mello began cursing at him rather loudly and creatively. "I'll show Light around and you can catch up later... maybe."

"Like hell!" Mello snapped. "C'mon, guys. It'll only take a minute!"

To Near's dismay, Light agreed with Mello. Light barely managed to hide his irritation as the albino still clung to him. "Now Near, I promise we'll play more later, alright? I really don't think L would want Mello to end up facedown in an alley somewhere..."

Until Kira has eliminated all the rapists from the world—it just won’t be safe!

"I don't think L cares," Near muttered more to himself that the others. "You'll promise we'll play later, right, Light Yagami?"

Light felt Near's stare again, the "Ryuuzaki stare," and Light felt a sudden chill—like someone was walking on his grave—why did he get the feeling that this kid would be the death of him?

"Yes, we'll play later."

"Ooh, ooh! Can I play too, daddy?" Linda pleaded.

"Yes, that's an excellent idea. Why don't we all play together later?"

Light suggested. There if either of them does have a crush... that should keep things less awkward—hopefully. At least there will be witnesses who will see that I've done nothing wrong.

Unnoticed by the others Near looked absolutely crestfallen. It was supposed to be their special time, just the two of them.

"Honestly, I think Mello needs our help to make sure it's tasteful and... not any worse." Light told Near in a hushed tone.

"How could it possibly be any worse?" Near asked as he observed his self-proclaimed rival who was still screaming and kicking things as the others talked about him. Near regarded the whole situation rather despondently—his poor, poor LEGOs.

"Oh, I don't know.... maybe he'll take to wearing a feather boa or something—”

"Are you psychic?" Matt exclaimed, having overheard him despite Light's best efforts to drop his voice. The begoggled boy was now regarding him with awe and fear which he hadn't seen since the whole mystification of him allegedly being Kira had worn off.

"Huh?" Light responded oh-so-intelligently, looking slightly alarmed at Matt's accusation.

"You just described the contents of Mello's closet." Matt shook his head disparagingly.

Meanwhile Near glanced between Matt and Light—now pretty much convinced that Kira had psychic powers.

Chapter Text

"Wow? You’re learning this?! I read about this! They won’t let us take classes on this until graduate school!"

The children exchanged looks as the most notorious killer in modern history gushed over Linda’s textbook on advanced biochemical processes. Upon hearing the barely suppressed snickering Light reflected on his own words and realized, to his horror, he was getting excited about the course curriculum and quickly checked himself. Though Light Yagami might find this place to be intellectually stimulating Kira had duties to perform and this place—it wasn't so much a school as a gilded cage—one which he would be leaving soon enough…

"Yes, this is our curriculum," Near resumed apathetically twirling his hair as he addressed Kira in his most condescending tone.

"Alright everyone, I'm here! Now the show can begin!" Mello announced as he returned from his room now wearing a smart-looking leather jacket over his high cut leather vest and tight leather pants. His heavy leather boots stomped against the tiles to give his enemies fair warning as he strode down the hall.

Said jacket would have looked plenty tough if not for the fluffy collar (Light winced. Matt was right about the feather boa.)

"~Ooh! I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille!~"

"Shut up, Near!"

"So how's this?" Mello asked, posing provocatively with his hand on his hip.

Light sighed, as it seemed the question fell to him, seeing as Matt was busy drooling at the sight before him. "It'll do. Now aren’t we supposed to be doing… something?"

"Oh right, I’ll show you around…"

***

"So yeah, there's an hour of free study time between morning and afternoon classes where you get to research whatever you want and we’re each assigned a private tutor to help us to improve upon our weak points." Mello lectured as they wandered through the various classrooms. The blonde looked quite pleased with himself to be acting as tour guide.

"Homework on average takes about six to eight hours to complete every night—depending on how sadistic the teachers are," Matt informed him. Though it seemed he never looked up from his handheld, he made a point of "accidentally" shoving his way between Light and Mello whenever possible. Light hoped that his obvious disinterest would eventually convince Matt that he was not at all interested in his (yet oblivious) boyfriend.

"…Or if they all decide to assign us crap at once." Mello added.

Now Light was beginning to understand why L and the kids all had dark circles under their eyes...

"Oh, and here's the 'nurses office,'" said Near; affecting a bored tone.

Light stopped to gawk at the state of the art medical facility. He recognized some equipment that the science magazines said were still in the experimental stages!

"That's… very impressive."

"It was created by the second generation," Mello informed him. "K, I think."

"Generations?" Light asked in puzzlement. "That makes it sound like an experiment more than a school."

"Bingo, you're catching on. Maybe you're not from the short-bus after all. There are currently three generations at Wammy's House." Mello exposited, ticking them off on his leather-gloved fingers. "The first generation… is L, the second generation that's like… A, and B. And C, F, and K, and the 3rd generation—that's us. We're here because the second generation were failures. Every single bloody one of them!"

Light watched, perplexed as some newcomer approached them and the other students, curiously, began to make shushing motions. Mello however, was oblivious to this and kept talking. "I already told you about A and B. F flunked out and now does like simple espionage stuff for L and K left to study disease prevention or something…"

"Excuse me, brat, but not all of us were failures," said the newcomer.

Mello froze, made an odd sort of squeaking noise, and abruptly hid behind Light. This just made Light even more confused—did this guy seriously scare the fearless blonde? It was just a bespectacled man in a lab coat, probably around his mid-twenties. He had the L-like bags that were common to Wammy's House under his haunting deep purple eyes. His wild black hair stuck up in every direction and was streaked with premature white along the temples like he was trying to be the bride of Frankenstein. Alright he was a little weird but Light had seen far weirder.

"Two failures does not mean our entire class is tainted!" the man huffed while adjusting his spectacles, pushing them up the bridge of his nose with his middle finger.

"Yeah, keep telling yourself that, freak," someone grumbled from their little crowd.
"Whoever said that… Pray you never get injured. You forget; your life in my hands. I might be disinclined to help you." The man declared vindictively.

"Hey isn't medical malpractice a crime? Get him, Kira!" Another of the kids hollered from the back and the doctor seemed to notice Light for the first time.

"Oh my, it is you." The doctor said, smiling creepily while sweeping his eyes over his body.

Light stoically ignored him to scold the kids "Dammit! I told you before I’m not Kira! And no killing in an orphanage!"

Light abruptly stopped, mid-reprimand when suddenly the creepy doctor was invading his personal space so that they were practically nose-to-nose.

"Hello there, Light Yagami. I'm Dr. Caduceus, or C if you prefer—that's not my real name of course. And no, I have no relation to B either. I am the acting doctor now at Wammy's House since Kujo is no longer with us."

"Kujo?"

"Yes, Kujo, or K, try to keep up."

"So… I guess we're not talking about the ill-tempered dog from Stephen King?"

The doctor gave a loud, good-natured laugh and gave Light an uncomfortable pat on the back.

"An ill-tempered dog? Oh yes that suits her alright! She always did like animals… more than people anyway. She was such a bitc—"

Light scowled. "There are children present."

Dr. Caduceus looked at the newcomer oddly. "One of which is Mello. Trying to save their 'virgin ears' is a completely lost cause."

"He seems to have a thing for lost causes," Matt chimed in.

"In any case we really don't need to hear all about your ex-girlfriend."

C looked startled. "How did you know…?"

"Ha! I knew it! He's Kira. He's psychic!" Near crowed triumphantly.

"I'm not Kira." Light grumbled again in irritation and gave a long-suffering sigh. Couldn't they tell when he was just joking and he didn’t really care?

"In any case, K doesn't matter. I've moved on since then… and discovered my preferences lie elsewhere," he said while looking pointedly at Light.

Oh for the love of me! It seemed he’d acquired yet another stalker.

"Yeah, we really didn't need to know that," Matt muttered, he was alarmed enough to have him actually looking up from his PSP and was now in the process of backing away slowly as understanding dawned as to why whenever he went in for a routine check-up C always offered to throw in a prostate exam.

"Yes, you probably want to know about me, don't you?"

"Not really…" Light muttered and taking his cues from the kids tried to get away, but not fast enough as the doctor again invaded his personal space, awkwardly slinging an arm over his shoulder.

"I am… the Doctor!" the eccentric man declared dramatically.

"But where's his blue police box?"

No more TV for Ryuk… No more TV for Ryuk… No more…

"The Doctor of Wammy's House! And yes, one of the few successes of the Second Generation because I never tried to be L—I never was interested in detective work. No, my area of interest has always been the human body..." the man paused to again devour Light with his eyes. "You're a remarkable specimen, you know?"

Light grimaced and whispered to the nearest denizen of Wammy's House who just so happened to be Near. "Is he always this creepy?"

"Yes," said Near. Light shuddered again. When the creepy kid gets creeped out? That's never a good sign.

Light noted that this "Dr. Cad" also seemed to share the Wammy's food compulsions and poor dietary choices—he briefly and suddenly paused in his harassment to stalk on over to the autopsy table to snatch up a black licorice, one of many he kept stored on the scales that nominally had the purpose of weighing internal organs. That just didn’t seem very hygienic.

"What sort of doctor are you?" Light asked suspiciously.

"Every kind! I am a graduate of Wammy's after all. I do everything."

Light blinked at that. It seemed unlike L to leave such a gaping hole in the defense of his… family.

"Pardon me for saying this but that seems kind of… stupid. I mean, what if something happens to you?"

The doctor blinked and suddenly he was focusing on him intently, boring into him with eyes as hard as amethysts. "Are you planning to kill me, Kira?"

"No, I'm not Kira! I'm just saying if you're the only doctor…"

"Well I have a couple of students, my pupils, assisting me. I'm hardly the only doctor here; most of the staff know and are certified to practice medicine. They usually just leave it to me because they have better things to do. There are other doctors here. I'm just the only one who cares for my patients," Caduceus declared with a very creepy grin that made Light's skin crawl.

This was the "nurse's office" though…

"While we're here, you should take a look at Near—" Light began.

"I cut myself whittling." Near announced before Light could give anything away.

The doctor, suddenly completely professional, unwrapped the bandages, took a brief look at Near's cut, gave him some antiseptics and a new bandage and declared him "fine."

Mello followed the entire exchange suspiciously and wondered just what was going on—the blonde also knew from years of experience that Near was a manipulative little asshole and no doubt if Light had been the one to hurt him Near would milk it for all it was worth.

"…And just out to curiosity is there a psychiatrist on staff?" Light asked when Near stole his thunder. Though the albino boy wouldn't talk to him about whatever was bothering him it would no doubt benefit him to talk to someone.
All around him the other students made fearful noises again.

"Of course. All students at Wammy's have regular mandatory therapy sessions with yours truly! (I have a doctorate in that too) though I imagine your sessions will be more evaluation than therapy. I don't know if I can help you seeing as sociopaths such as yourself do not respond well to therapy—it only teaches them how to be better sociopaths."

"Excuse me? Sociopath?" Me? A Sociopath? How ridiculous! I would never act as Kira if I didn't care!

Dr. Cad simply shrugged. "That's just the preliminary diagnosis based on L's findings," the Doctor said brightly. "But I do look forward to our sessions together!"

Light ducked to avoid getting another "hug" from the strange man and stumbling back against the wall in his effort to get away. When he recovered from yet another "spaz out" moment he realized it was not so much a wall as a transparent freezer door. His eyes immediately lit upon a vial of blood being kept in cold storage labeled "Yagami, Light."

"They took that while you were unconscious—probably looking for the mutant gene that gives you the psychic power to kill with heart attacks," Near said, looking very amused.

"Really? I thought they were testing him for the blood of a jackal… Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry," Mello said in reaction to Light's readily intensifying death-glare. "I know 'Your mom' jokes are kind of old..."

"Oh don't worry about it—your tests came back normal… well mostly normal," assured the Doctor. "I must say though you seem rather stressed and sexually frustrated. In my opinion as a professional you need to get laid." Dr. Cad ignored Light's horrified looks to announce (in front of everyone) "If you need assistance with that, I can help. It's alright, I'm a doctor."

It's official—Wammy’s House is the School for Stalkers and Perverts.

"Hey! Cut it out!" Light snapped when he felt a hand in his hair.

Light nearly breathed a sigh of relief when he realized it was just Mello searching for the Mark of the Beast—only nearly because it turned out Mello's hands were still greasy from cleaning his gun.

Light sighed again and gave a rather strained smile as he restrained his growing homicidal urges.

"That's another thing I've been meaning to ask—where are the showers? And is it possible I might procure a change of clothes?"

"Oh yeah! I was supposed to do that!" Mello groaned, throwing his (still greasy) hand in his face.

When Mello and Matt returned with a large trunk filled with clothes. Light was oddly touched when he learned that L had bought him a replica of his entire wardrobe. Light picked out a dress shirt and some khaki slacks and headed for the showers.

Yes, showers were good, and clean, and comforting and nothing could possibly go wrong…

Light had just finished getting undressed when he heard a sharp gasp behind him. When he turned he caught the flash of dark eyes staring at him pressed against the decorative holes of the laundry hamper. Light hastily secured a towel around his waist before he went to confront his peeping tom—he opened the lid to reveal a certain small pasty boy had somehow managed to ninja himself inside, sitting perfectly still, camouflaged under the fluffy white towels of the laundry hamper.

Light merely frowned in response and forcefully lifted the intruder out of the basket, holding him up carefully under the arms.

"You…" Light seethed. "Are a problem child."

"Kira must be watched at all times!" Near protested.

"And I see you took it upon yourself to do so. I suppose that go-getter spirit is admirable but I assure you your services are not necessary. I am quite confident that L has set up cameras in here too."

Near blinked and curiously tilted his head. "You're psychic powers again?"

"No, I just know L. I'd expect nothing less of him. It's exactly the sort of thing he'd pull—though I must say he was never quite so bold as to do it in person."

"So you're saying… I just surpassed L."

"Only at being a hentai… That's hardly something to be proud of!" Light scolded, becoming increasingly flustered as Near began grinning madly from ear to ear. "It's ridiculous! Even if I was Kira do you really think I’d be killing people in the shower?"

"Yes."

Light scowled and tried to deposit the younger boy on the other side of the door so he could resume his shower in peace but Near was surprisingly strong for being so small and clung to him with the tenacity of a small, vicious, woodland creature. Light finally got Near away from him but not before the younger boy had succeeded in snatching his towel away.

"I bet you're popular with the ladies," Near quipped while unapologetically staring at him.

Light shut, locked, and barricaded the door.

Chapter Text

When L awoke again he found himself in a new, more secure cell, strapped down to a bed and while he supposed it was only natural that his enemies would take extra security precautions since his last escape attempt he still found it a bit irksome. The detective was indeed quite put out that his escape attempt had been exactly that—an attempt—it had failed and so now he was drugged and strapped to a bed—the leather straps chafing against his wrists and ankles. His crushed hand was still throbbing in pain and had begun to itch terribly beneath the cast. Someone had dressed him in one of those embarrassing paper-thin hospital gowns (meaning, ew, someone had touched him in his sleep). He still didn’t have any sweets. Oh, and he had to pee. L didn’t suppose they’d be kind enough to untie him and let him use the toilet seeing as that was probably what the bedpan was for. The great detective was harshly berating himself—he was one of the smartest people on the planet! He should be able to figure out how to escape from such a crude prison! But L knew it wasn’t particularly productive to wallow in angst so he focused on more important matters such as mentally preparing himself for the next encounter with his captors and beginning to draft up (yet vague) new escape plans in his head. He also concentrated on worrying about Watari, worrying about the kids, worrying about Light—that left only 5% of his brainpower to come up with new imaginative insults for himself. L didn’t have to wait long—mere minutes after L awoke the door slid open again.

As he always did when dealing with stressful situations the detective kept his emotions, the fear and rage at his current situation, hidden tightly behind a blank mask. Oh, of course tying him to the bed wouldn’t be enough—they wanted to torture him too and though L had mentally prepared himself against some sort of reprisal for earlier he was still quite unprepared for this level of cruelty—the great detective grimaced as the goon squad held him down and force fed him the unsweetened green vegetable paste. Though as horrific as the ordeal of being forced to eat his vegetables was perhaps the more disconcerting thing was that his visitors were faceless mooks in moonsuits—bulky, unmaneuverable moonsuits that L would have no problem kicking circles around if, no, when he escaped again. Why would they put themselves at such a disadvantage? Why would they take such precautions?

As L was left to wonder the door to his cell slid open yet again and the sound of squeaky wheels heralded the arrival of more mooks in moonsuits as they wheeled a big screen TV into his cell. It was a nice, expensive home theatre system but L didn’t suppose his captors brought it in here just so he could watch movies.

The guards than adjusted his bed so that he was sitting up and could easily see the TV screen. The TV crackled to life and soon the static was replaced by what the TV proclaimed to be a live feed. The screen was filled with the image of an Asian woman. The woman was all pristine and poise—she carried herself like a newscaster, right down to the fake, soulless smile.

“…one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

She was dressed in a sleek black dress and wore a thick necklace of pearls around her neck. Her hair bound up tightly in a clipped up do that made her almost look like a Geisha. Her face seemed familiar somehow—probably because she was his kidnapper, well one of them. She obviously wasn’t the man who kidnapped him but she was definitely the one who had crushed his hand.

“Aw, L—I see you’re awake. Enjoying your stay?” The woman asked pleasantly.

“The food sucks,” the detective deadpanned.

“It’s completely vegan and it’s healthy,” the woman replied. Then it was unlikely to be a recording. L tried to figure out where the cameras were. “You need to eat your vegetables if you want to keep your strength up,” the woman admonished.

L glared fiercely at the TV screen. “It needs more sugar.”

From the other side of the feed the woman gave her captive a cold look. “Do you have any idea how many animals are killed in the process of sugar farming?”

“I care… so much.” L baited his captor. “This is me caring.” In reality the Great Detective did throw a sizeable sum of money at solving the world’s social, ecological, and economic problems—for tax deductions if nothing else but he didn’t particularly care if his kidnapper knew that. At the moment there was only one thing the eccentric detective cared about… “Now get me candy!” L snapped. Damn… his low blood sugar was getting to him.

“Aw, see this?” L noticed how her eyes flitted for a moment to somewhere off-screen. “Here we have another shining example of humanity. Short-sighted, selfish, rotten! You see? You see?! Humans are a disease upon this planet!

L remembered where he had heard that phrase before. It had been her dissertation back at Wammy’s. In retrospect that should have set off some red flags.

“K?” It really is you… L thought sadly. L had suspected K’s involvement as soon as he discovered he was being confined in a hospital but he didn’t want to believe it. Watari had such high hopes for her. “The attack on the hotel was your doing, wasn’t it?”

“Of course! You’ve finally figured it out. Oh, good for you World’s. Greatest. Detective! You see? This is what happens when you don’t bother with your successors,” K spat acidly.

L simply smiled in response and murmured “Hmm… The years no doubt have changed you.”

True, L hadn’t immediately recognized her as K but in his defense she was no longer the young girl he had once observed over a camera feed. For one the bags under her eyes that would’ve marked her as a graduate of Wammy’s House were gone, or perhaps covered up under layers of foundation. L was also thrown by her wardrobe choice—the last time L had seen her she was wearing ragged blue jeans and t-shirts and wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress...

“Huh,” L grunted as he glowered at the screen. “But in all seriousness… I don’t care who you are, really.. You will give me sugar if you want to live.”

K just laughed. “You’re in no position to be making demands.”

“If you insist on feeding me that crap I guarantee that when I leave this place you will get no mercy from me,” the detective replied, deadly serious. Attempts on his life? Whatever. All in a day’s work for the World’s Greatest Detective, after all some of his best friends had tried to kill him, but getting between L and his sugar? Now that crossed the line.

K just continued to grin as if she had rictus. “I would advise against trying to escape again. Out there you won’t get the care you need. You see, I have infected you with a brand new designer virus—two of them actually. I designed them myself—my gift to you.”

L grunted slightly and his large black eyes lazily rolled around in their sockets. It was the only hint that he might be under duress. “It sounds like a rather expensive gift, K. You should’ve saved the receipt.”

“The first virus is slowly killing you but it also protected you by allowing your body to build up an immunity to the second, more deadly virus that you are now a carrier to. It is highly contagious. So even if you’ve decided you no longer care about your own pathetic life I imagine you wouldn’t want mass deaths on your conscience.”

L had to struggle to keep in the bitter laughter that wanted to explode out of his throat. Someone as smart as K and yet she didn’t understand at all. L already had mass deaths on his conscience—for every killer he failed to stop, for every victim he failed to save, for getting close to… no for befriending (and caring for) his Kira suspect...

But of course she didn’t understand. None of them did. Indeed, in all his time as acting as the World’s Greatest Detective only one person ever came close to truly understanding what it meant to be L, to be shackled with the responsibility of so many lives.

That person was Kira.

The great detective felt an odd twisting in his gut as he realized just how much he longed for that person’s company. Now Kira was one of his cooler enemies—a worthy opponent. K was just playing at being the evil overlord but Kira was the real deal. Kira had actually been a challenge and Kira wouldn’t make such a ridiculous claim and insult his intelligence by expecting him to fall for it!

“You’re bluffing.”

“Am I?” goaded K.

L began to cough, but the detective appeared unfazed by this, staring stoically at the camera.

“I’d say there’s a 97%... no 98% chance...

K just continued to grin when she ordered her men to “Take off your helmets.”

The poor hapless minions obeyed without question. They fell to their knees, screaming in agony as boils erupted from their exposed skin. Their terrified cries lasted for several minutes before finally falling silent when they fell to the floor, dead.

L stared at the bodies in shock.

“Well?” prodded K.

L quickly recovered. “I still think you’re bluffing. That could have easily been staged for my benefit.”

A scowl briefly trespassed across her face but it was soon banished, again replaced by that mad leer as she determined that another demonstration was in order.

She repeated the process several times.

“Enough! I… believe you,” said L. Of course he didn’t but L reasoned that there were only so many stupid, senseless deaths anyone could take.

K canceled her order and her minions were marched out again but L was privy to the sounds of machine gun fire and screaming before the doors slammed close.

“K… you know you really didn’t have to kill your underlings just to prove you’re a ruthless bitch,” the detective remarked caustically. “You do realize you have just declared war against me. Against the L! And even if that doesn’t scare you, you know I have acquired some powerful allies, hell I even have a few countries in my debt. So just what exactly do you hope to achieve by all this?”

K just laughed again and then just like a Bond villain K told him exactly what they were planning to do.

The mad woman’s smile widened to an impossible degree. “…and all you can do is watch.”

“That sort of plan. Is far too subtle, too sophisticated...” K was always rather poor at strategy. In the simulations K’s solution to every problem was to send in the troops. That was part of the reason why K ultimately decided to go into biology rather than law enforcement. (Indeed the idea that K had succeeded in kidnapping him, even if she did have help, was rather embarrassing.) Now there was another former pupil of his that was far better at planning. This sort of thing would be right up his alley. The only problem was that he was supposed to be dead… “It’s… beyond you. Who’s pulling your strings, K?”

K flinched ever-so-slightly. It was a motion so subtle that anyone else probably wouldn’t have noticed it was there but L caught it just the same.

Impossible! Though the evidence kept leading him in this direction L did not want to believe it. Stay dead! Please stay dead!

K just resumed smiling again like the cat who caught the canary and made a feast of its bones.

“You know you’ve made many enemies, L. All of them are gunning for you. Perhaps we found it more efficient to work together.”

I’ve made many enemies. So are they all from the second generation? But who’s left? A is dead. B is dead, C is currently at Wammy’s House, F should be doing field work in Thailand, K is here…

“Or perhaps you’re being used.” L made a show of straining against the restraints as he attempted to persuade her that continuing this course of action was not in her best interests. “You know Watari told me he thinks very highly of you, that you were a very promising student. With your talents you could have been a great asset to the world. You still could. Get out of this K.”

If it really is HIM… not even K deserves this!

“Awww, so you do care. But tell me L, why would I want to ‘get out of this’ when it’s all falling into place? You see, though we do have… differing opinions on many things we can all agree on one thing—you need to suffer.”

L worked not to let his discomfort show. Several of his spurned successors working together—that did not bode well for him.
“Now the only missing piece… is Kira.”K delicately steepled her fingers as she glared out at him from behind the TV screen. “I don’t suppose you would be so kind as to tell me where you’re keeping him?”

L stared back and tried to minimize the mocking tone that tried to creep into his voice and give him away. “Well K, as you might have heard I’ve been searching for Kira but I’m afraid I haven’t had any luck in finding him yet so you see, if you want to know where Kira is you’re just going to have to let me go and resume my investigation which your people so rudely interrupted.”

“Cut the crap, L. I know you have him. I have my sources!” snapped K.

L managed to evade giving her any information for the time being when he answered her with another question: “What would you do if you found Kira? Invite him into your little Legion of Doom? Do you really think he’d go for that considering his opinion on “criminals”?”

“Oh heaven’s no!” K snickered at the very thought. “I have no use for Kira, just his power! Kira is much too soft! He’s a man after your own heart—he goes after the symptom rather than the disease and the real monsters, the corporations, the governments that kill off entire species and destroy this planet get away with their crimes! Kira is not worthy of the gift that he has been blessed with so I will take it from him!”

When L just stared at her blankly K simply shrugged and resumed monologueing.

“I think it would be better to start over, you know? Just wipe the slate clean and build a new world from the ashes. I could do it right now but unfortunately viruses don’t discriminate their targets and while all humans are rotten some are more rotten than others. I would like to preserve a few humans to live in a perfect new utopia that is one with nature.”

“… Can’t we give peace a chance?”

“Just tell me where Kira is, L. That’s all I need you for, really. I won’t trouble you with anything else. I only ask because I would prefer to limit unnecessary casualties. Though if you prefer to escape and spread my disease it’s no big loss. Either way… I win.”

L just stared and remained stubbornly silent. He could really go for some cake about now. Cake made it so much easier to deal with mass murderers.

“Not going to talk? That’s fine. I can wait. In the mean time I suppose you can just make yourself comfortable. Just sit back, relax, and watch the destruction of Wammy’s House…”

***

“Well, surely this spells doom for Wammy’s House,” Matt deadpanned as his blonde companion screamed at the top of his lungs and destroyed all school property in his path.

“Hey guys, what’s up?” Light asked as he finished toweling off his hair. He was now showered and dressed and ready to take on the challenges of a brand new day… or so he thought. Light felt a bead of sweat roll down his temple as the kids suddenly seemed hostile towards him again. The kids were all crowded around a giant scoreboard in the middle of the quad that read:

3) Mello 2) Near 1) Light

Light was so used to seeing his name at the top of the class that it took him a moment to realize what the big deal was.

Chapter Text

Roger was just relaxing for a moment, working on those additions to his collection that F had sent him from Thailand that had finally made their way through customs, he was in the middle of pinning a white dryad to the black felt board-—watching intently as he speared it through with a pin until the little thing stilled with its drugged and sluggish fluttering-—when the (in retrospect) rather predictable onslaught of teenagers came pouring into his office. He truly did hate kids. Roger gave a long-suffering sigh but sequestered his butterfly collection away in his top desk drawer just in time before he was assaulted by the screaming blonde who was barely reined in by his red-headed buddy. The dynamic duo was trailed in by certain albino who was looking more sullen than usual and a certain brunet who was looking a bit ruffled (and perhaps a bit roughed up) after being dragged, or rather manhandled, along with the others. They of course were followed by numerous gawkers come to see the resulting fireworks-—many of them were already taking bets on who was going to leave the office alive.

Roger tried not to look too startled when the leatherman blonde grabbed him by the lapels to roar "I'M. NOT. FUCKING. THIRD!"

Roger noticed how Light shot him a sympathetic glance as he massaged his head against the incoming headache brought on by hearing that for only the thousandth time in so many minutes.

Inside, Light was cursing-—he was well aware now that by placing first he had made things so much harder for himself. Now he would be under even more scrutiny! Light realized belatedly it would have been far smarter to throw the test. Oh well—-too late now. As if that was possible anyway-—as if his stupid pride could ever allow him to be seen as anything less than perfect, not to mention it would have been suspicious if he had tried. Oh well it just made things more challenging and he did love a good challenge. The only problem was that the bastard he wanted to rub this in the face of the most wasn't even here...

"It's not that surprising, really-—I always get perfect marks. Really, I don't see what the big deal is. Not to brag or anything but I am the top ranked student in all of Japan..." Light tried to explain again, already run-down from having to deal with a psychotic Mello and the others accusing him of cheating by using his "magic Kira powers" to somehow scry the answers.

"Yeah-—not to brag." Matt muttered as he again tried to restrain the currently murderous Mello.

"But those are normal schools. Not Wammy's House!" Mello thundered. "I got top marks in my home country too before—-" Mello shouted, near hysterically. Though he covered it well with his anger, Light perceived how the younger teen's big blue eyes were wide and watery, it was clear that this had really hurt him.

"I always just try my best..." Light insisted, rather pathetically, he really wasn't trying to hurt anyone with his test score! He was just doing what came naturally... Unfortunately, unlike at his own high school where he was undeniably very popular his tried and true tactics of smiling a lot and assuring them that it wasn't anything special and they did a great job too wasn't cutting it. "What's the big deal, really? It's just a number. It doesn't define you!" Light again tried to pacify the other genii.

"You don't believe that," the pale boy murmured from his emo corner on the floor.

Well sure Light always took pride in his achievements but honestly he couldn't care less about academics for their own sake-—it was all just supposed to be a means to an end. The original plan had been:

1) Study 2) Get good grades 3) Get into a good college 4) Study law and police procedure 5) Join the NPA 6) Solve difficult cases and get criminals off the streets 7) Make the world a better place. Since then the Death Note allowed him to gleefully skip steps 1 through 6 though he still had to make an effort to give others the impression that nothing had changed. Light liked to think that even if he didn't get perfect marks he'd still do his part to make the world a better place. After all, Light doubted that that rookie his dad often had over to their house, Matsuda, got perfect scores in high school and yet Light's father often held him up as an exemplary police officer for his hard work and determination. So surely not being the absolute best at everything wasn't the end of the world—-at least when it wasn't him (surely if his "Study! Study! Study!" education mama knew that he had entertained such a thought she would murder him...)

"Modesty doesn't become you, Kira." Near grumbled rather caustically from his newest hidey hole, sitting on the floor in the shadow of Roger's desk. The white-haired boy sat absolutely still and letting his white bangs cover his face. Light was terrified Near was going to hurt himself for this later.

"I'm not Kira! Dammit Near, I thought you said you didn't like being number one!"

Mello paused mid-obscenity to gawk at Near as if he'd grown a second head. "WHAT?!"

"It's not just about that! We're competing for L's title!" Near hissed, drawing into himself, not at all liking that he had suddenly been made the center of attention.

"L's title?" Light asked in utter confusion to the surprise and utter disbelief among the assembled orphan genii who just took for granted that everyone knew how Wammy's House worked.

Matt sighed but took pity on the n00b. "As the World's Greatest Detective."

"See, he can't have beaten us! He's the Short Bus!" Mello exclaimed to any who would listen.

"L's title..." Light repeated thoughtfully as if processing the information, "But… isn't L still using it?"

Roger cleared his throat and began to explain gently "If L were to die-—"

"Impossible!" Light snapped, seething at the imagined insult that his L would just die like that. L —dying? He was all for it a few weeks ago but now the idea sounded wrong somehow. After all if he, Kira, the God of the New World, or as his fansites proclaimed him to be "The Savior, The Messenger from Hell, The Instrument of Divine Retribution, The Avenging Shadow of Death, and The Sexiest Man Alive" had so much trouble making L dead than it was really unthinkable that THE L would just die like a dog! Light could grudgingly admit that L was on the same level as him and so, logically, since nothing could touch him, seeing as he was a God and all, than nothing could ever get to L...

Light tried again to forget about the footage he had seen of his greatest rival beaten within an inch of his life, of a pistol pressed up against his temple, it was the damned footage that had prompted him to act so rashly. The ungrateful bastard! I didn't go through all the trouble of saving him just for him to do something so stupid as to die on me now! So don't you dare die on me, Ryuuzaki! If you die on me I will kill you! Light blinked and reanalyzed his thoughts and realized he wasn't exactly making a lot of sense (he was really glad he hadn't taken to monologuing out loud at the moment.) Light decided he was really in need of a cathartic chat with his nemesis and a good night's sleep... Just being around L, it just... it felt like he had found something. Some vital part to his life he didn't even know he was missing. As much as an obstacle as L was... Light wouldn't want to live in a world without him.

He... completes me. It then occurred to Light how that sounded. "Schoolgirl!" Ryuk's mocking words for his slight and totally justified obsession haunted his memory. Oh for the love of me! This is ridiculous! It's just I haven't seen him in a couple days and I miss him.... No. No. No. No. No. I... Dammit! I do miss him.

Meanwhile the other teenagers continued to angst, perhaps more so than Light was, over things other than affairs of the heart...

"What this means is that you make a better L than I do," Near spoke softly from the floor, putting much effort in keeping his voice from wavering.

Light threw out his hands in an exaggerated gesture of exasperation "Oh c'mon! It was just a test!"

"Yes," Roger interjected trying to assure both the seething Mello and the brooding Near "You all should keep in mind it's just a preliminary result based on the placement testing. However Mello, Near... Perhaps now the two of you might understand what is going to happen if you insist on your current level of rivalry. You will only tear each other down and it becomes easy for a new challenger like Light to fill the vacuum. As it stands, if you can't learn to work together now when you get out into the real world you will both lose. Now I'm sure by now the two of you are well aware of both your strengths and flaws-—individually you are both at a disadvantage but working together you complete each other."

Mello made a disgusted face "Do you have any idea how gay that sounds?"

Behind him Matt fidgeted awkwardly and suddenly became very interested in his game.

Light turned to Roger; his gaze suspicious, "Did I really have the highest score or are you just using me in an attempt to make Mello and Near work together?" Roger seemed quite taken aback by the accusation.

Near stood up abruptly from his hidey hole to glance between Roger and Light, a strangely impressed and amused expression working its way across his face "If that's true you've certainly succeeded in upsetting the order of the House. I'm always first, Mello is always second, and Matt is always third..."

Light took pause at that. Matt is always third?

Matt felt a chill as Light looked at him askance with those intense amber eyes.

Aw crap... That smug smirk was enough to tell him that Light had figured it out. Please, don't say anything. Please, don't say anything. Please, don't say anything...

"If that was your plan, I must say, it is quite cruel… to manipulate someone's feelings like that," Light added conversationally.

"I wasn't lying. You did score the highest," Roger insisted and then turned his attention back to Mello and Near. "As it stands right now Light is L's Successor."

Aw I see now. I've just been made first in line to "The Great and Noble House of L..." Why was he suddenly imagining a blue and grey heraldic shield with a strawberry shortcake on its coat of arms? PLEASE, give me a break!

"No."

Light's declaration was met with stunned silence followed by a certain blonde's explosive "What?!"

"You heard me. I don't want his title! What does L need a successor for anyway? He isn't going to die! I forbid it!"

"Are you quite finished?" The old man glared at him from behind his sinister shiny glasses and steepled hands, his expression unreadable. Silently, Light agreed with Ryuk's assessment-—it was a passable impression of Gendo Ikari.

"No, I'm not," said Light, his voice becoming eerily calm. On Light's private soundtrack Ryuk began to laugh evilly—-the Shinigami recognized that change in tone to mean that someone was going to die soon—horribly. "Let me talk to him."

"What?!" now came the incredulous, scandalized hiss from the other students that the newcomer even dared to ask that.

"Let me talk to L," Light insisted.

"No one talks to L..." Roger said sternly, as if he'd been asked that millions of times before but Light would not be so easily ignored. He punctuated this by slamming his fists down on the top of Roger's desk.

"He talks to me. Let me talk to L! I want to tell him exactly where he can shove his title!"

Surprisingly, Roger refused to cave, "It is ridiculous to give into the demands of a prisoner."

"Yes, you're right—-I'm a prisoner, not a student," Light said sourly, "which just goes to show how ridiculous this all is! This is morbid, stupid, and an insult to both of us! I don't want to be L. I'm my own person, thank you very much—-not to mention if I tried to eat like him I'd get diabetes before I turn twenty. And L wouldn't want me as his successor either-—he thinks I'm Kira! Do you really think he'd want his Kira-suspect to succeed him?"

"It's his request…" Roger began uncertainly.

Light chuckled and around the room the student's hair stood on end as they detected the insane edge to his laughter.

"If L really wanted me then why don't I get a cool codename like they do?"

"That's also L's instructions. Your codename is 'Light.'"

Of course Light understood L's reasoning for choosing his codename:

"Kira" is your true self. "Light" is the mask you hide behind.

L... You bastard!

"…...And in any case you'd just pass over all these brilliant, talented students that have been studying for this all their lives?! Funny, L didn't strike me as that much of a bastard. And in any case does L really think I'd stick around here if he were stupid enough to die on me? I have my own life thank you very much. No, I refuse to play this game."

Of the surrounding students Mello was the first to recover. He used the shocked atmosphere to his advantage as he broke free of Matt's restraining hold to attack Kira again. Light deployed some artful dodging as Mello tried to kill him with Roger's letter opener. He managed to get away with only some nasty gashes, defensive wounds, on the palms of his hands. It was beginning to look like saving Mello from becoming a criminal he'd have to judge would prove to be quite a challenge.

Well... that should be interesting...

"You lying son of a bitch!" the blonde screamed at him. "If you don't want L's title then why did you work so hard on that fucking test?!"

"I didn't know what it was for!" Light snapped defensively as Mello got in his face. Light barely dodged another of Mello's wild stabbing attempts, the tails of his black silk shirt catching on the letter opener as he moved out of the way, ripping it open. Light glared at Mello, his eyes taking on a distinctive red tinge—-he really liked that shirt.

"...And in any case do you really expect me to just throw the test like Matt?"

"WHAT?!" Mello shouted again and whirled on the red-haired gamer while still clutching the letter opener in a white knuckled death grip. That was dangerous! Mello could put someone's eye out with that thing, namely his, and Light wasn't too eager to give up half his lifespan in order to to get replacements...

"W-what are you talking about?" Matt stammered out and then laughed none too convincingly. "Don't listen to him! He's Kira! He's crazy!"

Mello was totally unprepared when Light struck back while he was distracted, twisting his arm around in a policeman's hold he had learned from his father, tackling Mello and forcing him to drop the letter opener. Light kicked it under the desk, hard, so it would be well away from a certain albino who had a penchant for self-harm.

"Get off me, bitch!" Mello shrieked and struggled when he landed, face first on the floor with, Light on top of him, —Light's ripped open shirt meant his bare chest was pressed up against his back —while Mello was wearing what Matt had called the "fuck-me-up-the-ass" outfit. This all happened amid the catcalls of the surrounding student body and the flashes of camera phones (that was against the rules by the way—-students weren't supposed to take pictures of anyone at Wammy's. Mello felt a vein popping in his forehead as no one, not even Roger, did anything to stop it.)

"You guys said that Matt always scores third. That is statistically impossible unless Matt is deliberately throwing the results," Light informed Mello in a most serene tone. Light waited to make sure the volatile teen was suitably shocked out of his violent mood before daring to let go of the squirming blonde.

Mello turned, humiliation momentarily forgotten, to gape at Matt. "He's right..." Mello whispered in wonderment. "And you always score only a little less than I do... Mattie, why...?"

"Isn't it obvious? It's because he likes you."

"SHUT UP, KIRA!" The normally placid gamer roared to the already shocked room.

"Mattie..." Mello said in a near whisper.

Light mercilessly pressed on. "He knows how much your dreams means to you so he makes sure not to do as well as you so you can always keep your place."

"MATT!" Mello shouted as the red-head hurridly tugged his goggles down over his eyes and beat a hasty retreat. "Fuck." Mello snarled, glaring daggers at Kira as he ran after Matt.

Chapter Text

Matt was just sneaking his way to his next class when he felt a hand on his shoulder—Mello's hand. Matt froze where he stood. Dammit. He'd been trying to avoid him all day, trying to escape this, but Mello had finally found him.

"It's… it's true then, isn't it?!" the blonde demanded in a dangerous tone.

"Mells… I—" Matt stammered and that was all the confirmation Mello needed.

"Mattie, why? Why would you do that?!"

Mello tried to reign in his anger—but those yellow goggles looked so stupid over Matt's reddened eyes. "Why?! I… I never asked you to do that!"

The red-head withdrew into a sullen silence.

"I mean what does this say?" Mello ranted, "Not only were you lying to me all this time but you think I’m so dumb that you feel the need to take the fall so that I can stay at the top?!"

Matt winced as if struck. "I had no choice! If I scored more than you, you’d hate me just like you hate Near!"

"What no I—" Mello tried to protest but his stomach sunk as he realized the truth of Matt’s words.

"…And if I scored any less you would think me an idiot and wouldn’t want to hang out with me!"

Matt sucked in a breath as the blonde suddenly embraced him. "Matt… you idiot! I just don’t understand! Why would you do this?! Don't you have ambitions of your own?!"

"I—"

But Mello just wouldn't shut up and Matt couldn't get in a single word. And because of Mello's (for lack of a better word) hugging him they were so, so close… Ultimately, Matt was a guy of few words anyway and he liked to think of himself as a man of action so he settled for just showing him.

Kissing Mello effectively shut him up… for about ten seconds. This revelation went over about as well as could be expected with a severely insecure preteen who was raised as a devout Catholic Mafioso. Mello kicked Matt below the belt and punched him hard in the face.

"Matt, WHAT THE FUCK!!! Y-you you're gay?! You’re gay for me?! Matt… you… YOU’RE A FUCKING FAGGOT?!!!!"

Mello said many things to Matt he would regret almost as soon as they left his mouth but he couldn’t take them back—to do so would be to appear weak.

The blonde shouted and raged and threw things. Matt just curled up in a fetal position on his bed in the face of the blonde's abuse and after Mello cooled off a bit he began to silently (but for the occasional expletive) began to clear out his dorm. Matt was gay for him. He couldn't stay here now!

But where to go?

Mello hadn't thought of that question until after he had dragged his bags out of what was once his room and several doors down into the hallway. The enraged teen nearly punched a hole in the wall when he came to the sudden realization that his only other choices for roommates were either Light or Near.

Fucking Matt!

***

Light felt a sinking feeling of déjà vu when he saw Mello enter his room unannounced, dragging his stuff in after him. It had been a trying first day for him at Wammy's School for Gifted Youngsters filled with challenging coursework and… quirky personalities but nothing the God of the New World couldn't handle. When he left his final class for the day he had found Near waiting for him, reminding him of his promise to hang out with him. That's why he had opened his door to entertain a "study session" with Near and Linda. That's what Mello walked into when he arrived at Light's room—the surreal, brain-breaking scene of Near and Linda cuddling up with Light for "Story-time with Kira." Well it would be story-time save for the fact that Light was reading to them "How to Win Friends and Influence People."

Near glanced up from the book when Mello slammed his bags down in the middle of the floor.

"Oh, hello, Mello. Have you come to join us?"

Mello ignored him, which Near thought was strange. He didn't even bother with his customary greeting of "Shut up, Near."

"You. Kira. You're my roommate now!" Mello declared in what he thought was a menacing voice that brooked no room for argument.

"Er… what?" Light blinked in confusion as the blonde began unpacking his bags without so much as a by-your-leave.

"He obviously had a fight with Matt," Near commented while giving an idiosyncratic tug of his hair.

"Shut up, Near!" snarled the boy in leather; effectively confirming their suspicions.

"But why?" asked the girl with the black pig-tails. "Isn't Matt your friend?"

It was at that moment that it sunk in for Light just what the situation was and how he really, really didn't want to be involved in Mello and Matt's little lover's quarrel. That was the last thing he could afford.

"No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No way. I told you guys I don't want a part in your little soap opera. Keep me out of this!"

"Too late for that! Besides, this is all your fault anyway!"

Light's eyes narrowed dangerously. He wasn't particularly fond of being blamed for everything (even when he didn't do it!) as was his life lately… "How did you reach that conclusion?"

"If you hadn't said anything—"

"Oh, c'mon! Don't tell me you're fighting over something as stupid as a test score—Oh, right." Light murmured as he pointedly glanced between Mello and Near. "This IS that stupid, isn't it?"

The blonde's only response was some particularly colorful expletives.

Light sighed in exasperation. "Mello, need I remind you I beat your score too?"

"Well it's either you or Near!" Mello snapped. "As far as I'm concerned Kira is the lesser of two evils."

"I'm sitting here," Near grumbled and was ignored.

"Or… you could just kiss and make up with Matt," the older teen strongly suggested.

"NO!" Mello screeched.

Light, Near, and Linda looked at each other. That reaction was a bit extreme—even for Mello.

"But you hate me and you hate Near for the same reason you're angry at Matt! Pardon me saying this but aren't you being a bit hypocritical?"

"THIS ISN'T ABOUT THAT!" Mello roared.

Light grimaced. "I don't suppose there is any way I could convince you to room with Near?"

The stupid question momentarily stunned Mello out of his bout of hysterics.

"I don't care what the tests says—you are the short-bus! It will be a cold day in Hell before I ever room with Near!" Mello snarled before resuming his rant about how his once B.F.F. Matt was an evil, traitorous bastard trying to change him or something.

Light sighed again and rubbed the bridge of his nose in exasperation—this had been a very long day.

Maybe if I feed Ryuk enough apples he could help me make it snow in—wait, no. Heaven and Hell don't exist. Would getting it to snow in the Shinigami world count as the next best thing? Maybe cloud seeding would work? I could get Ryuk to fly up into the upper atmosphere with a bag of salt… but wait; does the Shinigami world have clouds? And didn't Ryuk say the Shinigami world was already cold? Cold, dry, dark, dusty—that's how Ryuk described the World of the Dead. Then perhaps there is a chance of getting Mello to room with Near...

"HEY, LIGHT! ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!" The blonde roared again.

"Huh? Yeah, sure…"

In any case I need my privacy. I just need to freak Mello out or… or be obnoxious enough that he’ll leave me alone...

"Sorry Mello, but as you recall I already have a roommate—Casper the Friendly Ghost."

Mello paled for a moment but then his gaze fell on where Near was sitting on the floor next to Light and Linda’s and an empty chair (no doubt they had offered him a chair as well only to discover that Near very much preferred the floor) fiddling with an oversized model of Optimus Prime in his lap as if it were a security blanket.

"Oh, you mean Near?"

"No, actually I meant my invisible friend who's making funny faces behind you at this very moment," Light said, his expression deadly serious.

Mello whirled around and stared right past where Ryuk was indeed making funny faces and throwing bunny ears up over the blonde's head. After seeing nothing Mello turned back furiously to catch sight of Light's simpering, mischievous grin.

"Ha! Made you look."

Mello looked murderous again. "You are so FULL OF SHIT! How?! How can you be number one when you're so stupid that you'd pull this shit after I totally kicked his ass twice!

"Really? I don't recall 'getting my ass kicked' as you so eloquently put it."

As Mello let out a war cry, Light kicked his office chair so that it easily slid out of the way of the lunging blonde, allowing Mello to harmlessly smash into the desk behind him.

Linda pointed and giggled as Mello pulled himself off the floor.

"Oh yes, I'm sure the two of you will get on just swimmingly as roommates."

"SHUT UP, NEAR!"

"Sorry, Mello, but you see I'm really not inclined to share my room with you," Light thought it was only polite to try asking nicely before he utterly destroyed him...

"Far be it from me to tell you your business Mello but you really would be better off just making up with Matt," Near said while seemingly giving his full attention to fiddling with his robot.

"Haven't you figured out yet that he's the only one who can tolerate you?" Linda added.

Light shot Linda a warning glance. "That was kind of mean…"

"But it's true!"

"I see, it's just as I thought—the curriculum here doesn't teach a little thing called tact. You should learn it—you'll go far in life."

Meanwhile, Mello got more and more wound up as he realized that the members of the little study group he was holding hostage didn’t even respect him enough to give him their full attention.

"I CAN’T ROOM WITH MATT! MATT IS FUCKING GAY!!!"

Light blinked. "So?"

"Aren't you too?"

"SHUT YOUR FACE, NEAR! OF COURSE I'M NOT!"

Everyone rolled their eyes. It seemed Mello was being a drama queen again and the blonde's protestations that he was "not gay" were kind of hard to believe given his wardrobe choice.

"Why is that a problem?" asked Linda. "I mean, he's still your friend, isn't he?"

"MATT'S NOT MY FRIEND! HE'S GAY! HE'S GAY FOR ME!"

Mello paused only in his hate-filled diatribe when he saw a dangerous change in Light's expression. "I suppose you’re right. You aren't a friend to Matt. What you have isn't a friendship. What you have is a one-sided dysfunctional relationship based solely on abuse."

Near shook his head disparagingly. "Poor Matt. He should be nominated for sainthood, putting up with you."

"Bite me, Near."

Near quirked his head to the side and gave Mello a look. "Are you sure you're not gay? And do you really want me to take you up on that offer?"

"SHUT UP, YOU ALBINO FREAK! FUCKING MATT! STUPID FAGGOTTY LYING TRAITOR!"

"Traitor?" Light asked, "How exactly has he betrayed you?"

"He… he took advantage of my friendship!"

"Really? Has he ever forced you to do anything?"

"He… he kissed me!"

Near quirked an eyebrow "Really? And you had NO IDEA he was gay?"

"No, he kissed me just now!"

"And why would he do that?"

"…Because I demanded to know what the hell he was..." Mello suddenly fell suspiciously silent and resumed unpacking his stuff and making himself at home in Light's room.

That would not do; that would not do at all.

How could he plan his great escape with Mello nosing into his business? Besides, he needed his beauty sleep and his ears were bleeding from spending five minutes with the loud, obnoxious blonde. Well, desperate times called for desperate measures.

"Mello, you know that thing you're mad at Matt about? I am too."

"You're a lying son of a bitch? Yes, I already know that. I expect nothing less from you. But this is different. This is Matt!"

"Noooo," Light said slowly, "I'm the other thing you're mad at Matt about..."

"You're a video game addict?"

Light rolled his eyes. "Alright, I'll admit I do like playing video games on occasion. Before I was framed for murder and got involved with crazy detectives I led a very boring life but no, I meant the OTHER thing."

Mello dropped his bag again "YOU'RE GAY FOR ME TOO?!"

"What?! No! Not for you no, don't flatter yourself."

"You're… You're gay?!"

"I think I might be," Light admitted. "Up till recently I thought of myself as asexual but I've come to realize that I… I'm in love with another man. So, I suppose if you have a problem with Matt you should have a problem with me too."

"You… YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT SO I WON'T ROOM WITH YOU!"

"I believe him," said Near.

"You're being very unfair to him, you know. He's been very loyal to you and just look at the way you treat him when he admitted the way he feels—and you wonder why he kept secrets from you?"

"I didn't come here for a guilt trip," the blonde growled.

"Well, this is all easily remedied—go apologize."

"This again?!" Near groaned; remembering the last time Mello and Kira had that argument.

"What's the problem? Does actually apologizing cause your organs to rupture or something?" Mello looked at Linda strangely but then remembered she was raised by a professional hitman.

Mello just stood there, twitching, and he appeared to be in the process of grinding his teeth down to nothing.

"What's your problem with gays anyway?" asked Linda.

"IT'S UNNATURAL!"

"Say who?" Light challenged.

"SAYS ME!"

"Well I say there’s nothing wrong with it."

"AND WHY THE FUCK SHOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO YOU?" Mello snarled again.

"Because I'm older and more mature then you are, therefore I am right and my word is Law… Also because I said so."

"Seems legit," Near smirked, but with his usual deadpan delivery the sarcasm was lost on Mello.

"NO IT'S NOT! HE’S KIRA! HIS ARGUMENT IS INVALID!"

"It is a sign of a weak mind that you are forced to resort to Internet memes for your arguments."

"Awww, would you look at that, he misses Matt already!" Near piped up from the floor.

"What?! I do NOT!"

"You're speaking "Matt" again," Linda observed.

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much."

"FUCK YOU, KIRA!"

"Mello, if you're so against homosexuality than why do you keep offering to have sex with Light and myself?"

"SHUT UP! I’M NOT OFFERING! NOT IN YOUR WILDEST DREAMS YOU PERVERTED ALBINO ASSHOLE!"

"Tell me Mello, would you really rather room with Kira?"

"BETTER MURDERS AND GHOSTS THAN HAVE MY INNOCENCE TAINTED!"

Light choked back a laugh, Linda just laughed, and even Near snorted at that.
"SCREW YOU, NEAR!"

Near shook his head disparagingly. "You never learn, do you? No wonder you could never beat me."

"I'M GONNA FUCKING KILL YOU!!!!"

Light sighed as he again tried to get between the two rivals; trying to quell the fires of Mello's rage with reasonable discourse. "So… Mello did you come up with these brilliant ideas on your own or or…"

"MY PRIEST TOLD ME!" Mello snapped.

"And did he say this before or after he molested the altar boys?" Near quipped.

Well, that worked like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. Light found himself stepping in again to keep Mello from carrying out his threat to kill Near.

"You—YOU'RE ALL HATEFUL ASSHOLES! STOP PERSECUTING ME!"

"Well Mello, you're entitled to your opinion but personally, I think any God that would discriminate like that doesn't deserve to be God."

Mello looked utterly affronted by the older teen's blasphemy and then remembered that this was Kira.

"Why haven't you yet been struck down by a bolt of lightning?"

"So Kira… I'm sorry, Light, when are you going to announce your candidacy?"

Mello glared at Near like he’d grown a second head—he’d never seen the albino looking so amused.

"Hmmmm, yes that's a good idea. I think I’ll start my own gay religion just to piss off Mello. I'll be God, you guys can be my high priests and as you suggested Matt can be a major Saint..."

Near grinned. "He'd be the Patron saint of video games and putting up with blonde chocoholic assholes."

"Perhaps we should consider him a Martyr? I mean putting up with Mello—that's torture."

Light frowned, "Linda… you're being inordinately mean again."

"So? It's Mello! He's a jerk! He pushed me into a table, remember!"

"MATT ISN'T A SAINT!"

"No, no you're right… Matt is more like a martyr… No, I got it—Matt is Jesus."

Light, Near, and Linda agreed—Mello's ineffectual hissy fit was hilarious to watch and totally worth the broken furniture.

Mello stood there panting in the middle of the impressive mess he’d made, glaring daggers at the apparently gay murderer and blasphemer who he had been considering as his roommate…

"Well Near…" Mello began with an obviously forced smile, "I never thought I’d say this… but I want to room with you."

"No," said Near.

"WHAT?!"

"I said no. I don't want you to. I just finished fixing all my autobots you destroyed this morning."

"I'm sorry alright?! Please let me room with you?"

"Hmmm… I suppose I can let you room with me if you promise to play with me."

"Fine… I'll play with you!" Mello huffed.

"Good, just let me get the toys…"

Mello grimaced slightly at the thought of playing with Near's creepy dolls… sorry, action figures, but said, "Alright."

"…and condoms."

Mello took off running down the hall.

"MATT?! MATT! I’M SORRY! ALRIGHT?!"

Light again rubbed his forehead against the oncoming headache. "Please tell me you were joking," the murderer groaned as he regarded Near, wondering not for the first time just what sort of history the kid had that left him so screwed up.

Near again wore a devious smirk that was again far too-knowing for your typical twelve-year-old "You can never be too careful."

Chapter Text

("HEY KIDS! DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? ”)

The detective stared listlessly at the walls of his cell and shivered. He couldn’t even assuage the chill feeling by curling in on himself in his usual “thinking crouch” because after his escape attempt his captor’s had taken to keeping him strapped down to the bed (and thus reducing his processing power by 40%.) It hardly mattered—the detective knew he wasn’t shivering because it was cold in his cell but because his body was burning up with fever. Earlier one of K’s minions, Bob, had come by to give him a sponge bath after L was sick on himself. Naturally L had made careful observations of all his guards and Bob seemed to be the most sympathetic towards him—in fact L was 83% certain of it. Perhaps if he played his cards right he could use him to get out of this hellhole…

Of course Bob wasn’t the guard’s real name as far as he knew.  K’s minions never spoke to him and they all wore those identical matching biohazard suits and to the average observer they all looked the same but naturally the world’s greatest detective could discern definite differences in characteristics and mannerisms between each individual guard. L noted which one lacked confidence when he walked, which one was in charge, which one roughed him up… he noted the differences and mentally designated them names like Bob and John and Joe. In fact, he made a game out of it. After all, on top of being sick and miserable he was so very, very bored.

L’s mind hadn’t been this under-stimulated since before Wammy had found him at his old orphanage where he had engaged in such pastimes as counting the holes in the ceiling tiles in order to calculate how many holes were in the ceiling, creating his own languages to speak in that no one else could ever hope to understand, and dreaming up imaginary friends (because he had thought imaginary friends to be so much safer than real ones).

“(…ALONE SHE SLEEPS IN THE SHIRT OF MAN ”)

The captive detective smiled in the dark as the pounding sound came from the other side of the door.

Not that K and her people hadn’t left him entirely bereft of “entertainment.” She had left him with that big screen TV that she had used during her previous gloating session to plaster her smug, smiling face all over the screen. She had left him with the TV because, naturally, K wanted him to see her grand plan come to fruition while he was powerless to stop it. It was all stupid posturing. Here, she put him in an easily escapable situation… or rather, it would be an easily escapable situation if he wasn’t running such a high fever and didn’t fear spreading K’s plague upon his escape. In any case, it was an insult to his intelligence and the detective wondered why she didn’t include sharks with frickin’ laser beams while she was at it. There was one thing, however, that disturbed the detective—K or someone working with her had managed to jack into Wammy’s own live security feed network with worrying ease—he would have to talk to Watari about that (assuming of course that Watari was still alive.)

K would occasionally interrupt his viewing time; again shoving her grinning news anchor’s face into the camera in order to question him about Kira’s whereabouts. L had to stop himself from smiling; if K had been paying the least bit attention to the Wammy’s security feed she’d know who Kira was! However K seemed to be under the impression that Light, the new kid from Japan that the other children called “Kira” was a decoy that L had set up to help hide the real Kira and L did nothing to correct her assumptions.

L just continued to work—oh he was stuck in bed, the restraints made sure of that, but his mind was always in motion—ever-plotting, ever-planning, and ever-gleaning information from his stupidly careless captors. He carefully observed K’s mooks. They would enter his cell at unpredictable intervals sometimes it was to scream at him or rough him up but that never went very far. It was obvious that K or whoever was calling the shots didn’t want their prisoner dead yet because just as often it would be someone with medical training checking his temperature and, upon finding that he was “burning up,” torturing him by placing icepacks over his supine body and gave him an IV drip when he refused to eat or drink anything they gave him. L refused food most of the time. He wished he could say it was on general principle but really even if they were to give him real food like say cake, or ice cream or the other basic food groups he would have been too nauseous to eat it.

K had done him a favor, really. No matter what the motives behind leaving him the TV—he could stay informed of the goings on at Wammy’s House and this way he could continue to keep track of his latest project. Even with the looming specter of impending doom it was a welcome distraction from his sickness and the oppressiveness of these four walls and so the detective quickly fell back into his indulging in his most recent obsession—observing Kira.

( “…O CAN’T YOU SEE / YOU BELONG TO ME”)

(L just kept smiling as this time the pounding of fists on steel was followed by a screeching, ape-like sound.)

L found he sorely missed his mental sparring matches with the younger man. Even though Light was Kira (or as his fansites declared him to be “a God, the savior, the harbinger of doom and messenger from Hell”) he just hadn’t seemed that menacing during their walks in the park when he managed to get those soft pink Sakura petals stuck in his hair. And, truth be told, Light had provided him with greater mental stimulation than many of Wammy’s most complicated puzzles. The detective had felt confused and oddly empty when Light’s actions had essentially thrown in the towel in their little game because, as monstrous as the teen’s mind was, L honestly missed his company.

(“SUNSHINE, LOLLIPOPS AND RAINBOWS...”)

Being alone… it never bothered him before he met Light. But now… now he wished Light was there with them because misery loves company. He wouldn’t mind if Light was there even if it meant that they were at each other’s throats—especially if they were at each other’s throats. L found it greatly amusing to get him all worked up like that. The detective liked to imagine that if he and Light were sharing a cell (and if Light didn’t kill him immediately) they would be out of here and playing tennis within five minute of getting captured. Okay, that was a statistically improbable scenario but the detective could at least admit to himself that he did indeed have a human side.

But L knew that even before this unfortunate little setback with being kidnapped it had been necessary for him to distance himself from Light for a number of reasons—for ethics, for his sanity, and for Light’s sake—as long as Light saw this as something that L was forcing on him he would never even consider trying to “rehabilitate” for his own sake. It would be difficult enough as it was without adding their rivalry into the equation because in Kira’s mentality, he was doing nothing wrong. In Light’s mind he was helping the world and he would feel that he was being unjustly persecuted for his noble sacrifice and he would never stop to think or question himself. L knew because Light was just as stubborn as he was.

(“…THEY SAY THAT BLACK IS REALLY WHITE...”)

It was a long-shot, but L thought that maybe, just maybe, if Light was re-educated in Wammy’s Program and spent some time with other intelligent teenagers on his level it just might get Light to re-think his priorities. L didn’t hold out much hope for some miraculous turn-around but at the very least L was hoping he might tone down his raging God complex. (Though, again, L didn’t hold out much hope.) But at least this exercise should show his handlers that Light was safe around children and small pets and he knew what he was doing when he planned to count Kira as a tentative ally.  Luckily L’s current problems didn’t interfere with his long-term plans because he needed to strike a delicate balance when dealing with Light-kun. L knew he had to get Kira under his control but he also had to let Light believe he had been right. It was the lynchpin of his sanity and if he ever fully allowed himself to face down just what he had done he would probably break down entirely. L didn’t want Light broken. Sure, Kira deserved it plenty; but that wasn’t what L was trying to do here with his “rehabilitation” program—a broken Kira would be less than worthless to him. What he was trying to do was build upon the bonds of “friendship” he had extended to him and so collar him instead of killing him.

Why?

That was the question wasn’t it?

Why didn't he want to execute Kira-one of the most ruthless mass-murderers in recent years?

The captive detective had a lot of time to think about it and ultimately it all came down to the fact that L didn’t want to. Because he was unsettled and fascinated by this kindred soul, Kira, Light Yagami, and because while Light was a madman, he was a madman that L was rather fond of and, admittedly, he could be very useful in the future. And L always liked to expand upon his list of conquests: he already had Wedy, the world’s greatest thief, and Aiber, the world’s greatest conman. So shouldn’t he also procure the loyalty and services of the world’s greatest assassin? And while he wouldn’t take killing lightly, or as lightly as Light did, L knew from his career as a spook and Interpol’s trump card that one day Kira’s powers and skill set would undeniably come in handy. 

L wasn’t surprised that Light fit right into Wammy’s House, after all, the teen was a social chameleon and he could adapt well to most situations he would find himself in. L squeezed his bound hands into fists and shook slightly as he observed Kira from his cell. It was the first time that L really felt that K was interfering with his plans. If he still had contact with Wammy’s he would have been able to warn them that they really needed to pay closer attention to Light during his computer science class. L couldn’t see exactly what Light was doing from the angles of the camera (once again it seemed Kira somehow knew he was under surveillance and even the placement of the cameras) but L could tell by the ridiculously smug expression that Light wore when he thought no one was looking that he was obviously up to something. It was to be expected; Kira wasn’t one to give up and honestly L would be insulted if Light wasn’t trying to escape.

Later the detective had watched in fascination and amusement as Kira had, for lack of better words, thrown a hissy fit over the idea that the great detective L had successors (doubtlessly L had somehow wounded Kira’s enormous ego) and demanded to talk to him. L frowned at this as he reflected that perhaps he had been too aloof with his successors if Kira was the only one to notice he was gone. He really hoped his message got through.

However, L was surprised at how well Light was getting on with Near. He still wasn’t sure if that was cause for celebration or concern. The detective might have been slightly envious that Light had somehow managed what he had not, to finally get the boy to break out of his shell, but it probably helped that Light didn’t have any of L’s misgivings. L was always a bit wary of Near—in the back of his mind the reclusive detective couldn’t help but compare him to another of his successors that set out to copy him—L already had one “evil twin” and he wasn’t overly eager to have a repeat of that experience. That comparison was probably unfair but L had to acknowledge, at least to himself, that it was always there. (At the very least, now maybe Near would come to transfer his budding unhealthy obsession to Light and thus it would no longer be his problem…)

Still, the detective felt odd every time his successor tried to cling to the killer. Light was always polite and friendly but he set firm boundaries that Near seemed determined to cross. It was inevitable given the boy’s past. He had no idea how to appropriately express himself. Like so many of the orphans that came to them his sense of identity and self-worth had been utterly shattered by childhood trauma. Watari found that worked in their favor—the damaged child prodigies would be eager to work long and hard to rebuild and redefine themselves as L’s Successors. When he first came to them Near had been so traumatized that he had refused to even speak for over a year and initially had severe panic attacks whenever he received human contact. He scored the best in the school, though, and thus gained the ire of Wammy’s House and became all the more isolated. Though he was quiet and seemingly well-behaved (L knew the fact of the matter was that, unlike Mello, Near just didn’t caught), Near had just as much to prove as Mello. So it was… odd that Near and Light remained as sort-of-friends even after Light beat him for Wammy’s number one spot.

Having nothing better to do and seeing as K had yet to enact her “master plan” L paid close attention to the Wammy’s House Soap Opera in the hopes of solving this particular enigma. Honestly, L had seen the blonde and the red-head coming from a mile away (as did apparently everyone but them)—Mello was scarcely ever without his constant shadow—the Matt. The two had been inseparable since Matt first arrived at Wammy’s. And Mello’s reaction was also all-too predictable given his age and upbringing.

L gazed for hours at the TV screen spying on Light and his younger siblings but their antics got dull after a while. L was just beginning to tune it all out when he overheard Light declare that he was in love with another man. That’s when the detective decided to indulge in a long coughing fit that dislodged some of the more persistent phlegm that had taken up residence in the back of his throat. 

What the HELL is he playing at? Why would Light Yagami ever tarnish the perfect image he’d built up for himself?  And he had to be lying! The detective had observed the teen near constantly over the last few months. Surely he would have noticed if Light had a boyfriend? But what purpose did it serve to create a boyfriend that didn’t exist? If it was a fake girlfriend he could understand; that matched the kind of image Light was trying to project… no, that didn’t make sense either. If he took to using the excuse of a fake girlfriend and someone caught onto his deception that would also ruin his perfect image. Besides, if Light wanted a girlfriend he would no doubt have one. L remembered from Raye Penber’s notes that Light seldom dated because he was “busy studying.” (Busy studying at his school for normals? Studying material that he no doubt knew in his sleep?)

Perhaps he really is… He didn’t seem the least bit interested when he was looking at those magazines in his room…. L tried to determine if Light was particularly close to any of his male “friends.” Yamamoto, maybe? They did walk home together every day.

For completely professional reasons L tried to imagine Light getting intimate with the slender, bespectacled Japanese boy and felt an odd flash of some unidentified feeling at the thought and suddenly experienced a wave of nausea for no reason that he could discern.

The detective was puzzled by his own reactions. Why should the idea disturb him? L enjoyed watching all kinds of erotica—he had little requirements about porn other than it be done well and he frequently watched men having sex for work and pleasure. L even had his own secret network of perverts and peepers who answered only to him. But for some reason the idea of Light with Yamamoto bothered him.

The detective felt a whirling sense of anxiety in the pit of his stomach seeing as he couldn’t even bite his thumb in contemplation as he felt compelled to do. He wished he had some sweets to chew on. He wished his body didn’t ache. Hell, while he was wishing for things he wished he was out of here at this very instant and that he was visiting Wammy’s and had Kira baking cookies for him…

Whoa, where the hell did that come from?

L suddenly had the mental image of Light in a frilly apron and oven mitts; scolding him not to eat the fudge muffins because they just came out of the oven and he could have them when they’d cooled and to stay out of the frosting as well because it would ruin his teeth. Perhaps his fever was causing him to hallucinate.

L frowned and leaned his head back against the rock-hard mattress. His long dark hair had become stringy and sweaty thanks to his illness and it pulled painfully as it was caught underneath his body.

The detective merely frowned as he stared at the featureless ceiling of his cell.

He’s “in love with another man…” Perhaps his beau was older? Or maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. Light never said he had a boyfriend—just that he was in love with another man. What if it’s unrequited? What if the idiot is utterly clueless about Light’s feelings?  What if…?

L suddenly shot up, or rather tried to, pulling futilely against the restraints.

No. It couldn’t be…

Naturally, to be the world’s greatest detective he had a superhuman attention to detail and a near eidetic memory but… but he couldn't be remembering this right, could he? The detective found himself wishing he could rewind the feed because if he recalled the first night. He remembered how Light had snarled out his codename in such an irritated… no frustrated tone of voice. He hadn’t thought much of it at the time but… but Light had immediately rolled over onto his stomach as if to hide…

That’s ridiculous! It has to be a coincidence. I mean, it can’t be… He knows I’m his enemy! He knows I vowed to see him executed! He knows that… and he still saved my life.

In another completely professional experiment L imagined the same scenario in his mind—of a naked body entwined with Light’s—only replacing himself with Yamamoto and the detective discovered he had no problem imaging himself meeting Light on some secret rendezvous.  That’s when L recognized that the strange feeling he had been experiencing was jealousy.

Th-there’s no use denying it. I… I like Light-kun.

Naturally, he had wanted to deny it but to do so would be to ignore the facts of the case and that would have gone against his training. L felt he had solved this in record time given how very emotionally stunted he was: Light liked him. He liked Light. Or at the very least their mutual interactions of friendly hostility served as a cover for latent sexual attraction. There. Mystery solved. It was just his rotten luck that he had this potentially life-changing epiphany when he was nowhere near Light and currently strapped to a bed, locked in some nondescript cell in an undisclosed location, and infected with an unknown custom virus. But then when had things ever been easy for him? It was just one more reason he needed to get the hell out of here.

Damn you, Kira!

Adding to his many difficulties, fantasizing about Light had had an effect on him and since he was strapped to the bed he had no way to relieve himself. All he could do was wait—it would go down eventually.

A guard, the one that L had taken to mentally referring to as “John,” came in to change his bedpan before it did. L could tell, even through the darkened helmet that the bastard was eyeing his tenting hospital gown—the infantile snickering sounds that reverberated inside the moon suit was a dead giveaway. L’s pale skin burned red with fever and humiliation but “John” would ultimately be disappointed as L stoically gave no reaction to any of the guard’s pointed remarks. And despite his threatening words he touched him no more than was necessary to clean him.

I doubt he wants to get infected. It’s unlikely he’ll try anything, no matter how cool and sexy I am. L thought feverishly. Then again, he might be that stupid… L wondered if he had to fear anything from “John” or if he was just being an ass… but then he supposed that those two conditions weren’t mutually exclusive. L hated being sick. It was obviously affecting his judgment. That and he was no doubt suffering from decreased reasoning capabilities what with the blood flowing into the wrong head.

L indulged in a few minutes mentally cursing Kira, K, microorganisms, stupid henchmen, and healthy eating and felt a bit better about himself. And that’s when L had first thought up his most perfect revenge:

"…NA NA NA NAAA NA NA NAA NANANA THUNDER! / NA NA NA NAAA NA NA NAA NANANA THUNDER!

…AIGAN SEZUMO HŌ NI AKU!” 

"…SOBREVIVIENDO!

"…WHAT’S UP! FUANZAI IP-PAI HANZAI--” L serenaded his guards and anyone else within hearing range.

I SAID QUIET IN THERE!” once again came the answering shriek and banging on the door for the 156th time that day. (L, naturally, had kept score.)

Playing loud music at all hours of the day and night was an acknowledged siege tactic as well as a torture technique often used to demoralize prisoners but L adapted it now to use against his captors. He had no loud speakers, no music player, but that didn’t stop him from singing his throat raw. The normally soft-spoken detective was perfectly capable of shouting at the top of his lungs.

“…ROCK OF AGES! / STILL ROLLIN’”

He would sing until his lungs gave out. He would sing until they let him go or killed him but then L knew he was no use to them dead. They wouldn’t kill him until they carried out their grand plan, after all, they wanted him alive to gloat to, so that gave L carte blanche to push as hard as he could and to be as obnoxious as possible.

L recalled how Light had occasionally made catty remarks about his lifestyle choices and poor manners but though his suspect may not believe it L had seldom been intentionally obnoxious. After all, he had been forced to work directly with the Japanese police and had been in the middle of dancing and dueling with a suspect with an unknown murder weapon that had no compunction about killing people over any perceived slight. Truly, during the Kira case L had been on his best behavior.

Light had never seen L when he was really trying.

He averaged about twelve songs an hour and especially tried to remember one with especially obnoxious and repetitive lyrics and he would often sing the same songs over and over and over and over again.

…YEAH, YEAH, YEAH…

***

"WOOHOO! / WOOHOO!” 

***

Hey, they were making him miserable. It was, after all, only fair to return the favor—an eye for an eye.

Most of the guards seemed to attribute it to their prisoner’s high fever and his losing his mind. It didn’t even occur to them that L was doing it on purpose so that they would stop watching him so closely so he could finish getting out of the restraints. Of course L knew that K and her cronies could’ve shut him up if they sedated him again but L had taken the calculated risk that K wouldn’t want him overdosing on sedatives before he’d bore witness to her “moment of glory.” It seemed that, so far, sedating him hadn’t even occurred to them.

“…POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME!”

L actually had quite a lovely singing voice when he put an effort into it. However, for the sake of his audience he was purposely singing loudly and off-key. After a day of imprisonment and regaling his captors with his magnificent karaoke skills L had managed to covertly work one of his restraints loose.  

The detective made a game of it. After the guards yelled, L would be quiet for while, (an unpredictable, measured interval. For instance this time he counted to 314 before starting up again. Sometimes it was the same song over and over (and over and over) again. Other times, like now he found another song that would be at least just as annoying to his captors.

THE CANDYMAN!” L absolutely loved that song. That and “Pure Imagination” even L lost track of how many times he sang those songs to his captive audience.  

"OH MY GOD, WILL YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT WILLY WONKA!” one of the guards screamed back through the door.

"Just ignore him, Ikari.” Another guard shouted in order to be heard over L’s caterwauling.

The detective smirked in the dark of his cell. Well would you look at that. I’m wearing them down and now I actually know one of their names (Where’s Kira when you need him?) Either that or whoever chose his alias is an anime fan...

L kept his face as a stoically blank mask. The guards were holding out much longer than L anticipated. The detective had been singing for nearly six hours straight with just small breaks in between songs.

This time L only counted to 12 before…

WE’RE NO STRANGERS TO LOVE! / YOU KNOW THE RULES AND SO DO I!

***

THAT’S IT! I’M COMING IN THERE!

L waited while the guard that was identified as “Ikari” that L had previously thought of as a “John” forced the door open and rushed into his cell with obviously murderous intentions.

Chapter Text

As one of the huge, enraged, faceless guards rushed into his cell L reflected on how, so far, everything had gone according to plan. He had managed to get one hand loose after hours of struggling in the dark and now he’d managed to force a confrontation. He had yet to see how much he’d regret this decision. Theoretically he could’ve fought back but to do so would mean, quite literally, revealing his hand. Besides, L preferred not to fight with his hands. His hands were delicate and much needed for playing with candy and typing on his laptop. He was better at fighting with kicks anyway. (Now if he had one foot free he could’ve wiped the floor with this loser…) So, with the discipline won from years of training the detective kept still, arranging his hand so that to the casual eye it would still appeared to be bound.

The human hand has twenty seven bones (not counting the sesamoid bones the number of which varies from person to person) many of them tiny and easily breakable, especially when slamming them into someone else’s face. As Ikari drew back his fist L took some solace from that fact—right before the moment of impact the detective could see and project from the awkward angle that the guard was going to hit wrong and break his hand. L forced his body to go as limp as a ragdoll at the moment of impact. While this wasn’t exactly something he was looking forward to, the detective knew how to take a beating—he had a few years of experience.

The detective was soon sensing the familiar explosion of pain and bright lights from behind his eyelids as his attacker howled with simian fury. However the detective wasn’t too concerned about that—he couldn’t afford to be—he had to focus on the task at hand. Of course L knew a concussion was never something to take lightly but his fever helped numb his perceptions—it was as if the whole sordid thing was happening far away and to someone else. The only thing that assured him that this was real was the pain. His attacker drew back his fist to hit him again and again. The detective silently took the hits and concentrated on the plan. If he just survived this he was confident that he would be successful. The guard wrapped his beefy hands around his neck and squeezed.

Just as the world was beginning to go dark around the edges his attacker was abruptly ripped off him by another guard. L immediately, desperately wheezed in oxygen and hoped that it was over now.

“We have our orders! The boss lady says he remains alive!” his rescuer, the guard L thought of as “Bob” (the one who he noticed was sympathetic towards him), shouted over the other’s unintelligible shrieks of rage. L’s attacker continued to throw a tantrum and struggled to resume his assault but the other steadfastly held him back.

“Dude, it’s not worth it. You’re giving him what he wants!”

“Six! Fucking! Hours!” Ikari snarled. “He’s been at it for six fucking hours! How can you be so calm about this?”

“I have a two-year old son at home so I’m used to having someone try to drive me insane… What’s wrong?” Bob asked when the other guard quite obviously cringed in pain.

“I think I broke my hand…” Ikari whined.

“Yes, on the prisoner’s face—when the boss said he was not to be harmed. Don’t expect sympathy.”

Ikari winced again, this time in fear, and L profiled him as merely a pathetic bully.

“Why don’t you go home and take a breather? I’ll cover for you.”

“Thanks, man. You’re a lifesaver. But you know if I hear “Call Me Maybe” one more time I swear I’m going on an arson rampage,” Ikari grumbled to himself as he, unfortunately, lingered by the door.

“You really shouldn’t give him ideas,” Bob muttered darkly before turning to the prisoner and asking in quite a reasonable tone “Hey, could you please keep it down in here? The boss lady said not to kill you but if you keep singing the guys are probably gonna ignore that and kill you, anyway—no matter what the boss lady’s orders are.”
On his prison cot the detective lay very still. He was sorely tempted to rub at his bruised and throbbing neck but he couldn’t risk exposure. He just hoped to get rid of the guards as soon as possible.

L merely made a grunting noise in affirmation. As Ikari had so eloquently put it, he had been singing for six fucking hours—neither that nor the choking session had been easy on his throat. He felt crowded with the two guards surrounding him in the cell. He wasn’t comfortable in speaking face to face with anyone for any length of time, his cheek was swelling where he’d been hit and he probably had a shiner to go with it, and his mouth and throat felt dry and raw from his singing and his sickness, and he knew that this stress really wasn’t helping his fever.

“Look, I know you must be bored and all…”

The detective nearly laughed. For once being bored was the least of his worries…

“What the hell are you doing? Babysitting isn’t in our job description,” Ikari snarled. Bob ignored him. “He’s probably thirsty too… Hey, I’ll give you my Gatorade if you stop singing for a while. Okay?” Bob bargained as he waved the sugary sports drink in front of the deprived sugar junkie’s bugged out eyes. The detective was momentarily thrown by the strange, suspicious show of kindness but Bob’s concern sounded genuine and L really was thirsty.

“Deal,” croaked out L and Bob helped pour the neon blue liquid down the sickly detective’s parched throat

Oh sweet divine nectar of empty calories!

The detective hummed in pleasure as he swallowed down every drop of the sugary drink. He barely managed to gasp out a weak-sounding “Thanks, Bob” when he was finished.

The guard seemed to regard him strangely through the darkened helmet.

“How did you know my name—wait. You know what? Never mind. I don’t want to know. There’s too much freaky shit around here. Just like the other one...”

“Wait, your name really is Bob?” L asked incredulously.

Bob wasn’t exactly a Japanese name but L knew that while many members of Blue Ship were Japanese since their organization started in Japan; K had since recruited a hodgepodge of henchmen from every continent—equal opportunity evil. “Bob” spoke with an American accent, California regional, and from his slight asthmatic wheezing indicative of smog-damaged lungs L could deduce that it was 98% likely he was from the Los Angeles area.

“Yup, Bob Bottomslash. From the ancient and noble house of Bottomslash,” the guard informed him with utter deadpan delivery.

“What are you thinking? Telling him your name?!” hissed Ikari as he watched L and Bob’s congenial interactions with growing disbelief.

Bob shrugged. “What’s he gonna do? Tell Kira? Do you really think that those two are in bed together?”

“Bottomslash?!” L murmured and the guard’s posture seemed to stiffen.

“People are always making fun of my name.”

“I meant no disrespect…” If you think that’s tough you should try growing up as a boy named “L.”

Before Wammy found him L had resided at another orphanage where the children and even some of the adults would call him “Ellie,” and tease him, and say he must really be a girl. He couldn’t help but agree that his parents must have been crack heads… but then at least he didn’t have a name like Bottomslash.

Wait… Bottomslash… where have I heard that name before…? It just seemed important somehow. L frowned. He would have thought for sure that he’d remember encountering a name like “Bottomslash” before…

Bottomslash. Bob Bottomslash.

B.B.

L squeezed his “bound” hands into fists but forced his face to remain its usual blank mask.

“Er…. By any chance is Bob short for Robert?”

“Nope, just Bob.”

That bastard! That absolute bastard!

It became all too apparent to the detective why they selected a friendly one with that name to be his guard.

“Well, er… Bob… you seem like an okay guy… I hope you do realize that your boss will get rid of you as soon as you’re no longer useful?”

Bob shrugged. “How is that different from any other job? It was either this or Walmart and this gig has a great dental plan.”

The detective suppressed a sigh. He didn’t suppose he could convince the man his life was in danger. Admittedly, it had been nice to have someone to talk to that wasn’t calling for his blood even if he was an easily offended idiot (L supposed, in a completely unrelated tangent, that was part of the beauty of his relationship with Light—he could say whatever the hell he wanted to Light and Light would still have to act civil or L would raise his Kira percentage.)

“Well, it was nice talking with you, Bob Thanks for the drink.”

L could feel the other guard’s glaring, and killing intent, even from beneath his helmet.

C’mon, Bob. And you! I don’t want to hear another word out of you!”

“Alright, I promise I will not sing another word,” the detective said solemnly.

If Ikari were any smarter he might have been a bit more suspicious about the wording, let alone the way the detective was smiling.

“You’d better not!” Ikari snarled as the guards left and the metal door slammed shut again with a resounding clang.

The detective waited awhile, making sure that no more guards would come rushing in anytime soon, and tested the waters by quietly humming the Mission Impossible theme (the guard said he didn’t want to hear another word. He said nothing about humming…) When there was no answering growl from the other side of the door L smiled in the dark triumphantly. It seemed they truly believed him cowed. Human perceptions were such a funny thing—L knew all too well from his chosen profession that if one is focused on one thing it was all too easy to miss the obvious—such as how when Ikari was busy beating him L had managed to lift the keycard off the guard’s belt and hide it in his long greasy hair.

Stage 1 of his escape plan was complete. That just left Stage 2—escape the cell, knock out a guard (hopefully not Bob), and steal his all-concealing moon suit. That should also help prevent him from spreading K’s virus and infecting the world. L called it Operation Stormtrooper. (He hadn’t actually named the first phase of his plan. Looking back on it though… perhaps Operation Stupid? Operation Pain? Operation Fuck-I’m-Not-Doing-That-Again? L figured he’d leave that part out if he ever again so took leave of his faculties and felt compelled to write his autobiography.)

It was far from a perfect plan. In fact it had several flaws—the suit would drastically hinder his movements so it would become difficult to defend himself in a fight. L was hoping to leave undetected so that there wouldn’t be a need for him to fight. When he took the suit he would undoubtedly infect the guard he “borrowed” the suit from. And finally, he’d have to stand up straight—because if L suddenly went missing and at the same time a slouching guard appeared that was bound to attract attention. That seemed the most insurmountable issue— Kira? K? Faceless mooks? Zombie Beyond Birthday? Bring ‘em on! But L wasn’t sure he could defeat his scoliosis, a condition which had been long nurtured by his years of work crouched in front of a computer screen. Stand up straight? His back gave an audible crack of protest at the mere thought!

Oh well, he’d burn that bridge before he came to it… or something. Damn, he needed sugar and caffeine. Mostly sugar. At this rate he was going into a diabetic coma!

L had just freed himself from the bonds and sat up on the bed when he nearly had a heart attack.

“Naughty, naughty Lawli dearest!

Damnit!

“What’s the matter? Got nothing to say? And here I was so hoping you would serenade me some more!” The thing asked as he slowly dragged a dull claw down L’s face, digging into his already bruised and bloody cheek. The explosion of pain confirmed his fears. There was no denying it. This wasn’t a dream. He was wide awake, and there was no way he was imagining those crimson eyes burning in the dark.

L’s worst nightmare leered at him from the end of the bed.

Chapter Text

He felt so impotent.

The man’s grotesque face was contorted further into a dismissive sneer as he grabbed hold of Ryuuzaki’s long, greasy hair and brutally pressed the mouth of the gun up against his temple. All he could do was watch helplessly and hope to find the man’s name before he did what he kept threatening to do—end Ryuuzaki’s life.

(That wasn’t his. Ryuuzaki was his! His nemesis. His to play with, his to kill—his! )

Thirty five seconds ago Yamada Jiro’s fate was sealed—just five more seconds and Kira’s Judgment hammers down from the heavens (or rather from the security room in The Imperial Hotel). But if he had a mind to that would be more than enough time for Jiro to pull the trigger and end L’s life and reduce the World’s Greatest Detective and the smartest man Light had ever known to a nameless corpse. Light was seriously wishing there was some way to make the notebook work faster.

He shouldn’t care. L was Kira’s enemy. L had to die. It shouldn’t matter how L met his end. It just… it seemed cheap; it was far too easy—such a victory would always ring hollow.

Light knew he shouldn’t have written those names in the notebook (he knew it was as good as announcing that he was Kira) but… (Ryuuzaki, his father…) It almost frightened him that he scarcely had to think about it before reaching for a pen…

He’d deal with that later.

Light checked his watch again and fought down his rising panic. It should have happened by now. He glanced back up at the monitors and did a double-take when he realized that Jiro didn’t look like Jiro anymore. For a moment he thought he was looking into a mirror. No, that’s not right. You’d think he’d know if he had an evil twin or something. No, something was definitely wrong. Why was he having trouble recognizing the face of L’s attacker? Had he suddenly developed prosopagnosia or something? That was a frightening thought and would put a serious road block in his plans to be God of the New World.

The image flashed and shifted again and for a moment Light thought he was looking at a copy of L’s face gracing the features of L’s attacker. But that didn’t make any sense…

No. That’s not right either! Besides, I know L’s face! I know that pale and sickly grey-white skin, the large, thick lips, the almost goblin-like pointed nose, and those almost non-existent pencil thin eyebrows which he sometimes quirks, Spock-like when he’s irritated by the simpletons we are surrounded with. I know every bag beneath those bulging dark eyes of his (they look black but if the light emitted from the laptop screen hits them just right you can see that they’re really this deep shade of dark blue—like the evening sky or twin sapphires. That’s how I might describe them if I was prone to gushing about L, which I am not. And I know his moods. I can tell when he’s stressed, when he’s depressed. He hunches in even more than usual—sometimes there’s a slight flinch, as if waiting to be struck. Sometimes I wonder if someone hurt him in the past or if he’s neurotic all on his own. That’s not right. No one should be able to hurt the great and powerful L. I bet he’s a freak on his own. In any case I made sure to memorize every nuance, every detail—anything that might help lead me to truly knowing L—to discovering his identity, I needed to know that face so well I could sketch it in my sleep because I need to be ready for the day when I finally learned the bastard’s name and put ink to paper. That’s all. There’s nothing more to it.

(…Shut up, Ryuk.)

More importantly… the matter at hand—that thing is not L. How could it be? L is there as the hostage being held at gun… no knife-point (when did it become a knife?) and that thing is holding the knife…

Perhaps his brain had finally managed to process the image but it still didn’t make any sense—it was almost like he was seeing a Shinigami with L’s face—except for the eyes (sanguine eyes, luminescent eyes, Shinigami eyes?) A Shinigami with L’s face—that had to be the most disturbing image ever, and yes that even included Mello’s wardrobe.

Light shuddered in horror at the sudden mental imagine of a Shinigami L following him around, incessantly whining at him for cake and candy like Ryuk demanded apples and then wondered what the hell his brain was doing when he was in the middle of a crisis—this was L’s life on the line here! (Er… not that he cared about L. At all. Of course not—that’s utterly ridiculous.) It was like a part of his mind had shut down and he’d gone into a fugue state when the Death Note had failed to work. The Death Note never fails! The only possibility would be human error and the God of the New World does not make mistakes! (At least none that are worth acknowledging—that “prank item” being real, Lind L. Tailor, Naomi Misora… none of that mattered seeing that it would all work out in the end.)

Light startled out of his ruminations when he realized that the monstrous mockery of L seemed to be staring right at him; somehow locking eyes with him through the security cameras.

It was strange.

At some point the hotel lobby had disappeared, becoming what seemed to be some kinky hospital bondage fantasy. L was suddenly wearing one of those paper hospital gowns and was strapped down to an operating table; the monster that shared his face looming above him. There was a taunt in the creature’s eyes as they shifted and became naught but demonic crimson slits.

The audio crackled to life. “Care to join us, Kira?” The L-thing asked; his voice was gravely and deep, like a raven’s cough.

“Isn’t this what you wanted?” the creature cooed, the tone adding a kind of bored derision to his words as he far too casually plunged the knife into the detective’s heart.

“L!” Light shouted as he awoke with a start; his chest heaving as he gasped for air.

Just a nightmare.

Well, at least he hoped it was a nightmare and not the start of some weird sex dream.

“It was just a nightmare,” Light insisted; irritation bleeding into his voice as Ryuk giggled inanely from his corner of the room (his roommate obviously assumed it was that sort of dream.)

Light scowled as his eyes refocused upon the sights of his dreary and dusty bedroom—the one he had chosen because it had formerly belonging to a psychotic killer. (Now however it belonged to God.)

Light scowled at the dust motes dancing in the moonlight. Normally Light would be very meticulous (as in obsessively tidy—his mother would settle for nothing less) and clean any room designated his to perfection but he hadn’t bothered cleaning it like he would had it been his own room because he’d been occupied with other things and it’s not like he planned to stay here very long. This wasn’t his room but his cell—let someone else clean it.

Damn, he felt dirty even thinking it. But it was also a strategic move; he could tell when someone had entered the room by the way the layers of dust would be disturbed (most frequently it was “small kid and robot” tracks.)

As Light finally got his breathing under control and his eyes adjusted to the dark he vowed, right then and there, that that was the last time he ever agreed to attend one of Matt’s late-night study sessions that involved pizza laced with suspicious-looking herbs. It had only become necessary this time because since Mello and Matt still weren’t talking to each other Light had ended up partnered with Matt in Computer Science Class. (Matt’s project was utterly brilliant! Now if he could just break the multiple encryptions on it, it would do much to further Kira’s goals…)

Light concentrated on taking in long, slow breaths and banishing the disturbing images from his mind.

How dare that nightmare monster do that to—!

Something is clearly wrong. Ryuuzaki should have at least contacted me to gloat by now. It’s what I would have done...

Though he was rarely wrong, Light admittedly needed more evidence than just his gut feeling to convince his jailers of the unpleasant truth—that something must have happened to L.

Light again sternly reminded himself that regardless of any personal feelings on the matter L was Kira’s enemy and he really shouldn’t care if L was lying dead in a gutter somewhere… but then again, he justified it to himself since he was pretending to be Ryuuzaki’s good friend it would be more suspicious not to be worried, so…

That was why he’d begun that job during Computer science class yesterday which Matt had christened “The L Stalker 6.0.” (Light didn’t ask about what happened to versions one through five or who attempted to create them though he was sure there was a story there.) Even if all this turned out to be nothing or, more likely, just some screwy manipulative tactic of the detective’s the program would still come in handy later. (It better not be just a manipulation or…or Kira would… kill him even harder than he had been planning to before for embarrassing him and even making him feel concern for the bastard!)

The problem was that L was L—the detective was so very secretive, Light was pretty sure that at this point no one, not even these kids… especially not these kid who hardly ever met him, knew L like he did (well, except for Watari. Watari probably knew L better than he did but the old man was unquestioningly loyal to L and so Light kind of doubted that the old man would be willing to have a heart-to-heart with a Kira suspect. Which was a damned shame; Light imagined chatting with the elderly gentlemen over a cup of tea, looking over L’s embarrassing baby photos, and oh-so-casually learning L’s full name. And his full name would probably be something plain or embarrassing like Lyle or Larry and he would have changed it to just an initial to make himself look cool because a say… “Detective Larry Melvin Poindexter” didn’t quite strike the same sense of awe and terror as the great and powerful “L” does.

“Well…”

Light was abruptly torn from his thoughts, he jerked from his place sitting up in the bed when he heard someone speaking to him and it wasn’t Ryuk.

“That must have been an… interesting dream, Kira.”

Light slowly turned to lock eyes with his super-persistent substitute stalker. The pale boy seemed to take on an ethereal glow, illuminated by the silvery light of the moon through the window and just like L the boy’s unnerving, coal black eyes tracked his every move. Though, as usual, the almost L-like sense of menace was kind of ruined by the fact that the boy was clutching a blocky toy robot like a security blanket.

“What the hell—” Light began with a snarl but stopped, his words tapering off into a groan. It was too damned early to deal with this crap. Light took a deep breath and tried again, this time remembering to keep a firm hold of his mask of civility… and sanity. “What are you doing here?”

Near rubbed his eyes with his free hand and whined “I couldn’t sleep” and in that moment Near looked like just a child instead of the current bane of Kira’s existence. It made Light wonder which of them was the better actor.

“I locked the door,” Light stated irritably.

“I picked the lock,” Near shrugged while folding the plastic parts of his robot up into a truck to so he could obnoxiously drive, or rather scrape it around the floor making “vroom-vroom” noises.

Light just rolled his eyes. “Of course. Because privacy means nothing to you people.”

“I assumed you’d be smart enough to know that mass murderers don’t get privacy.” The white-haired boy flashed him a creepy grin. “But I suppose it’s a point in your favor that you look so very innocent when you’re sleeping.”

Only when I’m sleeping?” Light teased lightly, allowing a roguish smirk to grace his normally stoic features.

“Naturally, Kira,” said Near, rolling his eyes. “So, was it predictive?” the albino asked suddenly.

“What?”

“Your dream.”

Oh yeah, there was that line of bullshit he fed them about having psychic dreams. He really needed to remember to keep his story straight. Making stupid mistakes—that’s how idiots get caught and he was certainly no idiot (and if he had to change his story later he would at least have to have a really good excuse for lying in the first place.)

“I hope not.” Light answered honestly.

“What was it about?” Near asked, again sounding innocent enough but Light was familiar enough with how L operated to know the game and this line of inquiry was in fact a direct attack against him. The questions would come, tenacious and unyielding, and they would continue until his interrogator was satisfied. Until then they’d just keep gnawing away at him with the persistence of a dog worrying at a bone. Light found that in this scenario it was best to give them something to focus on rather than allow them to focus on ferreting out what you want to keep hidden. Also in his current role as Light Yagami, son of the Chief of police and the innocent wronged best friend of L, he would have no reason to lie about this really and it was best to disabuse the various perverts spying on him of the notion that he had been having a sex dream about L.

Light took to fiddling with the blankets in an attempt to mask his reactions and because surely a “best friend” would be worried… “I saw L’s death.”

“How did you do it?” Near prodded.

“It wasn’t me!” Light shouted irritably, not even having to fake his annoyance. “It was this other guy—he kind of looked like L except he had red-eyes…”

Near’s grip slipped on his robot-truck in surprise and his truck went shooting under Light’s bed. This almost went unnoticed as Near had nearly gone into a sort of “super-thinking trance” upon hearing this latest revelation. Mello, with his big mouth, had mentioned the L.A.B.B. murder cases to Light but Kira should have no knowledge of what B looked like. Of course that did not preclude the possibility that he somehow learned it on his own… Or maybe Kira really did have psychic powers.

Near idly made to chase after his robo-truck but was stopped by a sudden hand on his shoulder.

Don’t. It’s nasty down there—I’ll get it,” Light insisted.

It was already well-known that B had made many hidey holes beneath this room to store his gruesome trophies but it wouldn’t do if Near noticed that one of those hidey holes was recently used. Of course he had been careful but careful wasn’t good enough—he had to be perfect. These kids weren’t the detectives he usually deceived (though so far they seemed to be just as easily manipulated) but they were L’s protégés—best not to underestimate them. He wasn’t about to be done in by a dust mote being out of place. (He liked having it nearby and within easy access in case he needed to use it but perhaps it would be for the best if he moved it from its current hiding place to the old church today. Yes, that did seem like the best secondary hiding place.)

“Here you go!” Light declared; turning on the charm as he produced Near’s errant toy.

“You have a spider in your hair,” Near observed. The child prodigy watched in amusement as Light jumped and made an odd strangled sound before coming to his senses.

Opiliones, said to be the most venomous spider in the world…”

Using Near’s robo-truck, Light batted the offending creepy-crawly out of his hair and onto the ground and followed this up with a thorough smiting with his sneaker so that it’s little spider guts were now ground into the floor boards.

Ha! Take that! As if a pathetic little bug could ever take down the God of the New World! Light smirked down victoriously at his latest victim.

“…But that’s a myth,” Near continued in a bored, lecturing tone. “Opiliones, commonly known as the harvestmen or the daddy long legs, are quite harmless. It’s actually physically impossible for them to even bite humans and they eat many harmful insects. I notice you did not hesitate to kill it, Kira.”

“Oh for the love of… You said it was dangerous!”

Whatever Near was going to say was interrupted by an incessant pounding on the door.

Light sighed, straightened out his black and white fuzzy skull and cross bone pajamas (not his usual choice, honestly, whoever picked out his wardrobe had a sick sense of humor) and went to answer it. When Light opened the door an exhausted and harried looking Matt spilled into the room. Matt stood their shaking in the doorway for a moment before gripping the lapels of Light’s pajamas in his desperation and began shouting at them with a manic and slightly spaced look on his face:

“You were right! He’s gone!”

Chapter Text

“Did you hear me? L is gon—What’s Near doing here?”

Light just rolled his eyes and began the delicate process of prying Matt’s fingers out of the death grip he currently had on the lapels of his fuzzy black and white skull pajamas.

“Stalking me, apparently,” the older teen grumbled as he glanced up at the latest intruder and noted the dark bags that had formed beneath the gamer’s normally bright cerulean eyes. Light found this peculiar seeing as Matt usually managed to avoid such obvious signs of insomnia by being “the Slacker of Wammy’s House” but here the be-goggled boy was looking manic and ruffled like he’d just been playing World of Warcraft for seventy two hours straight.

“Whatever… Anyway, like I was saying, I got to looking on that thing, you know that thing we were doing and you were right!”

“Yeah, that’s been known to happen on occasion.”

Matt fiddled with his goggles nervously upon seeing their prisoner/classmate/Kira suspect looking far too smug for anyone’s good.

“Even a broken clock can be right twice a day,” Near said with a sardonic tug of his snowy locks and then gave another of his trademarked creepy grins as he declared that “Which reminds me, right before you came in Light Yagami just had a psychic dream that L was in trouble and if his psychic dream is to be believed Beyond Birthday is back and has L. We must inform Roger immediately.”

“Wait what?! You believe me just like that?” Light asked incredulously.

“It’s so stupid it must be the truth.”

Light quickly schooled his features into his standard mask so he wouldn’t gape at the platinum blonde like a gormless idiot.

I don’t really follow that train of logic but… whatever—as long as it gets the desired results.

Shouldn’t it have been obvious that he was bullshitting him about the whole psychic dream thing? He didn’t take Near for being so gullible! And who said anything about Beyond Birthday? He hadn’t said anything about Beyond, he just saw a second, red-eyed L-lookalike… thing which Light thought was just some highly symbolic dream-thing where L, by being an enemy of Kira, was his own worst enemy and creating his own downfall, or at least that was how Light interpreted it.

Light tried to remember what Beyond Birthday looked like—sure he had known Beyond Birthday’s name and face in order to kill him but that was a while ago, it might have been on a Tuesday, but in any case he’d killed quite a few other people since then.

The most notable thing Light recalled about the murderer, besides the gruesome deaths he committed, was his bizarre name.

Seriously, who names their kid Beyond? That’s even worse than Light! (And I got teased enough about that in grade school… not that anyone ever needs to know that.) But Beyond Birthday? The jokes are just too easy:

“…That boy’s Beyond the Pale,” “Run! It’s the Beyonder!” “He must do all his shopping at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” “To Infinity… and Beyond!” “Here comes the Birthday Boy! And today it really is his birthday!” “What’s he got for his birthday?” “A B.B. gun…”

Huh? Maybe that’s why he became a psycho killer?

Light wracked his brains trying to remember the funny-looking man in the mug shots, it proved to be quite a difficult exercise since he only saw the photo once, months ago, and since he’d already killed Beyond Birthday he had thought it inconsequential to remember it. Though as unlikely as it was, the memory did return to him, perhaps aided by his dream. He now remembered an image of a man with long, messy black hair, pale skin, dark shadowed under-eyes, and an unnervingly blank expression…

He hadn’t made the connection because he hadn’t even met L at the time but now that he thought about it L kind of looked like Beyond Birthday… or rather Beyond Birthday had looked a lot like L.

Is that what Mello meant when he said B was completely obsessed with L? It seems I’m not the only one with a stalker problem... Yet the sixty four surveillance cameras in my bedroom suggest that any negative experiences L might have had failed to teach him any valuable lessons about how stalking people isn’t cool. I couldn’t even turn around without having a lens poked up me up my … elbow. Yeah, elbow. Bad Light—there are kids present.

As he thought this Light finally noticed the kids were looking at him expectantly and so registered the latter half of Near’s earlier statement: “We must inform Roger immediately.”

“What? Right now?"

Near affixed him with his cold, black gaze. “You don’t want to help L? But then that is to be expected I suppose. It’s obvious why…”

“Of course I want to help L but I’m in my pajamas! Mr. Ruvie is less likely to take this seriously if I show up in my pajamas!”

“So? Roger lets me wear pajamas all the time,” protested the albino boy.

Matt coughed. “Er… yeah, I heard it’s because he’s given up hope on you.”

Near frowned. “That’s not very nice.”

“Well, er… that’s what Mello says anyway so it might not be entirely… um… accurate? Truthful? Grounded in reality?” Matt trailed off distractedly, his mind grasping for anything to distract that line of thought before he allowed this rift that was growing between him and Mello to develop any further. That’s when his gaze landed on Kira’s black and white skull pajamas. Matt snickered “Why are you wearing pajamas anyway?”

“I was, you know, sleeping? Is that really a foreign concept here?!” Light gave an appraising glance at Matt and his tired, bloodshot eyes. “Matt, did you sleep at all last night?”

“Huh?”

“You know, it’s now… morning.”

“Oh wow. I think I’ve been up 72 hours straight.”

“That’s not healthy, you know.”

Matt shrugged and fumbled with his stolen pack of cigarettes “I’ll be fine.”

Oh, right. This is the school for Ls. If they weren’t insomniacs before they no doubt will be by the time they graduate.

“Well tonight you should try to get some sleep….”

“L says Justice never sleeps!” Linda declared with a level of enthusiasm one normally didn’t see outside of a Shonen anime and so revealed that she had been eavesdropping at his door. Light wondered how many others were lurking in the woodwork, listening through the walls or watching the surveillance footage.

Seriously? Even given the fact that they believed me to be Kira is watching me sleep really so very interesting?

The killer sighed in irritation and idly rubbed his forehead with the palm of his head against the incoming migraine. "Of course he does.”

“This is just further proof that Kira is not justice.” Near stated solemnly, never once diverting his unblinking gaze from their prisoner.

“In case anyone still cares, I feel obliged to remind you I’m not Kira,” Light insisted with no small amount of vexation.

It’s official. I’m surrounded by crazy people, thought the God of the New World.

Light sighed again as Matt continued to fumble with his lighter. “You know you shouldn’t smoke either. It’s not healthy, not to mention it’s against the law, but knowing that you’re not going to listen to me anyway at least have the courtesy not to do it in my room. They’ll probably blame your cancer death on me.”

Matt, remembering what he came in for and having a modicum of common sense, decided that needlessly and excessively antagonizing their resident psycho killer wasn't exactly a genius move. He shoved the yet-unlit cigarette in between his teeth and tugged on Near’s sleeve.“C’mon, we need to tell Roger.”

As soon as Light was reasonably assured he wasn’t being actively peeped on he began rapidly getting dressed.

“Hmm, is it possible that I’ve somehow acquired psychic powers?” he wondered aloud in passing, posing the question as if he were just thinking out loud for the sake of the cameras… while staring right at Ryuk, demanding an answer of his invisible companion.

“I suppose anything’s possible…” the monster considered while scratching his head in an ape-like fashion.

Light sighed in exasperation.

“…couldn’t possibly be more unhelpful…” the teen muttered under his breath as he zipped up his stylish crimson jacket because the sound of the zipper should, hopefully, cover up any exasperated mutterings on his part.

“…But according to your sister’s soap operas having psychic dreams about your beloved is a sure sign you’ve found your soul mate—”

That was not a challenge, Ryuk! Light’s eyebrow twitched in suppressed rage but he was unable to voice his complaint because of the surveillance present around the manor and the choice words he had for his Shinigami were meant to be said emphatically and far louder than could be covered up by the sounds of playing with a zipper.

Light, surprisingly, had actually meant it when he was worried about L but he himself was surprised by how much Near’s accusation that he didn’t care at all about Ryuuzaki rankled—Kira was a benevolent God, a savior, a hero and a protector of the people, or at least that’s how he perceived himself in his own mind. Light wasn’t too fond of people calling him evil even if maybe (just maybe) he might fit the textbook definition, what with killing people and all, but Light felt that “evil” was too strong a word for the service he provided to the world—what he did was more of a…. necessary unpleasantness, like a trash collector or an exterminator, it was by no means a pleasant job but someone’s got to do it.

L failed to see his actions as just and necessary and that’s why L had to die… or perhaps somehow neutralized if he could manage it. Yeah, just killing him would be easiest… too easy as it turns out. It would have been no challenge to let one of those sinners that L so fought for to shoot him in the head. Beside, surely a true God could convert the heretics to his will. There would be no greater challenge than convincing L and his successors that his ideals are correct. So sure, he was worried about L but he wouldn’t allow his feelings to compromise his mission of cleansing the world of evil. He’d come too far to stop now.

If I don’t get out of here soon…

For a moment he entertained the notion of burning Wammy’s to the ground.

No…. No, it won’t come to that. There’s no need for so many pointless deaths. I’m getting out of here. I have to….

Light exited his room to find that for once his ever-present shadows had left him on his own. Matt had gone off to gather his graphs and Near and Linda had accompanied him to show them the L-finding logarithm that he and Light had created in computer class that day which could accurately track L’s movements by monitoring cake, pastry, and candy sales in any given area. He really did care about L… or rather getting this whole L thing cleared up but he couldn’t pass up this golden opportunity to raid the kitchens unquestioned and unmolested.

Light made it into the pantry, timing his movements so that he avoided the sweep of the security cameras, and immediately began stuffing his backpack with apples. Of course it was risky but he had no idea when he’d have another chance at this and if Ryuk didn’t get his apples there would be, quite literally, Hell to pay.

Light froze when he suddenly heard a noise from within the walk-in freezer area—it was an abrasive sound like metal scraping against something or (as it turned out when he took a cautious peek around the corner) a chair being pushed across the floor.

Well, it looked like the kitchens weren’t quite as empty as he’d hoped.

It was one of the younger kids. He was pushing one of the kitchen chairs over to the open fridge in order to reach a jar of strawberry preserves from the top shelf. Or rather try and reach it. The child was not quite tall enough; his fingertips merely grazed the surface of the jar and when he made a grasp for it he lost his balance and began to tip forwards before he rocked back in an attempt to regain his balance, over-compensated, and began to fall backwards. The jar of strawberry jam smashed all over the kitchen tiles like a bloody catastrophe. The boy would’ve followed had Light not caught him.

“Whoa! Careful!” Light scolded as the humiliated boy scowled and promptly shoved him away.

“Shove off!”

Light spared a moment to chastise the boy and attempt to impart the value of self-preservation and common sense. “Next time you should ask yourself: is making toast really worth your life?”

“Who said I was making toast? I wasn’t making toast! And don’t tell me what to do!” snapped the dark-haired boy that Light remembered was called Hoodwink. The boy glared, red-faced and petulant, his bright green eyes flashing with fury and no small amount of suspicion. Light just shrugged it off. By now he was more than used to having suspicious and angry glares being sent his way and people being ungrateful bastards about all the good he did.

“Hey Light! What are you doing in there?” hollered Matt and Light mentally cursed in twelve different languages. He’d been hoping to stash his bag outside under a bush before the munchkin brigade returned but he supposed there was little point in hiding them now anyway since the suspicious jam-kid had already seen him with it.

Why was nothing going as planned?

Suppressing a sigh, Light slung his backpack (with its incriminating contents of apples) over his shoulder and flashed them his best fake smile.

“Lead the way.”

All of them had turned to leave so no one bore witness to how the puddle of jam separated down the center as if an invisible presence had taken up finger painting—a miraculous parting of the red jam that formed itself into shapes: シレイシ

And no one would ever see what the maker of it thought was an obvious clue; seeing as it was soon afterwards cleaned up by one of the lesser ranked genii’s modified roombas.

***

It was early morning and Roger was just settling in at his desk, a nice hot cup of tea on one side and the jar full of dead wasps he’d retrieved from the freezer on the other. The elderly caretaker wanted to get some early morning bug-pinning in before leaving to deal with the brats for the day because his perfectly healthy hobby tended to scare some of brats (well except for B when he was still here. B had found the whole process to be quite fascinating but alas his interest was not out of any scientific inquiry but merely out of the joy of stabbing things. Of course Roger only realized this in retrospect and B’s interest had failed to raise any warning bells at the time.)

Roger flinched in his seat and the pin went in sideways when he was suddenly jolted out of his musings by the sound of Matt’s raised voice, which carried even through the solid wood of his closed office doors. (Closed doors meant he didn’t want to be disturbed! Shouldn’t that be obvious to Quillsh’s collection of genii?)

“He’s got to believe us! He won’t be able to withstand our entourage of awesomeness!”

“You see, Matt. This is why sleep is important,” Light grumbled, sounding almost as annoyed as Roger currently was.

“Besides, I’m wearing my lucky striped shirt of power! I think it’s got like a +9 bonus against Crusty Caretakers!” Matt declared with a near hysterical note entering his cracking voice. What brought this on? Matt was usually so quiet… (or maybe he only seemed that way when he was sitting next to Mello….)

“Isn’t that the only shirt you ever wear?” inquired Near.

“Details,” retorted Wammy’s best gamer.

Roger sighed and hastily put away his bug-pinning board as the hoard of them came spilling into his office. (Though from the look of things Light had attempted, and failed, to turn their disorderly blob of students into a truly epic group power walk thing.)

The elderly caretaker pinned them all with his best “why-the-hell-are-you-bothering-me?” stare; appraising them as he might a particularly damaged specimen of cockroach.

Damned brats. It’s far too early for this...

Roger rested his chin on his folded hands and lifted a questioning bushy eyebrow at the group of students. To the caretaker’s genuine surprise it was Near that spoke for the group. (Near who loathed socializing, Near who always wore his pajamas, Near who was prone to panic attacks, Near who never went outside if he could help it, Near who whined about why they couldn’t just have Internet conferences from his room for everything.) The youngest of the group stood as tall as his diminutive size would allow (and he was still dwarfed by the other students, even Linda). Roger couldn’t help but be impressed by this improvement—Near had even managed to maintain eye contact when he spoke with him.

“Mr. Ruvie, we need to speak with L regarding the prisoner. Is there a way that you or an intermediary who could contact him directly? It is an emergency.”

Upon hearing the reason for his office invasion Roger’s cold grey eyes narrowed suspiciously beneath his spectacles “What sort of emergency?”

“We need to speak to L or Kira is going to kill us all,” Near said with his usual seriousness while gesturing emphatically towards Light.

“What?!” Light exclaimed.

Near frowned. “You were supposed to play along.”

“Maybe if you told me what you were planning ahead of time…”

“But I thought you would know what I was planning and plan around it and then I’d plan around your plans in a way you’d never see coming…” Near pouted.

“Near uses Kiramon—it’s not very effective!” interjected Matt’s Tourette's.

“You know, I’d appreciated it if you didn’t paint me as some sort of boogey man—or Kira for that matter.” Light grumbled, adding the last bit on belatedly for the sake of plausible deniability.

Near ignored them both in favor of his fantasy of an ideal world where everything went according to plan:

“…I would then prove that you were Kira once and for all so I could keep you as my special best friend and I’d keep you chained up in my LEGO fortress and you could never leave.”

“You know… that’s really creepy—even though he is Kira…” Matt muttered while backing away slowly from the deranged prodigy.

“Was there a reason the lot of you decided to defile my office with your presence?” asked Roger.
Light cleared his throat. “Mr. Ruvie, we have reason to believe that L has disappeared…”

Light was confident that Roger couldn’t just ignore him this time, his hunch had just been verified by a third party and a Wammy’s House third party at that—and Matt made all those cool-looking graphs…

“This again…” Roger grumbled, convinced that his grey hairs were getting grey hairs. “L is not to be disturbed…”

“There must be some way…”

Linda piped up at that. “Hey, isn’t there some message that gets sent out to us if L’s in trouble?”

“That message only gets sent out if L is A.F.K. for too long,” Matt corrected her. “If we get that message we’re to assume that L is dead.”

“A dead man’s switch?!”

“Exactly,” Matt nodded.

How ridiculous to have a measure like that in place—as if L could be killed so easily! With the number of precautions he’s taken L is more likely to die of diabetes than any active attempts on his life. I should know…

“Really, you just told him that? Kira, of all people?” Near grumbled as he sunk sullenly onto the floor.

Light smashed his fists on the table, drawing everyone’s attention.“That’s it. You’d just assume that he’s dead?! You don’t care what happens to L, do you? You don’t care what happens to any of these kids—they’re all fucking expendable!”

“You forget your place!” Roger snapped waspishly to cover his rising unease. The caretaker had heard those accusations before—in this moment Light had sounded exactly like B.

“Language!” Near scolded, looking far too pleased about himself for being able to point out the “parental” hypocrisy. But he too was unsettled by the outburst and what caused it. He deduced then that Light clearly was indeed sincere about his concern for the subject of their conversation if he felt strongly enough about the issue that he allowed himself to become that emotionally compromised to degenerate into using that kind of language. From the sounds of it Kira had something of an unconventional relationship with L. This bore further investigation.

“Ooh look, Daddy’s getting angry!” Linda warned everyone with obvious excitement.

“You won’t like him when he’s angry,” Near deadpanned.

“Estuans interius. Ira vehementi. Estuans interius. Ira vehement. Sephiroth!” Matt, not to be outdone, sang off-key and in mangled Latin.

“Guys, we are trying to have a serious conversation here!” grumbled Light; this was seriously taxing his divine patience.

“And you’re failing miserably,” Roger pointed out helpfully.

“You know, with the whole ‘deadman’s switch,’ there’s an obvious, gaping flaw with that whole plan, right? I mean, even if you were to receive that message that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s dead. It could just mean he couldn’t get to the computer.”

Near shot him a look. “And you claim to know L so well,” the boy muttered as he tugged at his white curls “L is always on his computer. If L’s not on his computer that means he’s dead.”

“…Or it could mean that L is trapped under his cake freezer,” Light deadpanned. “Shit. What if L is trapped under his cake freezer? I mean, think about it! L could be starving to death right now with a ton of food mere inches away. It could happen!”

“You don’t think L could figure out how to get out from under his freezer?” Roger asked in a condescending tone and yet he looked a bit concerned.

“We have to find him!” exclaimed Linda.

Roger sighed in exasperation as he observed and judged the unlikely group—Light was a mass murderer and Matt was usually in cahoots with that hellion Mello but Near and Linda were usually so well-behaved. Perhaps there was something to all this...

“Fine! I’ll look into it. Now shoo!” snapped Roger as he immediately went back to his bug pinning project.

Light frowned “I still get the sense he’s not taking this seriously.”

“Yes, yes. L is serious business,” Matt nodded solemnly.

Roger snarled, becoming so agitated that he failed to notice that he’d thrown the wasp he was working on into his tea instead of back into the jar.

“Please Mr. Ruvie, can’t you send someone over to Japan and see if L is trapped under his cake freezer? I’d do it myself but…” Light motioned to the monitoring device still shackled around his ankle.

“Er… It can’t hurt to check, right?” added Matt.

“Yes, it can,” said Roger, eying Light warily and wondering if the other students had forgotten their duty that L had entrusted them with. “L was quite clear that we are not to bother him in his affairs.”

“That doesn’t sound like the L I know. L might be a very private person but I sincerely doubt that he’d just dump you with someone he (erroneously) thinks is a mass murderer without even bothering to check in about it” said Light, this time addressing the children (the more malleable audience.)

Near glared at Roger’s desk. “If L is in trouble, you’re needlessly endangering his life.”

“Dammit, L’s life is at stake! Please, Roger?” pleaded Linda.

Meanwhile Matt thought hard as he fumbled dejectedly with his cool graph (well he thought it was cool). Mello always managed to get Roger’s attention (even if it was negative) so in this case WWMD (What Would Mello Do?) This is what prompted Matt to lean casually and obnoxiously over Roger’s desk, trying to look the part of a mob enforcer whose very presence here in this office suggested ‘it would be a shame if something happened to Roger’s bug displays.’ Matt feared he didn’t quite pull it off seeing how Roger looked annoyed rather than intimidated.

“Come now Roger—I know you’ve got agents who could check. It’s just one little phone call. That’s all. And it’ll put our prisoner at ease.”

Roger sighed and sent a quick text message to F who swiftly texted back promising he’d be taking the first flight out of Thailand. “There. We’re interrupting important research to check up on L for you. Are you happy now?”

“No, I’m afraid I won’t be until I know L is out from under the cake freezer but thank you,” Light gritted out before he imperiously stormed out of Roger’s office with such flair that Matt couldn’t help but start humming the Star Wars Imperial March, and the others were soon joining in as they followed him out.

“Goddamned brats,” Roger groused, took a sip of his tea, and promptly gagged on the dead wasp.

Chapter Text

“Well, that was kind of anticlimactic,” observed Matt as the little group made its way down to the kitchen for breakfast.

“What do you mean?” asked Near. He’d found that confrontation and all that socializing that went with it to be quite intense and draining and wasn’t eager to repeat it anytime soon.

“Not that I’m knocking it, it’s just that—we asked Roger to go check and he agreed…”

“Times like this I like to think that there’s a higher power looking out for me… either that or I’m just that good,” Light mused as he idly scribbled something down on a notepad as he walked.

Near looked at him askance “If you have any supernatural help I somehow suspect it’s actually from a lower power,” the younger prodigy commented dryly.

“I don’t know, guys,” the red-head sighed while itching at his scalp beneath his goggles “I was somehow expecting more of a fight, more…drama over this.”
Matt quickly realized he’d spoken too soon when their path was blocked by Wamy’s resident drama queen.

Light suppressed a groan. It was too damned early for this. He needed coffee or maybe some tea... or maybe several cups of both. After all, that seemed to work well enough for L…

“Well if it isn’t the red-haired traitor, Matt Judas!” Mello snarled.

“Wha— traitor? What the fuck, Mello?!” Matt demanded, utter confusion written all over his face.

“Language!” Light scolded them reflexively, not even bothering to look up from his writing.

“Still plotting against me with Kira and Near, I see?”

“Hey, I’m here too!” Linda reminded him.

“Yeah, but you’re a girl so you don’t count,” said Mello in the condescending tone of one who believes their logic to be infallible.

“Daddy! He’s being mean again!” Linda whined while tugging on Light’s arm.

The serial killer gave a long-suffering sigh. “Mello, we’re kind of in a hurry here….” Well he was anyway; because if they didn’t get down to the kitchens soon they would run out of scones and then Linda would cry and get snot all over his shirt sleeve and that would just be so awkward and terrible.

“Don’t mind Mello, guys, he’s just PMSing without his chocolate,” said Matt, affecting an unconcerned air. He pretended to fiddle with his game while discreetly observing the seething form of his once (and hopefully future) friend from where he stood, blocking their path. The leather-clad teen’s stance was rigid and fierce; like a wolf with its hackles raised. Matt was quite familiar with Mello’s mood swings but something was different this time. This wasn’t just Mello throwing a hissy fit—for whatever reason the blonde was furious and Matt had no idea why.

Considering how disgusted Mello claimed to be of him the last time they argued it didn’t really occur to Matt that Mello could be jealous. And of course Mello wasn’t about to share with the class regarding his feelings either. The older boy might’ve been more open with his emotions than Near but that didn’t mean he was any better at expressing them. He was, after all, a guy (regardless of how long he grew out his hair or how improbably tight he wore his leather pants—he was not a girl, damnit!) He was also training to be the next L—a stoical genius detective and manipulator with no use for actual friends—such an occupation wasn’t exactly conductive to emotional health.

“That’s not productive, Matt,” Light chided absently, hoping to avoid getting drawn into their damned drama again. Since their argument yesterday Mello was no closer to making nice with Matt and from the look of things Matt wasn’t making it easy for him either. Not that he should; in Light’s not-so-humble opinion Mello had been a total dick. However, as Linda had put it, if it were possible for Mello to be more resentful he’d probably collapse and implode into a swirling, glowy, black ball of pure hatred or something. These now so-called “Rows of M&Ms” were becoming quite legendary and had, quite naturally, resulted in free headaches for all. As far as Light could tell Matt was normally a very quiet boy but when provoked he definitely had a good set of lungs on him—he had to in order to make himself be heard over Mello’s shouting.

When the blonde irritation failed to move Light simply walked around him; completely dismissing the angry teen’s presence. The others soon followed suit; forcing the blonde to dog their steps if he wanted to continue this conversation. Mello’s fury intensified as he recognized and fell for the obvious power-play because his pride would not allow them to dismiss him so easily!

Mello in turn ignored the others’ comments, continuing his rant. “Look at you now,” Mello screamed at Matt, “You ditched me for them?! The bastard, the whore, and Linda?!” Mello seemed to think he was being particularly witty in his rage—much to the bafflement of everyone else.

Near was reminded of one of yesterday’s assigned readings—some declassified documents from the CIA which mentioned how one should never underestimate a human’s ability to rationalize the truth. He observed that this seemed to go double for prodigies such as themselves who are used to knowing all the answers and so it becomes much harder to admit to having made a mistake. And so now Mello seemed to be in the process of developing the same mental affliction as a certain prisoner of theirs with his steadfast belief that “I’m not a jerk—everyone else is” and “everyone is being mean to me for no reason” but at least Mello hadn’t slipped so far as to believe “murder is okay if I’m the one doing it” so Near supposed that was a point in his favor.

“Wait, who’s the whore?” Light asked rhetorically in a de soto voice, utterly perplexed by the blonde’s accusations.

“If you have to ask…” Near flashed a disturbing grin that made Kira’s skin crawl.

The killer sighed and once again massaged his forehead. “Yes, real mature, guys. Real mature.” Forget Shinigami, curses, and murder notebooks—L’s damned kids were going to run him into an early grave. Light wondered if that was L’s plan all along when he dumped him here with these awkward genius kids and had a sudden flash of understanding as to why Roger was so antisocial.

Meanwhile, Matt balled his fists inside his vest pockets. This was shaping up to be the worst week ever—not only did he get outed to the school he stupidly misread Mello and now his best friend apparently hated him. However, in contrast with Mello, who was currently red-faced and seething, Matt kept a tight rein on his emotions as his bestest friend and favorite person in the whole wide world continued to act like a total prat. “Mello… is there a name for this alternate universe which you seem to be living in?” Matt asked his ex-roommate, his voice steady and deceptively calm. “As I recall you ditched me!”

“Fuck you, dipshit!” Mello retorted ever-so eloquently.

Matt hadn’t thought this situation could get any worse… and that was when Mello noticed the friendship bracelets. Near had pleaded, coerced, and/or guilted them all into wearing the friendship bracelets he’d made for “The First Church of St. Matt.” (It wasn’t his idea, really but he apparently hadn’t protested enough to stop it and now it had become a Wammy’s fad. Matt wasn’t used to having so much attention focused on him and didn’t particularly care for it. At all. As a result he’d become even more awkward than usual and had taken to wearing his orange-tinted goggles over his eyes almost all the time now and when he didn’t have the others to act as a buffer he sat hunched over as if trying to fold into himself.) Still, ultimately, Matt ended up wearing his what with not wanting to insult all his “followers” though he strongly suspected that Near had made them for the sole purpose of pissing off Mello. If that was Near’s objective than they most certainly served their purpose well.

Mello felt his brow twitch in annoyance upon seeing the bracelets. Near had done quite the obsessive-compulsive job about it too—they weren’t just a few beads thrown onto a string. No, he’d woven each necklace into a double helix of varying sequences with white beads for Hydrogen, red for Oxygen, blue for Nitrogen, silver for Carbon, gold for Phosphorus and suspended on that intricate string of beads, in lieu of a crucifix was a charm of a simple black symbol that Near had claimed was supposed to be of an old Atari joystick but looked suspiciously phallic.

Upon first seeing the bracelets, Linda (knowing that it would irritate Near) had pretended to have completely missed the point and had commented that the end result was very pretty.

Light had wondered if Near had access to everyone’s genetic profile—he wouldn’t put it past them. That is, either of Near being that obsessive or Wammy’s House being that invasive (the gilded-caged prisoner still bitterly recalled the unsettling revelation that Dr. Caduceus had stolen blood and other samples from him while he slept.)

Mello was indeed furious about the bracelets but not for the petty reasons the others would ascribe it to—Mello had noticed that on the beads themselves Near had left a coded message that Mello had just decoded to spell out: “Your Own Personal Jeevas.” As angry as Mello was with Matt, Mello couldn’t help but wonder if Near was trying to get Matt killed or perhaps just dangling the piece of a name (Matt’s name! The bastard…) as bait to tempt a certain ravenous Kira... As Mello pondered this Light viciously snagged the last of the scones away from the grubby hands of one of the older kids (shooting a baleful glare at the greedy little bastard who would steal from a little girl) handed it to Linda who had been trying in vain to reach them from where they were placed on the farthest side of the table.

Mello glared at Near “You are such a bastard!” Mello snarled at Near as they entered the crowded cafeteria, his furious shouting even cutting over the usual buzz of excited genius conversations.

Of course Mello couldn’t mention any of his findings in front of the Kira suspect and so there was no way he could explain his outburst and everyone would just assume he was being more of an ass than usual. Mello wondered if Near had planned that as well.

Near shrugged. “I don’t really remember my parents all that well, so I couldn’t tell you either way.”

Mello scowled as he surveyed his breakfast options. He was still banned from eating chocolate and he found that he was on the last bag of trail mix with carob in it. This did nothing to improve his already vile mood.

“Was there an actual point to any of this, Mello?” Light asked wearily while patiently demonstrating to Linda and the others how one might eat Rice Krispies with chopsticks.

Mello put his hands on his hips in a particularly catty manner and snapped “I need to talk to Matt.”

Matt didn’t look up from his breakfast and continued to neatly rip pieces from his cinnamon bun. “So talk.”

“In private,” insisted the blonde, while folding his arms across his leather-clad chest in an attempt at looking intimidating because surely he was about to make him an offer he can’t refuse…

“Why? So you can like kidnap me and handcuff me to a radiator or something? I think not.”

“Wha—? Radiator?” Mello frowned. Such a plan hadn’t occurred to him before but it did have potential…

“I’m not going anywhere so whatever you want to say you can say it in the presence of witnesses.”

“But…”

“Out with it, Mello,” Matt snapped, losing patience.

Mello growled and spat like an angry cat “You’re my partner!”

Matt blinked owlishly from behind his orange-tinted goggles. “I thought you were claiming to be straight.”

Near snorted. “The odds of Mello being straight are about the same as Light being innocent.”

“Hey!” Light and Mello protested simultaneously.

“I meant for the science project, you retard!”

“Not only is that word offensive it is 100% inaccurate because if Matt is a retard I guess that makes you…”

SHUT UP, NEAR!”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Matt said in a perfectly flat tone. After this show of astounding immaturity he actually expected Matt to still come crawling after him like a kicked puppy. Matt sighed and wiped at n imaginary smudge on his goggles with a paper napkin.

“Why, are you having trouble with it?”

“Matt!” Everyone yelled at once. The majority of protest was because Matt’s friends couldn’t believe he was actually considering it right after Mello was such an enormous jerk to him and Mello was shouting because he had just implied that he actually needed Matt and couldn’t do it on his own…Of course he could do it on his own! It’s just… he’d seen what Light and Near were drawing up for their project and that had left him feeling… inadequate. Their projects were so much bigger! What with those stupid genii Light and Near (and now even Matt now that the computer whiz was no longer throwing his punches) that meant that there was more competition than ever!

Mello had gawked when he got a notion of the grandiose vision of Light and Near’s project—they were working on a system that would desalinate ocean water and deliver it to needy and impoverished villages around the world. And do it as cheaply and efficiently as possible. (Mello couldn’t believe it—the two biggest jerks he knew were working on the most altruist project in the classroom.)

Mello didn’t want to admit it out loud but Matt really was better at the technical stuff than he was and when he’d spied on what Matt was working on and wanted in. As far as Mello could see from his stolen copies of Matt’s schematics, the mechanical genius was working on building some kind of huge freakin’ plasma cannon thing (Matt had gotten the idea while playing the newest re-re-release of the remake of Doom and blasting fire-throwing imps with his double barrel shotgun and not thinking about Mello at all…) Or at the very least he was building the power source for one since bringing guns to class was generally frowned upon (unless of courses Mello gave a sob story about his late father and L gave his approval but Mello had a monopoly on that…)

Their projects were both so much more awesome and creative than his paltry little science project he had started on—so far he had a whiteboard with bullet points listing the medical benefits of eating lots of chocolate. (Alright, it was a stupid idea in retrospect but he was deprived, damnit!)

“Yes, I am willing to forgive you if you partner with me,” the blonde offered magnanimously.
Matt took his sweet time sipping his orange juice before giving his answer. “Actually, I thought I’d partner with Linda this time.”

“What?! Why?” Mello gasped as if Matt had just committed the worst possible betrayal.

“I’m still mad at you,” the red-head informed him placidly. “And you seem to think you can treat me like your doormat.”

“Hah! A Doormatt.” Linda laughed at the horrible pun.

“Secondly why should I be seeking your “forgiveness” when I did nothing wrong?

“Nothing wro—?! You…”

“I already apologized for pressuring you and you called me enough names and destroyed enough of my property to make us more than even.”

“Matt, I…”

“Don’t. If you were truly sorry you’d actually work to change your behavior.” Matt then effectively dismissed him when he ignored his presence in favor of “feeding” his Digimon keychain—at the rate it was growing it would evolve into a bigger monster soon.

The blonde stood there, stricken and so angry he felt scorching hot bile surging up in his throat. Mello apparently thought he still looked quite intimidating with his slender frame shaking, his eyes bulging in anger, and his mouth drawn in a grimace as if constipated. The others just ignored him and ate their breakfast but Linda actually had the gall to giggle at the sight. There was no doubt in Mello’s mind that she was laughing at him.

Completely unacceptable.

Mello swiftly turned and left the hall before he lost it and attacked Linda… and Matt, the cheating bastard, and let’s not forget Light and Near who thought they were so fucking perfect or, fuck it everybody. Or just threw up. That would be embarrassing but then perhaps it would have been worth it if he had thrown up on Linda… Matt-stealing bitch!

Mello grinned a sickly, strained grin that was ill-matched with the fury in his eyes and swallowed it all down like bitter chocolate. Mello’s inferiority complex kicked into high gear and he was sure that they were all laughing at him.

A failure am I? Stupid am I? I’ll show you stupid! Wait…

“You know what? Fine!” the teen sneered to the seemingly empty corridor. “I don’t need Matt! I don’t need anyone! I can do it all on my own!” Mello roared.

The angry blonde didn’t even notice during his angry march to the science lab when he pushed passed a smaller child; a dark-haired boy whose cold green-eyes were alight with malice.

In his impatience Mello flung open the door to the supply cabinet only to be met with a blinding flash and a thunderous roar that obliterated all else. It happened so fast he was too surprised to even scream when he felt the blistering heat and searing pain down the left side of his face and neck.

And then Mello knew no more.

Chapter Text

The gangly creature perched at the edge of L’s prison cot, razor claws idly shredding the sheets while he stared, unblinkingly at L with those piercing red eyes that seemed to hold the fires of Hell within their ghastly orbs. A tuft of vibrant red feathers stuck out of his shoulders just above his tucked, equally red wings. This gave the overall impression that in death he’d somehow turned into some sort of deranged macaw. Fitting really, seeing as parroting was always what he did best. All things considered he was looking pretty good for a dead guy. L supposed it could be worse—he could be rotting on him or something. Though he didn’t look any prettier than the last time he saw him—despite the otherworldly changes to his physique the fact remained that his face was still ravaged by burn scars from that time he tried to burn himself alive…

L nodded curtly at the monster, allowing not a trace of fear to show through. “B.B.”

Beyond Birthday snarled at the childish nickname, his too-thick, too-red lips drawing back to expose elongated fangs that were better suited on some sort of prehistoric cat and had no business being inside of a human mouth. Ironically, despite the rather freakish changes, L still found BB to be less intimidating in this form—it merely exposed him for the monster he already was. That and now it was much easier to tell them apart. Between the scars and the inhuman form B could never again hope to be L’s mirror. So where exactly did that leave his obsessed, self-proclaimed nemesis?

“Well, I take it reports of your death have been greatly exaggerated,” L deadpanned.

The monster with Beyond’s face gave out a deranged laugh. “No, actually, I am quite dead. My corpse is currently interred in a mass grave. You know the LAPD has just taken to dumping Kira victims—too many to process, you know? But you know what? That’s okay—I don’t need it anymore!” the undead killer said brightly.

“People don’t just come back from beyond the grave, B.B.”

Beyond the grave. Exactly!” Cackled B. L scowled. Apparently dying hadn’t improved B’s poor sense of humor.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious as to how you managed that.”

“Can’t figure it out yourself, Lawlipop?”

“It wouldn’t happen to do with Shinigami now would it?” L asked, taking a wild stab in the dark. He remembered Kira’s cryptic message about Shinigami and he had already concluded that it was indeed possible that such things actually existed. Otherwise the Kira case made very little sense and what else could explain B’s apparent resurrection? B wasn’t nearly rotted enough to be a zombie…

Beyond Birthday visibly pouted when his Lawli guessed it right on his first try.

“I don’t suppose you’d feel like telling me how that works exactly…”

The madman gave him an oddly pensive look before he began practically pirouetting around L’s cell in his very own “Danse Macabre.”

“Hmmm… What’s to tell? I died. But then I decided it was all too… boring without you there. So I came back! Aren’t you glad?! Though I’d be lying if I said the whole process didn’t… make me stranger.”

In a gesture of exaggerated boredom L rolled his eyes around so hard it almost appeared that they were rattling in his skull before coming to stare at a fixed point on the ceiling. “It’s not possible for you to get any stranger, B.B.”

“You’d think that, wouldn’t you? And quit calling me B.B.!” B finally snapped in annoyance.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you prefer Backup?

Fuck you, Lawliet!” The monster roared and charged him, running freakily on all-fours before lunging at him with his claws outstretched.

“Aw, resorting to violence so quickly?” L inquired, keeping his voice bland and steady even as the monstrous thing that was once Beyond Birthday charged him. L simply stared on, waiting for the blows to come. They never did. At the last moment the monster drew back, sitting on his haunches above L’s chest. “It seems that death has done nothing to improve your already poor impulse control.”

Above him the monster shook with deranged laughter.

“Are you alright, B.B.? You seem awfully upset.” L asked innocently.

“You’re the one strapped to the table!” the monster formerly known as B snarled petulantly.

L made a point to slowly look around and stare at each of the bindings “Aw. So I am.”

L wondered what was wrong with B. It wasn’t like him to hold back. He hadn’t even broken out the knives this time. Honestly, this break in the pattern was kind of making him kind of nervous. L supposed that if he wanted to Beyond could now just use his fingernails (talons, really) instead. Yes, that was a comforting thought…

“You really shouldn’t antagonize me, Lawli-darling!”

“Oh? Why ever not? No matter how many times we do this it doesn’t change the fact that you got a B on your final exam. Grow up.”

“You don’t get it! I’ve surpassed you now for sure, L! I’ve become a God!”

The detective looked most unimpressed. “Is that the best you can do, B? I’ve already got an arch-nemesis with a God-complex. Get some new material.”

“Oh yes, your Kira-dearest. He must be a good shag if you’re keeping him for your personal use. I assure you that poser has nothing on me. I became what I was always born to be—a God of Death!”

“I don’t suppose you know if Gods of Death like apples?”

“Why? Oh no… Are you kidding me? I just came back from the dead and you’re still hung up on Kira?! PAY ATTENTION TO ME, DAMMIT!

L watched, speechless, as the ruthless serial killer threw a blatantly childish fit.

“Do you even care that he killed me?! Damn, you must have been desperately lonely without me around!”

“Actually, no. We threw a party when you died, B. Complete with Birthday cake.”

“Ha!” the monster barked with laughter and then slung an overly long arm around L’s shoulders like they were the best of friends. “You did miss me! I knew you missed me! Of course you missed me!”

“Uh…” L squirmed against the bindings, clearly uncomfortable by the closeness forced on him by his insane stalker.

“You know I’d always pegged you for a closet hybristophiliac. Criminals are the only thing that ever captured your interest. Why do you think I went on to become the greatest serial killer of them all?”

L snorted at that.

“Right. About that… If you don’t mind me asking why are you working with K? This level of… well, stupidity, it just doesn’t seem your style…”

“Oh, I knew you missed me! Didn’t you precious!”

“No, can’t say that I have…” L muttered while Beyond blithely ignored him.

“Oh, you needn’t worry. While K does have her uses she’ll never hold the place in my heart that you do so no need to be jealous, Lawli-darling! I shall endeavor to entertain you properly!”

“I take it you find mass-death entertaining now?” He knew B was a depraved serial killer but then he didn’t think he’d go quite that far. But then L supposed B wasn’t likely to care about the consequences anymore seeing as he was already dead and didn’t have to live with them.

“Do you? You’re one to talk! Here’s a tip, sweetheart—ditch your B.F.F. Kira before getting all self-righteous on my ass. As for my partnership with K, our goals just happened to be aligned at the moment.”

Ah, so they are just using each other. L had little doubt over who would be left standing at the end of their “partnership.” He almost felt sorry for K...

“It’s a means to an end, nothing more.” Beyond confirmed L’s suspicion with a dismissive wave of his claws.

L narrowed his eyes. “And to what end might that be?”

“Why, shouldn’t it be obvious oh-so-great detective? It’s you, of course. It’s always about you! Oh, and revenge. Can’t forget revenge! As you’re so fond of saying ‘an eye for an eye’ and all that rot!”

“B…”

Beyond’s monstrous form leered down at the detective, his features somehow becoming even more feral as he let his irritation at the interruption be known when the monster (Shinigami?) bared his fangs, emitting low, creepy, almost subsonic, growls. The sound made L’s guts squirm. That alone might have been scary to someone that Beyond had never terrorized before but L found he was rather blasé about the whole thing. Sure Beyond was making lots of threats but he wasn’t even doing anything—he had yet to stab him even once!

B seemed to guess what L was thinking seeing as he answered his unasked question. “Stabbing you gets old after a while. It’s not nearly as fun as breaking you.” Beyond declared while brandishing the TV remote with a twirl and a flourish. “As you can see we have K to thank for so generously providing us with tonight’s entertainment! I’m thinking of calling this one ‘O Suffer the Little Children!’”

L could only watch on in horror at the footage of a certain hot-headed student of his opened the door to the chemistry supply cabinet, triggering the recently placed tripwire and setting off the bomb.

B had unearthed enough of L’s past to know that, as the result of some personal trauma, the reclusive detective was affected the most by seeing people burn to death. That’s why he had intended his fourth “murder” to die by self-immolation—it was meant as a parting gift, a final “fuck you” to L. And that’s why he’d proposed gifting Wammy’s with such an explosive delivery system…

Hot bile rose in the detective’s throat as he witnessed what became of Mello. B and K had injured his child to get to him. Before he could stop it moisture ran down his cheeks unbidden.

B just shook his head disparagingly at L’s uncontrolled retching. “Oh Lawli, Lawli, Lawli don’t tell me you’ve lost your stomach for this already! That’s just the appetizer! We have yet to serve the main course. After all, you know what K’s specialty is…”

“No.”

“Oh yes. The bomb merely serves as a distraction. The real killer is the virus that’s just been released! I figured I owed you all for the missed Christmas gifts I couldn’t getcha while I was rotting in Cal State Pen. And in a happy coincidence I owed Mello a belated birthday gift as well—now we can match! Just like you always wanted! Aren’t you happy for us? Of course that is provided that he survives …” Beyond shook his head in mock concern at the burning child onscreen “The prognosis does not look good.”

“What are you talking about, B? We never wanted this!”

“Of course you did! You see it too, don’t you? Don’t you get this sense of déjà vu with Mello and Near? It’s like watching us…”

“They aren’t us, B. They’re individuals… “ L immediately protested.

“Oh yes, yes. They are individuals—individuals that are made to be just like you. We told you, L. We told you what you were doing to those kids but you never listened! Now it’s too late. And that is not a life worth living. There’s nothing for it but to relieve them from the pain of their existence!”

L gaped at the monster that was once his former student. “You’re insane.”

“Why thank you! I’m so glad you finally noticed! But I’m afraid that doesn’t say much for your deductive reasoning skills.”

Just as the images of carnage began to fade out the scene, in all its horror, began playing out all over again.

“Oh did I forget to mention? I hear from the guards you like repetition so I’ve made it a looping tape, just for you!”

The detective quickly pushed aside the feelings of horror and despair until they were replaced by cold fury. “What do you want, B? What exactly are you hoping to achieve by trashing your own alma mater and harming the students? Wasn’t ‘helping the students’ always your excuse? Have you really fallen so far as to forget your original goal?”

At this the killer-turned-Shinigami let out a deep and malevolent coughing laugh.

“It’s nice to know you think so well of me, my dear, but I’m afraid you’ve painted me as too altruistic. I’d thought you’d figured it out by now—I hurt them, I hurt you. I know you care about your little… pupils, Lawlipop, even though you pretend not to. And as for my goal it has always been to hurt you.”

“Ah, I see. So you’re really just throwing a temper tantrum over some perceived injury. What exactly are you looking for exactly? An apology?”

“Yes. That would be a nice start,” B hissed through sharp teeth. There was a dangerously sadistic glint in his eyes that promised that no matter what he said or did he and his loved ones were going to suffer. Alright then. If B wanted an apology, L would give him an apology…

“Alright... I’m sorry. I’m sorry you failed, B. I’m sorry that you are irredeemably evil. I’m sorry that Kira killed you and that you’ve somehow reincarnated as the bastard love child of Big Bird and a Tickle Me Elmo doll. I do, well and truly, feel sorry for you. It’s just sad.”

Shut up!” snarled the monster and made like he was going to backhand him with one of his massive, clawed hands but stopped again at the last moment. B seemed panicked for a moment before he fled without a word, suddenly leaping up and flying straight through the ceiling.

Once the detective had steadied his breathing he pondered on B’s strange (well… stranger-than-usual) behavior. It begged the question why didn’t he harm him? B clearly didn’t stop himself out of any sense of moral obligation. He certainly had no problem with committing violent acts while he was alive and he made it crystal clear that he wanted to hurt him that that was his driving goal in life. Or was it death? Undeath? Whatever. No, B obviously wanted to hurt him but for whatever reason was unable to.
But L resolutely put all of that out of his mind for now. It was inconsequential—so what if he had another psycho tormenting him? Big deal. He was more determined than ever to get out of here. He had to warn Wammy’s House.

L resumed relentlessly picking at his bindings, not even stopping when his fingernails broke and began to bleed—he had to start over from scratch since B had caught him and refastened the strap around his formerly free hand. The detective sighed, closed his eyes, and began humming again—this time in an attempt to drown out the sound of Mello’s screaming.

Chapter Text

Light looked up with a start when the large shadow fell over his work area; drawing the teen out of his single-minded focus on the exposed guts of the machine. His nimble fingers still danced, hooking together the wires and circuitry that was strewn out before him on the cold stone floor of the church bell tower. Light cursed himself—he’d been focusing on his task with such intense concentration that he hadn’t even noticed that he’d had company. Luckily it was only a Death God. The dark shade fluttered his dark wings as he lit down upon his favored perch on the railing.

“Where’ve you been?” Light muttered under his breath in his perfectly justified paranoia. He had searched his chosen hiding spot extensively for hidden cameras and listening devices from the cobweb-covered rafters to the loose cobblestones of the floors and walls, to behind the various limited benches and furnishings and even inside the damned bell but there was still a chance he might have missed one… or, perhaps worse, a certain L-lookalike who had taken to stalking him. Apparently he could never be too careful...

“Oh! Light-o! The kids were watching this cartoon about lab mice trying to take over the world! You know the short mouse kinda reminded me of you…”

The megalomaniacal teenager teen snapped with obvious irritation “That’s nice, Ryu—” He stopped himself just in time as he remembered the reason for his paranoia. Light didn’t want to admit it but Ryuk had managed to get the drop on him just now and he couldn’t exactly count on the Shinigami to warn him if he was being watched by L’s kids if the monster thought his getting caught out would be funny. Maybe it wouldn’t even be Near this time. Maybe it was Mello’s turn to leap out of the woodwork shouting “Surprise, motherfucker!”

He couldn’t afford to be slipping up. They might be children but each and every one of them was a brilliant prodigy and putting one past them was taking all of his wit, charm, and skill. Near’s stalking was the worst—it really cut down on his scheming time. Light blamed exhaustion for his near slip-up. His eyes were bleary and his fingers were numb and calloused but he was so close…

The brunette affected a cough in the hopes of verbally erasing his near slip-up while subtly making use of his peripheral vision to scan the room. Seeing no one, Light just got up with a grimace, brushing off the dust and grime from his neatly pressed khaki slacks. He wasn’t Matt—he didn’t particularly enjoy doing the dirty work or tinkering with machines but then sacrifices must be made for the good of the New World.

“I haven’t seen anyone…” Ryuk assured him. “Apple?” The creature asked with such a hopeful expression that Light just couldn’t deny him. He swiftly tossed an apple from his pack that the Shinigami caught in his big claws. While Ryuk loudly masticated behind him Light made a final connection and flipped a switch. The teen’s face split into a wicked grin when he got some rather promising static out of the speakers.

His communications array was operational.

Well it appeared to be anyway… He’d know for sure once he’d tested it out. Okay, maybe he had to tweak it a couple of more times first but that didn’t sound nearly as dramatic.
It was nothing too impressive, really, just a device to hack the global cellular network. Steali… er, borrowing, all the necessary parts and equipment from under the noses of his jailors had been the most challenging part of this endeavor.

But now who to call? His first instinct was to call his father because surely the police would be interested in an illegal imprisonment…

Shit—what did his father think of all this? Did L even tell him? He had to assume that he did. L had already told his father he was a Kira suspect. But surely his father would have objected to L’s kidnapping him unless L made an overwhelming case for it? But even… even if his father thought he was guilty Light doubted that his father would have just let him go without a fight. Of course that was assuming that L didn’t just kidnap him here. L seemed to think he was above the law—that was very irksome to Kira. In either case, until he knew his father’s thoughts on the matter he couldn’t ask him for help.

But how to gauge all the player’s opinions when he was a confined to this school, a world away? Light frowned, he wasn’t sure how long his ramshackle construction would hold up and he didn’t want to waste a call on anything frivolous if he could help it; but to get the intel he needed to call someone who was not on the taskforce but was in the know…

Of course! One shocking epiphany later Light knew exactly who to call. But then he had to work himself up into actually doing it and overcome a sudden case of nerves. What if this was already unsalvageable? What if everyone knew? What if L had outed his identity as Kira in a world-wide broadcast or something? Light didn’t know if he could stand to hear her calling him a monster…

Kira gritted his teeth and punched into the network.

“Moshi-moshi!”

Light froze, for a split-second the words caught in his throat, surprised that It actually worked and emotionally unprepared to actually hear… “Hey, Sayu…”

“Light! How’s England treating you? That’s so cool that you got selected for that study abroad program!”

Well, Light doubted that Sayu would be so carefree if she knew her brother was Kira. But that also raised more questions. It would seem that someone, most likely either L or maybe his father had fed his mother and sister a cover story for his disappearance.

This means that either dad still believes in my innocence or he just hasn’t told them…

“But I wish you’d called sooner, you jerk! It’s been what, almost a week?”

Light clenched his fists at the reminder that it had been that long already. His escape plans were coming along much too slowly for his liking. He only had another week before Kira’s absence would be noticed by the world at large.

“I’m sorry, Sayu. The teachers are really strict about phone use. And it’s been like study, study, study all the time! This is the first chance I could get away from them.”

“Oh, excuses, excuses!”

“Sayu… I’m sorry.”

“I mean, you just left! And it was all so sudden, you know? I mean last I see you is afterschool at softball practice and the next thing I hear you’ve been whisked out of the country! Were you that desperate to get away from me?”

“Of course not! Sayu… I….it’s just I don’t really have ready access to a phone or the Internet at the moment,” well other than the device he was currently using to call his sister but that was actually true for the most part. Wammy’s House had a computer lab but its use was heavily monitored. Or more specifically he was being heavily monitored. He was a prisoner here no matter how gilded the cage. Anything he did would be used against him:

“Your favorite colour is red? You must have violent tendencies and therefore be Kira!”

“Brushing your teeth every day is very Kira-like.”

“Aha! Defending yourself is totally something Kira would do!”

“Hey Light? Did you know what your last name spells backwards in English?”

One L doing it had been bad enough. Now trapped here with L’s kids Light had the dubious pleasure of hearing it in surround sound. It made Light wonder how he’d managed to maintain his sanity…

“That’s barbaric! I mean, what, are you stuck on a nature retreat or something?”

“I—” Light worried about what to tell her when he was unsure of the cover story that had been given to them but this proved unnecessary as Sayu didn’t even give him a chance to talk anyway.

“I’ll admit that at first I was a bit jealous that you got to go but now I’m glad I stayed home in Japan!”

“Yeah…” Light murmured into the microphone. He’d never admit it to anyone but he was afflicted by a sudden bout of homesickness.

“I mean I’d just die without my Ryuuga!” Sayu prattled on obliviously.

What?! No way! He’s mi— Oh. Right. That Ryuuga… Light had to laugh at himself. My sister and L—yeah. As if that would ever happen! Ryuuzaki probably wouldn’t know what to do with a girl if one fell into his lap. Ugh! Bad images!

“But seriously, you couldn’t even text? I mean, jeez, Light! If dad hadn’t said anything I’d have thought you’d run off to join a cult or something!” Light stifled another laugh. Him? Join a cult? Please! He’d only been kidnapped by L-worshippers. He wasn’t about to join any cult, not even L’s. Now leading a cult of devoted followers—that idea did have potential…

“Sayu, listen! I’d never do that to you! I didn’t know I was going either until the last possible moment—it was a surprise for me too. I’m sorry. I didn’t really want to go but they gave me little choice in the matter…”

Sayu sighed on the other end, the sound crackling harshly over the speakers. “I’m sorry too. It’s just you’re gone now and we hardly ever see dad anymore. He’s always working! Stupid Kira!”

“Er… Yeah…” Light mumbled awkwardly. “The next time you see him tell him not to overstrain himself…”

“Oh I do, but he never listens! Ever since Kira started killing those newscasters—”

“What?!”

“Wait—you mean you don’t know? Are you living under a rock? Everyone’s talking about it…”

“Well, I don’t really have access to a TV either…”

Well, Wammy’s House did indeed have a TV—it sat most imposingly in the rec room, a 72 inch plasma screen monstrosity. However, its use was primarily dominated by the younger kids during most of the day. Then Matt would take it whenever it would otherwise be free. As it turns out, stealing the remote from a bunch of little orphan kids would make even Kira feel like too much like a heel and there wasn’t a chance in Hell of wrestling it away once The Matt got into an X-Box mood.

Besides L’s kids would surely notice if he was obsessively watching news of the Kira case...

A rock it I then!” came his sister’s sing-song voice. She was obviously pleased with herself that she knew something that her brother didn’t for once and that she could hold it over his head.

Light stifled an irritated growl. “Sayu! Please! What’s happening? Tell me!

“Maybe I should charge you for this information seeing as you’re obviously too lazy to get it yourself…”

“Sayu…”

“Oh alright. Alright. Well.. yeah… The thing is…” Sayu sobered up immediately when she began to speak of the grim topic at hand. “The thing is Kira made like this big announcement on national TV and began killing newscasters that spoke against him. It was pretty scary.”

Light blanched at the implications. “That’s… that’s horrible!There’s a copycat out there using my name like this… Killing innocents! This—this is unacceptable!

“I heard police officers were killed too. And... Light, I’m worried about dad.”

“I… Wait, you said Kira sent a message? What did he say?”

“Oh just that he is Kira and that he’s making a New World or some such bullshit—”

“Sayu, language!” Light scolded on reflex while inwardly he cringed. He had held hopes that one day Sayu would understand…

“Yes, mom! Do you want to hear this or not?”

“Fine! Just don’t let mom hear you using that kind of language.”

“Anyway, like I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted… “

Light expelled an irritated sounding breath but otherwise refrained from comment. He leaned in close to better hear his sister talk over the crackly speakers.

“Kira sent like this grainy black and white video to the news station and made them play it—it sucked, really. The quality I mean. I’ve made better videos myself…”

“Sayu.”

“Right, okay. Anyway you’d think it was a prank or something except that, you know, people actually died. He said he'd kill anyone who gets in his way…”

Well, now at least he had an idea of what he was dealing with.

Since he didn’t send the message himself (because doing so would be utterly moronic—it was far too confrontational and would turn people against Kira) there were two possibilities. Option A was that that this was the work of someone who was trying to purposely incite the public against Kira. It might have even been a particularly well-played move by L—that could explain the silence on his end. Light almost hoped it was L partly because if it was L that meant he was still out there to annoy him and frame him for murders he hadn’t committed than he probably wasn’t in any danger of starving to death under his cake freezer. Also because option B was just so stupid. Option B was that another Shinigami brought another Death Note to the human realm that fell into the hands of a deranged Kira fanboy who also just happened to be an absolute idiot.

Of course if it was option A than that meant that Light would most definitely have to kill L because not only did he show Kira up in the public arena again but he made Light worry needlessly... not that he was worried! He’d never really been worried! Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous. He was merely expressing a perfectly legitimate concern about what his nemesis was doing.

…And he was fooling no one, not even himself.

Light stifled a panic when, for some reason, the signal began breaking up. It could’ve been any number of things—the satellite he’d hacked was moved beyond the horizon, a wire could’ve come loose, he could’ve been discovered… He’d have to swiftly bring this conversation to a close. “Okay, Sayu? Listen—you be careful, alright? Stay safe and don’t give your name out any more than you have to.”

“My name?”

“I don’t know if this is public knowledge but I overheard dad say that Kira needs a name and a face to kill. So… use an alias or nicknames whenever possible and don’t go out any more than you have to, okay Sai-chan?”

“Ugh! Oniisan! Don’t call me that!”

“But it could save your life!” Light said innocently.

“Liiiight-nii!”

The would-be God smiled indulgently at his little sister’s bratty whining.

“And watch out for weirdos, okay!”

“Egh! You’re worse than mom!”

The machine gave a dying screech over the speakers.

“Listen, I don’t know when I’ll get to call you again so until then… Sayonara, Sai-chan,” Light spoke wistfully just before the signal cut out.

Light then went to work disassembling the machine, stashing the various components—hiding some behind lose cobblestones, taping other parts under the bench.

He was just packing up when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end, as if he was being watched. He slowly turned around to find two abysmal black pools boring into him.

It was Near—again.

Surprise, surprise, thought Light as he resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

Chapter Text

Light swore that Near was secretly a ninja. Well save for dressing all in black and knowing martial arts—an out-of-shape, snowmageddon ninja then—but that was beside the point! The way that that kid could get the drop on him defied all logic! He wasn’t human! He must have been born as a Shinigami-polar bear hybrid that could walk through walls or something—that was the only plausible explanation!

“Hey Near. What are you doing out here?” Light asked while affecting a most cool and casual manner, leaning against the wall and shoving his hands into his jacket pockets while he flashed a kind, disarming smile in an attempt to look perfectly normal not the least bit suspicious and braced himself for yet another onslaught of veiled (and not-so-veiled) accusations.

Light reflected that Near was clearly dedicated in his stalking—his obsession with him must have overridden even his agoraphobia seeing as Near was actually outside—it was admirable, really, even if it was incredibly annoying.

Near sat down right there on the cobblestone steps, uncaring if his pristine white pajamas were getting smudged and dirty from sitting on the floor so long as he prevented Kira’s escape.

“I didn’t see you around this afternoon and I thought we’d discuss putting those finishing touches on our project.”

Near said, well-aware that his attempt at casual, non-suspicious social interaction looked just as fake as Kira’s. When Light approached and Near looked away slightly, as if nervous or uncomfortable while tugging at his favorite strand of hair and Light slipped passed him to begin a slow, leisurely descent of the stone stairwell—totally not at all running away—and Near doggedly followed him—totally not at all stalking him.

“Oh, right. Sorry. I thought we finished that already… Wait… Mello didn’t—”

“No. So far our security precautions have held and have foiled all sabotage attempts—all twenty one of them…”

“Wait, twenty one—

“Yes, twenty one attempts have been recorded and all twenty one have failed” Near assured him, “but I was just thinking about maybe putting some finishing touches on it…”

Their conversation was interrupted by a thunderous roar blasted through the air.

“Woah!”

Light froze when he too noticed what had drawn the attention of his Shinigami—the massive fireball that erupted out of the south west building.

“What?!”

Near just sighed and shook his head. “It looks like some idiot blew up the science labs again.”

“Again?” Light asked as he looked on at the wreckage. “This has happened before?!”

Meanwhile the fire continued to burn. That could be… bad. Most of the students would be headed down to the cafeteria but there was still a chance of casualties if that was allowed to burn out of control.

“Should we… go help or something?”

Near sighed, slightly annoyed at having the flow of their conversation on their project being interrupted by this inconvenience. He gave another hair a compulsive tug and Light marveled over the fact that the kid had yet to go bald. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It happens at least once a month. It was probably P, anyway.”

“P?!”

“P,” Near affirmed.

“Dare I ask what the P stands for?”

“Pyro.”

“Well… that makes sense.”

“I call him P though because he’s a pee-pee head,” Near declared in a voice that was as dispassionate as ever.

Light sighed. “Near…”

“Anyway they’ve got fire crews standing by just for this sort of thing... Aw, there, see? They’ve put it out,” Near said as he yet again pulled on his white curls. “At least it wasn’t a nuke this time.”

“…Someone once built a nuke?

“Yes.”

“Is that even possible?”

“You do realize this is a school for ethically questionable genii, right? Yes. Someone once built a nuke—or tried to anyway. I think the teachers caught it while it was still in the planning stages. The student involved got expelled for that.” Near said with a shrug.

“Oh yes, that makes it so much better.”

“I think I like science!” Ryuk declared with a definitive nod of his head, the brilliant orange of the flames reflecting ominously in his odd, bulbous eyes. “Science is fun!”

“Light? … Light?

“What?!” Light snapped as he tore his gaze away from the view of the wreckage when he felt the smaller boy tugging insistently at his sleeve.

“Our project…?”

“What? Wait, it wasn’t in the blast, was it? I thought you had it tucked away in your basement?”

“It is. I meant I still needed to talk to you about those finishing touches I was trying to tell you about…”

“Er… Right. Okay, so what did you have in mind?”

“I was thinking racing stripes!” Near declared with boyish enthusiasm, reminding Light that despite his coldness and creepy stalking Near was still very much a child. It threw Light off his game every time.

“On a desalination facility?” Light arched a fine eyebrow in bemusement. If there projected hadn’t been sabotaged then it was, indeed, done. So this had to be the all-time winner for “The Most-Completely-Transparent-Excuse-to-Hang-Out-with-Him” award.

“Blue ones… or maybe teal?” the younger boy pondered aloud most gravely, as if he were weighing nuclear options.

“I suppose a swirly, kind of watery pattern might be appropriate,” Light agreed thoughtfully.

“And the Autobots logo!” Near insisted.

“You do realize that’s copyrighted material, right?”

As they discussed their project and differences of artist opinion Near “escorted” Kira back to the school proper. But no sooner had they arrived than Light was beset by Wammy House’s private army of ninja security guards and tackled to the ground. That settled it—Wammy’s must have a ninja training grounds around here somewhere. Light wondered if he could arrange to sign up for that class. That was, of course, assuming that said ninjas weren’t about to take his head off.

“W-what’s going on?” Light wondered exactly what had changed to make them look like they were all planning on murdering the hell out of him and dumping him in an unmarked grave somewhere…

“It wasn’t Pyro?” Near asked in an odd tone that nearly had an inflection in it.

“No… this was no mere prank! It was a terror attack!” declared one of the ninja.

“Since no alarms were tripped it had to have been done by someone on the inside,” muttered another.
It was clear who they thought was the attacker given they were currently pressing his face into the ground.

“Er… And you don’t think it might have been this Pyro guy?”

The guards glared at Light for daring to speak.

“Of course not! Pyro is denied access to the high explosives—for obvious reasons.”

“And you think that would stop someone obsessed with fire?”

“Well, no. But we do keep him carefully monitored!”

“Of course. Because no one could ever get around the security here,” Light said with what he thought was obvious sarcasm but seemed to go over the heads of his captors. Light supposed that professional ninjas don’t have much of a sense of humor. It then occurred to him that suggesting he could get around the security here wasn’t exactly helping his case and once again cursed his stupid pride for getting him into these kinds of situations. Luckily before he could dig himself any deeper a certain begoggled redhead arrived on the scene, demanding his pound of flesh.

“YOU! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!” Matt roared, pain and grief turning the normally mellow-mannered gamer into something absolutely terrifying to the point that even the ninja guards seemed to view Matt as more of a threat than the Kira-suspect as they suddenly released their body binding hold to deal with the enraged teenager.

“This is all your fault!” Matt cried again.

“So I gathered,” Light grumbled as he rubbed his sore wrists and wondered what he could have possibly done, or allegedly done, to so offend the gamer.

“If you hadn’t said anything we wouldn’t be fighting and he wouldn’t have even been there!”

“What kind of bizarre breed of logic is that?!” demanded Light. He was beyond vexation that he was, once again, getting blamed for everything—even circumstances that he couldn’t possibly have had any control over.

“What are you even talking about?” Light demanded but Matt was beyond all reason, having collapsed into a sobbing heap on the ground. What’s going on? Was somebody hurt in the explosion?

“Ugh! Say it, don’t spray it!” said one of the less sympathetic kids in the crowd that had gathered to watch the ensuing drama.

“I don’t understand—why am I even a suspect? I had nothing to do with this!”

“You’re already a suspect, Kira!” snarled another of the guards.

“I’m not Kira! And what would this have to do with Kira, anyway? Did a criminal have a heart attack? I thought this was about a building blowing up!”

“I’m sure that’s exactly what you want us to think!” Matt snapped cruelly.

Light sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Isn’t there camera footage or something?”

“Of course not!” Matt snarled viciously while kicking over a trashcan. It made a satisfying clatter as it smashed around against the pavement and the red brick wall.

“You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?” said an odd woman in a nurse’s outfit who was fighting obvious amusement. Of course this was a serious situation and Matt’s breakdown wasn’t funny, really—except that it kind of was, and that just made it all the more terrible. The woman was so bizarre-looking that Light wondered why he hadn’t noticed her before—probably because he was being attacked by ninjas. She had Heterochromia iridum; that is she had two different colored eyes—her left eye was a rich mocha brown and her right eye was a bright electric blue and her dyed rainbow-colored hair was tied back in a professional pony tail.

“All the cameras have been blocked,” Roger stated most dourly.

“Then there’s also the matter of how the perpetrator managed to slip by security…” said another ninja security guard who then tossed something at them. Light caught it reflexively to avoid getting smacked in the face. The thing he now held was horribly deformed and withered and appeared to be a dull shade of green-grey but nevertheless there was no denying that they were…

“Apples?!”

Ryuk perked up at the mention of his favorite addiction: “Hey, that’s an apple from the Shinigami Realm!”

Light cast an aside glance at the Shinigami.

“Hey, don’t look at me, kid! I haven’t been back there since I bonded with you and I didn’t bother to bring any of those with me! They taste terrible! Apples in the human world are so much tastier, so much… juicier.

“Yes, apples,” said Roger oblivious to the byplay between Light and his “imaginary” friend though he found it odd, given the circumstances, how the teen seemed to space out for a moment.

“That is most curious.” Near said thoughtfully.

“That’s an apple? I thought it was a jalapeño!” declared a startlingly green-eyed child.

Roger sighed, “Then you should study your botany lessons more closely, Hoodwink.” The elderly caretaker then turned his suspicious gaze on to the brunette. “We know you’ve been taking apples from the kitchen.”

“And is that a crime? Linda said we could take the food there. This, ” here Light held up the apple they tossed at him with barely masked contempt, “is nothing like the apples that come from the kitchens.”

“You have to agree that it is very suspicious that apples were used in the commission of this crime and you have reason to resent Wammy’s House…” said another of the nameless, faceless ninja guards.
The brunette teenager leveled his gaze at his accusers and declared with the utmost calm “This is a setup.” Light was quickly calculating which elaborate lie to spin in order to get out of this when he was startled by the bored-sounding, childlike voice that piped up beside him.

“It wasn’t Light Yagami,” Near declared to Light’s obvious surprise. “I can vouch for his whereabouts before and during the attack. He was out in the old church calling his sister on his little ham radio set.”

Near was utterly unfazed when Light shot him his trademarked death glare. It was hard not to become inured to that sort of thing when one receives death threats from a certain chocaholic blonde on a fifty times a day basis. “What?” asked the pallid boy, his corvid eyes sparkling a glossy black with faux innocence, “Was that was supposed to be a secret?”

Near then addressed the assembled adults again, giving them an alarmingly detailed itinerary of Light’s daily schedule, down to the minute, including his sleep patterns and time spent in the bathroom clarifying that he wasn’t actually helping out of any loyalty to Light so much as this was a testament to Near’s investigative (or rather stalking) abilities. “Between classes, homework, scheming up escape attempts, and the amount of time he spends socializing” (here Near made a face as if that were a dirty word) “Light Yagami wouldn’t have had time to engineer this plot. I suggest you look elsewhere.”

The ninja guards put their batons away, visibly disappointed.

Light breathed a sigh of relief. Who could have ever guessed that Near’s creepy stalking would actually be helpful to Kira? Though it was worrying that they didn’t seem at all concerned by his testing of their security system and communications with the outside world—were they just that confidant about L’s safeguards? Light began to sweat a little as he considered that perhaps he should be alarmed that they weren’t alarmed...

This whole time… have I just been playing right into their hands?

“Guys, can we focus on the real issue here?”

“And what might that be, Nurse Sue?” Roger asked, trying to keep his naturally crabby voice neutral in an attempt to mollify the rising tempers.

“Dr. Caduceus wants this section of the school under quarantine effective immediately.

Chapter Text

“Roger? What are you doing with Yagami? This has Kujo’s signature all over it! We all know she’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer!” scolded the rainbow-haired nurse.

“You’re right,” Roger assented, “but she must have had help from someone on the inside. Possibly your boss…”

What?! Seriously? C’mon, Roger! You know Dr. C hasn’t spoken to her in years. Not since she started that whole psycho-P.E.T.A. phase that turned out to be not such a phase after all,” snapped Sue, accentuating her irritation with an angry pop of her bubblegum.

Light didn’t think that was very sanitary—and she was supposed to be a nurse?! Overall, he was beginning to suspect that Wammy’s House mostly churned out evil doctors and mad scientists and just trained the occasional super detective to balance out their karmic books.

“I’m sorry if you don’t want to hear this Sue but at the moment he’s our top suspect. He was best known to K…” said Roger in what was supposed to be a placating tone but instead only sounded arrogant and patronizing.

“Then wouldn’t using him be too obvious?” observed Near as he slumped down onto the blacktop when it looked like they were going to just stand around talking instead of doing whatever they were supposed to do “immediately.” Obviously adults had a different definition of things getting done “immediately.”

“Where is Caduceus anyway?” asked one of the ninja guards.

“Taking care of the patient, obviously! I really can’t believe this! You know, you’re lucky that Dr. C is familiar with K’s handiwork—otherwise we’d have a goddamned epidemic on our hands!”

“And how is he?”

“He’s been quarantined. We’re incredibly lucky it happened like this. No other casualties have been reported.”

“Lucky? Tell that to Mello!” shouted Matt, red-faced and ugly with rage.

“Wait… are you saying that Mello was in that explosion?!” Light rasped out, a genuinely horrorstruck expression on his face. Sure he’s a bit of a brat… well that’s just the thing—he’s just a kid!

Roger nodded somberly. “It looks like he was trying to get a head start on his science project when he accidentally tripped K’s trap. The bomb was just a diversion, of course—the real problem is the virus the trap released.”

“His condition is stable but…”

“But what?! What’s wrong with Mello?!” Near demanded, almost approaching an actual display of emotion.

“…Roger, it’s Balor,” Sue hissed in an overly loud “whisper” that everyone somehow managed to hear.

“Oh fucking hell!” Matt snarled, kicking the poor trashcan again before grabbing Roger’s shirt collar and then shouting in his face for good measure in a most Mello-like manner: “Don’t just stand around here! Do something! We’re talking brain damage!

Roger simply pried the boy’s fingers off his shirt collar and ignored the boy’s shouting as if this sort of thing were an everyday occurrence—which it was, really, only it was usually Mello acting up like this. With Mello incapacitated it seemed that Matt had taken it upon himself to fill his role as the school delinquent—touching, really. Roger fought to keep his annoyance off of his face. He really and truly hated kids. So why did he accept this position again? Oh, that’s right. He really loved Quillsh.

“I assure you, we’re doing everything we can,” Roger said placidly.

Naturally all the genii present knew that that was actually secret code for “we’re wringing our hands, despairing, and nothing is actually getting done.”

“Wait, how do you know about Balor?” demanded Sue.

Matt felt like stabbing someone. Naturally, in the middle of a crisis that was what they would focus on.

“The other day during… research I got into the Alexandria files…”

Behind him Roger was suddenly beset by a dramatic coughing fit.

“Balor is one of many bioweapons designed by K,” Matt exposited “It… it attacks the brain and central nervous system…”

“Wait, are you saying you hacked Watari’s private database?” wheezed Roger as he attempted to overcome his coughing bout and breathe with some regularity once more.

At this the hacker had the good sense to look a bit sheepish.

“Just how much do you know about Balor?” demanded one of the Men in Black wannabes that was crowding around them along with the assorted “ninja.”

“Balor is a biological weapon, a designer virus created by K. It was a failed experiment at making a nonlethal biological weapon. The virus won’t kill the victim but the victim will often starve to death after being rendered all uh… disfigured and brain dead. If C caught it in time then it’s still in the early stages, meaning that we can stop it. The virus has a counter, codenamed Lugh, both are kept together in a secure facility, a hundred kilometers North of here and they’re conveniently color-coded—Balor is the black vial and Lugh is in a white one,” Matt exposited, voice rife with irritation. He was sure that if this was a video game he’d have been able to get Mello the antidote by now! He’d just have to wait for a cut scene to drop him off at next level and fight his way through a few hordes of zombies to the obviously glowing case filled with the antidote—it should’ve been a no brainer!

“Well Matt… I guess there’s hope for our investigating skills yet,” said Roger, though it was lacking his usual vitriol. It was becoming all too clear that Matt should never have been third. After this crisis was over and he got into contact with L again they would have to arrange to have him tested again.

“Yes. Excellent work, 5 points to Hufflepuff!” Near quipped, renewing and redefining his label of “socially awkward.”

“How the hell can you joke at a time like this, Near?! Mello—” Matt choked up while pulling his bright orange goggles down over his eyes.

The white-haired boy looked away and took to fiddling with the transforming robot he was carrying around in his pocket. When it was all folded up Near’s robot took the shape of an ancient cassette tape.

“So Mello has been infected. Sorry.” Near said to Matt in a voice without inflection so that it, unfortunately, sounded less-than-sincere. “But what I want to know is why this was even in the Alexandria files? That means that Watari had to have known…”

“Yes, Dr. C says that K created the Balor strain to blackmail L and Watari into letting her leave…”

“Wait, what?!” exclaimed Light. It couldn’t be that simple!

“You didn’t think they’d let one of their investments walk right out the front door, did you?” Sue chuckled at the absolutely gobsmacked looks of L’s successors.

Matt shuffled awkwardly, well-aware that that’s exactly what Mello had frequently threatened to do.

Meanwhile a certain Kira pondered the implications: So the moral of this story is all you have to do is blackmail L and Watari and threaten the students and they’ll let you go. Of course they probably wouldn’t be so willing to allow someone that they thought was Kira to leave unmolested...

Huh. Balor and Lugh. What odd names. Balor and Lugh—B and L? I wonder if it’s a coincidence? Light made a mental note to look into it later. B and L are obvious aliases so could it even be L’s real name? Wait, no. That’s ridiculous. I doubt they would have used L’s real name—well if one of L’s enemies knew his real name I suppose they could have been vindictive enough to name a virus after him but it’s unlikely the staff here would have kept using it if it was anything like L’s real name. But then maybe that’s what they want me to think… No stop it. If you start doing this you could go in circles and obsess over it forever. Besides, L’s real name isn’t much of a priority anymore, anyway. I have to make sure he’s safe before I can even consider if I still need to kill him! Light ruminated while listening, with increasing frustration, to the volleying arguments. “Just what the hell is going on?!”

“…he’ll survive the burns but unless we can get the antiviral inhibitor he’ll be nothing but a brain-dead vegetable.” Sue informed them as gently as she could.

The children were stunned speechless. To the vast majority of Wammy’s students their intellect was what made them who they were—most would have actually found a death sentence preferable to such a fate.

Roger sighed and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, the setting sun reflecting ominously off the lenses.

“We both know that the odds of that happening are next to zero.”

“What?! But why?!” Matt demanded, voice sounding ragged with desperation. “You said there was a cure! So why don’t you just go get it?”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple. The cure is kept in cold storage in a facility about a hundred kilometers north of here. But that’s as the crow flies. The actual distance is actually much farther when you account for the winding back country roads—the twists and the curves add another forty three minutes to the journey. I’m sorry but I don’t see any way they could make it in time.”

“Who cares? He was a jerk anyway!” scoffed one of the other kids.

Nurse Sue had to physically restrain Matt to keep him from killing the younger kid.

“Oh please, like they care about us!”

Roger sighed. “Hoodwink…

“He’s of no use to you now so he isn’t your problem anymore? That’s what you’re thinking, right?”

“Hoodwink! How can you even suggest that?!” cried Sue.

“Well, actually…” began one of the Suits before another of his fellow’s elbowed him in the ribs.

“Wait, h-he’s right?!” Sue gasped before rounding on Roger and the Suits.

“Not in so many words, no. However…”

Light eyed the bureaucrats in disgust. “This is a kid we’re talking about.”

Roger sighed yet again, and Light was beginning to wonder if perhaps he had breathing problems. “Thank you, Kira, for pointing out the obvious.”

I’m not Kira!

“Yeah, keep telling yourself that,” muttered the green-eyed boy.

But really we have to consider if this is worth the expenditures…” continued the Suit as if anyone actually cared about his excuses for forsaking a child to the ravages of a curable disease.

“How the hell can you even say that?!” demanded Sue, her dangling silver hoop earrings swaying angrily as she rounded on the smarmy bureaucrat.

Near stared the trademarked “L-stare” at the assembled Men in Black guys but he didn’t know if he was successful in unnerving them since they’re own eyes were hidden behind sinister shades. “Am I hearing you correctly? You are not going to spare the expense of helping Mello when he is the second…”

“Third…” corrected that same annoying, nameless guy in the suit. Light found it a pity that he was as of yet nameless as his writing hand twitched ever so slightly.

“Fine, third best asset you have here? Surely L wouldn’t care about the price tag in order to protect his investment in Mello,” Near argued dispassionately.

“Yes, but L isn’t here and we can’t reach him so he doesn’t make the decisions,” the Suit declared self-importantly.

“Oh yeah, sure they’ll help. Just like they helped A, and B, and K. They’ll even provide the noose for him to hang himself!”

Hoodwink!” the nurse scolded and the dark-haired boy rolled his eyes.

“Oh, right—I forgot. We don’t talk about that.”

“He’s one of the lower ranked students, isn’t he?” asked the Suit, eying the outspoken boy with distaste.

“Yes, unfortunately,” Roger sighed, giving the emerald-eyed boy a disappointed look, “And initial testing showed such promise… “

“But… can’t we just take a helicopter or something?” Matt pleaded hopefully.

“Did you hear a word we just said? Helicopters are expensive!” declared the Suit, much to the ire of everyone present.

“Matt, as you recall the helicopter shed was next to the science building.”

The red-head groaned in despairing realization.

“We’ve got crews sifting through the wreckage but none of them look particularly flight-worthy.”

“Why would you do that anyway? Why store the only antidote somewhere so inaccessible?” inquired Light; it just seemed like poor planning overall.

Roger sighed yet again. “It’s not like this is an everyday occurrence. The inhibitor is kept next to what is supposed to be the only vial of the stuff in existence. Yes, I know… I can see how well that turned out.”

At this point Matt once again gave an impassioned rant about this being all Light’s fault for even existing and for even being here at Wammy’s House—as if it was his choice! Light fumed—in his ever so humble opinion if Matt should be blaming anyone he should be blaming L for dumping him here without even a “by your leave.” No, Light was sure that Matt was just blaming him because it was convenient—a Kira suspect makes for an easy scapegoat and this way he didn’t have to assume any personal responsibility.

The jerk!

“I don’t suppose it matters to you that I didn’t do anything,” Light grumbled while brushing imaginary lint off of his crimson jacket.

“I don’t care! If you were so great you could save Mello!” Matt spat childishly.

“Now Matt, that’s not exactly fair. It’s not like he’s God or anything,” chided Near.

Light glared at them fiercely through his fringe of chestnut-colored bangs, the very picture of wounded pride.

Near abruptly stood up, revealing how his white pajamas had become dirtied from sitting on the blacktop. This was why he didn’t like going outside. “Though I’m sure that if he really wanted to Kira—I’m sorry, I mean Light could fetch it with his psychic powers or something...”

“For the last time, I’m not Kira! And that’s not the least bit helpful!” Light snapped.

“No need to be so defensive.” Near said, sending a smirk at the fuming older teen. “So I take it you won’t help? Ah, what a shame. I guess Mello will just have to get used to eating chocolate through a tube—I wonder if he’d even be able to tell?”

“You asshole!” Matt shrieked and looked like he wanted to attack either Light or Near. They weren’t sure. Matt probably wasn’t either. He probably would have settled for whoever was closet had he not been once again restrained, this time by assorted ninja.

“If you’re not going to help him then at least let me go see him!” Matt demanded. It didn’t seem to matter that Mello had been infected by a brain-killing disease. Matt had insisted on going to see Mello and on dragging Near with him. Not that Near put up much of a protest, especially since Nurse Sue had assured Roger that it was, relatively safe—that they could view Mello through the window of the clean room without breaking quarantine.

Light found that Near’s only concern seemed to be about him.

“But… what about Li—Kira?!

If Light wasn’t absolutely livid over the fact that they had implied he was less than omnipotent he might have found such a display of concern to be touching, really.

“Oh, for Sheogorath’s sake, Near! There are guards, cameras, and the cuff. Kira isn’t going anywhere! Now, come on Near—if you care at all you'd better come with me, you bastard! Mello needs us! ” Near pouted as Matt practically dragged him away.

Light scowled at Matt and Near’s retreating backs until his concentrated death glare was broken by Roger’s approach. The elderly caretaker exhaled slowly while running a hand over his receding grey hair

“He didn’t mean that.” Roger explained of Matt’s many, many insults that Light really could care less about.

Light scowled. “Then why did he say it? They shouldn’t have said those things,” Light hissed darkly, his voice cold with tightly controlled fury.

 

“He’s a teenager. You can’t expect him to be rational even at the best of times and his best friend is in the hospital,” admonished Sue as she casually unwrapped the foil off of a new stick of bubblegum. She offered Light a stick and he, predictably, declined.

“It’s a culture shock, right? I know in Japan it’s expected to hold it all in and be polite all the time but in the West it’s actually expected that when one experiences a personal tragedy that they become assholes and lash out at people around them. We’re supposed to give them leeway because of the grieving process. In any case I must ask that you don’t kill my patients.”

“For the last time, I’m not Kira!”

“You said that last time,” that Hoodwink boy observed.

“Fine ‘Not-Kira.’ In any case don’t kill my patients.”

At his side, Light’s hands clenched into fists. “Just what the hell do you take me for?!”

“I only say it because the way you were staring after them it looked like you either wanted to kill them or wanted to bang him.”

“Oh, God no!” Light groaned. Just what the hell is wrong with these people?!

“Dr. C seems to think he’s turned you gay and that you have the hots for him. Not that it’s any of my business of course, but if he does bed you could I have pictures? You know, for research purposes?”

Light groaned again and buried his face in his hands. “Don’t you have a loud-mouthed teenager to save?”

“We can’t do much without the antidote, I’m afraid. Don’t worry. I’m sure Dr. C’s making him comfortable.”

“Please tell me he’s not a pedophile,” Light muttered. Sure he might not have gotten on very well with Mello but he’d never wish any of this on even his worst enemy.

For a moment Sue looked like she wanted to slap him before she thought better of it—not because Light was suspected of being Kira but because she herself took the whole “do no harm” quite seriously and her well-manicured nails could do some serious damage.

So the verbal claws came out instead. “Do you know what they say about assumptions? They make an ass out of you and me.”

“Right. That’s so clever. Not.”

“The patient is fourteen. He’s not doing anything to him, you pervert!” Sue snapped and left in an offended huff.

Chapter Text

Light soon found himself being herded off along with all the other students that hadn’t been infected into the big auditorium thing away from the campus proper—one of those large, multi-purpose buildings, partly a gymnasium with folding bleachers, partly a general meeting place that was most often used by the Wammy’s for addressing the school and the occasional physical training exercise.

The upside was it was terribly noisy what with so many squabbling (terrified) children under one roof and any one conversation was easily swallowed up by the din of the crowd. Of course the downside was… that it was very noisy and filled with terrified screaming children and the way the place was built amplified and distorted the sound so that it was even louder and more annoying. Still, Light found it to be an ideal place to have a chat with his Shinigami.

Oh, there were cameras and listening devices hidden about, Light had Ryuk around to ever-so-helpfully point them all out, but they were mainly monitoring the entrance ways—naturally, since this was a quarantine they didn’t want anyone getting in or out. Thanks to Ryuk, Light knew where all the other cameras were and how to avoid them.

Light found that any one individual could easily get lost within the press of bodies so as long as he milled around properly, so he could lose anyone trying to keep tabs on him and get away with a quick chat with Ryuk right there under the noses of Wammy’s staff without drawing attention to himself. He also took another precaution to concealing his identity—since it had been cold out when Light had gone up to the windy bell tower the teenage mastermind was also wearing his magic hoodie beneath his jacket that seemingly rendered him unrecognizable and since it was chilly here in the gym as well, and several students were wearing something similar, his putting his hood up wasn’t even that suspicious either. That didn’t stop Ryuk’s snarky commentary that he looked ready to either play Assassin’s Creed or kill F.B.I. agents. Light was once again reminded that a bored Ryuk tended to be generally hazardous to one’s health—mental or otherwise.

“Could a Shinigami have done this?” Light demanded as soon as he was sure no one was paying any attention to him or he was nowhere where a camera could read his lips—he was nothing if not thorough.

Ryuk froze under the intensity of Light’s stare—to be honest Light was kind of scaring him. “N-no. It’s… unlikely.”

“Unlikely. But not impossible? Why is that?”

“Well you see… er… if a Shinigami causes the death of a human without writing that human’s name in the death note—that’s like… really bad. We get punished really harshly for it. That’s why you don’t hear about Shinigami scratching and biting random humans.”

“Hmmm. Yes, that’s something about Shinigami that’s always puzzled me—what’s the point of having fangs and claws and whatever else if you don’t use them?”

“Well, I suppose they’re just for ripping our buddies apart on especially boring afternoons.”

“…that’s what Shinigami do for fun?”

“Er… did I mention the Shinigami realm is a really dull place?” Ryuk remarked casually before noting that his human was wearing that scary calculating look again. The Shinigami swallowed nervously.

“What if you wrote ‘killed by a Shinigami in the Death Note?’ Would that Shinigami still get in trouble?”

“In that case, no because they’d only doing what the Death Note compelled them to do. It’s only when a Shinigami consciously decides they are going to somehow attack a human without using their Death Note that they get punished for it. You see, naturally, it’s not the death of the human that is objectionable but the inherent insult to our divine powers over death that we’d so neglect to use them by acting like beasts.”

Light looked quite put out at that.

“Wait, you sonova—you were trying to get rid of me, weren’t you?”

Light smiled disarmingly. “Wouldn’t dream of it, Ryuk.”

Ryuk cackled harshly. “Oh, that’s too rich! I knew there was a reason I kept you around! You must have balls of steel trying to kill a God of Death!”

“Er… I suppose I’ll take that as a compliment. Ryuk…?”

“Yeah?”

Light couldn’t believe he was considering this. It would be compromising his mission. What should one child matter compared to all the good he could do as Kira? It’s not like he was Mello’s father. He was not responsible in any kind of way…

“You killed his father.”

Light knew there would be casualties, at least in an abstract way, but somehow he hadn’t expected to meet any so soon. As much of a jerk as he was, Mello was just a victim of circumstances—an innocent. What kind of God would so forsake the innocent? He had to do something to rectify this if nothing else because his pride would not allow it. That is if he could even do anything about it. There must be something!

“What?” Ryuk demanded, becoming somewhat nervous as Light kept studying him speculatively.

“Are you sure there is no deal for wings?”

“What are you thinking, Light-o? You must be really desperate to even consider asking me for help.”

“It’s not for my sake, it’s for Mello’s! I bet if you had a mind to you could get that antidote in time.”

Ryuk chuckled. “Too bad I don’t have a mind to.”

“Is there any way I could change your mind on that?”

“I’m a God of Death. Saving humans isn’t in the job description… quite the opposite, really.”

“The doctors say he’s going to live. That’s not the issue. You wouldn’t be saving him. You’d just be doing me a favor.”

“And why would I want to do that?”

“I’ll get you apples.” Light wheedled.

“Not enough apples in the world, Light-o.”

“Is there any way I might possibly persuade you?”

Ryuk chuckled. “What’s it to you anyway? …Don’t tell me you actually care?!

“Of course I care!” The monster snorted at that. Light ignored him and spoke in those soft lilting tones that were reserved for the teen’s God Complex. “I care for all of my children Ryuk, however misguided they are. He’s only fourteen, Ryuk. No older than Sayu—”

“Ah, that’s the real issue, isn’t it?”

“He has his whole life ahead of him to set himself on the correct path. But if he can’t think over his actions he’ll never get that chance…”

Ryuk grinned even more broadly than usual and Light wondered how his head even stayed on top of his neck. Perhaps that’s why he appeared to be sewed together.

“Alright, Light-o. I think I can help you. It might even be fun!

“Really? I can count on you for this?”

“Yes, I’ll help you… for a price…”

“Right. Of course! What kind of apples do you want?”

“No, I told you. Not just apples. Not this time.”

The Shinigami named his terms. Light clenched his fists at his sides in cold fury.

“So… what’s it gonna be, Light?”

The teen frowned. Would it really be worth it? Mello, like most of the kids here was an enemy of Kira and more than likely would end up a criminal one day…

That line of thinking gave him pause and he reminded himself, once again, that for all his faults Mello was still a child. The righteous killer got the feeling he was walking a very fine line here (If he hadn’t crossed it already… No, it was best not dwell on such things…)

Dammit, it was like the Hotel all over again. This was what got him into this mess in the first place! But he could not in good conscience sit back and allow this to happen to Mello. Not when he had the means to stop it. That would be criminal and not at all beneficial to Kira.

Matt was already irrationally blaming him for this mess and if he just allowed this to happen to Mello he’d probably lose whatever ground he’d gained in influencing the Successors. However saving Mello wouldn’t necessarily be in Kira’s best interests either—Mello was not well-liked by his peers and there was no guarantee that saving him would win him the loyalty of Wammy’s even though he’d be saving one of their own. When he first arrived here not a week ago several of his classmates were begging for Kira to kill him. Those classmates probably thought it funny to think that the boisterous boy might end up a brain dead vegetable.

And they were already suspicious of him, taking Ryuuzaki’s word alone as truth about his identity as Kira. They were already thinking he had psychic powers and other such nonsense and helping now would only serve to cast more suspicion on himself, making it even more difficult for him to escape. But perhaps he was thinking about this all wrong—he knew he needed to find L in order to clear up some of these foolish assumptions that Ryuk seemed to have gotten into his head. Surely it should be obvious even to an idiot like Ryuk that they were just enemies and nothing more was going on between them?

I hope Ryuuzaki’s okay…

Of course neither he nor the Successors were content to just wait for Roger’s verdict but with no other leads there was little they could do other than monitor the world’s bakeries. Of course as Light was the only one who among them who had ever met L in person he got volunteered to be the one to stare at the monitors for countless hours at a time hoping to catch some glimpse of messy raven hair.

Nothing.

There was no trace of L anywhere.

Of course there had been the occasional false alarm. Light scowled at the memory of how Matt needled him over the fact he was getting excited every time a barefoot bum walked into a bakery.

Light shook his head in annoyance. He really needed to get on with his life and resume judging criminals as he had been Chosen to do.

But surely if he helped find L that would win their trust?

Okay. New plan. Integrate at Wammy’s House, work to win everyone’s trust, find L, assess the situation, get the stupid leg cuff off, and then after I’ve won their trust I’ll escape by walking out the front door. They wouldn’t expect that. That’s why it’s foolproof! Hmmm… I’ll have to find names of all the guards first—they seemed rather too thrilled at the prospect of causing me pain. Maybe I can use Matt—he has a habit apparently of getting into the secure files and if I save Mello he’ll owe me a favor.

Assuming of course he could save Mello. What Ryuk asked for, no, demanded in return…

He’d never thought the Shinigami would make him debase himself like this. But surely he could afford to lose a little pride! It’s not like he had any shortage of it and it was such a small price to pay if it meant saving a child.

Stupid pride! This is for a boy’s life and sanity—why is this even an issue? I’ve done worse to save the world.

Ryuk cackled nastily, a predatory look on his nightmarish face as he leaned in, leering uncomfortably close and for a split second Light feared the Shinigami was going to rip him apart or, even worse, kiss him.

“So Light, do we have a deal?”

Light knew he was stalling, something he couldn’t afford to be doing when every second Mello’s precious brain cells were wasting away, but still for a moment he found that all he could do was stand there with a traumatized look on his face. “Sure that kid might have an attitude problem but he doesn’t deserve this! I cannot standby and do nothing—not when it’s preventable!”

“Is that a yes?”

Light sighed, obviously conflicted, but with L out of the picture there was no one else to stand up for Mello. It seemed it was up to the God of the New World to take care of the deadbeat detective’s children.

Dammit, L. You owe me big time for this!

“Alright. I suppose that’s… acceptable. But is it true that Shinigami really are completely sterile?”

“Yup!”

“Good. Then you can carry it back in your mouth. It wouldn’t be so good if someone noticed a floating vial.”

“Can’t you just write it off as your ‘psychic powers?’”

“I don’t want to give them proof of having supernatural powers. It’s bad enough they think I’m a psychic dreamer. It’s so stupid!”

Ryuk laughed again.

“So, do you understand everything where you’re going?” Light inquired again as he handed the Shinigami the map—Light found the bureaucrats proved to be good for something after all—one of them had carelessly dropped a file folder which held some truly useful information including the convenient aerial map that showed exactly where the secure facility was located. No one else had seemed to notice when it fell or even when Light, the accused mass murderer they were supposed to be guarding, stopped to pick it up. The teenaged killer rolled his eyes—even here at this school for genii people were such idiots.

Ryuk rolled his bulbous golden eyes—his human was such a perpetual worrier.

“Yup!” the Shinigami declared in answer to Light’s question as he stuck the map in between the pages of his personal notebook so it wouldn’t get lost.

“Remember you need to get the Lugh strain—the white one. When you bring it back place it with the map around where they’re keeping Mello where Dr. Caduceus or one of the attending medical staff can easily find it. Make sure they get it. Yes, even if you have to float it in front of their face. Although I’d much prefer if you did it subtly, like—just put it on their desk and let them find it, but if it looks like they’ve missing it then you have my permission to “float” it in front of their stupid faces.”

“Er… but didn't you just say... I mean wouldn’t that be bad if they discovered me?”

“Not necessarily—apparently quite a few people here believe in ghosts. Of course you shouldn’t show yourself to them but if you feel the need to float things around you can play the part of just being a helpful, friendly spirit… though I know it’s a bit of a stretch for you.”

“Hyuk! Got it! Remember, I’ll be expecting many apples and that thing we talked about upon my return.”

“I’ll get right on getting your apples but that other thing will take longer to arrange.”

Ryuk leered “I look forward to it.” The Shinigami didn’t pause in his evil cackling as he oh-so-slowly spread his wings.

Damned Shinigami! Quit stalling!

“Good, good. I’ll be waiting to collect. And you’d better deliver. Don’t think you can wheedle your way out of this one, kid. I’m doing you a big favor, so if you try to deny what you owe me I will write your name in my Death Note.”

Ryuk chuckled as a small bead of sweat slowly trickled down the boy’s temple.

“Isn’t that a bit harsh?”

“Consider it payback for trying to kill me. Hyuk! As if you could! But you’re welcome to try again, little human. In fact I encourage it. It’ll be fun watching you fail.”

“Get it. Now!

Laughing, the Shinigami spread his wings fully and leapt upwards, flying right through the arched ceiling of the auditorium.

Light sneered and considered flipping off Ryuk’s retreating back but that would be poor manners, not to mention utterly ridiculous….

But then he did it anyway because he was sure no one was watching and it made him feel better.

Asshole.” Light cringed at his own behavior. He’d clearly been spending far too much time with Mello and company—their insanity must be infectious.

Chapter Text

Matt sat at Mello’s bedside, his game beeping morosely in his hands. It was not out of callousness that he continued to play his games but because he needed something to keep his hands, as well as his mind, busy lest the terror and his racing thoughts drive him mad. This not-knowing, the uncertainty of it all was the worst. It was all so… wrong.

Not even Matt’s orange-tinted goggles could save him from the brightness of the room—the harsh florescent lights of the ceiling bearing down on him, the pristine white sheets of Mello’s hospital bed blinding him. It was just so wrong—all of this. Mello was never meant to lay so still, looking so weak and helpless—only the staggered rise and fall of the boy’s chest and the beeping of the machines assuring Matt that Mello wasn’t dead.

Half of Mello’s face was wrapped in bandages. The doctors were working on applying a series of skin grafts but the scarring would still be quite extensive. A clear plastic gas mask was fitted over his face helping his scorched lungs just to breathe. Seeing Mello hooked up to the machines, almost motivated Matt to want to quit smoking.

Almost.

Matt was pointedly not-looking at the I.V. drip or the spaghetti knot of wires that ran beneath the flimsy paper gown they had fitted Mello in—that too was wrong and quite an unflattering fashion for the blonde.

“For a genius you really can be such an idiot,” Matt muttered to the still form of his closest friend.

“You’ll get no argument there,” Near said casually as he sat on the floor nearby, while spontaneously constructing a dice tower on what would’ve been his chair had he chosen to sit in it.

“How is he?” Linda asked, demonstrating she had a slightly higher emotional I.Q. than Wammy’s top (true) successor to L.

“Er… not to be rude but what are you two even doing here, anyway?” Matt asked Near and Linda.

Matt found it astounding that they were even there—even though Mello regularly bullied them. They were probably just there to support him and give him the illusion of company… well, Linda maybe. Matt wasn’t so sure about Near—aside from the rather odd friendship he’d struck up with their prisoner and how he and Linda had taken to hanging out through their mutual stalking of Light, Near usually wasn’t the real social type.

Maybe he’s here to gloat, Matt thought uncharitably and then grimaced to himself. …Or maybe just to keep Linda company… or himself given that he had been separated from his prisoner.

At the moment Light was nowhere to be found. Matt almost snorted—did that really surprise him? Perhaps he should be worried that he didn’t know where their resident mass murderer had disappeared to but—he wasn’t. That’s right, presumably he was still under guard in quarantine… but that hardly mattered to Matt at the moment. In all honesty Matt wasn’t too concerned about whatever Light got up to. After all, he couldn’t leave, there were other students here at Wammy’s beyond just the four of them to keep an eye on Kira, and surely Roger would alert them if he tried anything. Matt honestly had other things on his mind—namely a certain rude and obnoxious blonde who had nearly gotten himself killed.

Matt again observed Near’s white bird’s nest and Linda’s black pigtails from out of the corner of his eye. In any case, he doubted that either of them had come out of any real concern for Mello even though that was a mean thing to think. Of course it was possible that they really did care for Mello even though he was constantly rude to him just like it was possible that Light really wasn’t Kira and just an innocent college student that L picked up for kicks but it really did seem to Matt that Mello had no friends… other than himself.

Matt slowly glanced up from his game to observe Near’s die stacking and Linda’s sketching and wondered if either of them had taken offense to his question. Not that it was a big loss—they really didn’t have much to talk about without it being awkward anyway.

“I just thought it would be nice to keep you company,” said Linda in answer to Matt’s question, her intense blue eyes never looking up from her sketchpad.

“Yes, it wouldn’t be fair to leave Saint Matt to suffer alone,” Near said evenly as he laid out the next floor of his dice tower.

“Will you stop that? It wasn’t funny the first time!” Matt snapped as he eyed Near distrustfully. “Why are you here?

“Beside the fact that, as you have clearly forgotten, that you practically forced me here?” Near asked as he released the die that he held between his fingertips so that it was placed on top of his construction—it gave a satisfying click as he released it into place. “You do realize what this is? And what we’ve been trained to do?”

Matt was struck with dawning realization. “A case.”

A case. This was a case—that was all “the Sheep” was interested in.

Heartless bastard.

“But really, how is Mello?” Near asked as he delicately picked up another die from the pile.

Matt glared at him nastily. “How do you think?

The younger boy’s snowy bangs fell into his face. “I’m sorry.”

Just then a sudden shock of rainbow hair appeared through the swinging plastic doors.

“Hello, kids!” greeted Nurse Sue in between snapping her bubblegum. “I’m sure you all have lots of questions about now. Well, the good news is he’s stabilized. The antidote arrived just in time…”

Matt had been too numb to even consider why the doctors even let him into quarantine—he had just barged in, not giving a damn if he was infected too—where Mello went Matt would follow just as he always had… but he shouldn’t have included Near and Linda. The redhead felt a belated pang of guilt that he hadn’t stopped the two younger children from following him into Mello’s room—not that he could stop them really if they had a mind to but nevertheless he was older than they were and thus responsible for them. But he hadn’t even given a thought to the other children—all superfluous thoughts being consumed by his all-consuming thoughts of Mello.

“Right now he’s in the process of purging the virus from his system. Had it come any later…” the nurse trailed off just as a man in a dark suit and glasses burst in through the swinging doors, he was panting and wheezing as he lugged in a mysterious black case, the rest of the room flinched as the strange man slammed it onto the befuddled nurse’s table.

Sue paled upon recognizing the case. “Is that… the antivirus?”

“For all the good it will do,” wheezed a second man as he entered the room behind his companion at a more sedate and defeated pace. “We’re too late, aren’t we?”

“He’s fine,” announced Dr. Caduceus as he wandered in, nose buried in his clipboard. “The patient was already administered the antivirus,” he informed them without bothering to glance up from reading over the patient’s notes.

“WHAT?!”

“Wait, he’s already been given the antidote?! How?

One of the men in black swiftly punched in the security code into the side of the case, opening it to find it empty while the other made a quick phone call.

“There’s been a theft. The break-in must have occurred shortly before we arrived. They somehow got in without tripping any of the alarms.”

“But how would they…?”

“By helicopter?”

“All our helicopters were destroyed, remember? And obviously no one on the outside would have known nor had the inclination to help in this case.”

“Well, well, well,” Near smirked to himself. “It looks like Light came through for us after all.”

“What?!” Matt outright gaped at the smug-looking white-haired boy.

“Admittedly it was a gamble,” Near said as he took to repetitively tossing and catching a die in one hand, “I was counting on Kira’s pride, warped sense of duty, and obvious God complex when I baited him into helping us. He may be more wary of such manipulations in the future.”

“Wait a minute… are you seriously suggesting that you manipulated Light into helping us?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” Near said, frowning at having to repeat himself. “I figured you were too distraught to catch how I suggested that he might help Mello. I don’t know how he did it but I am confident that it was Kira.”

“We found this sitting on my desk along with the antidote,” C announced as he showed them a quick and simple note written on a highly classified map of the facility:

Lugh – バス

“I didn’t ask how you got it. I only confirmed that it was the treatment my patient needed.”

“I’m sorry—I just figured that in the panic that they forgot to go through the normal chain of custody.”

“You’ve been trained better than that! You’re lucky it wasn’t poison!” sneered one of the men in black.

“Dr. C confirmed it was Lugh before I ever injected him with it!” Sue snarled, rainbow spikes becoming frizzy with anger.

“Bus?” Linda asked, peering at the cryptic writings: バス, BASU. Katakana script, Japanese derived from the English word for “bus.”

“Hey, didn’t Mello call Light “the short bus”?” Matt wondered aloud.

“Yes, but the letter is not in Light’s handwriting,” Linda observed.

Matt and Linda turned to stare in shock as Near let out a dry, humorless laugh. Neither hadn’t thought Near capable of showing any emotion.

“Betrayed by his accomplice, I imagine,” Near said as he laid down another row of dice. “I guess that just goes to show he should’ve known better than to trust something like a Shinigami.”

Matt snorted as he fumbled with his game. “A Shinigami? Seriously?”

“Normally I’d agree with you but given the facts of this case we can’t rule it out as a possibility. I feel that you should know that the vial came delivered coated in a suspicious fluid. A fluid which I ultimately determined to be harmless—I tested it anyway, of course—and after a quick analysis of the fluid, I determined it matched the properties of saliva.”

“Ewwwww!” The children chorused.

“Where it gets interesting is that this sample doesn’t match any known animal on file and contains elements never before seen in nature,” C announced excitedly. “I think it’s left enough of its DNA for me to work with. Perhaps now I can get funding for my cloning projects.”

Near accidentally knocked over his dice tower in shock. “You’re honestly thinking of cloning Shinigami?”

“Assuming it is a Shinigami and not some other extraterrestrial entity? Why not? I could even start a Theme Park!”

“Stupid geniuses!” Matt muttered, the device in his hand beeping and booping as he resumed angrily shooting velociraptors. “That’s great and all but what about Mello?”

“He’s stabilized. There’s nothing much else we can do for him at the moment but wait and keep him comfortable. As soon as his condition improves we’ll see about getting him skin grafts. Especially for his face. We can see about reconstructive surgery but I’m afraid it’s going to scar.”

“Ouch. You know how he’s going to take it. Mr. Inferiority Complex,” Near pointed out.

“Cosmetic appearance is secondary to keeping him alive,” said C.

“We know that but Mello might not see it that way,” Matt groaned as he recalled how one of the blonde’s favorite pastimes was posing in leather outfits in front of the mirror.

“We already have him booked for therapy sessions…” C announced.

Matt snorted. “Good luck getting him to go.”

“We were hoping you might help persuade him to go or even attend with him.”

Matt sighed, knowing he had about a as much chance of persuading him to go as he did of convincing Mello to give up chocolate. “Please, everyone remember to tell him that scars are manly. Knowing Mello, he’s going to need all the assurances he can get.”