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Bodach Killa

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Me and You

2004

I am going to destroy them. I am going to make them my friends.
Abraham Lincoln

***

L shivered. He'd kicked the blankets off earlier. Now he lay on his side, in nothing but his boxers and a T shirt, embracing his pillow. The open window brought noises of dimming engines and squeaking tires. Voices followed, opening and closing car doors, and the smell of rotting fish. L rolled over without batting an eye, and tugged the pillow closer. Now the pillow rested just below his chin; brushing his Adam's apple as he breathed in, out ― inhaling dust mites. L pursed his lips and smacked them over the pillow in a dry kiss. Then his breathing slowed and his body went limp.

Hollers from the marketplace wound their way up to his dorm. At the same time the door shuddered in its frame, and the whole building shook under the weight of stomping feet. Shower water hitting curtains, lewd words and grumbled good-mornings came from the corridor. L slept on as grey light filtered in through the blinds, leaving stripy shadows over the desk where his phone lay charging. The phone he kept on at all times, even during task force meetings, even in class, even now, as he slept.



"So come on baby do it to me good now," his phone sang.

L shook awake. The first thing he saw was Kira, staring back at him from a poster tacked to the ceiling wall. A black cloak with pale bony fingers protruding from the inky sleeves, wielding a three foot scythe that dripped with fresh blood. Kira's face was a shadow under the hood, hidden, his bare feet peeked out from under the cloak, chipped toenails covered in grime. L had downloaded the poster from a pro-Kira forum. This was what the world thought Kira looked like. L snorted. The blood red inscription beneath read: KIRA, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR.

"Do it to me slowly," sang his phone, "be the one and only."

Stretching his legs, L lurched out of bed. His pelvis hit the desk's edge – he held on to it, steadying himself. The phone gave out its last

"And do it to me right now! Oh baby,"

before L could pull the charger cord out. He punched Accept Call, and pressed it to his ear.

"Yeah," he said, not bothering to check caller ID.

The room spun in a haze of dirty brown wallpaper, with the words KIRA, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR projected over and over again on the walls in purple, in green, yellow, orange, blue, pink. L fell back down on the bed. Tugging the blanket off the floor he tucked his bandaged feet under it, waiting to get warm.

"This is a secure line," said the caller.

L's eyes bulged out of their sockets. He knew this voice. Tearing the phone from his ear and glaring at the screen, in place of the usual letter W, a hazy set of numbers swam before his eyes... The caller was not on his contact list. He pressed the phone to his cheek again, breathing hard.

"Who gave you this number?" said L.

"You did."

What? Blinking profusely, he watched a spider clamber up the opposite wall. A black dot moving over drab brown wallpaper. L frowned in the silence that followed.

"You phoned this morning," said the caller. "However it was intercepted. What did you wish to communicate?"

L found his jeans on the floor, where he'd stepped out of them last night. His wrist watch lay propped on the jeans. He cocked his head. The battered Seiko said 07:15 local. He recalculated for time zone difference.

"Roger lets you in his office after 10 pm?" said L.

"I'm not in Roger's office."

Shit. Grabbing the phone, L scanned the number ― this time he saw it clearly. It wasn't The Wammy House official line, not the number he knew so well and could recite flawlessly if woken at odd times of the night. Worse yet: it wasn't the number he'd dialed yesterday evening. How could he be this careless? Mentioning Roger by name? Shit shit shit. L placed the phone back to his ear, and softly spoke into it:

"Is that you, N?"

A sigh rattled down the line. "No. It's Linda," said the boyish voice.

L rolled his eyes. "Sarcasm?"

"Yes, sarcasm."

"Listen," said L, pinching his nose. "I don't know how you got this number or what voice modulation program you're using, but if you don't recite the second hundred decimals of pi right now, I'll hang up. And don't bother looking them up online, I will notice the delay."

"Eight, two, one, four, eight, 0, 8, 6, 5, 1, 3, 2, 8, 2, 3, 0, 6, 6, 4, 7, 0, 9, 3, 8, 4, 4, 6, 0, 9, 5, 5, 0, 5, 8, 2, 2, 3, 1, 7, 2, 5, 3, 5, 9, 4, 0, 8, 1, 2, 8, 4, 8, 1, 1, 1, 7, 4, 5, 0, 2, 8, 4, 1, 0, 2, 7, 0, 1, 9, 3, 8, 5, 2, 1, 1, 0, 5, 5, 5, 9, 6, 4, 4, 6, 2, 2, 9, 4, 8, 9, 5, 4, 9, 3, 0, 3, 8, 1, 9, 6," the voice quickly rattled off.

"Correct," said L. Under the blanket, he shifted to his favorite sitting pose and twisted some of his long black leg hairs around his fingers.

"Do you believe me now?"

"Quite frankly, no."

The caller gave an exasperated sigh. L said nothing.

"Fine. I'm not in Roger's office because Matt hacked the admin account. Matt's memory is so bad, he writes his passwords down on post-its and sticks them all over his room. He didn't even bother clearing them when I came over for our shared algorithms project. He thinks I'm still a technology twit; I let him believe that."

"This is no good," said L. "If Matt can hack the system, anyone can." Leaning over the edge of his bed, he stuck his hand inside the sports bag last used in 1987, and rifled through it for a clean set of jeans. Instead his hand came out clutching white woolen socks. 'Who packed these?' thought L, holding them up over his nose. They smelled of wash powder.

"It takes such a fiddly story for you to believe me?" said the voice.

L paused, hand dangling off the edge, fingers clenched round the socks. "Why? Did you make it up?"

"No!"

"If n balls are randomly placed in n cells," said L, tossing the socks back in the sports bag. "What is the probability each cell will be occupied?"

"n Factorial divided by n power n. Can we stop this? As much as I love doing brain teasers with you, this phone call is beginning to eat my allowance."

"Okay," said L. Cramming his phone in the crook of his neck, he stood, changed out of his boxers and into a new set of black briefs. The growing heap of dirty laundry in the corner now came to his knees. He lifted yesterday's jeans up from the floor with hesitant hands ...they were caked in sweat and vaguely stank of urine. Maybe no-one would notice?

L hastily pulled the jeans over his goosebump covered legs. "I need to close this case fast," he said.

"Why?" said Near, voice sharp as a knife.

L grabbed for the spray bottle of Ban Zero, tucked it under his T shirt, and rammed the nozzle down. He wheezed when a cloud of deodorant filled the air around him, and tried keeping his voice level as he spoke.

"The NPA are on to me," he said, voice shaky, as he closed and unclosed his eyes, staring at the opposite wall ― the one with the spider. The spider had gone. "I have three weeks left before they cut me off." He sighed. "There's no telling what these people will do without me. They're bound to find out about my undercover work if they continue investigating by themselves." L chucked some notebooks and a pencil into his backpack. "And if that happens, I'm 99 percent certain they'll do something stupid and let HIM get away."

L never mentioned his suspect by name. It didn't matter if the line was secure. You shouldn't rely on equipment. People are smarter. Then again, L only had the caller's word to go on. The NPA could be listening in right now. Hell, for all he knew it might even be the NPA calling him, rather than Near. Time to figure out just who he was dealing with.

"This soi-disant 'Task Force' the NPA cooked up is so useless they're like a bunch of preschoolers; running around bickering and tripping over their own shoelaces."

No reaction. That was strange ... if the caller actually was Near, it would make sense, but ― Outside, a loud splash after someone ordered to "Load the octopus crate". L pulled the blinds up and peered out. The pavement was now covered in a slushy goo and what looked like ... marinated tentacles? He shut the window and pulled the blinds back down.

"I can only think of one way to prolong my participation in their investigation," said L. "Inspector Yagami asked me if I had any new leads. I could always let them in on the identity of my primary suspect. I'm sure they would all think differently of HIM if they knew."

L dug through the sports bag in search of a new shirt. His old one just wouldn’t do. He changed out of his T shirt, and shivered in the cold morning air.

"But that would involve letting them in on my undercover identity," said L. "And they'd mess it all up." He sighed. "They've got me in a Catch-22."

L pulled a fresh white sweatshirt over his head; he looked down, at his own bare chest. He saw his ribs through the paltry pale skin there. His right elbow wailed when he pushed his arms through the sleeves. Placing the phone back to his ear, he sat in the office chair which occupied most of the space between bed and desk, cramming the room. He'd tried spinning the chair, but it would either butt against the desk or the bed. L sulked, remembering the spacious living quarters he'd shared with Beyond back in his Oxford days.

"Near, are you there?"

Silence. L frowned, leaning forward in the office chair so that his buttocks were perched on the seat's edge. His mouth opened to ask again, but then Near's lifeless voice returned on the other end:

"What do you want from me?"

L cringed. Standing on shaking legs, he flung the backpack over his shoulder and pushed the sliding door open, locking it after him. Taking wide steps, he stalked past the ludicrously long bathroom queue, back bent, phone in hand. His messy hair fell into his eyes. He'd have to cut it. 'Not now.'

"I'm sorry. I legitimately thought you might be able to help," L muttered into the phone. "How very very wrong of me."

Within seconds he was downstairs. He barged inside the kitchen and yanked a cupboard door open. Ripping a new pack of Koala's March, he shut the cupboard with a bang. The flakes clinked as they fell into the bowl. There was just enough soy milk left to cover the bottom; the top flakes were bone dry, and tore and chafed at L's gums as he munched on them.

"The term Catch-22 is used to describe situations where to achieve thing A, you must first perform thing B; but to achieve thing B, you must first execute thing A," Near said. "By definition your problem has no solution."

L tasted blood in his mouth and chewed on, roughly licking the soggy mess off his teeth. He leaned against the counter and set his eyes on the kitchen table ― two guys were playing rummy there. A mounting stack of bowls and dishes stood in murky water in the sink. Whitish light streaked in through the windows, barely brightening the room, so the guys had turned on the lights: a bare light bulb that hung from the cracked ceiling on a cord.

"So far, I can think of only one way out," said L, pressing his thumb to his lower lip. "This case has to be solved within the next two weeks."

"Good. Then do that."

L rolled his eyes. "It's not that simple. This is by far the most challenging case I've ever worked on. And the main issue is that my current strategy hinges on HIM spilling the beans, which seems highly unlikely. If I want to stand any chance against HIM, I may have to change strategy."

Near's grey voice went up half an octave. "Change strategy to what?"

"Scare tactics," said L.

Their prime suspect Light Yagami had been cautious so far, but he had blundered twice. First with the TV broadcast on which L made a cameo appearance, then with Raye Penber ― the officer who'd been tailing him. Each time involved the threat of being caught. Maybe Light responded well to threats. After all, many texts in criminology theory seem to suggest that the threat of retribution is what keeps most of us from becoming criminals. L smiled grimly.

"But you don't want to use this tactic," Near guessed correctly.

"Yes."

"Why?"

Setting his bowl down, L felt the sour aftertaste corrode his gums. He left the kitchen, plucked his cheap canvas jacket from a peg, and bent over to force his bare feet inside those pesky sneakers.

"It's a dangerous move," L said at length, outdoors and out of earshot of the other tenants, walking down the cracked asphalt path toward the station.

A rickety metal fence, littered with spray paint and old ads, ran along the footpath. Beyond it, an abandoned building project rose thirteen floors high. An empty carcass of a house, where no-one would ever live. Its bare apartment cells held vigil over the street, like hundreds of hollow eyes.

"If I tell HIM,"

Passing just inches off the curb, a battered lorry dumped a cloud of black smoke which swallowed L's next words.

"I'm L, and if my plan backfires, then I'm next on HIS hit list."

After a moment's silence, Near replied, "I see."

Some school children rushed by as L limped toward the station, his face pulled to a tight grimace, eyes wide, hand over his thigh ― where it still hurt. His bandaged feet screamed.

"So. If you have any pointers on how to befriend our suspect," L said, "I'd be happy to hear them."

"Have you considered challenging him to another game of tennis?"

L stopped. An overturned trash can caught his eye. He burst out laughing. Bent forwards, hand over his mouth, he half spoke, half snickered into the phone.

"You think my body can handle that? Near, I haven't actively played since 1999."

A knowing sigh came from the other end. "You turned it into a competition like you always do?"

L smiled guiltily, "...Yeah."

"Well then it's your own fault. You could have used this opportunity to get closer to him, but you didn't."

What? What on earth? L resumed walking, this time taking larger steps, no longer feeling the pain in his thigh, in his feet, no longer caring. What a nerve. His hands balled to fists, squeezing the phone, and L resisted the urge to smash his phone against the curb. The shiny plastic shards could decorate this sullen footpath quite nicely.

"Are you still there?"

Dammit. L glared at Shinkoiwa's slummy railway station up ahead. He'd have to answer now.

"Yes," said L.

"I didn't upset you, did I?"

L struggled to keep his anger from showing. He passed through the ticket wicket and took the escalator down. The noise of so many people around him scattered some of it.

"No. You did not," L said firmly.

"Good. I was only telling the truth. You had your chance, you wasted it."

At that point L terminated the phone call. Still fuming, he stepped inside a subway car. The doors closed upon him. And it was down, down, down the tunnel, inside the pitch black darkness that consumed them all. L was alone. His lips formed one taut line as he took the escalator up and walked out into daylight. Through the crowd, he saw the winged black feathered monster up ahead. L pushed through, walking at the fastest pace he could, slipping between people, till he was up to speed and walking in step with the younger Yagami.

"That was quite the match yesterday," L said, looking Yagami square in the face without blinking.

Yagami turned. "Hey you." At first he looked taken aback, but quickly recovered. A sleek smile appeared on Yagami's face ― one that covered everything.

L narrowed his eyes. "How did you do that, attack me with your left?"

"Wow." Yagami's eyebrows shot up, half a second later they dropped, his lips contorted to a cocky smile, and he tilted his head up. "You're forward."

"Fine. I want a rematch." L was certain he'd get a foot in, if he played the revenge card a little longer. But instead of backing down, Yagami surprised him by chuckling.

"You sure you're up for it?" Yagami asked. "I can wait for you to get better."

L's lower lip quivered. His thigh burned like fire. Yet he kept going at the same pace as Light, though he would much rather have crawled to a ball and taken a sedative.

"I'm fine," he seethed, sending an angry look at Yagami.

Yagami, in his designer trench coat, with his dyed hair combed to fall over his forehead, that smile of superiority still firmly in place, didn't look even one bit fatigued. While L was plodding on beside him, exhausted, sweating, and yet his mind reeling at a pace that would not let him sleep; Yagami took a leisurely stroll to campus, bag strapped over one shoulder, slip-on shoes gently touching the ground. On campus, they walked through the revolving door together. When L took his ratty jacket off, Light turned his nose up. And L smelled it too. Next to the perfumed, deodorized, pristinely ironed pale blue dress shirt of Yagami's, L's unwashed clothes stuck out as a sore thumb. L hung his head and followed Light to class, without taking his eyes off the floor. When they reached the classroom, it was quite lively. Light's friends waved him over. L noticed Kiyomi Takada among them ― wearing a pastel pink V-neck sweater with a push-up bra. Oh, that push-up bra.

"Are you even taking this class, Ryuga? I haven't seen you at the lectures."

L tore his eyes off Kiyomi, and gravely stared up at Light. Suddenly he felt such a powerful hatred for Light and all that he stood for. He wanted to grab that clean neck and squeeze squeeze and squeeze. L was certain the case would be closed if he did that, the Kira murders would stop. Kira would disappear into thin air.

"Because you don't bother to look," L spat out. He pushed past the monster, into the classroom, and plonked down in the first seat available. Extracting pencil and paper, he began taking one-sided limits.

***



L put the toilet lid down and climbed on top of it. With knees touching his chest he sat, hunched, staring intently at the magazine. He licked his lips, dipped his thumb in his mouth, and flipped the page. Softly he stroked his hurt thigh with his other hand. It was his own fault, he shouldn't have gone all out like that on the tennis court yesterday. He wasn't physically ready for it. He curled his toes round the toilet's edge, and let his back rest against cool stone marble. In Japanese bathrooms like this one, they had noises you could play to mask the fact you were peeing. Such a diverse selection as Gentle Ocean Waves, Spring Rain, Forest Bird, or Summer Night Cicada. Each track lasted about a minute. Apparently the Japanese were expected to pee quickly, not waste time in the bathroom.

With slow, patient motions, L petted his legs from the knee up. His fingers trailed an odd pattern down his inner thigh. He applied fuzzy touches to his trusty blue jeans, completely absorbed in Sabra's latest issue. The blonde model in the magazine was looking at him; she made him feel wanted, needed. L brought the magazine closer to his face. Up close, it felt as if she was right there with him. Like they were nearly touching. Her slender pale shoulders, and wide perky breasts under her leopard print lingerie. It felt so intimate.

L reached down and unzipped his jeans. The girl had a predatory glint in her eye, some ruthless streak she kept well hidden from the world. But L saw it, he noticed. It made his blood run faster.

A knock on the bathroom door startled him. Then he heard Watari's voice.

"L, the Task Force is here."

"Ok, give me a minute."

Standing up, L savored one last glance at the model called Misa Misa, before he closed Sabra magazine and stashed it away in the bathroom cabinet. He adjusted his briefs before doing his fly up and joining the task force in the sitting room. Baggy jeans were good for more things than one.

"Hello," said L whilst leaning on the door frame and scratching his leg with one of his bare feet.

Inspector Yagami looked over his shoulder, not getting up from the sofa. "Oh hi there Ryuzaki," he said. "I was bringing the group up to speed concerning our plans for next week."

L nodded. He remained in the door frame as Yagami turned back to the men, resuming his speech.

"We've traced all Japanese pro-K.I.R.A. websites back to only a handful of IP addresses, belonging to eight different people."

L scanned the room. Ide and Mogi both sat on the sofa facing away from him, on either side of inspector Yagami. Ide seemed tense ― he had his legs crossed, a stiff back, and he didn't move an inch ― like he was aware he was being watched. Aizawa, Ukita, and Matsuda sat in wooden chairs facing L. The comfortable armchair L liked so much was respectfully left vacant.

"Aizawa, can you call these people in?" said inspector Yagami.

"Gladly," said Aizawa.

"Umm ―" came from Matsuda's mouth as he opened it, and squirmed uncomfortably in his chair.

'Just like a child that needs the little boys' room', L mentally noted.

Inspector Yagami turned his slicked back head of hair, showing L a small part of his face. It was grim with tension.

"Yes, Matsuda?" the inspector said.

The rookie detective put on a serious face. "But technically speaking it's not illegal to build a pro-K.I.R.A. website."

Aizawa laughed. "Why? Matsuda, don't tell me you started your own pro-K.I.R.A. website."

Matsuda turned red in the face as the whole room broke into a cheer of laughter. Even inspector Yagami permitted himself a smile.

"That won't look good on your performance evaluation," Ukita added with a wink.

"Okay, that's enough gentlemen," said inspector Yagami. "But to answer your question Matsuda, we won't be arresting them. Merely asking questions which need to be asked. Someone out there knows where K.I.R.A. is located, how they communicate, who funds them, how they carry out these murders," spittle flew from Yagami's mouth. "We will milk these website owners for information. Because right now they are our only lead, and our best hope of catching K.I.R.A. . Call them Aizawa, bring them in. I don't care how many afternoons of playing Duke Nukem these people sacrifice before they squeal."

As they divided tasks among themselves, L remained in the doorway. He did not worry. There was nothing to worry about. Honestfaces . com, his provocation website in support of Kira, was not on their list. L had made sure of that using a Trojan script embedded on the USB stick he'd given inspector Yagami last Wednesday. There was an advantage to working on the task force: he could control their every move, and steer them in the right direction if need be.

Watari wheeled in a tray laden with delicious appetizers and a steaming pot of coffee. The detectives huddled round it, their meeting officially over. L was about to get a bite to eat himself, when Matsuda approached him.

"Ryuzaki?"

L frowned. "What is it Matsuda?"

"Remember that notebook we found in Light's room?"

Without a word L walked out of the sitting room, into the hallway, and motioned for Matsuda to follow. When they were out of earshot, L hissed:

"Did you tell anyone about the notebook?"

"What! No."

Matsuda shifted from foot to foot, hands burrowed deep inside his suit pockets. His irises fled to the upper left, then bounced back, pupils dilated. A moment later Matsuda rubbed his nose, the palm of his hand covering his mouth.

L looked dully at Matsuda. 'Liar liar, pants on fire,' he thought; instead he said: "Ok. Because Light Yagami is no longer a suspect."

Matsuda breathed an obvious sigh of relief. L scrutinized his ally from head to toe. Matsuda pointedly observed the textured walls, his hands twitched and a light rosy color showed on his cheeks.

"I realized I had an error in judgment," said L. "A teenage boy couldn't possibly be behind something this big."

At those words Matsuda visibly calmed. When he addressed L next he seemed to be back to his initial good humor. He smiled broadly and looked L in the eye as he spoke with misplaced confidence. "Ah yes, don't we all have errors in judgment sometimes."

"Why? Were you going to tell me something?"

Matsuda stopped, taken aback. "Uh ... no."

"Good," said L, turning away and walking straight back into the sitting room, where the appetizer plate looked miserably empty, leaving Matsuda to gawk after him.

L skulked toward the tray, picked up the last conversation tart, and gravely placed it in his mouth.

Watari smiled at him. "There's more where that came from."

But L wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and said "I'm not hungry," before turning away and getting back to work. Of course 'work' was a liberal term. L didn't get much work done with the task force around. He was much too busy spying on their operations and pretending to perform the assignments they gave him, to be actually working on the real Kira case. As he perused the old case files ― just for show, to make it seem like he was doing something useful ― L stumbled on Raye Penber's final report. He clicked it open.

Subject: Light Yagami

Case File: XC798-JJ

Status: Open

Throughout three days of observation, the subject has shown no obvious sign of aiding the criminal Kira. The subject goes about his business in an orderly fashion, following a predetermined schedule without delay or deviation. The subject devotes sufficient time to his education, and leads a potent social life. The observation has been carried out in accordance with standard bureau procedure.

Preliminary conclusion:

Given current information, it seems advisable to drop all outstanding allegations on the subject.

Signed,

Raye Penber, code 11024U.

Scrolling down, L entered his password for the full length report. A few pages in, he halted. Mystified, L stared at his laptop. Leaning forward in the armchair, his nose now inches away from the screen, he read the words over and over. It couldn't be.

'What is this sanitized crap?' thought L, frantically tapping away at the keyboard.

His eyes flickered over the text. Jumping from sentence to sentence, searching for key words. There was no mention of the busjacking. The one element that had stood out most in Penber's report, the one thing that had drawn L's attention to Light Yagami all those months ago. Had he imagined it?

No way.

Penber had compromised his own security by exposing himself to his investigation subject, Light Yagami. That was the only lead L had, the only clue after Kira had murdered all FBI agents in a seemingly random order. None of the other agents had compromised themselves: only Penber. But now, reading his report once more, L couldn't find a trace of it, nothing at all. As if someone had gone through the whole file and systemically wiped out all incriminating evidence against Light.

But who could do such a thing? This file was classified, digitally signed, protected with a dynamic password. Only a select few outside the FBI were granted access, including L himself. L frowned; his mouth fell open, he gnawed on his left thumb.

"Ryuzaki," said inspector Yagami. "Sorry to take you from your work."

L looked across the coffee table. With a charming smile and weary face, inspector Yagami sat on the sofa, case files spread out around him.

"Not a problem. What is it?"

"Help me out with this. On several occasions K.I.R.A. has clearly obtained intelligence that was supposed to be restricted to the Task Force only. I've been wondering for quite a while now how K.I.R.A. could have obtained this intel right under our noses."

L stroked his chin. His other hand tapped absently on the coffee table, his eyes remained on inspector Yagami. "It certainly looks like someone from the police is involved with Kira. I was thinking Kira might even be in law enforcement himself, ...or herself ― for all we know, Kira might just as well be a woman."

Yagami frowned, the mustache bars twitched morosely down. "With all due respect, Ryuzaki, we've already established that K.I.R.A. is an organization, not a natural person."

"My apologies," said L, without changing the sharp, humorless tone of his voice.

"As to your first suggestion," Yagami continued, "if that indeed is the case, we have a serious problem on our hands."

L nodded contemplatively. "True. This person could be literally anyone. He or she doesn't even have to be on the task force, doesn't even need to be with the NPA."

Yagami raised his brows.

L went on. "As long as they have access to our files, any of the higher ups could qualify. They don't even need to be located in Japan."

"What are the chances we're dealing with a hacker?" Yagami said.

Without missing a beat, L prompted: "Less than 0,1% "

"How can you be so sure?" said the inspector. "A good hacker could certainly ― "

L interrupted him. "Our files are encrypted with AES-256. No hacker has succeeded in cracking that since its introduction 3 years ago."

"Well then," said the inspector.

L pointedly stared at him. "The only feasible way our files can be compromised is either by a fault in the implementation: corrupted hardware, sloppily written software. Or due to human error: if one of us was careless with their passwords."

L's breath caught in his throat, his toes curled round the edge of the coffee table between him and inspector Yagami. No, he couldn't have. That was impossible, L shook the thought from his mind, he was being paranoid. There was no way inspector Yagami could have edited Penber's last report. The man didn't know enough about code breaking and programming to even consider such a task.

And yet a little voice crept inside L's mind unbidden, as he nodded to what the inspector said, without paying attention to it. What if inspector Yagami knew people, people for whom cracking this would be a piece of cake? L's mind did cartwheels. Had DSA been broken yet? If they could copy Penber's digital signature, ...thank Einstein the inspector didn't know L's real name.

***

 

 

The blackboard was covered in faded white streaks. L looked on dully. A cold chill seeped into him. His fingers drummed on the desk, and he hugged his knees tighter to his chest. Kira had murdered 41 people over the weekend; 3 more on Monday. The History paper was due today, Tuesday. Which explained why Kira had taken less victims ― Light must have spent all Monday afternoon writing it. Students filed in the empty lecture hall; some excitedly chatting, others absorbed in their Game Boys. No-one approached L, all seats around him were vacant.

"Hi Ryuga," a lightly mocking, happy voice said from the right behind him.

L whirled around in his seat. He shrunk back, staring at the monster that flanked Light from both sides like a deathly shadow. He could not escape those beady yellow eyes with blood red pupils. Then he blinked and focused on Light. Light's lips were subtly upcurved, brows raised, his eyes narrow, guarded, the folds underneath his eyes creased, showing both mirth and a lingering menace. Light approached with an easy tread, gestured at the row of empty seats around L and said

"This seat taken?"

L shook his head. Light lowered his shoulder bag to the floor before sitting down beside him. The monster reclined itself on ten seats, one leg folded at the knee, and tapped two fingers to its studded purple lips, in a cigarette smoking gesture.

"So Ryuga," Light said with a friendly smile. "Where are you from?"

L stared back. The truth was gnawing at him, eating at his insides. And this was only the beginning. He'd have to keep up this charade for a lot longer to gain Light's trust, to get him talking. To pretend he was Hideki Ryuga and do it convincingly, over a sizeable stretch of time, he'd have to be Hideki Ryuga. L braced himself and looked Light straight in the face while answering.

"Oh, it's a small town, you wouldn't know it."

Still smiling, Light shrugged. "Perhaps not, but you could try. I had good grades for Geography in middle school, when we studied the prefectures. I could place all municipalities with a population over fifty thousand on the map."

L smiled back. "Ōkuma."

Light frowned.

"Ōkuma, ever heard of it?" said L, leaning forward, getting into Light's face.

"Oh no, I haven't. What prefecture is it in?"

"Fukushima, Futaba District," L deadpanned.

Light's face brightened. "Fukushima, isn't that near Sendai?" he said with scholarly excitement.

The professor moved his chalk across the blackboard. The lecture hall fell into a hushed silence. Light jotted the date down in his notebook: Calculus, 30 March 2004. They picked up their talk in a low whisper.

"Doesn't Sendai have any good universities?" Light said with a hint of skepticism to his voice.

"Actually Iwaki is closer, only an hour's drive from Ōkuma, and has many distinguished colleges."

"Why apply here then?"

"Wanted to see if I could get in. To-Oh is rumored for its impossible entrance exam."

Glancing up from his sparse notes, Light gave L a shit-eating grin. "That's funny. Entrance exams aren't an adequate assessment of educational value. The Iwaki colleges might yet outperform To-Oh."

L sent him a long hard stare. "That's a depressing thought. That means I wasted a lot of money coming here."

Light shifted in his seat. "Uh, that's not what I meant."

"What did you mean?" said L.

"Nevermind." Lifting his Parker pen, Light tuned to the lecture.

The sound of cars being crunched at a junk yard: the monster was laughing. L took a long steadying breath, he would get through this. His bandaged toes tingled. He took to nervously drumming his fingers on the desk. One more lecture, and he'd be out of here.

"What a bore!" said the monster, poking Light in the side and pointing at L. "This guy is dumb as a doornail. He probably passed that entrance exam by accident, or he's merely good at taking tests."

L's fingers clamped around the desk.

"I mean, look at him," the monster went on in its ugly voice. "He's positively retarded. His eyes are empty, he doesn't pay attention in class, his face doesn't express anything at all. He can't even make decent small talk."

L clenched his teeth and turned to Light. The monster stared right back at him. Light was intensely focused on the lecture, right hand scribbling away.

"Um, I noticed we have quite a few classes in common," said L, his voice a low whisper. "I opted for the Accountancy major. You?"

Eyes locked on the blackboard, Light whispered back. "I'm majoring in Crime."

In an excitedly hitched voice, L whispered as he leaned in closer: "You're learning how to become a criminal? They teach that at universities?"

The Parker pen fell from Light's hand. He stared at L with impossibly huge eyes. Then a smile formed at the tips of his mouth. The smile turned into a grin, the grin became a laugh, and soon enough his shoulders were shaking from laughter. Light did his best to keep his snorting down.

"No, of course not!" Light sent L an odd look. "Why would you even think that? That doesn't make any sense."

L shrugged, scratching his left ear.

The monster chuckled. "He's not far off from the truth. You are learning to be a good criminal ― it's scheduled in your extracurricular activities."

Ignoring the monster, Light elaborated: "My dad is a detective with the National Police Agency. He used to come home with stories about criminals they'd caught. Last year I even helped my dad's team out on a case: they were dealing with a hacker and needed a skilled programmer ― that's where I came in. I learned so much about criminal profiling from this experience: the models they use differ greatly from psychology models. But basically they explain the same thing: why these people violate the law, how they turned out that way, if nature or nurture drove them to crime ― it's fascinating."

L scrutinized Light. His passionate speech seemed genuine.

"Is that what you plan to do after graduating?" said L. "Research why people commit crimes?"

Light smiled at him warmly. "Well sort of. My dream is to become a detective with the NPA, like my dad."

'You will never attain that dream, Light Yagami. I will make sure you never do,' L thought, looking Light directly in the eye. L narrowed his eyes, pursed his lips in disgust. In a dejected tone, he said "Oh, you're one of them."

Light raised his eyebrows, still smiling in the afterglow of his speech. "Pardon?"

"You and your dad are part of the problem."

Light's smile fell; his brow shot down in alarm. "Excuse me?"

L calmly continued. "The reason Kira exists."

Light's eyes turned to slits, his lips formed one solid line. "What exactly are you implying, Ryuga?"

The monster rose behind Light like a dark aura. Its smoky black feathers stirred ominously.

L's mouth ran dry. "Like all our nation's law enforcement services," he said, talking fast before he could think better of it, "the police force has devolved to a seedy and corrupt organization. Policemen are only looking out for themselves, they no longer care to defend law abiding citizens. They let serial killers off with a warning, a slap on the wrist; as long as those murderers can pay a good bribe. Isn't that how an ordinary NPA detective can afford to send his son to the most expensive university in Tokyo, clothe him in the latest fashion," L gestured at Light, who stared back at him incredulously, mouth hanging open, "and buy him a Prestige MP to play tennis with? Yeah, sure ― I get why you'd want to be a copper just like your dad."

L narrowed his eyes viciously. Tight-jawed, drumming his fingers on the desk, he waited for Light to respond. The professor droned about using limits to determine derivatives. L didn't pay much attention to it, neither did Light.

Having overcome the first shock, Light sent him a dirty look, then snidely said,

"You don't look like a working student scrambling from paycheck to paycheck either, and yet you must be spending what? 30,000 Yen a month for a room in Tokyo, and that's the lowest estimate ― you'd be living in a dump. You're also paying To-Oh's ridiculous tuition fees. You still need to purchase your text books, that's 40,000 yen in total for the first year. And since you live near Iwaki, you have to go home some time, let's say twice a month, that's 5,500 yen in travel expenses. And I know you use the subway to go to school, Ryuga. Getting a monthly subway pass would cost you about 15,000 yen. Purchasing food, hygienic necessities, eating out once or twice a week, would cost you least 25,000 yen a month. Compounded it all comes down to 125,000 yen each month. And that's just a rosy estimation. Living in Tokyo isn't cheap. Your actual expenses are likely way higher than that. So what does your dad do to pay for all that, if I might ask?"

L smiled. "Impressive, you did all those calculations in your head in just under a minute," he said, waggishly peering into Light's eyes.

"Don't change the subject Ryuga. How does your dad finance your exorbitant expenses? Does he rip people off by selling them bad mortgages, does he run some sleazy lawyer practice, or were you just born filthy rich? Are you part of some degenerate smalltown nobility?"

L laughed ― he'd finally gotten under Light's skin, and it was surprisingly easy too. He started to doubt this kid was capable of being Kira. Perhaps the monster was pulling the strings. L looked over Light's shoulder, at the monster. It stared right back at him, crackled blue skin round its half chewed off ear. L shuddered and quickly looked away, the laugh fading on his lips.

"There's no need to be rude, Yagami."

Light stared at him incredulously.

"And my expenses are not that exorbitant," L said. "I can assure you. Either way, I'm proud to say my folks are in an honest line of work. They've never abused the system for their own needs," L nodded contentedly, smiling from ear to ear.

Light let out a deep breath. "What do they do, Ryuga?"

"They're engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. And before you ask, Yagami, I'm not subsisting on my parents, like you ― I took a student loan."

Light snorted. "Psh, that's dumb ― you'll be stuck repaying that loan for the rest of your life."

"No, I don't think so," L replied, smirking mischievously. "That only happens when you don't know what you want. I made a conscious choice to go into Accounting ― I'm investing in my future. Given how well paid accountants are, I'll have no trouble at all paying off my loan."

Light smiled. "We'll see in five years, won't we? How many firms will hire you with that attitude of yours."

L grinned even wider. "Oh I believe finding employment should be no problem when I graduate as To-Oh's top student, significantly outperforming you."

Light returned L's toothy grin. "Like that will ever happen."

"Oh I don't know," L said, leaning forward, up close, going for sheer intimidation. "You mentioned eating out twice a week... I don't waste my time on such frivolous things. After a year of studying, I imagine, you'll become so embroiled in this hedonist pattern, your schoolwork will suffer. I don't have that weakness. While you will be out on dates, having fun, I will be studying. And even at the end of this term, my results will be significantly better than yours. From then on, the gap between us will only increase."

"You're on," said Light, his brow furrowed, a skewed smile plastered to his face.

L stared at him blankly. "On? On what?"

"Weed? Asperger's prescription pills? I don't know, but he's definitely on something, and it ain't primetime TV," said the monster.

L clenched his teeth, and assumed an expression which was perfectly blank.

"I mean it's a bet," Light said. "My average grade on the midterms will be higher than yours. And when I win, you'll go to all my classes and take lecture notes for me, for an entire month."

"Okay, I can live with that. But what if you lose? What if after all that studying, I am still better than you?"

Light flexed his arms, reclining in his seat. His head tipped back, and he watched L from underneath the cover of his bangs. "Then I'll pitch in for a week's worth of your subway fare."

L thought it over. The rules of their bet didn't seem quite fair to him. Light wasn't giving him much incentive to win; which was probably intentional. The rules would have to be changed. What could L ask of him? 'Show Kira's murder weapon' obviously wasn't among his options. But he could make Light's life a living hell. L smiled. Light frowned. Plans began manifesting in L's overactive mind. If he placed enough pressure on Light to perform well at school, then Light would have less time to play Kira. Yes! L smirked widely, and loved the look of artless fear that showed on Light's face. He would tire Light out, exhaust him, and watch Kira collapse to his knees.

"No. You will walk in my shoes for a month," said L, "and I mean that literally." He pointed at the floor below his seat. "You will wear these sneakers," L pointed at his knees, "these jeans I'm wearing right now," L tugged at his own sweatshirt, "and this same shirt I'm wearing today. And you won't wash or iron them, for a month. The clothes I'm wearing today will be your uniform. I reckon we're about the same size, so they should fit you perfectly."

Light stared at him. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down. For one spare moment Light's face turned pale white. Then he recovered, and, with renewed vigor said "Okay, you're on."

L spit in his hand and thrust it forward. Light gawked at him.

"We must shake hands to seal the deal."

Light stared at the hand L offered: spittle slowly dribbled down it. Then Light grabbed L's hand, and shook it firmly. The spittle squeezed between their hands and lathered onto both palms.

Still scowling, Light wiped his hand off a spare seat, and proceeded to focus on the lecture. L looked at the seat where his own spittle now glistened in the dim lecture hall. Some day someone would sit on that spot, unknowingly get L's DNA wiped all over their hindquarters. L pulled a face. What a nasty thing to do.

The professor chalked formulae on the blackboard. In a humorless voice, the man droned, "Next we take the derivative of f." The following thing was on the blackboard:

f(x) = cos ( tan^3 ( 2 x^4 - 3 x^pi + 8 x^2 + 67 x ) )

L stared incredulously at it. This was such a horrid example. So many beautiful functions to choose from, and the professor chose this? It looked awful. Absolutely awful.

"Using the chain rule," said the burned-out professor whose dazed face resembled a soaped up washboard, "we obtain,"

f '(x) = - sin ( u ) du/dx

"with u described as,"

u = tan^3 ( 2 x^4 - 3 x^pi + 8 x^2 + 67 x )

L shook his head. This formula was unsightly, this lecture was unsightly, and the teacher's attitude was just so bad! No wonder half the class was dozing off. L glanced sideways at Yagami. Light was still dutifully taking the derivative of a function half his class was too narked to care about. L rolled his eyes. This was going to be a long half hour.

"Then we substitute" tan ( 2 x^4 - 3 x^pi + 8 x^2 + 67 x ) "with v, and we get,"

du/dx = 3v^2 dv/dx

"Applying the chain rule again, now with w standing for,"

w = 2 x^4 - 3 x^pi + 8 x^2 + 67 x

"we have,"

dv/dx = (1 - tan^2(w)) dw/dx

"And now we can take the derivative with respect to x,"

dw/dx = 8x^3 - 3 pi x^(pi - 1) + 16 x + 67

"and substituting all these back into the original formula, we obtain," the professor said, completing a final stroke with the chalk, and stopping to look at the class.

f '(x) = 3 sin( tan^3(2 x^4 - 3 x^pi + 8 x^2 + 67 x ) ) tan^2(2 x^4 - 3 x^pi + 8 x^2 + 67 x ) (tan^2(2 x^4 - 3 x^pi + 8 x^2 + 67 x ) - 1) (8 x^3 - 3pi x^(pi-1) + 16 x + 67)

L frowned at the blackboard. Looking around, he saw all students were silent. Some slept, others wrote furiously, eager to get it all down before the professor wiped the blackboard. L glanced over to his right, and took a quick peek in Yagami's notebook.

L smiled. "The teacher's answer is wrong, but you got it right."

Light looked up.

"He made a negligent error taking the derivative of v with respect to w," L whispered. "Dropped a minus."

"That's not the first mistake he's made," Light grinned, showing him another derivative a few pages back in his notebook.

L shrugged. "I haven't been paying attention."

"Maybe you should."

"Don't you think he's making those mistakes on purpose?"

Light frowned. "Why would he do that?"

"To see who's hungover."

"Or the professor himself is hungover," Light said with a wink.

***

L sat out on the grass under a blooming plum tree. Warm rays of sunshine beamed down on his bare feet. Unwrapping a gummy Puccho square, L licked at it before tossing it in his mouth, resting his back against the tree trunk. Finally a moment alone. L had already forgotten what college life felt like.

"Having dessert before lunch?"

Yagami's prissy face came into view, framed by his dyed brown bangs that looked golden in the sun. 'Poser,' L thought, his one moment of peace ruined. L sat up a bit, surreptitiously peered over Light's shoulder ... no sign of the monster, for now.

"This is my lunch," said L, popping another Puccho square in his mouth.

Yagami carried a paper bag in his hands, and an opened fizzy water bottle. He wore a new dress shirt today, one with pale green vertical stripes. And ― without asking ― he sat down on the grass right next to L. It gave L the heebie-jeebies. From the corner of his eye, he kept watch on Yagami.

"That's your lunch?" said Yagami, taking a rice ball from his bag. "No wonder you're thin as a rake."

L's tongue swirled the cream soda flavored gummies around his mouth. He ignored the rumble of his stomach, as the scent of seasoned rice pervaded his nose. Yagami took a bite of his rice ball, and hummed contentedly.

"I have no use for calories," L pointed at his own forehead. "Unlike some, I work with my brain. So my body only needs sugar."

He took another Puccho square from his jeans pocket, and meticulously unwrapped it. Doing this calmed him, gave him time and space to think. L sniffed at the unwrapped gummy: green apple flavor. He opened his mouth to bite when Yagami tapped him on the shoulder. L jerked around. The gummy fell from his hand, to the ground. Breathing hard, L looked around for the monster, but it was nowhere to be found. His gaze settled on Light. He noticed Light was showing him the contents of his paper bag. L frowned.

"Hey, would you like a rice ball? My mom made too many this morning," Light laughed good naturedly, "and I've no clue how I could possibly finish all of them ― would hate to let them go to waste."

L stared dubiously at Light. Since when did Mrs. Yagami pack his lunch? Surveillance footage from one month ago had shown Light do everything himself.

"Try one," Light said, taking a triangular shaped rice ball from the bag, and holding it out to L.

The cellophane wrapped rice ball had that distinct home made arbitrarity to its form, slightly uneven ridges, not something you could buy at To-Oh's cafeteria or any other store. L took it in his hands. It was soft and light. He glanced at Yagami, at the rice ball, and back at Yagami. Light kept smiling at him encouragingly. Something about this seemed off. Why was Light being so nice to him? The same person who had thoughtlessly murdered 28 people yesterday, was sharing his lunch with a relative stranger on Wednesday. Was this some sort of trick? Split personality? L shuddered as he caught himself thinking he was actually starting to like Yagami as a friend. It was weird. Slowly, L unwrapped the rice ball. In the shade under the tree, Light kept beaming at him. The monster did not show its face.

L took a bite.

His taste buds erupted. He took another bite. This was heavenly. L was so lost in the rich rice taste and subdued seaweed flavor, he barely noticed when he got to the center of the rice ball, and a new oasis of taste exploded on his tongue. Pickled plums, sweetly sour ― L loved it. Whoever made this rice ball knew how to cook a good meal, L gave them that much. For a while they ate in companionable silence. Light was first to finish; he screwed the cap off his water bottle.

"So where in Tokyo are you rooming?" Light said between sips.

"Shinkoiwa."

Light nearly spat out his drink.

L assumed his trademark Cheshire grin. "Told you my expenses weren't exorbitant."

Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Light shook his head. "No, but that's slumming it. Shinkoiwa is a dump. I hear there's riots and shootouts every night, half the houses there are broken down. The rent must be super cheap, but no self respecting Tokyo resident would ever live there willingly. Half Shinkoiwa's denizens are alkies, druggies, washed out bums, and the rest are tied up with crime one way or another."

Swallowing the last part of his third rice ball, L looked at Light and said, "Wow Yagami, you speak so kindly of my neighbors."

Light shrugged. "What can I say? It's the truth."

A new shadow was cast over them, and two pairs of girly canvas shoes came into view. L trailed his gaze up two lovely pairs of slender legs. Two pretty girls looked down at him. L stared back, surprised. One of the girls had a kiddish twintail hairdo, the other sported a short boyish cut.

Twintails spoke first. "Hi," she said.

The boyish girl blushed, and turned as if to leave, but Twintails grabbed her wrist, and held her in place.

Light smiled at them. "Hello," he said easily, curiously glancing from one girl to the next.

"Kyoko and I were wondering if you could help our club out. We saw you play tennis the other week. You guys are awesome! I've never seen anyone that good before,"

Light laughed. "Oh God, don't tell me you saw that? We were just goofing off, that's all it was."

Twintails laughed with him, her lashes fluttering. "Well, goofy or not, that was a damn good game. So we'd like to ask you something,"

Light nodded. "Go on,"

L merely stared at the girls. The boyish one was looking at her own feet, hiding her face. Her feet pointed inward, she stood on nodding knees.

"Three years straight now, To-Oh has lost to Tokyo U, our biggest in-city rival. We always beat them at academics," said Twintails. "Our students have higher average grades than theirs, and our university's research is more highly acclaimed. But these last three years, To-Oh has consistently underperformed in sports, most notably Tennis. No matter what we do, Tokyo U beats us every time. And we never make it to Regionals. That's why, when Kyoko and I saw you play," Twintails shared a look with the boyish girl, "we thought your amazing talent could help us. There's this men's doubles meet coming up, it's in two weeks. To-Oh will be facing off with Tokyo U. How about it, Yagami? Will you and your friend represent To-Oh in the upcoming event?"

L eyeballed Kyoko and Twintails. They were like two porcelain dolls, fragile and brittle. L pulled his legs up to his chest, curled his toes into the fresh grass, and kicked himself off the ground. He soared through the air, and landed in a deep squat, just inches away from the flower print canvas shoes. The girls stepped back in alarm.

"I'd love to!" L said. To his surprise, Kyoko blushed even more.

Twintails laughed nervously. "That's great," she said. "Yagami, you in?"

"Well, ..."

L could hear Light's voice waver. He looked over his shoulder, and regretted it at once. Light's face had set into resolute lines.

"I'd love to help you out, Shiho, but I'm afraid I no longer do competitions." Light hid his hands in his pockets, and reclined against the tree. His shoulders remained rigid, his back stiff.

Shiho smiled with difficulty. "Could we do something to make you change your mind?" she said in a soft whispery voice.

Light pursed his lips. "Not much, I suppose. Competitions just aren't my thing, sorry."

Shiho showed them a drowsy smile. "That's a pity. You and Ryuga could have given To-Oh a real shot at making Nationals this year. I've been trying myself for two years now, but to no avail," she finished with a small self-deprecating chortle.

L looked up at Kyoko. From this angle, her face looked almost square. "What if I do the doubles match solo, without a partner?" L said. "Give me a ball and I'll do it."

Shiho pulled a face. "You want to play in a doubles match, all by yourself?"

Yagami was silent.

L lowered his head. "I don't want to."

Kyoko spoke up: her voice a quick staccato, like tennis balls bouncing off the walls of an empty court. "You will have a partner Ryuga, even if Yagami refuses. Our club has many players who dream of defeating Tokyo U."

"Naturally we'd love to see both of you play," Shiho said. "But Yagami, if you really don't feel up to it, you shouldn't feel like you have to. It would just mean so much to the club if you did."

Light shook his head, smiling. "Alright, you girls are tough customers. I'll think about it."

Shiho chuckled airily. "Okay, let me know when you change your mind."

Kyoko sharply looked at L. "We practice every day. Training starts at five. I suppose you know where the court is."

Then they were gone ― flower print canvas shoes flitting over the pavement to the main building. Yagami stared pensively at some distant point, twisting a young blade of grass between his fingers. L dug his knees into his clavicles, tipped his point of mass forward, and tried balancing on his toes. He spread his arms out, waving them about like a chick trying to fly. He see-sawed back and forth.

"I'm so happy," L said.

Light shot him a puzzled look.

"They actually want me on their team," L said seconds before tipping over and landing face-down in the grass. He heard Yagami's muffled laughter. He pushed himself off the ground, and sat up straight, at a safe distance from Light.

"Why wouldn't they?" Yagami asked when he was done laughing. "You're good."

"Not that good though, you beat me."

Light rolled his eyes. "You still bummed out over that?"

"I've never been on a tennis team before," L mumbled. "I've played competitions, but always alone: me against the other player."

Light quirked an eyebrow at him. "So what makes you think you'd do well on a doubles team?"

L looked down at his feet. Thick brown crusts had formed were wounds had bled, his nails had grown out again.

"I don't know if I'll be any good," L said, rubbing his feet. "I just want to try it." L looked at Yagami, and saw Light looking back at him. "It seems more fun to play on a team," L said hesitantly, his voice faltering.

"You pose a compelling argument," Light said with a hint of amusement.

L smiled. "I try."

"I just haven't played competitively in so long," said Light.

"You played me competitively."

"That was a friendly match," Light said, smiling broadly.

L grew bolder. "It started out as a friendly match."

"Okay okay, I'll think about doing a doubles match with you."

L pumped his fist, and screamed out a jubilant "YES!"

Light's shoulders shook with laughter. It was a natural laugh, nothing forced about it. L watched Light laugh. 'I'm going to destroy you,' he thought. And for the first time in months, this goal seemed more attainable than ever. L started to see the light at the end of this doomed dark tunnel of death. Befriending Light was far easier than he'd imagined it would be. If only he'd thought of this sooner: among hundreds of Kira victims, Beyond Birthday might still be alive.

"While we're on the topic of friendship," said Light.

"We were?" L froze. Had Yagami just read his mind? Was that one of Kira's powers? No, no, it couldn't be. He was being paranoid. Just paranoid.

"Yes we were," said Light, smiling brightly. "Why don't you come over some time?"

L was baffled. Was it that simple? They weren't even on first-name basis yet. Scooting a bit closer to Light, he whispered, "To your place?"

"Naturally."

"Don't your parents live there?" L said, frowning.

"They do."

"Won't they object?"

Light actually laughed at that. "Why would they object?"

"How would your father react to you having decidedly pro-Kira friends?"

"Well yeah, when you put it that way... you'd be the first of my friends to be an active Kira supporter. Just don't bring it up at the dinner table. As long as you do that, you'll be fine ― my mom will love you. Come over; you really need to eat something normal besides your neurotic diet of candy wrappers and gum."

L nodded. "Understood."

Light frowned. "What?"

"You're ordering me over. I have no way out."

Light stared at him, then opened his mouth and groaned. L observed all changes in Light's expression: it did change fairly rapidly.

"I'm not ordering you!" Light sighed with some sort of emotion L sensed was close to chagrin ― the same way Roger reacted when L insisted on pushing Roger's buttons to check if Roger was getting too old for the job.

"Fine then. Don't come. You're uninvited."

L blinked. "I want to come over though."

Light stared at him like he had grown a second head. "You really have a way of doing things, Ryuga."

"Sorry," L said in a small voice, shrinking back. He had ruined it, again. How did he always manage to do this? He hadn't even been trying to get on Yagami's nerves. He'd tried to be his friend. Now Light would probably never speak to him again. Why did the wrong things always come out of his mouth at the worst possible time?

Light took a deep breath and looked at L like someone would look at a scolded little child. "Don't be. So I don't have class tomorrow afternoon. How does that work for you?"

A sharp gust of wind blew through L's ratty jacket, scattering plum blossoms in his lap. L stared at Yagami. This was happening, for real. He was going to visit the Yagami house again, this time in the guise of Hideki Ryuga, Light's college pal. Ignoring the prickling sensation in his eye as another gust swept his hair apart, L sat there, stunned, unable to move.

"That's fine," L said, trying to keep his voice level. "I have a class that day, but I don't feel like going anyhow."

"Alright, we can go together after class."

Yagami clapped him on the shoulder. L felt like throwing up.

***

Author's Note:

L always struck me as a guy who listens to lighthearted pop songs. Due to the darker nature of his job and the things he has seen working cases (the terrifying bloodthirsty criminals he has put away) I bet he wouldn't want to relive those experiences on a daily basis. That's why I thought L would shy away from 'darker' music like Sadcore and Alternative Rock. Plus he seemed to enjoy sweet things in canon: sweet food, sweet girls (Misa), so I'm guessing he would like his music sweet as well. ;-) He'd probably enjoy those music videos with girls in belly-button showing shirts, sugar coated voices, and sensual dancing.

Which is why I chose the Atomic Kitten song 'Right Now' for L's ringtone.

Beyond Birthday is one year older than L in this fic. And Kyoko, the girl who had a crush on L in canon, is a third year student and a member of To-Oh's tennis club.

Light obviously dyes his hair in canon: his closest relatives all have dark hair, canon is known for its natural hair colors, and most Japanese have dark hair (black or a very dark brown). However, it is rather popular among modern day teenagers in Japan to dye their hair. So I think it's conceivable that both Misa and Light would dye their hair.

Oh, and thank you OneSerendipity, CtheChangeling, DrSurgeonGuy, and IamNoHere, for your help with editing this chapter!

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published October 7, 2016