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The Book Club

Chapter Text

The city was nothing but shades of grey; dirty snow lay in piles on the ground, trodden down by hard boots; the streets were littered; the buildings dirty and off white; smog polluted the atmosphere.

One sole character, dressed in a thick white coat and wearing pale blue jeans shuffled down the street. Clearly, it was a person who disliked walking often, and who resented being outside. And one couldn't blame them, as the Scottish winter was as cold and unforgiving as always.

Hastily, almost as if they were doing something illegal or obscene, the pale character put up a small poster on a shop window, before moving on quickly.

 

 

 

One week later

"What is this?" asked Light. His face held a warm smile but his body had just frozen and his voice was dangerously low.

"It's a selection of condoms, Light," announced Kiyomi, Light's girlfriend, amicably. "Since the start of our relationship I have found the sex unfulfilling. I'm not criticising you," she smiled at him, "I am just giving some constructive criticism and offering help. I would like us to try some of these."

Light held up a chocolate flavoured condom delicately, "really? I would have thought you would have more taste than this Kiyomi."

"What's so distasteful about chocolate?"

"That's not what I- oh, ha-ha. Well done." He lent forward. "I'm not very impressed Miss Takada. I am sorry you are unsatisfied with the sex but are you so surprised? We're not in love. You understood the nature of our relationship when it started."

"Yes but I am still a female," she cut in, "a very attractive one at that. You have done well for yourself, as have I." She batted her eyelashes at him coyly. "Love doesn't need to be involved in this. There is still lust and mutual enjoyment."

They both fell silent as a waiter came up to them and delivered their fancy, high price meals. A piano tinkled delicately in the background as did the occasional chime of champagne glasses being clicked together in a cheer, and the ever present muttering of the quiet conversations of the elite customers.

"I love this restaurant," Kiyomi beamed. "The hasty service and the excellent food...I don't understand why we can't come more often."

"Because I'm not made of money, darling."

"But your parents are."

Light smiled at her, refusing to answer. They ate in silence for a few moments before Kiyomi put down her fork and sighed. "Light I want us to work together; to be happy together."

Light looked at her. She was very beautiful and he had lot of respect for her, after all she was strong and powerful, of good social standing, intelligent and ambitious. Not only was she going to be a good wife but she would also be a great partner in the family business. Kiyomi would up hold the Yagami name well. But he just did not find her sexually attractive. And that was no insult to her. He hadn't found anyone sexually attractive in all his life. His teens had been particularly hard. He was a handsome man and many girls (and boys) had sought to date him. In the end he complied, but only because he didn't want to come across as strange or unnatural to anyone. However, by the time he was fifteen, Light had realised that he needed someone he could connect with on an intellectual level as well as an emotional one. Unfortunately Light was extremely intelligent and very emotionally disconnected from the rest of society. He often considered that he may well be a psychopath. But like Kiyomi, if she was to be his wife (and she was) he wanted them to be happy.

He mimicked her in putting down his cutlery. "I agree darling." He pushed the condoms (which he had hidden behind his dinner plate before the waiter had arrived,) towards her. She took them and put them in her purse.

"We will try those tonight." He said and she smiled in response. He felt a little empty inside. Watching her eat, he wondered if maybe he could grow to love her. Though she seemed happy enough with the promise of better sex, he would need more. Maybe he could try to reach out to her, try to get them to have some sort of mutual interests.

"I saw an advert in the local shop the other day," he announced, digging once more in to his fresh pasta. "There is a small book group starting. I think it will be mostly students considering the area. The first book is going to be the play 'Waiting for Godot', what do you think, shall we go?"

"Sure," she replied without much interest, "why not?"

 

 

 

Whilst Light Yagami and Kiyomi Takada ate their romantic meal, Naomi Misora sat in her car staring at her eyes in the rear-view mirror. They looked anxious and tired. She and Ray were supposed to be going out tonight for a meal themselves only for them it would have been at the local pub. Would he still want her to go? They were supposed to be meeting his friends. Granted, spending an evening with a bunch of drunk, old-school misogynistic policemen wasn't her idea of a fun night out, but she had been honoured and flattered that Ray finally wanted his friends to meet her. It was another way of solidifying their rocky relationship, a sign that they were becoming a proper couple not just a squabbling boyfriend and girlfriend. But as always, something came along and messed things up.

In this case, it was her drug-addict baby-brother.

Well, ex-addict. He was all better now or so he kept insisting, she wasn't so sure herself. The doctors had released him from his expensive rehab at the Priory three months ago. He had immediately gone travelling, complaining to her that he needed space, time to think and room to grow. She had scoffed at him and accepted that he was probably going to return as big a junkie as he was before (if not worse) or in a coffin. Their parents had refused to get involved, having cut off their son emotionally years ago when he had first been diagnosed with his disability. The drug addiction was just the icing on the cake. They were completely ashamed of him, and so fuelled him with money, just to keep him quiet and as far away from them and their posh friends as possible. And that money had fuelled his drug addiction.

That morning, whilst Ray was in the shower, she'd received a text message from him.

'Back in the country.' It had read. 'Will be at Glasgow airport in four hours approx.'

She had felt mixed emotions when reading it. Part of her was relieved that he was finally home; he hadn't told anyone how long he was going to be away. But she was also angry with him for leaving in the first place and, by the looks of his text, that he was clearly just expecting her to pick him up from the airport. He didn't even have the decency to ask or to enquire how she had been a those months he'd been missing. He just, in his typical selfish manner, expected her to drop everything to meet up. Maybe he hadn't even considered that she had plans.

This self-centred behaviour of his was ruining her life. But what could she do? He was her brother.

"You should leave him," Ray had complained over breakfast when she mentioned that she might not be able to meet his friends that night because her brother had made a re-appearance. "He probably has enough money to get a taxi and a hotel." He shovelled scrambled eggs into his mouth and spoke before he had swallowed them all. "Your parents are rich enough..."

"You know about our parents, they may send him money but they don't care for him," she sighed and poured him another cup of tea. He slurped it down without thanking her for it.

God, she was surrounded by ill-mannered, ungrateful men...

"They gave him money when knowing he blew it all on that filth he liked to shoot in to his veins," he continued, ignoring her protests, "I'm sure they won't begrudge him a taxi and a roof over his head that is assuming he is clean and is going to spend the money on sensible things."

Naomi wanted to argue against his cynicism, but she knew he was right. More times then she cared to count, her brother had turned up at her door, saying he was clean and begging for help, only to rob her as soon as he could and disappearing for months on end. It was a horrible pattern that had gone on for three years.

"He's my brother," she muttered, sitting opposite her beau. "I have to be there for him."

"And what about me, Naomi? I'm your boyfriend!"

"I know, but you don't need me the way he does!"

"Whatever." Ray said whilst moving away from the table and pulling on his coat. "If he comes here," he continued, without looking at her, "make sure he stays out of our bedroom and hide all the money under the mattress."

With that he had stormed out of the flat, leaving her alone.

She had gotten dressed and made the long journey to Glasgow airport. She was sitting outside of it now, waiting patiently for her sibling to turn up.

Sure enough, there he was, slinking out of the main entrance. She beeped the car horn, making him jump and look at her like a frightened deer before recognising her little red Rover and strolling over to her. For some reason he climbed into the back seat instead of the front.

She looked at him and smiled. They were similar in some ways. Both had jet black hair and dark grey, almost black, eyes. But his face was angular and a stark white, abused by years of hunger and drug addiction, whereas hers was still full, coloured and healthy.

"Hey Lawliet," she smiled, "how've you been?"

"Alright," ah, seemed he was as reticent as ever.

"Did you meet any nice girls?" She asked, starting up the car and pulling out.

He stared out the window, not looking at her as he replied. "Sure. There were lots of nice girls out there."

"Lawli, where exactly did you go?"

"All over the East," he sighed, "Nepal, China, Vietnam. I even visited Tokyo for a short while. I wanted out of the cities though. I stuck mainly to the small, poor, rural countries."

That was good; maybe it was easier for him to avoid drugs away from the cities.

"And did you find time and space to think?" she pushed.

"I think so."

There was a brief silence. Lawliet had never been a big talker, but she was desperate to find out if he was actually clean or not. Also, Naomi had really missed him and was curious as to what kept him busy for so many months. "What made you decide to come back?"

"Mom and dad have stopped sending me money."

"What?" They had halted at a red light, giving her chance to turn and look at him. He blessed her with one of his rare smiles. "They can't have cut you off Lawli-pop! Oh no, I'm so sorry."

"It's ok...the light's turned green."

A car beeped angrily behind her. She stepped on the gas and tore down the road, feeing angry with her parents. So they had completely given up on him now, had they? Back when he was on drugs they kept sending him money. The moment he was (hopefully) clean, then they choose to stop?! It was ridiculous.

"Seriously," he leant forward, noting her inner rage, "it's ok. It will give me a chance to stand on my own feet. Erm...I'm going to need to stay with you, at least for a little while, though."

She laughed, "of course you can stay with me." She opened up the cabinet and tossed him a lollipop, which he eagerly opened and shoved into his mouth. He looked livelier all of sudden. Had he thought she would refuse him? "I'm always here for you," she emphasised.

"Will Ray be at the flat?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

"Well, don't sound too happy!"

Lawliet didn't respond.

"You just have to prove yourself," she said softly, after a moment's heart beat. "Ray is a police officer. He has a reputation. He can't help but be angry and worried whenever you're around."

"Yes, but you're an officer and you never hurt me..."

"I'm a PCSO," she retorted, her voice more firm. "And you are my brother, so of course I accept you no matter what. Ray on the other hand, owes you nothing."

There was more fraught silence. Neither of them really wanted to go into the last time Lawliet and Ray were together. "I'll pay you back," Lawliet muttered, breaking the silence, "you know...for everything...all the stuff I took and all the time you spend on me. I've been thinking about my past behaviour and have come to the realisation that I have been very...wrong...at times."

"Lawli-pop, back then you were always either high or desperate, and now you have no money. Don't worry, I forgive you. I just want you to get better."

He winced at her response, not because he thought it was cruel, but because she sounded so defeated. It was awful knowing he was a total failure and that he had let someone he loved down so badly. It was in Bengal that he had decided to make up for his past sins and to start becoming a fully functioning adult, but it was hard with the one person he loved most only thought of him as being as hopeless and needy as a child.

"I will pay you back," he insisted. "I'll get a job and everything. I'll make it up to you," he turned and looked back out of the window staring into the Scottish countryside muttering, "somehow..."

 

 

 

"Good morning sir!"

Light tried not to wince at the ever preppy happiness Matsuda liked to radiate.

"Morning Matsuda, did you get all that filing I needed you to do finished?"

"Yes sir! It was really hard at first, I kept getting muddled up between all the filing cabinets and I ended up staying three hours over time, but got the job finished sir!"

"Good. I would like a coffee please, and a toastie, all from the local cafe, not that dreadful deli you like so much."

"Y-yes sir..." Matsuda looked a little ashamed at the fact that he liked something that Light despised. Light sighed, he was such a softie sometimes...

"Matsuda," he called, his assistant looking back with wide puppy eyes, "you can get something for yourself too, from anywhere you like, ok? It's your reward for working so hard."

Matsuda's eyes lit up and he nodded before bounding out of the office like an excited Retriever puppy.

Light shook his head. His father would laugh at him to see how much of a pansy he was sometimes. Light worked at his father's small, but ever growing, law firm. He had finished his post-graduate half a year ago, whereas his girlfriend, Kiyomi, was still finishing hers. Light wanted to go on to become a fully fledged prosecuting lawyer, but he still had a long way to go yet.

His assistant, Matsuda, was also at university, though he did some entry level work at the office. He had begun as a court runner, but oftentimes he helped out Light, essentially being an assistant to the assistant.

Now that he was (temporarily) alone, Light allowed his defences to fall. He sighed and brushed both his hands through his silky brunet locks. He felt...dissatisfied. For years he had aimed to be a lawyer, to get married, to make his father proud. Here he was, on his way, with a beautiful, vivacious woman by his side, and in a law office, but he didn't feel happy. In fact, he felt empty, as if he were going nowhere, as if he were trapped somehow. His 'vivacious girlfriend' seemed more like a grasping, egotistical bitch, the law office seemed a poky hellhole in a dirty, grimy city he loathed.

He wanted out, but didn't know how to get away.

'What would I even do?' he worried, 'this is what I'm trained for. I'm not the kind of idiot who goes 'following their dreams'. This is real life. I'm in a well-paid job with prospects, which is a far better situation than what most people are in right now, I'm educated, I'm good looking and I'm engaged. I don't understand why I feel like this!'

He took out the small advertisement for the Book Club. Normally he never did things like joining groups or clubs unless there was some sort of prestige involved. He never just did things for 'fun.' He had been quite surprised when Kiyomi had agreed to join him, as it wasn't her sort of thing either. Maybe she felt it was a fair trade off, he had to give her more satisfying sex, and she would submit to his silly whims such as joining a book group, which no doubt she would find very dull and plebeian.

'I only asked her to join with me because I want to get to know her,' he mused, staring down at the rough, cheap paper, 'there has to be some sort of link between us or...or I actually don't think I can go through with this. I don't think I'll want to. How could I explain that to my father? He has so much faith in me... so much hope that I would follow in his footsteps.'

He heard the downstairs door slam shut. Matsuda was back. Light sat back up and straightened himself out, absentmindedly placing the Book Club ad on the desk.

"Thank you Matsuda," he said as the young boy, beaming, placed the coffee down clumsily and spilling some of it. The phone rang and Light walked away, talking quickly to what Matsuda supposed was his father back in the main office.

While dabbing away the spilt coffee, Matsuda spotted the Book Club advertisement and slipped it into his pocket, assuming that someone like Light Yagami wouldn't be interested in something like that, and that perhaps it was just some of the junk mail they often received. His best friend was an English lit student and half way through the second year of her A-Levels. Maybe the Group would help her out?

 

 

 

Lawliet stepped into the local ASDA and waited at the Enquiries section as he was asked to while pulling at his tie anxiously. He felt stupid getting all dressed up for an interview to be a cashier but Naomi had insisted he look his best. Thanks to the brutal recession, there were hardly any jobs going anywhere and Lawliet needed to be doing something with his days other than avoiding Ray and eating every sweet thing in Naomi's flat.

They had all agreed that when Lawliet got a job that all the money would go to Ray and Naomi. It was their flat after all and there was still a good chance that he would start spending it on drugs again. But then, Naomi had promised to open a savings account for Lawliet so that when they all felt it was safe for him to leave home and live alone, he would have some money. He had also made them promise to buy sweets just for him. Ray had huffed and sighed and moaned about him replacing one addiction for another, but Naomi had just laughed and agreed.

"Mr. Misora?" Lawliet turned around to see a man facing him with his arm outstretched ready to give a handshake. "Hi," the man continued, "I'm the head of this branch. You're here for your interview?"

The two men sat in a small office. Lawliet observed the area while hiding his distaste. On the table were various coffee and tea stains from mugs. On the side was a dirty, dusty kettle. Various mugs were on a lime-scale draining board, they all bore slogans such as 'Dog tired' and 'Best Boss' and 'Life's a bitch...then you marry one!'.

Lawliet shifted in his chair already hating everything he saw, but he had lived in worse than this back in the days of absolute addiction, there was no point getting uppity now.

"This will only be short," the man -who had introduced himself as Ide- said, "I just have one question really. On your CV it says that you graduated from the University of Stirling."

"Yes."

"And that you got a first class degree in Cell Biology."

"That is correct. Sir."

"Well, what are you doing looking for a job here?" Ide gasped.

Lawliet blinked at him before answering, "things have gone awry in my life over the last few years. I would like to have a consistent job and a consistent income. What I wish for is stability, and I believe I can get that here."

"Well, alright. Congratulations Mr. Misora you have a job here. You can start right away, let me show you your uniform."

As expected his day was long and tedious. He had almost felt zombified by the second hour of working on the tills. The customers passed him by, each one a blur. On his break he had called Naomi to tell her he was well.

"I got the job," he had said.

"Oh my gosh, Lawli-pop that's amazing!" He smiled a little at how excited she was. "I'm so proud of you!"

The smile faded from his face. "It's only as a cashier," he muttered insolently.

"But it's still a job. This is great. Have an excellent day at work and I'll see you tonight. I'll have an extra nice cake for you as celebration! Oh, wait till Ray finds out, I'm sure he'll be happy for you."

"Yes," he responded in monotone. "I have to go now. Goodbye. I love you too."

As he walked home after work he reflected on the phone call. At one time he could have been a top biologist, now his sister was happy that he could get a job at a supermarket. How had her expectations of him changed so much?

Oh yeah, of course, the whole heroin addiction thing...

Truth be told, Lawliet didn't even remember that much, but he knew he had been bad. His parents did not communicate with him at all, and since getting clean he had tried to contact them.

He had five pounds in his pocket, (his sister had given him enough money for a taxi home,) but he wanted to walk. Maybe he could buy her and Ray something nice? Something to show that he was grateful for them taking him in and that he could be trusted with money.

He popped into the first local shop he saw and settled on a cheap wine. As far as he had seen so far Ray did not have a discerning palate when it came to alcohol, and Naomi would appreciate the effort. On his way out he stopped to read the advertisements put up by locals. He always read them, especially the 'missing pets' signs in the hope that if he found a pet it would be one other way of realigning his karma.

Hmm, a missing kitten, an old armchair for sale, a house swap proposition and...ah.

Lawliet picked up on sheet of paper. "A book club," he read out loud, "Waiting for Godot, to meet in one month." It was probably only aimed for students, the whole area was student heavy thanks to the local polytechnic-come-university, but maybe he should go? Who cared if they were younger than him? Besides it hadn't specifically asked for students. He had nothing better to do and staying in watching Coronation Street with Ray and Naomi was not Lawliets ideal night in.

Jotting down the address, Lawliet slipped out of the shop feeling much happier than he had entering it.

Chapter Text

Matt stood waiting for Mello outside the cafeteria. Just as he finished texting 'where r u?' the blond boy ran up to him. "Sorry I'm late."

"Where were you?" he asked, repeating his text message.

"Library." The boys walked into the cafeteria and lined up. "There are no fucking books to read."

"Ugh, reading," responded Matt, "I don't know why you would choose to read. It's boring. Do you want to come to mine later to play on the X-box? I have a new game."

"Sure," Mello replied softly, he was looking out for his sister. Sure enough, Misa charged into the cafeteria screaming and shouting at her boyfriend.

"And you know what else Zak?" She cried with a melodramatic air, "you can fuck off with your filthy little games! I also suggest you go to the docs to sort out that weird growth on your butt!"

The girls surrounding her cheered and giggled as Zak's face burned red.

"Well you would know, you fucking slut!" he cried back, "you didn't mind it when you were sucking me off last night, so fuck you, fuck your whore sister and fuck your faggot brother!"

The boys began to cheer, but stopped quickly as Mello, charging seemingly from nowhere, leapt onto Zak and began hitting him.

The chant of 'fight, fight!" was sung out by a hundred or so students, causing a mass of teenagers and frantic teachers to run to the scene.

Mello threw off all who tried to pull him off Zak (bar Matt), but when he began to see blood, he let Zak go. "Not bad for a fucking fag, huh?" he barked at the bleeding boy.

Mello stood up and looked around him. The students were pale and wide eyed. Zak's blood was on his fist. "Anyone else got anything to say about me or my family?" he asked before being bull-dogged by half a dozen teachers.

Wendy Kenwood snuck a few more pens into her pocket. The kids had been moaning for weeks about having no pens for school and then yesterday the school had been pathetic enough to write her a letter complaining about their 'lack of equipment', so this would shut them up.

She carried on cleaning the desks of the office keeping an eye out for anything she could sneak into her pockets whilst it was empty.

"WENDY!"

She leapt, dropping her cloth and spray cleaner, before turning to face her boss, Steve Mason. Oh God, he was the kind of freak who would fire her, or worse, for something as minor as pen thieving.

"There's someone on the phone for you," he continued and she let out a quiet sigh of relief.

She brushed past him as he smirked. He had purposely stood in the doorway so that when she entered the office, their bodies had rubbed together slightly. She repressed a disgusted shudder and walked over to the dusty, dishevelled desk.

After searching under various piles of paper, she finally located the office phone, "hello?" she asked into it.

"Miss Wendy Kenwood?"

"Yes."

"Hello, this is Miss Linder, the headmistress of Gamou Academy, again."

Wendy felt her heart sink. "Hello Miss Lidner. What have they done now and which one was it?"

"Both," was the clipped reply. "Miss Misa decided to scream obscenities around the school and to cause havoc. Then young Mister Mello decided to attack another student. That student has been taken to hospital."

"Well why?" argued Wendy, "I'm sure Mello wouldn't have attacked a student for no reason."

"The boy, Zak, was attacked after he called your brother a homophobic slur. While Zak will be punished for his unacceptable language, we cannot justify Mello's vicious attack."

"Alright, what do you want me to do?"

"We need Mello and Misa taken home. They are excluded until further notice."

"But I'm at work!"

"I'm sorry, but in that case you'll need to make arrangements to get them picked up. They'll be waiting in reception. Good day Miss Kenwood."

"But I- damn it!" the headmistress had already hung up. "Steven," she called, "I'm sorry, I gotta leave early."

She walked into the next office where he sat smoking next to the 'no smoking sign' on the wall. He liked to rebel in small, obnoxious ways.

"Going, now?" He complained, staring at her as if she had just said something crazy, "no way Wendy. Not again!"

"I can't help it," she argued, pulling on her coat.

He got up and grabbed a hold of her chin. "How many favours have I given you already?"

She looked away, knowing he would read it as her being shy and demure. In fact it was because she hated looking at his face. His rank breath brushed her face as he purred, "when's the next time you going to pay me back, hm?"

"Tomorrow," she responded flatly, "I'll do whatever you want again tomorrow. But seriously I have to go now."

He let her go and shook his head in disgust. "Two kids and you're- what? Twenty? Twenty one?"

"Twenty-four," she answered. "And they're not my kids. They're my brother and sister." She looked at him square in the face, "me mam is the one who's the no-good whore."

And with those parting words she left.

 

 

 

"Seriously Mello, why?"

"I don't know!" He whined whilst sitting in the back of Wendy's beat up car. "I just snapped! He was dissing the whole family!"

"I don't care. All you did was prove him right! Prove that we're nothing but a bunch of thugs." Wendy looked at him via her rear-view mirror. "You're better than this," she continued quietly, "you're so intelligent-"

An angry sigh interrupted Wendy. "Oh, god, here we go again!" cried Misa before mimicking Wendy, "'Oh Mello," she cooed, "you're so smart, and so clever and such a genius.' Jesus, he beats the shit out of me boyfriend, gets us both expelled, but you're here going on about how smart he is!"

"Misa?" purred Wendy.

"What?"

"Shut the hell up."

Misa crossed her arms and fell into a sullen silence.

"I'm guessing I won't be allowed round to Matt's tonight?" Mello queried.

"No!"

He too fell into the same pose as his twin sister. "There's nothing to do," he complained. "I'm so bored all the time. There aren't even any good books in the school library."

"Try the local one-"

"There's nothing there either! It's all bloody Catharine Cookson with the occasional torn edition of Pride and Prejudice or Stephen King's lesser work. But that's if you're lucky." He sighed in anger and shifted further into his seat.

Wendy pinched her lips and stared out of the window. It was hard having someone like Mello in the family; not because he was bad or because she disliked him, but because he was so clever. Often she had wished that he had been born into a rich family that could afford to nurture his intelligence. Mello was the sort of child that needed private education, after school tutors and trips to places like the opera house, the ballet, museums and galleries.

But their mother hadn't been able to provide that and now neither was Wendy. Half the time she had to choose between paying the bills and buying food. Then to add to matters, there was nothing locally. The school had no after school activities as the teachers wanted to leave as soon as the school day was finally done, never mind the students. The council hadn't provided the area with anything- they were left forgotten and desolate, like most small, inner city areas- their only purpose to be the butt of rich people's jokes. They had once had a youth centre, but that had now closed down as well after it had been repeatedly vandalised.

Wendy pulled up outside some local shops. "Misa," she began breaking the tense silence, "I'm sorry you and Zak broke up." Misa looked up wide-eyed but said nothing. "Mello," she continued, "I'm sorry you're bored and there's nothing to do." She almost laughed as he gave her almost the exact same stare as Misa. They were so alike... "Shall we have some chocolate pud after tea?"

Both teenagers cheered, making her grin. Granted the microwavable chocolate pudding she was going to buy would take £2.30 of their weekly shopping, which could have paid for a loaf of bread and some milk, but it was worth it to see them smile.

 

 

On her way out the shop, something caught Wendy's eye. Peering at the window she read the sign and grinned.

"Mello," she announced when getting back into the car, "you may be interested in this." She flung a white piece of paper at him.

"A book club," he muttered. "They're reading Becket...wow. They're probably all university students." He put the paper down sadly, "I won't fit in...they'll laugh at me."

Wendy frowned, "Mello so what? Since when have you cared about stuff like that? Just go at least once. I'll wait outside in the car and you can call me if it is no good."

"Call with what?"

"Misa lend him your mobile."

"What," Misa screeched, "no way! This isn't fair! And why haven't you suggested that I could go to this club?"

"I didn't think you'd be interested."

"Well I am!" she looked at Mello, "we'll both go and I'll call Wendy if it sucks."

"It's Samuel Becket," Mello complained, "you won't like reading it Misa. You'll find it boring."

"No I won't," she sang, "I'm more intelligent than you think. I'll show the both you!" And she sat back into her seat, a triumphant grin on her face.

 

 

 

One week before

Nate River groaned internally and leaned against the wall. The phone was pushed against his ear and a consistent stream of babble came out of it.

"I promise you I am fine," he muttered in monotone when there was a brief pause on the other side. He felt tired; uneasily he shifted from leg to leg. Only a trace of a European accent was hinted at within his words, (Nate was originally from the Netherlands). "Yes the flat is...lovely." He looked at his surroundings.

They were extremely small, plain and impersonal. He bit his lip. It wasn't quite what he had planned. He was going back into his comfort zone too much.

"Yes...yes honestly Roger...Ok. Yes I have many friends. Yes, all like me. In fact they are coming over next week. What? Party? No, of course not, I'm not P Diddy, no, we're having a ..." he looked around the room trying to think of a quick convincing lie that would make Roger, his step-father, leave him alone. His eyes rested on his mountain of university books. "Book club, to ah...to discuss a book," he finally responded at last, "yes, a sort of book club. Just the sort of thing I need. A group of me and my clever friends discussing something worthy over tea and ... scones and ... whatnot."

The tone of the voice on the other side of the phone became softer and a sort of happy croon. Nate had a ghost of smile at his lips and a glimmer of hope in his eyes. The conversation was coming to a pleasing end...thank god. "That's right," he confirmed, "meeting people and socialising but not in a disgusting way...like going to a ...nightclub or something. When? Oh. Next Friday evening. It's once every fortnight. At my flat."

He nodded and answered in the affirmative as the voice wittered on before finally saying a cheerful goodbye and putting the phone down.

He walked over to the kitchen, which was connected to the living room (he essentially lived in a bedsit, luckily the bathroom and bedroom were in separate rooms,) and switched on the kettle to make a hot chocolate. It was drizzly January weather outside. He was supposed to be going to university today but as usual no one in the country had prepared for the inevitable snow, and so there was no grit on the roads or paths, making travel impossible.

It worked out perfectly for Nate. He was standing in his warm flat, making a hot chocolate, still wearing his jim-jams and preparing to do some simple home study. Great. But then...this wasn't part of the plan. He had just lied to Roger, a man he respected and trusted a lot.

The kettle finished boiling and he began making his drink, the slightly foreign feeling of guilt beginning to build up inside his stomach.

Nate had lived an isolated childhood with his father, the pair of them had lived a hermit life in the middle of a vast forest. Nate had been home-taught and like his father was exceedingly intelligent. However as well as being gifted, Nate's father was also very tortured. He drank a lot, and despised people. Nate never saw anyone other than his father and his own reflection occasionally in clear water (father had not allowed any mirrors in the house.)Most of all, his father hated physical touch. He avoided touching or communicating verbally with Nate as much as possible. Nate had grown up thinking that was normal. Loneliness and isolation were staples of his childhood.

But then, one day, when Nate was twelve years old he saw people at long last. Five police officers arrived at their home. Father was arrested and Nate was taken away. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of his life. The police had tried to keep him calm by offering him sweets and swearing that he would be ok and they were not there to hurt him, but it was too much of Nate. He refused their sweets, not knowing what they were or trusting them.

When they had arrived in a small town outside the forest, Nate had hardly believed there were so many people in the entire world. He had fainted after that. Then after waking he had gone into a sort of catatonic shock, refusing to eat or communicate or move.

Nate looked out his steamed up window, his grip on his cup unconsciously tighter. Those had been grim times. He had been sent to a mental institute for young children and given therapy and a cocktail of drugs to help him. Luckily there had been a psychiatrist there, a man called Dr Watari, who had helped Nate. He slowly and gently bought the boy out of his cocoon and showed him about the world. Then when the time was right and Nate was once more emotionally stable, he had been told about what had happened the day he and his father had been taken.

Apparently, his father had been a brilliant mind working in a terrible dead end office job. He was married, but after Near was born, he had some sort of break down in which he attacked his wife and tried to attack Nate, now convinced that he could never escape the life he had. His wife left with Nate, making father finally snap completely. Nate had been stolen away and not seen again by his mother. The police and his mother had been searching for him all that time he was in that forest with his insane hermit father.

Nate had been told that his mother still wanted to see him, but if he wanted to wait she was prepared for him to go at his own pace. He had not given Dr Watari an answer until two weeks later. On that very day he was packed into a car and sent to see his mother and her husband, Roger.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

It took a lot of effort but eventually they all moved in together. His mother and Roger moved into the country so Nate wasn't quite so anxious and frightened by noise. His mother gave up work completely in order to focus on him and his step-father had to commute to his workplace.

As for his biological father, he had killed himself within the first night of prison. Nate hadn't even been able to go to the burial, as he had been in the catatonic state at the time. Even now, as a young man of twenty, he still struggled to understand how he felt about his father and his death.

A problem he focused on more so (mainly because it could be resolved) was his anti-social nature. At the age of eighteen he had gone into further education at an institute. However, he managed to not make any friends. He would brush people off and run home whenever too distressed, which happened frequently. But then, after a year he decided to take plunge and turn his life around. He applied for a university in not only a city, but in a different country. His parents were terrified for him, but he was twenty years old. He had to do this.

Yet...here he was in his jim jams drinking hot chocolate and revelling in the fact that he was essentially snowed in. God he was pathetic! Maybe...maybe a book club wasn't such a bad idea.

Walking over (around four steps forward in his tiny flat) to his little coffee table, he brushed his text books and papers to the side and pulled open his laptop. Then he began to type up an advert for his book club.

First off, which book would they read first? What type of book he chose would affect what sort of people he got. He definitely wanted intelligent people. But then...he didn't want to isolate too many people. Meeting new friends and becoming more sociable meant meeting people he wouldn't normally choose to be around. So, people who were not like him basically. Maybe he could choose a best seller, something that was slightly high brow, but still was mainstream enough to be advertised on the windows of Waterstones?

He thought back of the books he studied during his time in college, but none seemed to fit. Then he remembered when he was fourteen and had been taken by Dr Watari to watch a play. It had been called 'Waiting for Godot' and it had always managed to stay with Nate. There something very haunting about it that he managed to relate to. The playwright, Samuel Becket, was studied by university students but his work was known in main stream culture.

He'd have to buy a copy of the play, but no matter. And because it was a play, perhaps they could, after discussing it, all go and watch it together? It would be a great way of furthering bonds.

'Waiting for Godot' it was.

The following morning Nate put up the advertisements in various places, including a few coffee shops in the student area and at some local convenience stores near the poorer side of town.

Dear God, would anyone even come?

Chapter Text

"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance!"

~ Vladimir from Waiting for Godot

 

The night of the Book Club had finally arrived. Nate walked around his small apartment, fluffing up cushions that refused to resemble anything but flat packs and picking off bits of fluff from his sweater until he sat down, his nervous energy spent.

'I should just relax,' he decided, repeating to himself the same words he had been reciting since he began putting up his cheap, hand-drawn fliers, 'it's highly unlikely that anyone will show anyway.'

The door bell rang, making him jump slightly.

'Oh, god, what should I do?' he shuffled in his chair, wincing as the bell was rung again, 'should I just ignore them? Then they'll go away!'

He stood awkwardly for several minutes, the bell ringing again, until he finally rallied his nerve deciding, 'No, no, I'm different, I'm not like father.'

He stood up and strode to the door as it was now being knocked against heavily by an impatient fist. He opened it, staring at the ground. Whoever had been banging on his door was wearing military boots and some rather tight black jeans. Slowly, Nate's eyes crept up a lithe black clad body until they reached Mello's irate face.

This wasn't the type of customer Nate had expected to turn up at his door.

Behind the boy was a girl, also with platinum blonde hair, pulled into pigtails, heavy red lipstick and a short leather miniskirt. Both looked like youngsters looking for a seedy nightclub.

"Are you here for the book club?" Nate asked, feeling himself shutting down out of shock, his voice sounded monotone even to himself.

"Obviously," the boy huffed, holding up one of Nate's leaflets and thrusting it in his face, "this is the right address and night. Are you going to let us in or what?"

"Yeah," grinned the girl, Nate saw that she had lipstick on her teeth, "we want to hear about 'Preparing to Godot' already."

Mello rolled his eyes at her as he brushed past the small pale man.

"Shit man," he sneered on entering, "how can you live in such a little apartment?" He turned to see the pale man glower slightly, which suddenly put him in a good mood.

"It works for me," replied Nate coolly as the boy and girl sat down, "maybe on the next meeting, we should meet at your house."

Mello suddenly coughed in shock, the last thing he wanted anyone to see was his family's tiny, scruffy little council house, "erm, no, here's ok. I'm Mello and this is my sister Misa."

"Those are unusual names."

"Well Mello is a nickname. But yeah, our dad was foreign so we had names that were traditional in his country."

"Oh," Nate was interested now, "what country did he come from?"

Mello shrugged, "our mom wasn't sure. Somewhere eastern European she said."

"Oh..."

Meanwhile outside, opposite Nate's block of flats, Lawliet stood nervously in the cold. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to go to the club. At first it had seemed like a great idea. His sister and Ray had been keen for him to go, no doubt to have him out of the house for few hours, and even he relished the chance to escape the oppressive atmosphere, however, Lawliet didn't really like other people and now, standing outside the dingy flats in the centre of the dirty, student area he suddenly was having, metaphorically and literally, cold feet.

Soon he heard footsteps and the quiet conversation between a man and a woman. They turned a corner and began walking down the street he was on, heading his way.

"This is a grubby little street Light," the woman was complaining. She was a handsome girl, and looked a little like she had just stepped out of a period drama set in the 1920's. "I'm not happy that you've dragged me out in the dark and cold for this. We could have at least gone for a nice meal beforehand."

"We're always going for meals," drawled the man tiredly, "or on shopping sprees. You want us to be happy. I did what you wanted, do this for me."

Suddenly the man looked up at Lawliet. Lawliet gulped and stepped further back in to the shadows unconsciously. The man was beautiful, even more-so than the woman, though the pair looked very alike. But she looked plain compared to the man, there was just something striking, almost dangerous, in him. The man narrowed his eyes at Lawliet and taking the woman's arm, crossed the street.

Lawliet's facial expression revealed nothing as the man and woman hurried past, the man shooting one last accusatory look at Lawliet before they went into the block of flats.

Lawliet knew what he looked like, with his wild hair and haunted face, but he still resented how much people judged him for his looks. He'd always looked unhealthy, and with his slightly off-kilter mannerisms people tended to be quick to judge and label him.

He tried to accept, tried to understand that in many ways they were right to judge him, in the past he had been an addict and a thief.

However, he was in recovery now, and he had never been a bad person, lazy or selfish at times yes, but never bad or cruel, not on purpose.

A part of him wanted to give up right then, to run away and never bother again with something as stupid as joining a club. Clubs were for people who belonged, they weren't for weirdo outsiders with more baggage than Paris Hilton in the Riviera. They were for nice little couples like that man.

Lawliet took in a deep breath and closed his eyes, remembering the East and all that he discovered there...how much he discovered about the world, about philosophy, about his now belief-system, even about himself.

He thought of a boy, with dark skin and a wide smile...

Lawliet snapped his eyes open shuddered as a cold wind blew down the street suddenly. He didn't want to remember that. It bought up feelings of discomfort and unhappiness. It added to the feeling of foolishness he had just now for staring after the beautiful man. Of course, whilst he looked at the man all he thought of were positives, of how beautiful the man was, of how handsome his girlfriend had been...but of course when the man had looked at him he had nothing but disgust and judgement in his eyes. The woman hadn't seen him at all.

Some things never changed for Lawliet. He was the type to admire others, but he was never going to be the one anyone loved. He was the Roderigo of Othello, Paris in Romeo and Juliet, Malvolio in Twelfth Night. He was the fool no one loved; he was too unsociable, too bland and too ugly.

'I shouldn't have stepped in the shadows,' he thought bitterly, 'that's just what they want, for me to hide away. I shouldn't give them what they want. The last time I did I ended up of drugs, falling deeper and deeper in to the spiral until I fulfilled their every preconceived opinion of me.'

 

 

 

"Well," began Mello, "shouldn't we, y'know, start talking about the book or whatever?"

"I thought we could wait a little longer just in case anyone else comes," responded Nate calmly.

"Pah, in this area?" sneered the young blond, "you'd be lucky!" Misa laughed loudly and Nate decided that they both were nothing more than a pair of insecure bullies, it explained their bad attitudes and ridiculous outfits; they were over-compensating, as all bullies do. "No one cares about reading and shit in this neighbourhood," continued Mello, "you were lucky to get us."

"There's the university near-by," said Nate, settling in his chair and folding up his short legs, "I thought the club would attract some students. How old are you two?"

"None of your business," answered Misa, making her brother frown because he had wanted to answer the white-haired fellow.

"Students are lazy," he said instead, "they don't read actual books, it's all SparkNotes and Wikipedia. Then they get degree's they don't deserve and act all superior whilst standing in line at the Job Centre like the rest of us! No one else will come, you'll see."

At that moment the doorbell rang and Mello felt incredibly stupid, all in a second. He looked at Nate, who allowed a small smirk to grace his lips for a second.

Mello bristled; that pale-ass bastard! The first time the jerk shows any emotion, and the emotion he shows is contempt! Even worse, just contempt for Mello! He hadn't shown any for Misa when she had laughed.

Mello scowled, vowing vengeance.

Nate went to the door, feeling relieved for once that people were knocking on his door; he didn't want to deal with the likes of Mello and his brain dead sister for an entire evening all alone; he wanted more company. He opened the door and saw two people that looked like the middle-class bookish types he had hoped for.

"Evening," said the tall man, "is this the book club?"

Nate nodded slowly.

"Good, I'm Light Yagami and this is my fiancée Kiyomi."

"Pleased to meet you," crooned the woman with a fake smile plastered on her lips, and they all shook hands before entering the house. Nate introduced himself and led them into the living room.

As soon as they entered, Misa gazed up at Light with the kind of rapture one would imagine worshippers would wear when their personal denominational Saviour arrives.

Light smirked slightly at her, his own such an arrogant expression that, though it was brief on his face, immediately made both Nate and Mello decide they didn't like him and never would.

"H-hiii!" sung Misa in a particularly stupid and high-pitched voice that made Nate, Mello and Kiyomi flinch slightly.

"Hello," responded Light calmly, "my name is Light Yagami, and this is Kiyomi, my fiancée."

Misa looked at Kiyomi, clearly this being the first time she had seen the woman as this was also her first time looking away from Light since he had first arrived in the room.

"Pleased to meet you," sneered Kiyomi, before laughing a little and settling down on the couch opposite the blond siblings.

Misa threw Kiyomi a sarcastic grin that was more like her bearing teeth like an animal, before continuing to undress Light with her eyes. Mello ignored the situation, still seething from his few words with Nate.

"I'll just go and make you all some tea," said Nate, deciding that this was going to be one hell of an interesting social experiment/ form of torture, "please make yourselves comfortable and get to know one another." Then he exited from the living room and into the kitchen as quickly as possible.

It was quite hilarious really; Light and Kiyomi were in dull but well-made tailored suits, both in shades of brown, with sensible black suits, and both with almost identical hairstyles. Then beside them were Misa and Mello, all leather and feathers and too much make-up. Nate couldn't imagine having such a strange mix at his little group.

'I'm sure we'll all end up being the best of friends,' he thought, before allowing himself a quiet chortle at his own joke.

There was another ring of the doorbell. Nate paused for a moment, wondering if he wanted to risk opening the door, but in the end decided to follow the saying of 'in for the penny, in for the pound'. He opened the door and saw a young man with very poor posture looking windswept and wearing an ASDA uniform.

Nate stared blankly.

The man stared blankly back.

Nate allowed a small smile.

The man glanced to the side slightly.

"Are you here for the Book Club?"

"Yes, is this the right place?"

"Certainly. Some have arrived already and are...settling down together in the living room. We haven't started yet. Please come in."

Nate bought Lawliet into the living room announcing, "this is another person for the book club. I do not know his name. Excuse me," he then rushed away.

"Hello." Light said stiffly, thinking that Lawliet looked like an extra who'd just walked off the set of Shameless.

"Hello," answered Lawliet. "So you are the book club members?"

"Yes. You're late." Light analysed the young man. Almost everything about him was annoying. He had thought that Mello was a terrible person, but at least there was a sign of vitality in the boy, and that he made an effort with his appearance. This guy was in a scruffy, over-sized pair of jeans, was wearing beaten down trainers, and had on an ASDA t-shirt. Just the sort of person Light couldn't stand; lazy, feckless and stupid.

"I had to do an extra shift at work tonight," Lawliet answered blankly, hating the good-looking man who was sneering at him, "Marjorie was late to work because her son was rushed to hospital with his head stuck in a pot."

There was a brief pause before Light said, "why the hell did you tell me that?"

"He could have died," Lawliet shrugged as if that answered everything and sat down opposite Light, staring at him shamelessly.

"So, Misa and Mello," smiled Takada, looking positively predatory at Misa and still ignoring Lawliet completely, "how old are you both? You look young. Let me guess, you're school kids? Are getting ready to choose your GCSE options soon? Light and I have a lot of experience, as successful adults, so please feel free to ask us should you need any advice." She spoke continuously, asking questions but not allowing the twins time to answer. Misa kept opening and shutting her mouth like a fish, while Mello glared with furious sapphire eyes.

Light laughed nervously, thinking that Mello looked like a potential psychopath and that Kiyomi would get herself killed if she carried on, "Kiyomi, please, don't keep that up. She's just teasing you guys."

"We're both eighteen actually," spat out Misa, enunciating 'actually' in a childish manner. She then grinned at Light, revealing her lipstick-ed teeth, "we're of legal age and everything." She added a wink that seemed to involve one whole side of her face tilting upwards slightly, as if she couldn't really wink properly.

"Well that's good to know," patronised Light while Kiyomi sniggered. Lawliet and Mello narrowed their eyes, Mello noting that Lawliet had picked up on Light's arrogance and warming slightly towards him for it. It was looking like he would need an ally in this group as Matt had flat out refused to join...

Nate arrived with a tray of hot drinks, "I made hot chocolate." He said plainly without making eye contact with any of them, "I don't have any tea, the coffee granuals are all stuck together because I left the jar on the windowsill and hot chocolate is my favourite so it's more than good enough for you guys."

"Thanks," chimed Light and Kiyomi cautiously, uncertain of whether they'd been insulted or not. Misa grabbed the hot chocolate and drank viciously, glowering at Kiyomi as if drinking the fastest would somehow beat her component and win her Light.

"I need to make a call," muttered Lawliet, assuming the book club was going to take a while to get started. He left the room to call his sister warning her that he would be late back, causing Light to relax now that he didn't have two dark eyes boring in to him.

Mello raised an eye brow, "I don't like hot chocolate."

Nate made damn sure not to allow his frustration show. "Just drink it anyway," he retorted, "it's good manners to accept whatever you have been offered in someone else's home."

"I'm allergic to chocolate."

There was a tense face-off that began to diverge attention away from the Kiyomi versus Misa farce, and also began to lower the temperature profoundly only Misa ruined the strange atmosphere by suddenly yelling, "for fuck's sake, Mello you love chocolate!" She looked at Nate and grinned, "seriously, he loves it, his secret fantasy is to shag a giant chocolate Yule log; I heard him beating off about it in the bathroom one time."

Mello, in his anger, grabbed his mug of hot chocolate and flung the drink into his sister's face, causing her to scream in agony, Kiyomi to scream in shock, Light to gasp in horror and Nate to raise an eyebrow.

Misa ran from the room still screaming, her hands covering her face.

"The bathroom is to the left!" called Nate.

"Jesus! are you insane?" Kiyomi cried at Mello, before running after the young girl.

Nate sat next to Light, who was looking in the direction where the women went, and then looking back at the table where his hot chocolate sat safe and sound; evidently he wasn't sure whether to stay or go; after a moment, he opted to stay, crossing his long legs and settling back into the settee.

Lawliet walked back into the living room, noting that it had significantly less people in it compared to a minute ago, but not caring enough to ask about it, he simply sat back down and continued to stare at Light, who valiantly ignored him.

"That was uncalled for," he said to Mello instead, picking up his mug.

Mello shrugged, "she'll be fine; the hot chocolate isn't that hot."

"How can you tell? you haven't drunk any."

"I could tell by how quickly you were all gulping it down and by the temperature of the mug and by the fact that none of the mugs are steaming," he stared at Nate, "your kettle is crap."

Nate shrugged uncaringly while sipping his hot chocolate. Lawliet glanced at Mello, he hadn't expected someone so young to be so observant. Interesting...

There was another knock on the door, which caused Nate to let out a long-suffering sigh.

"I'll get it then, shall I?" snarled Mello, acting as he would at home. He flumped off the seat and walked to the door.

"I take it you are not a social butterfly?" asked Light conversationally.

"Not exactly," answered Nate frostily, still feeling a dislike for the handsome lawyer.

Light smiled softly, "why not?" his head cocked to one side, "you seem nice enough, and intelligent as well, people would like to be in your company."

"I have my reasons, besides, in my experience people are not fond of intelligence or how nice someone is. They like people like Mello more than people like me."

Light leaned back into the chair, "perhaps you are right."

"Some of us are simply pleased," said Lawliet, "if you get me a hot chocolate I'll be your friend."

Nate sighed, "but I'm sitting down now."

"I'll make you one," said Light quickly, unused to having people dislike him and hoping that if Lawliet was some sort of mad killer, stalker type that he should try to win him over.

"No thanks," answered Lawliet, "I'll get my own."Without asking permission to use Nate's kitchen he left the living room, Nate taking a moment before calling out, "if you want there are marsh-mellows in the cupboard above the kettle."

In the kitchen, Lawliet smiled, maybe he would be making a friend.

Light looked at Nate, "I would like marsh-mellows."

Nate ignored him.

Mello ripped open the front door and stood in a pose in the doorway, hoping to intimidate the two dorks who stood before him.

"Hi-i!" sung Matsuda in a manner very similar to Misa, "we're here for the book club."

"We're so excited!" squealed Sayu, best friend to Matsuda and English student, "We were saying that the area needed something cultural, and then hey presto we saw your advert! I love Samuel Becket's work, it's so engaging and witty! I -"

"It's not my advert," said Mello, feeling that the girl would stand in the hallway and prattle on forever if he let her, "I'm one of the guests. The guy whose advert it was is a lazy, obnoxious dick who couldn't be bothered to answer his own door himself and so instead it was left up to me, a guest, to answer it. We haven't even started talking about the play yet, it's ridiculous."

"Oh," said Matsuda, "ok."

Mello left the door open and wandered back into the flat, leaving them to take off their coats alone. Mello sat back down on the settee opposite Nate and Light. After a moment's deliberation he picked up Misa's abandoned hot chocolate and began to drink it.

"Who was at the door?" Light asked, but he was ignored again until Lawliet returned with a hot chocolate piled up with marsh-mellows and resumed his staring.

"I hope you realise that you are cleaning up all the spilled hot chocolate off the couch and carpet," said Nate to the blond boy.

"Fuck you," responded Mello soberly.

"Seriously, who was at the door? I can hear movement in the hallway."

"You only ruin things for yourself by being so defiant; so far it's your sister who's been hurt and you who have lost your hot chocolate."

Mello lifted Misa's mug and grinned, "I'm fine and so is Misa, she's just a drama queen," he looked at Light and explained, "She wants to be an actress."

Light let out and 'oh' of understanding, before Matsuda and Sayu came through the door.

"Matsuda?"

"Sir?" Matsuda grinned, "oh wow, sir I didn't know you would be here! I never knew this was your sort of thing!"

"You know each other then?" drawled Mello unnecessarily as Sayu sat nervously beside him, and Matsuda beside her.

"Yes," Light put on a strained smile. "We are work colleagues."

"And practically best friends!" giggled Matsuda. "This guy," (he pointed at Light, shaking his finger up and down jovially), "this guy is a hoot at the office! And really smart. As well as so handsome, I can admit it! I'm confident enough in my sexuality to do that!" (Sayu nodded profusely at this statement, grinning the whole time and feeling proud and very liberal and grown-up.) "It's an honour to work for him."

"Oh my god," exclaimed Mello slowly, looking from Matsuda to Light, "are...are you two having an affair with one another?"

Sayu squeaked and Light answered, "no, I'm very much in love with Kiyomi. Matsuda is just enthusiastic."

Mello looked back at Matsuda, who grinned and nodded, his hair flopping in and out of his face. Mello frowned, disturbed, and sat back to drink his hot chocolate while contemplating the strange man.

"Should we begin discussing the book?" asked Sayu looking around.

"No, two people are still in the bathroom," answered Nate.

"Wh-what?" she gasped, her and Matsuda suddenly blushing a furious red.

"Not like that," sighed Light, "Kiyomi is in the bathroom with Misa, Mello's twin sister. There was an accident earlier."

"It was no accident," snarled Mello, "I did it on purpose and I'd do it again too."

"I need the toilet," said Lawliet, "so they'll just have to see me pee or get out already so we can get started."

Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Misa sobbed while Kiyomi patted her back, feeling bored and uncomfortable and regretting her choice to follow the girl. She was currently on the bathroom floor- thank god Nate had a clean flat or she wouldn't be doing this- and Misa was on the toilet seat bitching about her brother with a stuffed-up nose.

"He's just such a jerk!" Misa wept passionately. "You have no idea what it's like living with someone like him." She looked back up, her make-up was smeared all over her face and her skin was bright pink from the hot chocolate. "Pass me the mirror Kiyomi."

"I-I don't think that's a good idea Misa," Kiyomi took the small, hand-held mirror (the only one Nate had in the bathroom) and held it close to her chest, "I don't think it'll do you any good."

"I can cope," cried Misa, getting spittle everywhere as she did. Kiyomi groaned and wiped her face.

"Fine," she bit out, "but don't act like before, I only have so much empathy Misa."

"There's no such word as 'empathy', I think you mean 'sympathy' dumbass, just give me the mirror!"

Kiyomi, scowling, handed it over.

Misa looked at herself and let out a scream, before falling off the toilet and sobbing on the floor.

Lawliet opened the door to see the other blonde bondage porn star sobbing on the ground and the female version of Light sitting on the bathtub side.

"She's your problem now," spat Kiyomi, "I cannot deal with her anymore."

She stormed out of the bathroom. Lawliet stepped over the crying girl and began to pee into the toilet.

"What the hell?" Shrieked Misa, suddenly sitting up and seeing Lawliets pale ass, "what are you doing?"

"What people usually do in bathrooms," Lawliet responded, feeling happier he was finally relieving himself. He finished up and, once decent, turned to face her.

"I am Lawliet. We cannot start discussing Godot until we are all in the living room. Are you ready to leave now?"

"I don't know if I am! I've just been in here waiting for someone to actually care that I got hot chocolate flung in my face!"

"You look lovely considering what's happened to you."

"R-really?" she grinned.

"Yes. Shall we go and sit with the others?"

She nodded happily and took his arm before they returned to the living room.

No one else rang the doorbell that night.

The Book Club had finally begun.

Chapter Text

"People are bloody ignorant apes."

 ~Estragon, Waiting for Godot

 

"So, we should continue discussing the play, shouldn't we?" Matsuda looked around nervously; at last everyone was in the living room and sitting comfortably. Everyone had a hot drink (with the exception of Mello and Misa, Nate had decided that it would be best to give the twins a Capri-sun each instead) and everyone had a copy of the play in hand though none aside from Sayu had even opened it.

"We can't continue discussing the play," sneered Mello, "because we haven't even started it yet."

"Well, I for one think-" began Sayu before she was interrupted by Kiyomi saying:

"I think, if it's going to be like this every week, then maybe Light and I won't bother showing up next time. It's very frustrating." Nate didn't answer her so she continued, "or maybe, certain people shouldn't come, as they clearly don't like reading or discussing in an adult and friendly manner."

The blond twins bristled, they knew when someone was having a go at them.

"Well maybe," began Mello quietly, setting off Lights inner 'potential psychopath' senses again, "maybe if you wouldn't be so self-important to interrupt this lovely young lady, we could start the discussion."

Sayu giggled nervously at being called a 'lovely young lady' by a possibly homicidal, gothic eighteen-year-old, but wasn't able to speak due to the pressure of having all the attention turned back on her and from being used in a back-handed insult.

"We aren't going to leave the group," chuckled Light, attempting to lighten the air, but only irritating Kiyomi by dismissing her, "and I'm sure we're all going to be good friends from now on. Personally I am excited. So, Sayu, what would you like to say?"

"Well, when I read it I thought-"

Suddenly the theme tune for early nineties children's TV show 'Fireman Sam' began to play loudly. Everyone looked at each other except for Lawliet, who was still staring blankly towards Light. Light noticed this and scowled at him.

This moment dragged on as the others slowly but surely began to realise that the theme tune was coming from Lawliet's backside.

"Oh," he suddenly said, but without any actual surprise. He stood and pulled a mobile out of his pocket, turned it on and sat back down. "Hi!" he shouted down it, still looking at Light. "Yes. Yes. Well...maybe...I don't know. Really? Wow, tell me more please!"

"Lawlipop what's going on?" Naomi was asking on the other side, "I just wanted to know if you were finished yet and if you needed picking up?"

Lawliet laughed loudly, "no, no, no, perhaps yes. But what did John say to that? No way!"

Light was gritting his teeth when Kiyomi, noticing Light's anger, leaned forward and began to hiss, "maybe you should take this out-" but Lawliet interrupted her by waving his hand in her face whilst still shouting down the phone.

"Lawliet," sighed Naomi, "are you high again? Have you relapsed? Lawli?"

Her serious fears jolted Lawliet out of his fun, "no I'm ok, just making a point, I can walk home tonight, no problem." He promptly hung up.

"Why did you do that?" barked Light. Lawliet shrugged at him lazily causing the prettier man to snarl in frustration. 'He obviously did that just to irritate me!' he thought bitterly, 'but why? I don't understand his hostility! It's so childish and pathetic!'

"And you was saying we were rude," bit out Misa to Kiyomi, then turning to Light and purring, "I'm not like that. My brother is, but not me. Ow!"

Mello slapped her lightly around the head before continue to suck away at his Capri-sun.

"Well, like I was saying," began Sayu anxiously, eager to get on with some learning, "I loved how the characters in the play seemed to be wasting their lives away, never achieving a goal because-"

"It doesn't matter now," interrupted Nate suddenly. "It's gone nine O'clock and this meeting was only supposed the last an hour. It's time for you all to leave now. You have over-stayed your welcome."

"Thank god!" cried Misa, flinging her copy of Waiting for Godot across Nate's living room and knocking a lamp off the table-stand.

"S-seriously?" gaped Matsuda, "can't you just make it a little longer, just for this week?"

"I have classes tomorrow," answered Nate as if that ended everything.

"Well, in that case, I suggest that Sayu get's to choose the next thing we read," Light smiled warmly at the girl, who returned a very similar grin.

"Nooo!" shrieked Misa.

"Christ-on-a-bike Misa!" barked Mello, "me and the blood pouring out me ears thank you for that!"

"It's not fair!" she wailed, ignoring her brother, "please, please, please let me choose next week's book!" She looked longingly at Sayu, "I've had hot chocolate thrown in my face, talked down to by that," (she pointed at Kiyomi who rolled her eyes,) "horrible woman, I saw that horrible man's nasty, pale bum," (Light stared at Lawliet in shock, his face blushing slightly,) "I was treated like I would be too stupid to even like being here by my own family, and I put up with reading that long boring play." ("You read the Wikipedia entry half hour before we left the house you liar!" shouted Mello, but he was ignored.) "Please let me choose the next book!"

Sayu smiled warmly, her eyes brimming with unshed tears for Misa's great misfortunes. "Of course, Misa, what book do you want us to read in the next fortnight?"

The blonde girl grinned, her voice suddenly switching from high-pitched depression to the perky cheerfulness of a children's television presenter, "I want us to read the classy and sassy novel The Model Wife. It's awesome, you'll all love it."

"I've never heard of it," said Nate, and the others repeated their ignorance of the book.

"Who's it by?" demanded Kiyomi.

"Julia Llewellyn." Misa felt extremely proud that she had remembered the author's name. "Stuff actually happens in this story, like a girl gets married to this guy, but he's a jerk and oh ho ho ho, I don't want to ruin it for you, just read it and find out!"

"Chick-lit," sighed Kiyomi, rolling her eyes and looking belatedly at Light who was biting the sides of his cheeks in an attempt to not laugh in the blonde girl's face, "I can't believe this. Light, me, reading chick-lit, this cannot be borne! We should leave and not come back."

Nate resisted saying 'you wouldn't be missed' and instead said, "this book club is for everyone, Sayu chose to forfeit her turn of choosing something, so let Misa choose what she wants. She read Godot, so we'll read her book. It's only fair. Kiyomi, you can choose something high brow and literary when it's your turn."

"What?" Mello looked around the room and then, (Nate was surprised to see,) actually blushed from embarrassment, "let's not do this guys. We can't go from Waiting for Godot to some chick-lit story! Misa, stop it! You're doing this on purpose. Choose a proper book, or better, let someone else!"

Misa stood up and stomped her foot, "no, it's my choice and I want The Model Wife! It's good!"

At this Mello got up, grabbed his sister's arm and dragged her outside through the hallway and into the bathroom. Everyone sat in the living room, awkwardly over-hearing a violent and slightly muffled argument as Nate's home was so small they could just about hear it. They sipped their luke-warm hot chocolates in silence.

"Why are you doing this?" Mello was yelling, "why are you purposely humiliating me?"

"I'm not, I'm being pro-active! It's a good book, you might like it."

"It's dumb! Is this about earlier? The hot-chocolate? I'm sorry, don't do this please!" Mello gripped her arms, his eyes shining with unshed tears, "please, they'll laugh at us" he said through gritted teeth, "they're university toffs and lawyers, and they're all older than us. If we choose something like chick-lit we'll always be at the butt of their snide jokes. I want to prove I'm not like that, and so do you, that's why you came isn't it? Choose something literary!"

"They think we're stupid and trashy and poor anyway!" Misa screamed so loudly that Nate's neighbours probably heard her, "stop trying to impress them!"

"You can talk!" Mello bit back spitefully, "the way you're fawning over that smug prick is disgusting!"

At this point, back in the living room, Light coughed loudly. "Well I think Kiyomi and I shall leave now." Kiyomi smirked and left the living room to get on her coat.

Nate looked up at Light, "I suppose you shall not return?"

Light heard Lawliet snigger and just barely held on to a scowl, "actually I would love to. Today went a bit wrong but I'm sure we'll do better next time. Here's my mobile," he passed Nate a small note with a number written on it, "let me know if we are meeting in two weeks time. I shall read The Model Wife while I wait."

"Will you?" asked Lawliet, causing Light to sigh.

"Yes I shall. Is that alright with you?"

"Like you care. That you are saying it's alright with you is what surprises me, especially as earlier you and your lovely companion were dignified and sophisticated enough to mock a young teenage girl for her choice in book, therefore humiliating her and her brother so much they exited the room and locked themselves in the toilet of a stranger's house."

"I didn't mock her," said Light suddenly feeling uncomfortable, "and Kiyomi offered some slight criticism. If they are old enough to come here, dressed as they are and speaking as they do, I'm sure they can cope with some criticism!"

Lawliet said nothing but stared at Light in a way that suggested that he had somehow won because Light had revealed something about himself. Light looked around at the others, Nate was looking bored and away, and Sayu and Matsuda looked uncomfortable and confused.

"Well, I'm leaving now," he finished quietly, "like I say, maybe next time it'll be better."

"But we haven't discussed anything," cried Matsuda in some distress, "this will be a waste of time if we don't talk about anything!"

"Why are you so uncomfortable?" Lawliet asked Light, ignoring Matsuda's pleas. "Is it the class difference between you and them that they are openly acknowledging in their argument now?" Lawliet's voice stayed low and quiet as he challenged Light, "it can't be because you are genuinely ashamed on Mello's behalf, you don't empathise enough with other people for that. You only made to go when Misa mentioned that you think she's stupid and Mello called you a smug prick, why does that make you particularly uncomfortable?" he smiled slightly, "is it because you have a fragile ego, because I doubt that. Or is it because it's true? You really do look down on them for their cheap clothes and doll-like faces?"

As Lawliet spoke, Nate snuck out of the living room and back into the sanctuary of his kitchen to make more hot chocolate; it seems no one was leaving anytime soon. Matsuda made the hurry after him but Sayu pulled him back and shook her head.

"We should go," she whispered in his ear, "it's ok, I still had fun and would still like to do this again." They left their phone numbers on the table where the lamp had been knocked off, and went into the hallway to get on their coats and to say a few kind parting words to the twins.

They knocked on the bathroom door before allowing themselves in. Misa was sitting on the bath, her arms folded resolutely, and Mello was in the exact same pose on the toilet. Neither twin was looking at the other.

Sayu hugged Misa, "We're going now. Personally, I think your book sounds like fun, I can't wait to read it!"

Misa grinned, "you'll like it! It's fun and stuff happens! It's very dramamtic."

Matsuda in turn smiled at Mello, "don't let other's get you down," he whispered as the girls giggled and gossiped together, "it's not how you think. I'm in university but I'm from a working class background. My mom was  home-maker and my dad was a self-employed carpenter. We often didn't get enough. I don't look down on you, and I'm not choosing anything literary. Book clubs are about having fun too you know."

Mello nodded silently but said nothing. Finally Matsuda and Sayu left, calling cheerful good-byes to Nate who waved to them half-heartedly.

In the living room the argument continued, Light pulled on his coat scowling, "I don't know who you are, but you presume too much about me."

"I never presume, I analyse."

Light looked at the man, in his shabby uniform and at his pale skin and dark rimmed eyes, then smirked. "You're nothing but some junkie, it's obvious. Don't act superior to me."

Lawliet got to his feet and stood in Light's face, making the others watch with wide eyes, "don't act superior to me. It's you who doesn't have a clue about anyone. You and your girlfriend are too self-absorbed for that."

They heard a cough and saw Kiyomi standing imperiously in the doorway, where she had been standing unnoticed for some time, her fur coat dragging off her slender body and a look of frustration on her face.

Light could feel Kiyomi pulling on his coat telling him to leave already, but he couldn't help but stand there, staring down the other man. Light had never been talked to this way, by anyone! Not even his parents chastised him! He felt angry and humiliated but at the same time...excited. It was the first time in years that he felt like he was being challenged, that there was a break up in the monotony of his life.

He smiled again, trying to make it genuine but knowing Lawliet could see the sardonic mocking underneath, "well Misa might prove us wrong and choose an amazing piece of work. I've never read The Model Wife, so who knows? See you in two weeks Mr-?"

"L, just call me L."

"L, as in the letter? Or as in El short for Elliot? You know what? Whatever. It doesn't matter. See you next week."

The handsome couple left then, calling out their goodbye's to Nate, who ignored them in turn.

Mello walked back into the living room, "has everyone gone now?"

Nate ignored Mello, but Lawliet looked up and answered, "yes, everyone is gone apart from us. They've all agreed to go with Misa's idea. I think they all have been swept away by her cuteness and now cannot refuse her."

"I haven't been swept away by anyone," replied Nate blankly.

Mello sighed, "fine, I guess Misa wins. Did you hear that sis?"

Misa appeared from behind him. She smiled at Nate and Lawliet, "I did. Goodbye guys, our big sister is here to pick us up."

"It was a pleasure having you," deadpanned Nate. Mello rolled his eyes at the boy, but handed him down a torn piece of paper with numbers crudely scribbled on it.

"It's our mobile, I mean Misa's mobile, in case anything goes wrong or you need to call us before the two weeks is up."

Nate looked at it, not knowing why he would ever want to contact the twins before seeing them again. Mello sighed and left the flat, following after his sister who was walking on air she was so happy.

Once more Lawliet and Nate were alone.

"I suppose you want me to leave?" asked Lawliet, "as you have classes tomorrow."

Nate looked up at Lawliet, "You seem a lot like me. Why have you chosen to come to a place where you would have to socialise? It makes no sense for the likes of you to come to a social gathering."

"It makes even less sense for someone like you to organise one."

The two men stared at each other for a while, cold, dark eyes boring holes into one another before Nate finally blinked and turned away. As he did, Lawliet rose to his feet and put on his jacket announcing, "I better go. I'm not keen to be returning home so early, but next time I'll try and get here on time. Thank you for having us Nate."

"It's alright," Nate stood and felt his heart beating hard in his chest as he said coolly, "but you can stay a while longer. The kettle has boiled with enough water for several people. You are an adult, so can return home anytime. How about you help me finish off the hot water with copious amounts of hot chocolate before it all cools, and in that time we can actually discuss Godot?"

Nate was a champion at putting on the polka face, but even Lawliet noticed that slight quiver in his voice and the quiet gulp after his proposition. Lawliet smiled, recognising himself in Nate.

"Of course. I would love to."

And so Nate poured out two extra cups of hot chocolate and the two sanest people of the group sat down to actually discuss the play.

Chapter Text

I hate this Poppy character, she's a fecking idiot!" Mello flung his book across the living room and as a result it bounced off Misa's head making her shriek with unnecessarily volume, "She is supposed to be!" she cried like a banshee, "anyway, you've only just started reading, carry on!"

"I'm five pages in and I hate it," he grumbled.

"So you've met 'Luke'." Suddenly Misa's tone sounded smug. "What do you think of him?"

"He's obviously a jerk," sighed Mello rolling on the sofa so that he was looking up at the ceiling. He took a bite out of his Freddo chocolate bar, beheading the oafish Frog.

Misa grinned and in an odd display of affection kissed her brother on the head. He looked at her in shock. "Don't eat upside down, you'll choke." She skipped out of the room while Mello, after staring for a few minutes, succumbed to her dark prediction and began to cough horribly.

Misa went downstairs into her bedroom and sat on her bed, sampling different make up her sister had procured (aka shop-lifted) for her. That Light Yagami had been so sexy! He was what she needed, someone mature and smouldering, not like the idiots she dated in school.

"I'm eighteen now," she sighed, "time for me to start going for more sophisticated men. I'll be just like Poppy, I'll bag me-self a rich man, only unlike her I won't be dumb about it." She looked into the small, spotted rectangular mirror that was on her wall being held up by No-More-Nails glue, "I won't care if he's a jerk. I'll marry him, have a kid, then divorce him and get at least half his money." Misa laughed loudly, causing Mello to bang on the floor from upstairs like an angry old man.

Of course Misa ignored him and instead focused on lathering on a rich ruby-red lipstick and then an overlay of bright pink lip gloss. She then put on her false eyelashes, spreading the glue thinly as it was running out, dragging a hue of blue powder across her eye lids and powdering rouge on her cheeks. When she sufficiently looked like the unfortunate love child of an old prostitute and a drag queen, she felt confident enough to go outside and to begin her objective: snaring Light Yagami as her future husband.

She didn't bother calling goodbye to her brother, but he didn't care much anyway. It was the weekend, so she didn't have to deal with school, and her older sister was out at work. The weather was still cold and uninviting but Misa persevered in her mini skirt and heeled boots. She got a few catcalls on the way to Nate's, which made her giggle softly to herself; men were so easy.

Nate was sitting at home happily munching away at his hearty meal of beans on a piece of out-of-date toast when the door knocked. He froze. People never knocked on his door unless they were trying to sell him something (the product usually being a type of vacuum, a cooker or god). After a moment's thought he decided to open it, the book club had made him feel a bit braver; after all if he could deal with those idiots in his house, he could deal with a single idiot on his doorstep.

Nate was surprised when he saw the powdered and primped face of Misa grinning at him.

"What do you want?" he asked bluntly, making her scowl.

"We're friends now, I wanted to come see you stupid." she marched into his house and slumped down on his couch, grabbing the remote and turning on his seldom-used television.

Nate stared, his face completely blank and not revealing the utter panic he felt inside. He wandered in to the living room after her and hovered awkwardly beside the couch. "There is something you require of me?"

She grinned and looked up at him. "We all got on so well during the Book Club I just cannot wait two weeks to meet everyone again. I was very impressed with you Nate. You're so," she began looking him up and down appraisingly, "smart and sensible and mysterious and ... white. I want to get to know you and, y'know, all the other smart ones. We can ignore the stupid annoying people." She stood up and began to play with his collar, "I know you can't stand Mello and I don't blame you. So I thought maybe you...me...Light...Sayu...y'know maybe we could all get together and hang out."

"You have no desire to spend your recreational times with learned persons," replied Nate like a robot, "you want a specific person from that group. I would say, judging by your shameless flirting the previous night, that it is Light Yagami who you take an interest in."

"Fine," she barked, her face transforming from adoring sycophant to bored cheerleader, "I admit it. I liked Light. Give me his number, I know you have it..."

"I do. I have everyone's, just in case. But no, I shall not give it to you. It's private information. Besides, Light seems," Nate paused to think of his wording before deciding on a very amiable, "dedicated to Miss Takada."

"She's a bitch," stated Misa in a way that managed to make Nate smirk. He turned away, embarrassed, and began to boil the kettle for want of something to do...he wasn't good with leaving his hands idle.

Misa smiled softly at his shyness, 'that was kind of adorable,' she thought and so decided to sit on his kitchen counter and say, "well, maybe just you and I can hang out for now. I haven't much on today."

"I would have thought you were very popular," Nate took out two mugs and grabbed the tea bags while she leaned over to open up the fridge and to get the milk.

"You don't eat much Nate, there's barely anything in here. Anyway, yes I'm popular, of course, with me looks and all, but my friends lack substance. And me boyfriend turned out to be a loser and we broke up recently, I kind of just want to stay out of everyone's way. I know they'll all be gossiping about me and saying stuff. I got expelled from school recently, it's only temporary because me grades are good and the sixth form can't afford to lose a guaranteed exam passer like me, but whenever this happens everyone bitches about me and I go back and find out all this stuff has been said."

"So, you have poor friends?"

Misa stared for a while, accepting her tea from Nate before replying slowly, "y-yeah...I guess so." She sipped her tea. "That's why I would like Light's number, I want to make new friends. Mature friends. Maybe have a boyfriend who will treat me nice. I watch telly and I see all these couples going to restaurants together and talking about love. Even the ones about teenagers have this passion and intensity that I haven't ever had from a lad. No one is like that with me, they just want to shove their horrible tongues down me throat, have at me behind the chippy and then run off with me knickers. I thought, maybe, someone like Light might be different."

Nate sipped his tea, uncertain of what to say. He suspected that Misa perhaps invited boys to behave badly towards her, but then he immediately remembered that the general advice was that you were not supposed to change yourself to suit everyone. But then, if no one should change their behaviour, then why was he changing to try and fit in, and how would Misa ever attract kind and good men when she dressed in a manner that suggested she was a dumb blonde out for a quickie? But then again maybe it was everyone else's problem, after all, the other general advice was to not judge a book by its cover...

"This is an interesting conundrum Misa," he said quietly, padding barefoot back into his living room. He slumped into a bean-bag and continued to sip his tea in a musing fashion.

"Ya think so?" she sat opposite him on the couch, pulling off her heels and putting her feet up, "well no one's ever thought that I was complicated before..."

"How is your brother treated? He looks and behaves in a similar manner to you, so does he have the same unlucky streak as you, or are people more accepting of his behaviour? After all, in society men are generally accepted as being sexually domineering and promiscuous whereas women are still meant to feel somewhat ashamed for it. Or so I've been led to understand."

"He has it worse than me. He was really popular at one point, because he's quite sporty, he used to be on the football team, but, well, he won't mind me saying, but, you see, he came out of the closet when he was fifteen and well..."

"He 'came out of the closet'? I do not understand." Misa stared so he added, "I'm not from England originally. I'm from Holland."

"Really? I never would have guessed. Well, it means when someone tells everyone that they are homosexual or bisexual. He is homosexual, he's only attracted to other lads. So anyway, this got him a load of grief at school. He couldn't stay on the football team because they gave him such a hard time, and then he allowed his hair to grow and began dressing more like how he wanted to, and then he just began to lose all his friends. Except for Matt, Matt doesn't care about what Mello looks like or who he's attracted to. So Mello can't ever get a date, no one else has admitted to being gay and considering how badly Mello is treated it's easy to see why, though in a school as big as Gamou there's bound to be loads of gay and bi kids."

"So people are treated badly if they are homosexual? I didn't know that." Nate glanced at the television, from what he had seen people were generally ok about homosexuality, though he did notice that gay characters tended to be humorous side-characters rather than serious protagonists.

Misa shrugged, "I think most people are ok about it nowadays I suppose, but there's still an undercurrent of intolerance. It's sort of like racism, no one wants to admit that it's there, but it is. It's a shame really," she looked into her mug, suddenly feeling bad for Mello, even though he was a total jerk to her. "People in my school are stupid anyway. You can't have a different hairstyle or be the wrong weight without everyone taking the piss."

There was a brief pause, with both of them thinking about what the other had said until Misa asked, "why did you not know that homosexuality isn't always tolerated? Is it different in your country?"

"I don't know," Nate looked awkward, "I...I don't know much about people. I have watched a lot of television in the last few years, but I have come to understand that it can be very inaccurate."

"Why don't you know much about people?"

"Well. I was raised by my father, far away from anyone else. The first time I saw another person other than my reflection and my dad was when I was almost thirteen. The police and the social workers came. It was frightening." He looked up to see her watching him intently with wide eyes, so he continued, "my father was an ill man. He took me away from my mother, took me deep into a remote part of the Netherlands, because he was angry with her. But I suffered, now I am," he held up his arms helplessly, "incomplete. I have not formed properly, my social skills, my ability for empathy, these are seriously undeveloped. Even worse, I'm twenty now. I'm an adult, it's too late for me to still be like this...it's just so..." He sighed, drawing up his knees and wrapping his arms around them...he suddenly felt really bad but then-

But then Misa's arms were around him. She hugged him as tightly as she could before slowly drawing away and whispering, "well, maybe we should be friends now. For real this time. Me and me brother can show you a good time! We'll get you out there, having fun and being a normal guy."

"I don't know..."

"Come on, just try. That's why you started this Book Club isn't it? You wanted to make friends. It all makes sense now! At first I thought, 'why would this guy invite people to his house and then be really anti-social?' But now it all adds up. Don't worry about not liking Mello, you'll find that most people in the world are pricks and dick-heads, but you have to get on with them anyway, so Mello will be good practice. Besides," she sat next to him, too close for his comfort but he put up with it, "you may end up liking one another. Have you read me book yet? You'll see it in there, people think that they won't get along or like certain people, or they think they will like or love someone, but then it turns out to be the complete opposite. That's how life really is sometimes."

"Well, alright," he gulped, "what should we do first?"

"We should just spend some time together. For now it can just be me and you. I'm very different from you but that doesn't mean we can't get along like. Got any DVD's?"

"Yes."

"Well we should watch one." She said in a tone that added a silent 'obviously.' She knelt down and looked through them. "I haven't seen any of these before. Let's see, 'The Idiots', 'Vinyl', 'The Alfred Hitchcock selection', 'The man who fell to earth'..."

"That's my favourite." Said Nate.

Misa looked at the front cover, pulled a face and put it back. "I don't think I would like it. Hm, so 'Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai', 'Naked Lunch', 'Twilight of the Ice Nypmhs'... Nate you're into some seriously weird films. Do you have any romance?"

"Not much, you might like 'The Fall.' It's about a little girl and a man telling her an amazing story." Nate said in mono-tone staring at her blankly.

"You're not selling it Nate.

"Well you might like 'The Three Colours Trilogy.'" He pulled out the DVD collection and showed her. "Maybe give Blue a go. It's about a woman who is trying to get her life together. Reading what I have of The Model Wife, you may like it, if you don't mind reading subtitles."

"Subtitles are fine, I'm really into anime and most of that is subbed. Ok, put it on and let's give it a go, but next time we're watching one of my films."

They put on the DVD and settled down together on the settee with fresh hot chocolate.

"You know," she grinned, "maybe we can have a film club as well as a book club? Just you and me for now, what do you think?"

"Maybe," he offered mysteriously, sipping his drink but inside crying out in exaltation.

Chapter Text

Lawliet sat in the spare room (he still couldn't think of it as his own) listening to his sister and Ray arguing.

"I just can't see why you need to be out with friends for the fourth night in a row," sighed Naomi bitterly as she washed the dishes. Her arms itched with the grease that was pouring off the frying pan she had used to make Ray's breakfast that morning.

"Because my job is hard," he barked, sitting at the table in his full uniform, "because some of us actually have jobs that require real fucking effort! I deserve time away from you-"

"My job is not easy!" she whirled round sending greasy suds flying, "and you know what? for me it doesn't end! I get up at the crack of dawn to feed you, I work from eight until five, then I come home, shop, clean cook-!"

"Oh shut up, save me the be-trodden housewife act! Don't act special because you choose to do all the housework and because you have to make breakfast. First off you make up for the lost time by looking like crap every day, I don't invite anyone around because you look like shit and it's humiliating. Second, you wanna know what I do when you're slaving away cooking beans on toast? I'm chasing down rapists and arresting prostitutes, because my job actually counts. God knows I need a break and I can't get it here with your caterwauling and now your smack-head relatives just mooching off us."

Lawliet winced slightly at that remark, it was pretty below the belt, but considering how he was talking to Naomi, Lawliet wasn't too surprised by Ray's harsh words.

"Lawliet works!"

"Yeah as some bag boy in the local supermarket," Ray clapped his hands over his head, "good for him! Nice to know that posh uni degree wasn't a farcical waste of time because he uses it in the vital work of sneering at all us stupid people with his monotone patronising. You rich folks piss me off," he grabbed his coat, "I'm going out tonight, and you should feel damned lucky if I return at all!"

The front door slammed.

Naomi stood at the sink, determinedly finishing off the chore.

Lawliet sat on his sparse bed upstairs, his stomach turning anxiously as he wondered what he should do in such a situation. Should he go downstairs and comfort his sister, or would she be embarrassed by the intrusion?

Outside Ray lit a cigarette and puffed for a minute or so allowing his heart beat to slow and his body to cool down. He then brushed his hands through his hair and cursed. He hated getting into arguments with Naomi. They'd been together long enouhg now that they would often say the cruelest things to each other. He would make it up to her, somehow, maybe get her some flowers and her dumb-ass brother some Haribo. He wouldn't say sorry though because if he did it would just undermine all the good points he had made during his argument with her. He threw the cigarette on to the ground and stalked into his car determined to have a good day at work.

Just as Ray was beginning to feel something akin to guilt downstairs, Naomi's resolve broke. A cup handle had snapped in her hands as she had scrubbed far too roughly. As she held the broken cup, all she could think of was how it represented her relationship. She slumped down onto the same seat Ray had lounged on moments before and began to sob heartily.

Upstairs, the door of the spare room inched open and Lawliet stuck his head out. He could hear his sister crying and though no emotion showed on his face, he felt like his heart was bleeding. He never liked hearing her cry.

Lawliet crept out into the hallway and sat on the top of the stairs, his thumb brushing against his bottom lip. If only there was a way he could make things better. He had tried staying out of their way, he often walked to work and took on any overtime, he would loiter around, wandering the streets all in the hopes that he wouldn't be under Ray or Naomi's feet. Yet somehow there was still a lot of friction and difficulty in the household. He supposed that maybe their relationship had always been this volatile, but he couldn't help but notice how often his name came up during their screaming matches.

'Maybe if she didn't work so much, then she could look more attractive for him and be less tired,' he thought, suddenly realising that he did no housework whatsoever. In all fairness, he had grown up in a house of maids and so the thought of doing household chores had never come into his mind; but Naomi had been raised the same way yet she was still washing her own knickers and cooking her own meals. 'I'm supposed to be growing up now, becoming the man I would like to be.' He thought back to his time in the Buddhist temples, realising his self destruction was actually ruining others as well. 'Yes, I should do more, starting now.'

Moments later, Naomi lifted her head to see her little brother crouching on the hair opposite to her calmly gluing the handle back onto the cup.

"I didn't hear you come in."

"You were crying loudly."

"I'm sorry Lawlipop," she sniffed, "oh gosh, I suppose you heard our big fight. I bet you hear a lot of them."

"I do not mean to be an inconvenience," he said hesitantly, focusing on the cup he was fixing as he couldn't stand his sister's baleful stare, "I will leave this place at the first opportunity, when you think I am ready and when I have the monetary resources, but in the meantime I shall continue to try and be helpful." He put the newly fixed cup gently on the table, "you should simply ask when you need help."

He stood up, still avoiding eye-contact, and began to finish off the dishes. Naomi wiped her eyes and took a few deep breaths to steady herself. She wondered if she should tell Lawliet of her troubles, of how she felt that Ray was disregarded her, of how she couldn't stop loving him all the same, of how she was trapped in a loveless, emotionally fraught purgatory of a relationship.

"How did the Book Club go?" she asked instead.

"There were many unusual people there."

She laughed at that, "you thought they were all unusual? Really? Do tell."

"There's a foreign boy called Nate who looks albino, minus his dark eyes, and wears almost all white, he is the most normal one. The others were a pair of sado-masochist teenage twins, two giggling students that contributed nothing, and a high strung couple that were very snobby and condescending." He frowned, remembering Light in particular. He didn't even know why he disliked the man so much; he hadn't done anything that bad. L supposed it was the way Light appeared to be so fake, laughing at Misa's flattery and shallow behaviour, whilst being guilty of being just as shallow himself. The worst part was, people like Light always got away with it, no one ever seemed to notice what liars they were.

"Oh, you don't seem to like that couple at all, I can tell by your tone," she walked up behind him and in a rare display of physical affection wrapped her arms around his waist.

"I'll cook dinner tonight," he offered calmly, "I'll buy the stuff and everything."

"You don't know how to cook Lawlipop." She said the words kindly, but he could hear her frustration with him. He tried not to bristle too much as he unwrapped her arms from around him.

"I'm not all that hopeless," he turned around and looked at her, "just leave me alone for the day. You go have fun somewhere. I hear the carnival is in town, round up your friends and go there."

She stared at him for a while, weighing up her options before finally saying, "fine, I'll go and you cook. Just try and have it all ready by the time Ray comes home, which is eight o'clock, ok?"

She kissed him tenderly on the cheek before strolling into the sitting room to call up her friends.

 

 

 

Two hours later Lawliet found himself wandering around the supermarket aimlessly. He hadn't a clue how to cook or what to cook, but he was a smart guy and figured cooking should be easy enough. Though, in hindsight, deciding what meal he would make before entering the shops would have been sensible. "There must be cookery books here somewhere," he thought, looking at the endless miles of aisle after aisle. He supposed this was the gods of ASDA punishing him for not shopping where he worked; he just couldn't face his colleagues was all, he saw the idiots almost every day, he didn't want to spend his spare time with them as well. "Maybe I should just ask someone, or else I'll be trapped in here all day."

He turned to look at someone who was standing with their back to him. "Excuse me," Lawliet began before the man turned around and revealed himself to be Light Yagami. Lawliet sighed and drawled, "of course..."

Light scowled, "L, right? Fellow from the Book Club, how are you?"

"I'm fine," Lawliet strained to be polite, "I was just looking for the book section."

"Ah, you are trying to find the book for this week I assume? I have a copy you can read as I've finished it," Light cringed, why had he offered Lawliet his book? He couldn't stand the pale-faced creep!

Lawliet was as taken aback by the offer as Light had been, "no, thank you, I have a copy and will read it tonight. No, I need to make a meal. Preferably something romantic."

"Oh, you have a date? Oh good for you." Light's shit-eating grin was stretched to its limit. "Well for Kiyomi I made her a nice three course meal. I can write down the recipe if you like."

Lawliet nodded and stood awkwardly. Light took out a pen and paper and leaned it against Lawliet's shoulder. The dark haired man tried not to freeze up, but it was strange having someone standing this close to him. He could feel the warmth radiating off the younger man's body. He could even smell the pleasant scent of his hair. Lawliet gulped.

Light too was aware of Lawliet's embarrassment, but he didn't understand it. Lawliet was so strange, he had took it upon himself to attack Light unfairly during the book club, and now he was acting all reserved like an awkward, gawky teenager.

"Maybe this isn't about me," he thought, "maybe Lawliet is intimidated by me, perhaps by my looks? But he doesn't seem the type...but then what do I know? Maybe he has low self esteem and he hides it under that sneering, judgmental persona."

It was strange for Light to not be automatically liked. The book club had thrown him in many ways. In all his social circles, from his junior-school days right up to his current situations at wine parties and social functions, he was always the life and soul, he was always the man everyone wanted to talk to. At the book club the blond twin had essentially ignored him and it seemed Lawliet and Nate were actually quite averse to him. It was something completely new for Light and he had spent many hours after the book club musing over their behaviour and what he could have done to have deserved such automatic dislike.

"I feel like we got off on the wrong foot the other night," he said, finishing off his recipe and handing it to Lawliet, "I'm not a bad guy or a snob, I'm sorry if I gave that impression."

Lawliet's face remained blank, but he did scratch the back of his neck, giving away that he was maybe a little discomforted by events, "perhaps," he began slowly, "I was wrong to presume you were looking down on others. I'm sure you are a nice man Light."

Light scowled, feeling like Lawliet was lying through his teeth and actually felt the opposite of what he was saying. If anything, it almost felt as if Lawliet was mocking him. "Well I could do two things," he decided, "I can either storm away, or I can play along. In fact, I'll show him up. There's no way he'll want to spend his spare time with me. I'll prove to him what a judgemental jerk he is!"

So he forced a smile and said, "excellent, I tell you what, we should hang out. Maybe go for a coffee sometime."

"Someone like Light would never want to go out with me," thought Lawliet, "this is some sort of test. Look at his fake grin, hiding a malicious mirth underneath. It's obvious that he feels he is better than me. I could tell by the way he sat that night looking at everyone and smirking to himself, he and his girlfriend were doing it, only she is more obvious and he thinks he is superior to her as well. No doubt he is expecting me to fawn over his offer and to either refuse out of fear, or to say yes and do everything in my power to become his sycophantic follower, much like that other boy at the book club, the one who works for him. Well, I'll teach him a lesson."

"I would like to go out for coffee," he answered, his face devoid of emotion, (Light's smile slipped away slightly) "there's a nice little cafe near where I live. It is on Eastbourne street, you know it?"

Light gulped slightly. Eastbourne street was a shabby little block of shops in the middle of several chav-centric council estates. Light had driven past it one time and had seen two rats playing by some bins outside of the chip shop. Oh so Lawliet was playing this game was he?

"Excellent," he smiled tightly, "I would love to. It's not a cafe that I've been to before but I'm sure I would enjoy it."

"Let's say tomorrow at twenty past twelve?"

"It's a date," laughed Light, instantly regretting what he had said.

Lawliet allowed a small smile and walked away, waving as he did.

"What an intolerable bastard," decided Light as he smiled and waved back, "but he doesn't know that I've put the wrong instructions for that meal, hahaha!"

 

 

 

"So let's get this straight," said Misa, "it was Julie all along was the one who made all that amazing music, but her husband took the credit?"

"Yes."

"What a jerk," Misa sat back on the couch, "I don't understand why any woman would let a guy take praise for her work."

"Because she loved him." Nate curled his legs up until he was sitting cross legged and facing his new friend. "Sometimes people take advantage of the ones they love. If a relationship is unequal then one person can be manipulated. He didn't love her as much as she loved him."

"Sort of like how Luke takes advantage of Thea's love for him?"

Nate nodded solemnly. Misa thought hard. What if something like that happened to her? What if she actually fell for Light but he didn't love her as much as she did him? She could easily be treated badly and left behind. Then she mulled over past relationships, of all the boys she had done sexual favours for with nothing in return; they hadn't respected or even liked her any more than before after she had given them what she wanted. All this time she had thought of herself as in-control and a dominant, strong female, but what if that wasn't true; what if she was easily being duped by men and easily made submissive? She shifted uncomfortably before getting up.

"Well, I should be getting home. I'll see you at the next Book Club meeting."

Nate led her to his door wondering about her sudden change of mood and if he had offended her. Had he lost his new friend already?

Misa turned and faced him, "listen next weekend I will bring one of my DVD's. I'll come earlier so that we can watch 'White' and my DVD, what do you think?"

A hint of a smile pulled at Nate's features, making Misa grin, "sure, I would like that."

The pair waved goodbye, the beginnings of a friendship sprouting.

Misa walked home quickly. It was snowing again and very cold. Few people were out and there were even less cars. She had never known someone like Nate, but she felt that she liked him a lot, which was strange because he was usually the sort of person she'd always assumed she'd hate.

She finally arrived at her home and pulled open the door, ripping off her boots and stomping upstairs. Wendy was back home and in the kitchen. It smelt like they'd be having vegetable stew again.

"Great, that'll put Mello in a really bad mood, again."

Misa walked into the kitchen and slumped down on the table demanding to be made a cup of tea. In response her big sister flung a mouldy carrot at her head.

"Eww, Wendy, why?"

Wendy smiled and put the kettle on, "because you're a precocious little brat, that's why. So where've you been all afternoon? Looking for some boy going by your get-up."

"With a friend actually," she smirked, "I was watching a French film and sipping hot chocolate. Then we had a very intellectual conversation about gender roles and relationships."

She grinned as Wendy stared and Mello arrived in the kitchen glaring having overhearing the conversation.

"What?" he said at last, dragging out the word, "you and your idiot friends don't talk about stuff like that! Who was you with all afternoon?"

"Not telling!"

"You're a liar! You wasn't doing any of that! I bet you made up with that idjit Zak and was sucking his cock behind the corner shop! Again!"

"Mello shut up!" barked Wendy, always disconcerted whenever she was forced to listen about Misa's antics.

"I wasn't doing that!" shrieked Misa, getting to her feet. "Shows what you know smarty pants! I wasn't doing any of that, I really did watch a film and have clever words with someone. You're just jealous!"

Mello stormed up to her, making Misa back down, almost afraid that he would strike her, "who have you been with then? Someone from that book club, right? Who, Light? It is, isn't it? I know you fancied him, but he thinks you're cheap! He's a jerk! He's a jerk that's going to use you like the whore you are, and you're a stupid bitch who's going to let him!"

"Not him!" her eyes filled with tears, "I wasn't with him! And if I am cheap, so are you!"

Mello felt Wendy pulling him back, her arm around his waist. However, he was stronger than Wendy even at eighteen, and he refused to budge."Then who, who?"

"Nate," answered Misa sullenly, "Nate. The pale guy from the book club. The clever one. There you happy now?"

There was a pause before Mello, still being held onto by Wendy asked in genuine surprise, "but he's clever? Since when have been into guys like that?"

"I'm not. I just wanted a friend." As soon as she said those words Misa felt suddenly embarrassed and ran out of the room and down into her bedroom. Mello stood frozen, gritting his teeth.

"Well I hope you're happy," bit out Wendy, "there was no need to act like that. And don't bother saying anything. Just finish the stew and keep silent."

Mello glowered at his big sister as she stared resolutely back at him. "You aren't me mum," he said at last, before turning around and storming out of the house.

"No I'm not mum!" Wendy shouted out after him, "unlike her, I'm still here!"

 

 

 

"It's not that Ray and I don't love each other anymore," Naomi took a small sip of her hot chocolate before continuing, "it's just that we argue all the time. And we argue over nothing. It's so stressful. "

"You should split up," responded Halle in sleepy monotone, leaning on her arm on the table and looking highly bored.

"No, no, I love him and he loves me. It's just..."

Halle sat up and put on her 'teacher voice' as Naomi called it, "no, you aren't. You are together for convenience and because it's safe. Have you ever thought of... ah... just tasting from another cup, if you know what I mean? You know, just a little sip?"

Naomi rolled her eyes at her friend's grin, "no, I would never do that. I'm not like that Halle. I think that sort of behaviour is cruel."

"Well so is staying in a relationship that makes you both unhappy and is probably making your unstable little brother even more introverted. If you just kiss or go on a date with someone else and you feel guilty and want to go home to Ray, then you know it is love and maybe you can do something for the relationship, if not, then let him go."

The girls were sitting at an outdoor bar that was serving German beer. They were in the middle of a lot of hustle and bustle, the fairground a few feet away so they could hear the screams and gasps of customers. The women had decided against the rides and instead had gorged on toffee apples, candy floss and now were settling in with alcohol. Halle looked around them before latching her eye on to one man who she had noticed earlier, "there he is, Naomi, that guy is interested in you. Go say hello."

Naomi blushed heavily, felt embarrassed over her blushing which of course made it worse. "No Halle, don't make me."

"He's kind of cute in a gruff sort of way."

Naomi glanced over. There was a guy glancing their way every now and then. He was dark and tall, with the sort of features she liked such as dark brown eyes and dark hair, he was also sporting a slight, well-trimmed beard.

"N-no, I don't think so. Besides he's probably looking at you."

"He isn't," responded Halle with certainty, "I know when a man is interested in me. He isn't. He's looking at you. What's the harm in talking? It's just talking Naomi. Stop over-thinking it."

The brunette bit her lip. "I suppose. I mean, it is just talking, just to see. It's not cheating is it?"

"Nope."

"And Ray was a total pig earlier. I mean, it's just me having some fun for once, isn't it?"

"Totally," Halle was already getting up and grabbing her handbag, "come one let's go find out his name!"

 

 

Ray sat in his office. As usual there was a mountain of paperwork. Sometimes he felt that he had gone into admin work rather than policing, it was a joke.

He brushed his hand over his face and sighed shakily. It was too much...just too much. He had been spat on that day and accused of being a racist by some east-asian kids. How was he a racist? For god's sake his girlfriend was asian-descent! But of course he couldn't tell them that, he just had to put up with it and take them in for possession. Then the kids had gotten released anyway and he was stuck with three hours worth of reports where he would have to mention the accusation which would go further and, worst case scenario, result in an investigation.

He opened his drawer and took out a bottle of scotch and a small glass. It was pretty stereotypical, the worn-down cop with the booze not-so-hidden in his drawer, but he didn't care. He relished the burning sensation as he took a shot of his favourite poison. He then grabbed his phone and began to text.

Naomi was laughing hard with Halle and their new male friend when her mobile began to hum. She took it out and read:

Staying l8 at work tonite. Save me sum dinner. X

She saw that it was from Ray. Her heart sunk a little. She text him back a simple 'ok' before texting L that his plans for their meal tonight needed to be cancelled, but could he make a little something for Ray. She put her phone into her bag and felt a quiet rage building up inside.

"Hey, are you ok? You look a bit put out."

"It's ok," she smiled at the friendly man she had just met who was looking more attractive by the minute, "I've just been let down by my boyfriend again," she glanced at Halle, "he is staying late at work so the meal idea won't be happening."

The man laughed, "sounds like he's going to be an ex-boyfriend soon!"

"Why don't we go out?" suggested Halle, "let's go to a proper bar, it's too cold out here now. Maybe even a club."

"I'm up for that!" smiled the man.

"It'll give Lawliet a break," insisted Halle seeing Naomi's reluctance, "and you won't be seeing Ray now anyway. Let's go have fun."

Naomi thought of how Lawliet had wanted her to enjoy herself. Even as emotionally stunted as he was he had recognised how lonely and sad she was. "Ok, sure, yep. I'll just call Lawli and then we'll go!"

Her two friends cheered as she called her brother to tell him she would not make it home until late, her heat beating wildly at her new recklessness. For the first time in years, she felt young, free, daring and alive.

Chapter Text

Lawliet stood amongst the ruins of the kitchen. His chef's hat was slumped mournfully on his head, his apron covered in flour and sauces. Even his outfit was depressed.

Slowly, he bought his thumb up and popped it into his mouth wishing to god that there was a magic pill to make this feeling go away. 'Light Yagami tricked me.' He could imagine Light out there now, chortling to himself was sipping a rich brandy and smiling at his cloyingly smug girlfriend whose name Lawliet couldn't recall.

'I shouldn't have been fooled,' he picked up the chair he had thrown in a fit of rage before walking to the sink and filling it with hot water. 'I should have known it would all go wrong. I should have known not to trust him at all.' He imagined his sister's face when she returned home. His heart sank and he in like fashion slumped to the floor, his fight all gone. He had failed. All he had to do was make a stupid meal to give his sister a break and maybe make things up to Ray for his past misdemeanours, and he had failed.

The jingle to a Katy Perry pop song began to screech out joyfully. His mobile was ringing. He pulled it out of his pocket after the song died after whoever had been calling had hung up.

It had been Naomi.

There was a whoo-ho-ho-hoo-ho! as his ever happy phone now whistled that she had sent him a text message.

Lawliet gulped. He didn't even want to know what she had sent to him. It was probably something loving and kind, maybe her saying how much she was looking forward to her meal...maybe her saying that she loved him and that she loved Ray and was now glad she wouldn't have to choose between them thanks to this lovely meal he was preparing.

Biting his bottom lip so hard that it bled, he opened the mobile and read the message.

Hey Lawlipop, I'm sorry but Ray cancelled tonight : ' C So, I thought I'd take your advice and have some fun. : ) Me and Hal are going out for the night! So fun right? I feel like a kid! Anyway, I'm so, so sorry please save me some dinner, or invite your reading buddies over and eat it yourselves. Love you more than the moon! Xxx

Lawliet let out a sigh and leaned his head back onto the cupboard. He never had felt so relived! He almost wanted to cry from relief and joy, but hot water from the tap he had left on poured on to his face, spurring him back into action.

It was time to clean up and put this horrible night behind him. But he would remember that Light Yagami needed to pay!

Meanwhile, Mello was skulking about on the cold, dark Manchurian streets with his red-headed friend.

"For fucks sake Matt, put that thing away I'm trying to talk to you."

Matt blew a bubble with his gum and continued to press the noisy buttons on his game consol. "Fuck you," he responded calmly, "I can still hear your bitching with the game going."

Mello rolled his eyes and pouted in vexation. He wanted to tell Matt that he was a piece of shit friend and storm away, but that would be a lie; Matt was a good- and Mello's only- friend and they both knew this.

"Have you got any money?" Mello asked, "we could go the chippy?"

Matt nodded and they slunk towards the brightly lit chip shop. Teenagers buzzed around the shop like flies around a light.

"Hey look!" cried a familiar voice from school, "it's the bum-buddies!"

Everyone cackled like hyenas. Matt put up his middle finger as their only response (not even looking up from his game), before they stepped inside. The shop was owned by a large sweaty man who always wore a vest with a filthy apron. His shoulders were covered in black wiry hairs and it was always a bit of a Russian roulette whether one would end up in your food or not. However, it was the closest shop in their area that was still open at 10:30 at night.

No-one knew the guy's name, he was just called 'Hairy Chippy Bloke', but the 'Hairy Chippy Bloke' never bothered learning any of his customers names either.

"Ginger and tranny, what you want?" he growled through his bushy moustache.

"Better grammar from you," snarled Mello but Matt elbowed him in the ribs and said over him;

"A large bag of chips and two fishcakes, ta."

Hairy Chippy Bloke began to dish up their food declaring, "this is why you I like, Ginger, you are ugly, but have much manners. You," he pointed at Mello, "are an aberration against god," he kissed a greasy sweaty crucifix that was on a necklace he was wearing.

Matt took the food and smiled tightly whilst Mello scowled at his necklace, "I don't think your god would like you wearing an image of him dying. If he had been shot by a gun would you all wear a bullet-ridden corpse around your neck?"

Hairy Chipped Man whirled around to glower furiously at Mello, throwing the bag of chips in their faces and screaming, "get out! Insolent pups! Get out of my shop!"

Matt sighed and dragged Mello away by the hand muttering, "you always take things too far."

"I take things too far?"

"Yes," they stopped outside (ignoring the gaggle of teenagers' comments about them holding hands,) "it's his religion man. I know he's ignorant but you can't say shit like that to people."

Mello pulled his arm away, "I'm entitled to say what I want. I had to deal with his nonsense. Everyone wants Freedom of Speech, but only when what's being said is something they agree with." He sighed angrily, feeling boiling fury stirring in his stomach, "it's like when people complain about any nicety being expected of them being 'liberal nonsense', it's always 'it's always liberal nonsense until you expect people to treat you in a nice wayliberal nonsense' until you expect people to treat you in a nice way. It's all bullshit, I can't stand it."

The pair sat down on a bench and opened up the bags. They ate silently for a moment before Matt tentatively asked, "you said once, a few years back, that you believed in god. You were mad at me because I said it was stupid. Has that changed?"

Mello remembered that day. They boys had been thirteen years old. Mello had just been to church for the first time in his life. It was back when his mam was still around. It had been the last nice thing she'd ever done for them. She had taken him, Misa and Wedy to a large cathedral in town. Misa liked the style, but little else, and Wedy had been bored and complained the whole time, but Mello had been amazed. The pictures of Jesus on the walls, the massive stained glass windows of the apostles, the white statues of the saints inside contrasted to the gargoyles and demons outside had all impressed upon him the importance and weight of religion as a whole and all the questions it bought with it on morality, and what it was to be human, and the universe itself.

He had decided to be a catholic that day. He wore the rosary around his arm and the crucifix around his neck for years, but then...

"I don't want to talk about it," he said quietly.

Matt watched him for a while. He couldn't remember when Mello stopped wearing all the religious paraphernalia. Matt had never paid too much attention, being an atheist and holding some anti-theist views, but as they sat in the dark eating chips, he berated himself for not paying attention to another important change Mello had probably been dealing with. Was it something to do with the gay thing maybe?

Matt pulled out his game and began to play again, his fingers moving quickly but his mind focusing on Mello. He didn't know what to say. Mello was volatile and difficult. Sometimes, Matt had learned, it was better to just be quiet and allow Mello to be alone with his thoughts.

It was around two in the morning when Mello snuck into his home. He wandered into his bedroom only to see Wendy sitting on the bed. He stood very still, startled into temporary submission.

Her eyes were red with tiredness.

"I have to be in work in less than four hours," she said quietly, "what on earth were you playing at, leaving for this long?"

Mello crossed his arms defensively and refused to look her way, "maybe if I had a mobile you could have called me..."

"And how could we afford to give you one?" she bit out immediately. "How? Me on me cleaners wage and you dicking around at school? How could we afford it?"

"I don't dick around! What, do you want me to leave school and get stuck in some dead-end job like you?"

"No!" she all but screamed, leaping to her feet, "no! I want you to recognise the fact that I am in a dead-end job, that I have sacrificed any chance of leaving this pit of poverty and unhappiness so that you and Misa have a fucking chance in this world! I recognise your intelligence and I do what I can to appreciate it, so the least you could recognise what I do for you instead of spitting in my face and sneering at what little I am able to give you! All I ask is that you give people such as me or your sister just a modicum of the respect you give your friend, just a little."

There was a pregnant pause.

"But evidently that is too much!"

She stormed past him, knocking his shoulder on the way out.

Mello stood for a while, biting his tongue and shaking slightly. He regretted what he had said. He regretted nearly everything that came out of his stupid mouth at any given time. He always found a way to hurt people. It was like his special talent; hurting people he loved the most. Matt needed to stop being friends with him, Mello would probably get him killed one day.

He sat down on his bed and rubbed his eyes. He wasn't crying, just tired. He then looked up at the ceiling and thought about god. If there was a god, he probably didn't love Mello anymore. No one did. Which was just as well, as he didn't deserve their love anyway.

Chapter Text

Early the next morning Mello lay alone in his bedroom. His sister had left for school and his older sister Wendy was already at work. Wendy would leave as early as five-thirty and had to rely on threats to make sure the twins bothered going to school.

Mello didn't feel up to it that morning and so as Misa had given him a big gooey kiss on the forehead (she was wearing far too much lipstick and lip gloss) before leaving, he had decided to spend the rest of the day sulking in his room.

The doorbell rang and he ignored it.

It rang again.

And again.

And again.

"For fucks sake!" Mello barked, kicking off his blanket and storming to the front door. He ripped it open, "what the fuck do you want?"

He was surprised to see Lawliet standing in front of him. The dark haired man raised his hand slowly, pointed at the boy and said, "you are rude."

"I'm sorry," Mello suddenly felt very stupid standing there in his matching pyjamas (black and white with pictures of Eminem all over them). "Come in. How did you get my address?"

"I phoned Nate," Lawliet stepped inside as Mello led him upstairs into the kitchen, "he gladly gave me your number and address."

"But I never gave him my address either," Mello put the kettle on with a frown.

Lawliet shrugged, "I dunno then. Internet or something. I'll have a tea with seven heaped spoonfuls of sugar thank you."

Mello turned to see if Lawliet was joking and when he saw that he was perfectly serious muttered, "wow, that's some sweet tooth. Sugar really is a drug I guess."

Lawliet was tempted to say that heroin used to be his drug of choice, but instead wisely allowed the poor joke to die a premature death.

"So what was this plan then?"

"I wish to get revenge on Light Yagami."

"That suit from the book club?" Mello sat down after placing the mugs of tea on the table, "why? I mean he's a dick so I'm on-board but..."

Lawliet re-told the dinner story, complete with a few ridiculous embellishments that included Light sending a mocking text with an evil smiley face and that he had spoken ill of Mello during the meeting in the supermarket.

Mello was seething. "That prick said I look like Burton's Verucca Salt?" he growled, "I'll show him! What do you need me to do!"

"We need to think of a way of shaming him," answered Lawliet. "He's so high and mighty, it needs to be something that would reveal something negative about himself, something to knock him down a peg or two."

Mello raised an eyebrow, "seems like a lot of hard work. Isn't it easier just to play a prank on him? I have friends that will rob him. I need a phone of my own anyway and Mr. Hot-Shot lawyer is bound to have a good one."

"No thanks, I don't want Light being very hurt."

"I'll ask them to hold off on shanking him."

Lawliet valiantly held off on raising an eyebrow at that. "No…no…we need something sneakier, more insidious. You're a smart boy Mello, and more worthy of higher cruelty, not mere thuggery." Lawliet wrapped an arm around the young man, who felt his heart pounding at the contact, "let me be your sensei."

 

 

 

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Lawliet's older more responsible sister was slowly waking up. Her head felt as if a monster had taken up residence in it and currently was playing an energetic game of squash against the wall of her skull.

"Oh god," she whimpered. The smell of cheap sugary booze assaulted her senses and she almost threw up. "Ray? Ray what did we do las-?"

She opened her eyes blearily and noticed that the warm fluffy bed she was in was not her own. She slowly glanced to her side and saw that in the bed was a very handsome, but very unknown man.

Before the memories of the previous night came pouring back, she, in a few moments of wild, denial-bred madness wondered if she had fallen in to a parallel universe, or that some sort of hilarious but understandable mix-up had happened.

She let out a small groan of shame and scrambled about until she found her mobile. She had three texts.

Yes. Stay out. Have fun. Do not go into the kitchen. L

Ok well that was typical of her brother. Her heart skipped when she saw who had sent the next one.

Where r u? I'm home and its just L sitting like a fcking idjit on the settee. He is staring at me now. He wnt stop. Where r u?

How was she going to explain this to Ray? Would she be brave enough to tell the truth? 'I have to,' she thought, 'I can't lie to him. I feel awful enough already.'

Finally the last one was from Halle.

Hey you. ;) A very sexy morning. You wild cat! Tell me everything. And don't worry about Ray, dump him and get with muscle man! xoxoxo

It was clear what she had to do. She would have to sneak out the house, complete the walk of shame (even with a hang -over) get home, make it up to Ray, fix whatever had happened in the kitchen and then never ever go out and have fun again. Ever.

Naomi began to inch out of the bed when a bronze arm suddenly wrapped itself around her stomach. She instantly sucked her belly in, feeling self-aware.

"Morning," said a gruff voice. She turned and looked down at the man. He was masculine, with a strong jaw and a bit of a shade around his chin. It was different from Ray, who always looked quite boyish. She had always liked that about Ray but looking down at this new man she wondered if her tastes had changed. He smiled at her and blinked owlishly.

"You don't remember me."

She blushed, "um, just your name, I remember you and last night, I just have a bit...a bit of a bad memory. I'm sorry." Naomi's face had gotten hotter and hotter the more she spoke.

"I'm not a slut!" she blurted out, "I don't normally...this isn't..." She sighed and covered her face with her hands. She was such an idiot. She was thirty two years old and yet here she was acting like a silly fifteen year old girl after her first time.

He sat up and pulled her into a hug. "I don't think you're a slut," his voice was deep. "I think you're funny and enchanting and I think that you're really sad. I just was very attracted to you. That's all. Let me make you breakfast."

She wiped her tears away, angry with herself for crying, and looked up at him. "Are you sure?"

He nodded.

"You should also know," he smiled, "that my name is Aizawa. Suichi Aizawa."

Chapter Text

Naomi marched through the cold Scottish streets. It was snowing again. The winter of the north was cruel and relentless.

Aizawa had offered to drive her home, of course he had, because he was a nice guy, but she had refused. Naomi had planned on getting the bus or even a taxi, but the weather was too bad and traffic had been bought to a halt.

She hadn't minded though, walking home in disgrace seemed like a good punishment. She had been so lost in her own misery she hadn't spotted him watching her from his window, his eyes dark and sad as a girl he thought was amazing walked out of his life after just one night.

She rubbed her eyes furiously. "I'm a cheat," she thought bitterly, "I cheated on my long-term boyfriend. This is why I don't go out, I can't even trust myself."

Around her the city slowly began to wake up. She could see lights in houses switching on, just as the street lights turned off.

The white sun rose up into a hazy pale blue sky.

Thick grey clouds billowed over the horizon, promising more snow. She tightened her coat buttons with numb hands. She had liked Aizawa. He was kind and brave and seemed to genuinely like her. He hadn't complained about her pot belly or laughed at her messy morning hair.

Ray's image burned back into her mind. She was with Ray, and no matter what their issues were, he deserved better than this.

She wouldn't dump Ray, she couldn't. She hardly knew Aizawa at all and she and Ray had been together for years. They had a life together.

"I should tell him the truth," she decided, "perhaps that's the best way for us to move forward. If he doesn't want to be with me after this," (tears pricked her eyes at this thought,) "then very well. I can pursue Aizawa and he can be with someone else; someone who deserves him. But, hopefully, we'll get past this. Maybe it'll give us the kick up the backside we need. Maybe we could use this painful moment to reconnect. Maybe, maybe everything will be fine. I'll just go home and say that I got too drunk and I met a guy and…and that it just happened."

Naomi went over the speech in her head over and over again, it becoming more complex and apologetic as time went on. She could imagine Ray screaming at her. She could imagine Lawlipop's dark eyes judging her from afar. She could imagine Ray crying, which made her cry.

The clouds engulfed the sky and the snow began to fall, silent and cold and deadly. She imagined dying out in the freezing streets, perhaps if she slipped and knocked herself out. It would be a painless death. It would mean that she wouldn't have to face Ray or herself in the mirror.

"Maybe I should do what Lawlipop would and simply run away," she thought wildly, "I could just keep walking and never go home. Maybe go south. Maybe go to England…or Wales. Catch a boat and go to one of the Scottish islands. Start a new life. But then…" she saw in her mind's eye Ray sitting alone in the kitchen, wondering where she was. "No, I can't do that…I can't run away."

She wandered into the fancy part of town. It was row upon row of high town-houses, built during the Victorian period. They were grand, with no front garden but large back ones with high fences.

Out of one of them walked a handsome man. He looked at her, staring so hard that he paused in his steps just to watch her walk past. She suddenly felt self-aware, noting that she smelt of drink and sleep and probably sex too. She hadn't showered at Aizawa's, she'd been too much of a hurry to get out of there. Disapproval rolled off his body and she saw him raise an eyebrow at her. She looked away, feeling panicky. Even strangers were judging her!

She picked up the pace and walked uncomfortably quickly down the road. It was only when she was far away enough from the gentleman that she couldn't see him anymore that she began to feel angry. Who the hell was he to judge her? Who the hell was anyone?

Sure, cheating was wrong, but her and Ray were in a bad place and she had been doing everything in her power to make it right. She cooked his meals and cleaned the house, playing the good little housewife whilst also having a full time job of her own. Being a PSCO wasn't easy; she had to do all the tedious irritating jobs that police did, with the same risk of danger and violence, but with less money and less respect.

"And he never speaks to me anymore," she thought, feeling angrier by the minute, "even last night he just blew me off! He didn't even call me, just a text. I'm not appreciated. He's basically cheating on me with his work." She suddenly stopped in her tracks, "In fact, maybe he is cheating on me. He clearly doesn't love me anymore, probably doesn't like me and he never spends time with me if he can help it. Oh my god, he's cheating!"

Fury in her heart, Naomi practically ran the rest of the way home, ready to have it out with her boyfriend.

 

 

 

Lawliet looked out of the window and saw that it was day. He hadn't slept at all but instead had stayed up all night researching different things on the internet. It was a useless waste of time. He was horribly bored.

"Maybe that's why I engaged Light and Mello into this ridiculous charade," he muttered, "I'm so bored that I am now beginning to behave as stupidly and childishly as them." He thought through his master-plan to get vengeance on Light and decided that whilst it was juvenile and with a high chance of getting at least one person very hurt, it was still a good plan and a good way to eat up some of his time. Afterall, time was all he had now. He had already wasted years on drugs. He was no good to anyone anymore.

Sighing, Lawliet snuck quietly out of his room. He had heard Ray come home late the night before and had been glad that he had tidied up the kitchen.

He walked into the living room, a lollipop in his mouth (breakfast), when he saw Ray asleep on the couch. On the coffee table was a half eaten sandwich, no doubt Ray's dinner from the night before, and an empty mug which looked like it had once held coffee. Other than that the table was covered with papers of a particularly gruesome looking case.

Lawliet frowned and picked up a picture of a dead woman. She was pretty and young and looked like she had died in a forested area.

Sitting down quietly at the foot of the table to avoid waking Ray, Lawliet began to shift through all the papers, reading the details of the poor girl's demise. Seems she was found dead three days ago by a jogger. Autopsy revealed that she had been raped and then strangled to death. They had no idea who she was or where she was from. She wasn't on any database and had no ID.

As he began to get over the emotional shock of her death, Lawliet's mind began to work once more, the cogs turning faster and faster as he began to piece together what had happened. It seemed that Ray and the police were at a loss, which wasn't surprising. First of all, it was admittedly a tough case, there were no forensics and she hadn't fought back against her attacker. Second of all, whilst he could switch off his emotions and pour his energy into raw logistical thinking, Ray and his colleagues could not. Thirdly and finally, Ray and the police were, in Lawliet's mind, a bit stupid.

Feeling almost excited, he grabbed a pen and paper from his room and began to write notes down. She had known her attacker, he had been walking with her in the park where she had be found. Judging by her clothes he decided she was very poor; they were all second hand and ill fitting. Her features suggested she was from Eastern European descent and he surmised that she was likely from another country. Probably an illegal immigrant which would explain the poor clothes and lack of ID or claimants looking for her. There had been a recent surge of Ukrainian immigrants into the city recently, and the Ukraine was not part of the EU, therefore they were in Scotland illegally.

'Talk to the immigrant community,' he wrote, 'do not threaten them with deportation, not if you want them to speak to you. It's likely she was attacked by an employer, which would be why she was too afraid to fight back. If she has been taken advantage of, like so many Eastern European immigrants here, then maybe she was hoping that once he was done he would leave her alone.'

He put the note sneakily behind the photo of the girl and stood up, just as Ray awoke with a snort.

"Ugh," he said intelligently, raising himself up and rubbing his eyes, "Mmmf, put the kettle on will ya' Naomi?"

"I'm not Naomi."

Ray's eyes ripped open, before rolling as they set sight on Lawliet. "Oh it's you. Where is your sister?"

Lawliet shrugged, "she went out last night. Hasn't come back."

"What?" Ray immediately sat up, "she went out? Went where? Good god you didn't think to call to police when she didn't come back?" He looked out of the window, "there's a fucking snow storm outside, she might be dead you stupid selfish little prick!"

"She went out for drinks with her friends," answered Lawliet calmly, "I text her last night and earlier this morning, she's fine, just a bit hung over. She'll be back soon."

"She went out…drinking?"

"She does have a social life," sneered Lawliet, "besides, she wanted a romantic night out with you, but you didn't come home."

"I'm on an important case." He looked scornfully at Lawliet's ASDA uniform, "my work is actually important."

"My job is important too," answered Lawliet with dignity, "I might not save lives but what I do helps the everyday needs of people. Also, whilst the job is important, so is my sister, but I think you aren't qualified enough to be with her."

With that Lawliet walked out of the room, got his jacket and left the house. He didn't have work for another two hours, but he didn't want to remain in the house with Ray. Besides, with the weather as it was, it would probably take two hours for him to get to work.

At least he had lunch to look forward to. 'I bet Light has his own fancy car to get to work with,' he thought, 'he's probably waking up with his bitchy girlfriend now. I bet they have some sort of fancy breakfast in bed, mocking the likes of me.' He pulled his thin jacket around his slim frame, feeling bitter at the mental visual of Light and Kiyomi naked in bed together laughing and eating. 'I hate him,' Lawliet decided, 'I really hate Light.'

 

 

 

Light lay in bed. He felt awful. The emptiness he had been feeling in his gut for the better part of three years was widening, engulfing his spirit and mind.

He and Kiyomi had had sex the night before.

Even now, her slim, tan arm rested over his chest.

'This isn't what you want,' his mind muttered.

"I don't know what I want," he argued back. next to him Kiyomi stirred, "hmm?" she muttered, sleepiness muffling her words, "what did you say?"

"Nothing," he answered, not knowing he had spoken out-loud before, "I should go get ready for work."

"No stay! Let's cuddle."

Light almost laughed outright, "cuddle? Please, we don't cuddle."

Awake now, Kiyomi sat up, wrapping the blanket around her torso an observed him with dark, intelligent eyes. "Well maybe I want us to start."

"You're so demanding," he sighed, frustration building in his chest, "we had sex, and I'm guessing that you liked it. Stop pushing so hard. We aren't in love."

"Oh be quiet!" she barked, "stop behaving as if this is some marriage of convenience. We aren't in a Victorian drama. We're a twenty-first century couple and whilst we aren't in love the way Austen novels make out love is, we do care deeply about one another and there is affection between us. I hate acting as if there is nothing!"

Light said nothing, but his lips tightened. Kiyomi got up and slunk over to him. "I am your fiancée and I want to make you happy. But this is a two-way street," she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, hugging him from behind.

He took one of her hands and kissed it. He felt nothing as he did, only the on-going emptiness. "Thank you, and I'm sorry. I really do have to go work though. Let's pencil in a cuddle session for this evening, after I've made you dinner. Deal?"

She grinned genuinely, making her handsome but hard face suddenly soften, becoming something that Light could love, "yes! Deal!" she pressed her lips against his head before skipping back into bed. Light allowed himself a wry smile before leaving to room to get showered and dressed.

He opened the door and the cold gust of air almost made him topple back into Kiyomi's tall townhouse. The roads were covered in white snow, making it clear that there would be nothing travelling on the roads today.

"Looks like I'm walking to work," he decided, tightening his scarf around his neck before setting out. A girl with dark hair and eyes marched past him on the street. Her eyes were wide and starring, her skin pale. He suddenly thought of Lawliet.

Light watched the girl walking down the street. She had smelt of alcohol. "It's an unpleasant morning to have to complete the Walk of Shame," he thought. He had never gotten so drunk as to have to do the walk of shame before. Usually it was girls slinking guiltily out of his house after a party or night out. He sneered at her retreating back. Maybe it was because of her likeness to Lawliet, but he decided that he had no pity for her.

'I'm meeting Lawliet today for lunch,' he smiled softly to himself. 'I get to tease him for that recipe prank. Serves him right for being a judgemental prick!'

Suddenly Light felt better. The dismal snow now looked light and fascinating. The walk to work would be refreshing and fun and new. He took off again, a light skip in his step and him softly humming a tune under his breath.

Chapter Text

“The Kowalski Brothers,” wept the girl piteously. She was thin and pale. Track marks on her arm showed where she had been injecting herself over and over again; from her own desperate attempts to escape reality and for her pimps to keep her shackled to them. Was ever such a thing so duplicitous?

“Are you willing to make a statement?” Ray asked her tentatively.

A sort of hardened look came into her pale blue eyes, “I will…even if I will mean my death. Maria was important to me.”

Maria was the name of the dead girl they’d discovered three days ago. The case had been growing cold due to a lack of interest or compassion from the media and public. But then Ray had found that little note with Lawliet’s handwriting; a few curt sentences tearing insight into the case and setting it alight. It goaded him a little, knowing how easily Lawliet had worked out so much of the case just by looking at a few documents. However, Ray was also a good and dedicated enough policeman to be happy the case had been reignited. He wanted the bastard who raped and strangled the girl to face justice. Therefore, he'd followed the advice on the note, not even going through CID to start with. But now, four hours into the work day, he already had a key witness and the names of likely suspects.

 The Kowalski Brothers were not unknown to the police. They were a horrible pair of men who fancied themselves as The Kray Twins of the North. They were behind a lot of the organised crime in this section of the city- ranging from illegal DVDs to prostitution- but nothing had ever stuck on them before.

Perhaps the word of a Ukrainian prostitute wasn’t enough either, but he could try. He took the girl in, making his report and watching as the Detectives took over.

Just as he sat at his desk with a coffee, his boss called him into the office.

Mogi was a great hulk of a man, with caramel skin and dark, liquid black eyes that gave away his quiet intelligence. His desk was broad like him, and like Ray’s desk it was covered in various piles of papers and forms and files. Admin was a never-ending task for anyone in the police force.

“Damned good work today,” he said, “sit down Ray. I’m impressed. Damned good work. CID are kicking themselves that Uniform worked this out while they sat around moping in their fancy office.”

Ray opened and closed his mouth a few times, struggling with himself before admitting, “it wasn’t really me sir...”

“No, what, was it your secret twin?”

“My girlfriend’s brother saw the files. He’s very intelligent and he was able to make a few suggestions which helped me out.”

Mogi nodded, looking completely unsurprised by this confession and so Ray figured he must have suspected something like this had been the case. "Ignoring the fact that you left out confidential files at your home,” said Mogi after a moment, “I do admit this young man sounds interesting. However, my praise is still warranted. He may have made suggestions but you went out there and got the job done. I notice, you know, all the work you do. I see how often you stay late. You’re dedicated.”

“Thank you Sir.”

“I’m suggesting you for promotion,” he announced.

Ray stilled, his heart stopping for a moment before beating wildly, “really?”

“Of course. Best man on my team. I’ll be sorry to let you go. In the meantime, I want you partnering up with a new guy who’s going to be working on this Kowalski case. He’s got a great track record and has been sent up from the London Met.” Mogi gestured for someone outside to enter the room.

Sure enough, a tall man with a neatly cropped beard entered. He smiled warmly at Ray and the two shook hands enthusiastically.

“I’m Ray. Pleased to meet you Sir.”

“Pleasure’s all mine. And you can call me Aizawa.”

 

 

 

Light entered the grimy café with distaste barely hidden on his face. The place L had chosen was a complete dump. The walls were painted a pale, sickly yellow and were peeling. The chipped and discoloured radiators along one wall hummed quietly whilst dispelling an unpleasant, musty odour. The tables were laminated, their pattern being tiles of three shades of brown. The seats were benches with brown, plastic cushions. In the back was the cafeteria, a single cake stood on the counter. It looked stale and a fly was wandering cheerfully upon its iced top. A woman with large breasts stood feeling the long, curling black hair that was sprouting from a mole on her chin. The smell of beans and potatoes could be smelt coming from the kitchen.

He ordered a coffee and sat down. He glanced at the mug, it was chipped and yellow. He wouldn’t drink from it. Instead he curled his hands around it and revelled in its warmth. He’d walked here, suffering through the winter elements, because he was feeling suffocated back in the office. Matsuda had been flitting around with his usual excitement, which had added an extra layer of misery to Light who just couldn’t even hope to match the young man’s enthusiasm. Light looked out of the foggy café windows to see the white landscape, broken only by the black strip of road and the grey horizon of his city.

The North; Bleak but Beautiful; Hard but Loyal.

A cold burst of wind blew into the café shortly followed by a woman. She had a Scandinavian look about her. She was tall and slender and very pale. About her she pulled tight on her grey faux-fur coat. She wore black boots, practical but with a heel to accentuate her long legs. She walked passed Light, he catching a scent of something. It was familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

Awoken by the sudden cold, he began to look around at the customers. There were two men in the corner wearing hi-vis jackets. They were eating what looked like chips with jacket potato. People were truly bizarre.

The lady walked passed him again, now settling on a table nearest the window, right in his line of sight. He couldn’t help but look at her, she was the most attractive thing in the place.

Suddenly Light remembered L. He took out his mobile and saw he had a message. L had backed out.

Light smirked; of course he had! That coward. Probably licking his wounds after the devastation Light must have caused with his ‘romantic dinner’ advice. It served L right. As for the second party of the date, well, no one should lower themselves to dating some ex-crack addict like L. He let out a nasty snort and sipped on his coffee, forgetting about the cup. He grunted and looked down at it. It wasn’t half bad.

The woman had taken out a book. He squinted and saw it was the same one he was reading for the Book Club. He rolled his eyes and looked away, glancing back at his phone. He may as well stay here for his break. He’d get Matsuda to go out and buy him something decent to eat later this afternoon. Light rarely consumed anything other than coffee before one pm anyway.

A light chuckle bought him away from his phone and back to the woman. She was smirking at the book, her hand covering her mouth slightly as if trying to hold in her mirth. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she continued to read.

Light smiled softly and weighed up his options. He had cheated on past girlfriends. They never held his attention and sometimes it was fun to try and balance them along with his mistresses. It was like a game. He had some good, funny times back in school trying it out. He had stopped when he became engaged to Takada. After all, he was a grown up now and all that nonsense had to stop.

However, he was so bored and so frustrated with his life. Also, this woman was stunning and apparently thought as much of Misa’s recommended book as he did.

Decision made, he stood up and walked over to his table.

“May I sit?” he smiled charmingly.

The woman, eyes a deep green, smiled in return and conceded his request.

 

 

Naomi got home shortly after lunch. Her feet were frozen and her skin was wet. She peeled out of her clothes and had a shower. After the first burst of energy, she had managed to calm down during her long walk home. Embarrassment still gnawed at her gut as did the belief that at some point Ray must have cheated on her. However, she wasn’t stupid; she knew that this new belief was likely her projecting. There was no real proof he’d ever cheated on her. But she knew she had now been unfaithful to him. If she went screaming accusations at him it would make things even worse and make her look like a petty idiot.

She climbed out of the shower and dried her hair before dressing quickly. Lawli would be at work until five. Ray would be out for hours, possibly not back until much later that evening. She needed to talk to her brother before dealing with Ray.

Naomi pulled out her mobile and texted her mother and father the same message. She then began to order a month’s worth of food from online. Just as she’d finished, she received a reply from her father. Naomi sighed, sent a response and then began to clean the flat obsessively. It needed to be gleaming by the time she was done.

Her phone beeped again. It was a text from Ray:

Had a great day so far! Made an arrest. Tell your brother I said thank you- seriously. Will be late tonight x

She looked at it blankly, before placing her phone back on the table and continuing with the moping. She felt numb now. Even the guilt had evaporated. The only sense of feeling she had was a vague anxiety. Naomi was scared of change and that was exactly what was going to happen, to her and those she loved.

After two hours the flat looked better than it had in months. She was sweating slightly, so hot she had even turned off the heating despite the fact that it was freezing outside. She went into her bedroom and took out a suitcase from under the bed. She packed clothes into it neatly. Contrary to stereotypes she didn’t have many shoes and only had one handbag. She put the shoes she did have in a plastic bin bag and shoved all her ID and other important documents in her bag.

The downstairs door banged shut. She waited, hearing the slowly plodding of Lawliet. He appeared on the landing, his hair wild and wet. He looked glum.

“Bad day?” she queried, sounding falsely bright.

He turned and analysed her quietly. “They let me go early,” he said at last, “I wish they hadn’t, I need the money…”

She pinched her lips together and looked down.

“What’s wrong?”

She looked back up at him. His eyes were dark and searching, searching to understand her.

“I’m leaving,” she said, a catch in her throat. All the emotions she’d held off were hurtling into her now, sucker punching her one after the other. “I’m going back to mom and dad’s for a bit.” Her eyes blurred with tears. “I don’t know what else to do. I asked them to take you but…”

“But they wouldn’t,” he understood. Lawliet moved forwards and pulled her to him, wrapping her into a tight hug as she began to sob. He felt something inside of him, something hard and steely. “Whatever is going on,” he began, “you don’t need to worry about me. I’m an adult Naomi. I have a job. I can do this. I’m not a child. You need to focus on you.”

He pressed his lips to her head in a very rare display of love.

“I don’t deserve you being so nice to me,” she wept, pulling away from him suddenly. She sounded angry. “I slept with another man last night. I was angry at Ray and Halle was encouraging me and I was drunk and…ugh! I wish I’d stop making excuses!”

Lawliet watched her sink to the floor, one hand gripping the stair banister. She was crying again. The siblings had been raised in a frosty home, their father’s liaisons being a known fact which no one was ever to discuss. Loyalty became an ideal for them. The worst thing about the drugs for Lawliet was that they made him betray his sister over and over again.

He bent down and crouched before her. “I know how this feels,” he said, “I know what it’s like to be the one who betrays. But, for what it’s worth, something like this was going to happen. You and Ray aren’t happy. You have never been happy. Letting him go is the right thing to do. Now you can give both of you a chance for something real.”

She looked up at him, eyes ringed and haunted like his own. “Do you believe in love? Real love?”

She seemed surprised.

He flashed back to a dark face with bright eyes and a brilliant smile. His stomach hurt

“I dunno,” he shrugged. “But if it’s out there, then you deserve it. Come on, let’s look for places I can afford to rent.”

She smiled weakly and nodded. Helping Lawliet would help distract her from her own sorrows, at least for now.

 

 

 

When Ray returned to the flat in the early hours, high from getting an arrest and drunk with joy and drink, he didn’t notice any changes in the house. He didn’t notice the quiet or the space. Instead he collapsed on his bed and fell straight asleep.

Chapter Text

The ghostly white light of the winter sun stretched out its fingers and gently grazed the streets of Greater Manchester. The burning lights of the lamp posts flicked off one by one. The streets were quiet. It was a Saturday and due to heavy snow no one was travelling unless absolutely necessary.

The sun, fragile and thin, died an early death and was engulfed by white clouds which took over the expanse of the northern sky. It was too cold to snow, temperatures diving below zero. There was no wind in the morning (gales were waiting patiently for the afternoon) and so a hush fell over the great county.

It was Saturday and all were still.

"Wendy?"

The ash-blonde turned to see her little brother standing in the kitchen threshold. He looked adorable, long hair covering some of his face. His pyjamas were a dark grey onesie with blue cupcakes patterned over it. She was sure the outfit had belonged to Misa at one point, but the twins often shared. The atmosphere between Wendy and Mello was still a little tense. She was long over their argument, but Mello had a habit of ruminating over things for a long time. Wendy had long assumed it was just part of him being very clever and secretly sensitive.

"What's up?" she asked lightly. He was staring into his mobile with a slight frown on his face.

"A friend of mine needs a place to stay temporarily."

The question hung unsaid in the air. She held her breath. This was potentially great news. Their house was four bedrooms, one room for each child and then the large one for mum. Since mum had fucked off, Wendy had taken over the new room. The spare was an expensive waste. She would have gladly rented it out but no one wanted a room in a noisy, often messy council house in a messed up area.

"Does he have a job?" she asked.

"He works full time at the Asda in town," Mello looked up and greeted her eyes.

She grinned, "your friend will be most welcome!"

Mello smiled brightly, god he was so pretty. She believed that if there was a god he was smiling down on the gay community because Mello was surely a gift from heaven. In terms of looks anyway. He was satanic in his attitude.

"Thanks Wendy. He's a good guy. He's weird, but nice. We met him at the Book Club."

"As long as he can pay his way," she said, turning back to making breakfast, "I don't care about how odd he may be."

 

 

 

In his Bed and Breakfast, Lawliet felt himself relax as he read the text. He could go live with Mello and Misa. Thank goodness.

"I suppose this is why it's good to make friends with people," he thought, "having contacts is useful in times of duress."

He and Naomi had waited a long time for Ray, but he hadn't returned home. She had become increasingly stressed, so in the end they left a note and left. He was dropped off at a near-by BnB and she went to their parents.

He was supposed to be in work today, but the shop was closed due to severe weather. Lawliet had sighed; he couldn't afford anywhere on his own and the idea of having housemates had been stressing him out. He had text Mello more out of desperation. The boy had been reluctant, but on hearing that Lawliet would actually be homeless, had agreed at once for him to come and live with them.

The house isn't amazing, the boy had text, it's kind of…y'know. But we're pretty nice. Wendy's fair. She'll not over-charge for the room. Honestly, it'd help us out having you here.

Lawliet packed up his over-night bag again and headed downstairs.

Outside looked pretty horrific, but Lawliet needed to go. He turned to the small, balding man at the reception desk who was watching an ancient TV situated on his desk.

"Are there any taxis running?"

The man shook his head slowly without even looking up at L. The dark-eyed man sighed and stepped outside. It was deeply cold. He wrapped his scarf around the bottom of his face and pulled down his hat so only his eyes were showing. It would take half an hour to get to Mello's. Longer in the snow. Lawliet glanced at his shoes. They were ones that used to belong to Ray, worn down but leathery. Hopefully they'd last the snow. His only other shoes were a pair of very old, white converse.

Shoving his hands into his pockets, his walked quickly. He nearly slipped a few times, the snow now turning to ice in the lethal cold.

It was very different from the warm climates he'd gotten used to in Asia and the south pacific. This was probably punishment for what he was doing to Light. Playing nasty tricks were not the hallmarks of good Buddhism. But Lawliet wasn't a nice person, so it made sense that he was a poor follower of the Buddha. He'd take his punishment on the chin.

He saw a few homeless people about, shivering in doorways. He felt for them. He would have spared some change but he had none. He didn't doubt that some of this people would be dead by the end of the day; it was too cold.

He thought about Light. The lawyer was probably at home with his horrible girlfriend, sneering at the likes of the poor and homeless. Probably the 'they should pull up their socks' types. It was amazing how those born and raised in affluence always thought they were experts of poverty. He felt a churning in his stomach. He ignored it, pulling down his scarf and panting for breath. Little puffs of white air billowed out of his mouth. He was hot and sweaty, but cold at the same time. It wasn't so much that Light was a snob that annoyed Lawliet. It was the fact that he was so false. At the café Light had been so nice, so warm and so charming. Lawliet found himself laughing at times, and Lawliet never laughed. So when he had caught himself, it had made him all the more bitter. It was as if he were the one being duped.

Lawliet stopped walking, breathing hard. His lungs rattled and his felt like ice was in them. He took out his phone, wiping sweat from his forehead, before checking GPS. He wasn't sure of how to get to Mello's from this area in town, which was new to him. He watched for a while before pulling his bag back up high on his shoulder and trudging on. It occurred to him that he should have probably told Mello he was coming today. He considered stopping to do so, but now he was moving he just wanted to get on with it. He had a feeling that if he stopped again he wouldn't be able to carry on.

 

 

 

Ray awoke at midday with a pounding head ache. His breath stank and felt fuzzy, like a squirrel had died in it. His body ached down to the bone. The flat was slightly chilly. He lay in pain for a while before it slowly calmed down and he could sense more. The flat was quiet. Naomi must be out. Lawliet could still be loitering, the guy was like a spectre.

Slowly Ray opened his eyes. The curtains were mercifully drawn. He sat up painfully and saw he was still in his clothes. Usually Naomi would have tucked him up in bed after stripping him down, so that was odd.

He rubbed his eyes and after a while felt well enough to stand up and go out of the room. The flat was immaculate. Everything brushed and cleaned. He wandered into the kitchen. No breakfast had been made. He even checked the microwave in case she'd left him something, but it was empty. The place smelt of detol and lemon- based cleaner. He sat at the table frowning. Well, he'd make himself something. The fridge was rammed with food; she must have gone shopping. He slammed it shut, wincing from the noise, and turned up the heating.

Just as he was making himself a cheese toastie, he saw a note on the kitchen fridge, held up by a stupid magnet she'd bought when they'd gone to Brighton. He thought it was tacky, a magnet of the Brighton skyline, but she said it was a memento. He plucked it down and read it twice, quickly the first time, much slower the second time.

Hello Ray,

Things haven't been right between us for a long time. I've decided to move out. Lawliet is getting his own place and will be gone as well. I've done enough shopping to last you and will pay my share of the rent and utilities for the rest of this month. I don't know if you want to talk, but if you do I'll be available. I think this is for the best.

I do love you.

All the best,

Naomi.

Ray sat down at the table. The cheese toastie lay forgotten. He stared for a while at the note in his hand and read it again. And then he read it again.

Anger suddenly boiled. His vision blurred as he crumpled the paper and hurled it across the room. He sat, breathing heavily. After a few minutes he got up, picked up the note, unrumpled it and read it again.

 

 

 

Early in the afternoon, the sky already darkening, the knock on the door was almost not heard due to Misa's loud wailing in time with Katy Perry from her bedroom.

Wendy opened the door, uncertain of who would be out in this weather. Sure enough, a frozen man stood on her door step, a bag in his hand and his lips turning blue. She swore loudly and ushered him in. The twins came from their respective areas and stared.

"It's L!" Misa cried. She ran over to him, "are you crazy? Why were you out in this weather?"

They pulled off his coat to reveal his thin shivering body. "I underestimate the cold," he finally said through chattering teeth. "Thank you for helping me."

"Get upstairs into the kitchen," commanded Wendy. Lawliet was led up by the twins. He left wet footsteps.

Wendy grabbed a towel and a blanket from the room he'd be staying in and headed up. In the kitchen the twins had settled him down in front of heater. Misa began to make a hot drink.

Mello pulled off his shoes, wrinkling his nose in distaste. "These are ruined," he informed his shivering partner in crime, "but that's a good thing. They're hideous."

Lawliet smiled weakly. Wendy entered and wrapped the towel around his head, drying him off. "You'll need to get in the shower," she said, "We'll get some dry clothes out of your bag. Honestly," she turned and looked him in the face, "if I had known you were coming today I would have helped you out, or better yet, discouraged you all together."

Lawliet shrugged helplessly, "I had to leave quickly. I was with my sister and her boyfriend, but they've split and she'd left the flat. I'm not on good terms with him generally so," he shrugged again, trailing off. Misa put a cup into his hands, making him settle somewhat in relief at the heat.

"Drink that then shower," said Wendy. She stood and put her hands on her hips, "welcome to the family."

With a twin standing anxiously either side and faced with this Valkyrie, he could only smile softly in response.

 

 

 

Light was alone in his town house. Takada, thankfully, had been visiting family the day before and due to snow was now stranded there. He'd spent the morning going over a new case that was coming his way, protecting some Polish gangster accused of trafficking, rape and murder. It was a big case and had the potential to be huge. His father's company were small so they were lucky to get a contract with something like this; but it seems that Light's reputation was finally beginning to grow. He looked through the notes grimly. The evidence against Pietro Kowalski was pretty damning. It was unlikely that they would get him off, unless there was some new evidence or if Light was just that damned good. Light was not humble but he also wasn't stupid; even he didn't have the ability to get this guy off if this was all the evidence they had against him. Still, sometimes a win wasn't needed to secure your place in the law community.

He sighed, feeling distracted and picked up his mobile. He scrolled down until he saw Jan's number. He smiled, remembering the lunch he'd had with her yesterday when he had been waiting for L…

'What do you think?' Light had asked, glancing down at the blonde reading The Model Wife.

A pair of pale green eyes looked at him. She smirked, 'possibly the most plebeian, embarrassing messes I've ever endured.' She sighed and brushed her hand through her hair, 'but my co-workers insist on my reading it.'

'The things we do to fit in. May I sit?'

'Of course.' She put down the book, not even bothering the mark the page she'd been reading. 'My name is Jan,' she smiled, teeth white. Her voice was low and deep, similar to Kiyomi's.

'Light.'

'Unusual name.'

'Very!' he laughed, 'My family have a history of unusual naming practices. We tend to name people by the characteristics we wish them to have. I have an aunt Honesty and Aunt Prudence as well as an Uncle Endeavour and a cousin Honour."

Jan smiled softly and sat back, nursing her hot drink. Going by the smell, it was hot chocolate. 'In some cultures, they name their children after the Saints. I suppose that was what your family do. Only instead of Saints it's virtues.' She glanced at him inquisitively, 'is Light a virtue?'

'I like to think so,' he answered, 'the light, both as a metaphor and literally, is a positive aspect. It chases away the darkness and all the dangers and negative connotations that coincide with it; death, hazards, lies…'

She bought her hot chocolate to her lips and sipped quietly, her eyes assessing. 'Are you against all of these then? You must be some sort of humanitarian? Altruistic, non-judgemental and kind to all?'

'I'm a lawyer,' he grinned and she let out a bark of laughter. 'I aim to be an honourable one,' he insisted, 'it's the family business. Our goal is to help people.'

'With a name like yours and with such lofty ideals, you would have been better in the church.'

'Who says I'm religious?' it was his turn to look slightly challenging and coy now, he too sipped his drink before continuing, 'and who is to say the religious institutions reflect these ideals?'

'Are you anti-theist?'

'A sceptic,' he leaned towards her. Her skin was smooth and creamy. Her eyelashes were very long and dark, considering the lightness of her hair. She was beautiful. 'You seem very keen on analysing me. Are you a psychiatrist?'

She laughed, lighter this time, 'if I was I wouldn't be drinking in a place like this. Which makes me wonder, why are you Mr. Hot-shot lawyer?'

He leaned back, 'I was meeting someone here.'

'A friend?'

'Not exactly. Just some…person in a circle of people I know. He's a strange man who is at home at such an establishment as this. He fancies himself very clever but,' Light shrugged, wishing he hadn't gone into so much detail with L. 'He's not like you. I think life has been hard on him.'

'How would you know?' she breathed out, shaking her head slightly.

He felt the need to get her back onside. 'He looks like a drug addict. I fear that sort of thing is common.'

'I see. How do you know I haven't had such a hard life and fancy myself clever? I am here, aren't I?' she gestured around the café.

'I'm not saying having a hard life is something one should be ashamed of,' he insisted, 'but drug addicts cause their own misery and bring down everyone else. I have little sympathy for them. And you do not fancy yourself clever; I know intelligence. You are a very intelligent woman; I can tell by the way you speak and how you hold yourself.'

'Maybe you are the one who's the psychiatrist.' She smiled playfully, 'you read my body language and assume a lot about me from it.'

Light laughed, 'I have every confidence in my assessment.'

'What if I told you I worked as a cashier in a supermarket? Or what if I were a cleaner?'

Light laughed heartily, 'I'd ask what you were studying in university, as surely you'd be doing such work to subsidise your lifestyle. Or,' he became serious now, 'I'd ask what went wrong in your life.'

She leaned on her hands, her elbows propped up either side of her hot chocolate, 'I run a health and beauty shop in the city centre. It's small but we have a loyal clientele.' She leaned over, running her hand across his bangs, 'you'd make quite the model for us.'

'There's a lot more to me than my looks.' Light could hear how hard his voice sounded then.

'The same could be said about me,' she answered, unperturbed by the warning in his tone, 'and yet you seem happy to judge me by my appearance.'

'It isn't your beauty I judged,' he said patiently, 'it was your manner I observed and extrapolated information from.'

'But I challenge your assessment,' she answered, again, quickly. He wasn't used to this. 'I say you are incorrect.'

'And what have I been incorrect about? You are indeed an intelligent, successful woman.'

'You measure my success how?'

'By the fact that you have a business and are well dressed.'

'Is that all? But I am here?'

'Why?'

She grinned, getting up to leave, 'why don't you work it out? Tell me what you have discovered when we next meet.'

She was out the door, her coat billowing in the cold winter wind, before he could get an answer out. On the table she'd written a number on the napkin…

In the present, Light looked at the number, now in his phone. Should he call her?

In all honesty, he wasn't even sure how their conversation had gone. It had been short and bordering on one-upmanship than any traditional flirting. But… but he'd been engaged. Most of his conversations with Kiyomi were about someone in the office she didn't like or their relationship; with his parents it was about work and how he was progressing; and with Matsuda it was about television shows he'd watched the night before or work. Light was floating through life, going through the motions and never really listening to anyone.

This woman made him listen to her. She made him rethink his usual lines and compliments. It had almost reminded him of L in that she had turned everything he said around and questioned his motives behind it. She'd even hinted at him being arrogant the same way L did. Only, of course, with her it was different. It helped that she was beautiful and not some drug-addled mess. Further, she had been quite charming where L was a smug nuisance.

He sat back down on his bed and looked about the room. It was bare and pale, the walls a pale magnolia and a few photos on the wall of his family. The light of the snow bore through the windows, washing out the colour of the room further.

Nothing seemed real.

He sighed, burying his head in his hands. He was glad he'd met Jan yesterday, but he couldn't help feeling unfulfilled all the same. He wanted to see L.

The book club would be back on by the end of the week, and he found himself praying that the weather calmed down enough for them to meet. He wanted to see L. He even wanted to see the others; the silly twins, Matsuda and his little girlfriend, dark-eyed Nate… He wanted to see them. The book club had been different. It had been interesting.

Perhaps, with these more colourful characters in his life, he could break out of the monotonous miasma he'd found himself in. He'd argue with L and Mello. He'd laugh quietly at Misa. He'd hopefully get along with Nate one day. He'd have a new girlfriend maybe? Someone who asked him questions, who answered his reply's quickly.

In the pale room, sitting on in his boxers and vest, Light realised that he couldn't live his life anymore. That he'd hit a crunch point.

He wasn't prepared to do anything about Kiyomi or Jan yet; he barely knew Jan and wasn't going to make any assumptions over where their relationship could develop. He still didn't know why she was in that seedy café.

Instead, he took out his phone and text L.

Why did you not show up yesterday?

Moments later, there was a reply: I didn't want to go. I am angry with you.

Why are you angry?

Perhaps you should guess?

Or perhaps you should tell me?

Being disingenuous is unattractive.

Light snorted: As if you can talk! He bit back. Being disingenuous is your standard method of communication.

There were a few minutes of silence. Light grew frustrated and text: I never knew you were such a sensitive child. I'm sorry if your date went wrong.

It wasn't a date. It was something more important. I'm not angry about that.

Oh really?

Yes.

What are you angry about then? If I know then I can humbly apologise.

I am angry that you gave in to your baser nature so easily. Had you not sabotaged me, you would have proved me wrong in my assessment of you. But you are exactly what I knew you were.

Light paused. His chest felt strange, and he slowly began to realise that the last text had stung. He didn't want to apologise, he felt that would weaken him somehow. But he needed to fix this. What if it got back to the rest of the group? And L was right; Light bought into exactly the kind of spitefulness L had accused him of.

We got off on the wrong foot, he text, deflection seeming the best option, let me make it up to you.

You said something similar to this before.

I do not remember? Come round to mine, Light's heart beat hard in his chest, we'll have dinner. Come round Wednesday. Kiyomi will be out then.

He waited then for several minutes. His breathing was hard and he stared at his mobile. Finally:

I'll think about it. I'll message you closer to the day.

Light gritted his teeth and breathed in deeply trying to dislodge the faint feel of anxiety in his chest and stomach.

I'll like forward to it. See you soon.

He put the phone down and brushed his hand through his hair again, grimacing slightly when he realised how greasy it was. He would convince L to meet him and this time he'd defeat the dark-haired man with his intelligence and good nature. He wouldn't let L win. Soon, the Book Club members would all be on Light's side and even L will desperately want to be Light's friend. Light smiled, feeling better. He got up and left to go shower. He felt light and found himself smiling.

 

 

 

"Who are you texting?"

Lawliet looked up from his spot on the settee. Misa was leaning over him.

He smiled softly, "it was Light. He asked me to go to his for dinner later in the week."

She gasped, then pouted. "It's because you're clever. He pays attention to people like that." She sat on the floor by the settee and watched Lawliet. "Could you teach me to be clever?"

Lawliet shifted, "what do you mean? What do you mean by 'clever'?"

She shrugged, "like you and Light and Nate."

"Your brother told me you and Nate had met up."

She smiled, "we had. It was fun. I think Mello's jealous though."

"Nate is a very clever man, so if you can hold his attention I doubt it would take anything more to win over Light." Lawliet leaned up slightly and looked down at her with an accessing expression. "You're very pretty Misa," he said seriously, "and people will take advantage of that. Have you ever had a boyfriend who only wanted you because you were pretty?"

She nodded. All of her boyfriends had been that way; that's why she wanted Light now.

"Well, that's them being superficial," he explained, "but there's a lot of different types of superficial people. You could get a gamer nerd who only wants a girlfriend who conforms to his limited, unachievable fantasy. There are men like Light who likewise demand a lot from their partners but only because they see their partner as an extension of themselves as opposed to another actual human being. Kiyomi is nothing more than a prop to Light. She is snooty, which makes him think she's classy, and she's rude which makes him think she's witty. But he's the same. It's a false superiority. Nate is truly clever, and he likes you. Your brother is truly clever, and he loves you. It's not your issue Misa." He paused, "try to stop letting men dictate your personality. You are you. And you're great."

He sat back. He still felt very cold and miserable. He had those words in his head a long time, but not for Misa, but for his sister. She hadn't contacted him yet, so he'd message her soon. He hoped she was ok.

He started as a hand touched his arm. He looked and saw Misa looking down. Tears were in her eyes. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but no words came out. Instead she gave him a quick kiss and then left the living room quickly, as if embarrassed.

He touched his cheek. Well, that was nice. Maybe she and he had truly made peace now. An added bonus was that he had simply told the truth; often when he told the truth people got angry with him. It was nice to have things turn out the other way for once. Perhaps he should speak those words to his sister, as he'd wanted to for so long.

He looked down at his mobile. It looked like he'd just received an email.

 

 

 

Naomi lay in the single bed of her childhood bedroom. On the walls were posters of Backstreet Boys and Boys II Men. On her shelves were VHS's and mix tapes. On the floor was a large cassette and record player, a few records leaning against it. It was cold in the house, as her parents hated putting on the heating. She shivered, climbing painfully out of bed. She was wearing a tracksuit with two pairs of socks, but still felt cold. She went to her wardrobe and put on her largest sweater. She pushed her hair back into a messy bun and sat at her old desk, staring at her reflection in the stained, grubby mirror.

What was happening to her life?

She'd lost her boyfriend. She'd lost her home.

Thank god she still had her job at least.

Naomi had left her phone of all day. She felt bad, not even knowing if Lawliet was ok. The night before they'd tried finding somewhere for him to rent, but all the prices were too high. In the end, sensing her growing panic at remaining in the flat and Ray's imminent return, he'd assured her that he could stay with friends. They'd left shortly afterwards, she dropping him off at a BnB.

After arriving at her parents she'd avoided talking to them by claiming tiredness and going straight to bed. After a moment she turned on her old laptop, signed into her emails and wrote one to Lawliet.

Hey Lawlipop,

Thank you for supporting me. Sorry for being such a pain. Please tell me you're ok. Where are you? Who are these friends you're staying with?

Lots of love,

Naomi.

She sat back and read it through once before sending it. She was worried about these so called friends; had he just made it up for her case? Or was he going back to the sort of seedy types he'd known before during his addiction? She couldn't stand it if he ended up homeless or back on drugs because she wasn't strong enough to handle it.

After a while she realised she wouldn't get a message straight away and so instead went downstairs. She could smell breakfast frying. Her mother no longer worked and dedicated herself to volunteer work. Her father was a GP.

She stepped into the kitchen. It, like the rest of the house, was large and fitted. The whole house was too large for her parents, but they'd worked hard all their lives and felt entitled to their wealth. She entered the kitchen anxiously, keeping her head low.

"Morning," greeted her father, who sat at the kitchen peering at yesterday's newspaper. "About time you got up. You could have bothered washing and dressing before you came down. Honestly, your mother and I never raised you to be so slovenly."

"Sorry dad." She sat down. Her father was a slim, handsome man. His skin was a dark brown, his hair jet black and his eyes such a rich dark brown that they appeared black also. She took after him quite a lot. Her mother was pale skinned with light brown hair and deep blue eyes. Even with age she was still very beautiful. She too was slim, but had broad shoulders which both her offspring had inherited. She placed a meal in front of her daughter. Naomi thanked her and begin to eat slowly.

Her mother sat opposite, only eating a small bowel of porridge. "So," she began, and Naomi felt her heart sink; she recognised her mother's tone, "when are you going to tell us what happened? Has Ray had enough?"

"We aren't working out; we need a break."

Her parents looked at her expectantly. Naomi sighed, "please, I don't want to discuss it."

"You never do!" cried her mother exasperated, "this is why we cannot help you! You never speak to us."

"You can't help with this," Naomi shrugged. She felt petulant and adolescent, something about her being at home always turned her back into a teenager, or so it felt. She paused before, "Lawliet was staying with us…"

Her father sighed loudly as her mother rolled her eyes. "What has he done now?" cried her father.

"Nothing!" barked Naomi, before she remembered herself and said more respectfully, "nothing. He was very supportive. He came back with me. He has a job."

"Doing what?"

"Working in a supermarket."

Her father snorted and her mother looked to be ready to burst.

"He's doing what he can," insisted Naomi, "anyway, he moved out when I did. I don't know where he is."

"Well, that's nothing new. We're not discussing him, we're discussing you."

"He's part of it."

Her father became angry now and cried, "he's nothing to do with it!"

"You always use your brother as a diversion tactic," said her mother, "he's always your excuse. What happened with Ray? Is there any chance of reconciliation?"

Naomi felt her eyes tearing. The accusation of her using Lawliet stung and was an added blow to her self-esteem. "I doubt it."

"Probably a good thing," her father stated now, looking more sedate and settling into eating his food, "Ray and you argued a lot. And he was a surly fellow. You can do better. Plenty more fish in the sea."

'Ray could do a lot better than me,' she thought, but instead she smiled weakly and thanked her father.

Later, after she'd showered, she went back to her room and checked her emails. Lawliet had responded.

Hey Nomi,

I'm ok. Got caught in the weather and now have a cold, but being looked after. I am with the Kenwood family; Wendy and her younger siblings Mello and Misa. I met them in the Book Club. I'm ok. Nothing untoward. They're nice. Maybe sometime later this week we could meet for coffee?

Naomi let out a slight laugh, relief flowing through her body. All the tension she felt melted away. She was grateful that he was with actual normal people (she'd double check, of course) but what hit her the most was his final query. They could go get coffee, like normal adult siblings, like friends. It was…nice. She felt like she didn't actually need to look after him anymore; that he was an adult, like her.

Hey, yeah let's do that. Send me the Kenwood's address and I'll pick you up after work on Thursday.

She smiled, that meant she'd be able to verify he was telling the truth about his living arrangements.

Of course, came the quick reply. He reeled off an address. She smiled and messaged that she loved him. And Lawliet, for the first time, actually wrote that he loved her back.

"You look cheerful."

He glanced up and saw Wendy smiling down at him. She passed him a cup of hot chocolate and sat on the chair opposite him. She sipped her drink before putting the television on. It was on low and she just left it on the first channel that came on, which was showing a programme about antiques. Lawliet had a feeling she wasn't really watching it.

"I heard what you said to Misa," she said still facing the telly, "I was just outside the living room and I heard the whole thing. I wasn't purposely eaves-dropping, but I didn't want to interrupt." She looked at Lawliet, "thank you for saying what you did. She doesn't hear that sort of thing often and I don't have the right…well, the right sort of words for it. I try to speak to them like that, but," she shrugged and gave an embarrassed grin, "I'm not clever. Not like the twins. I was crap at English in school because I could never really get my ideas out. I can't explain how I, well, how I think or feel."

Lawliet observed her for a little while before admitting, "the words I spoke to her are the ones I wished I could say to my sister. I think, by what I've seen, that you are a perfectly intelligent and capable woman. I certainly couldn't look after to teenagers on my own. I can barely look after myself. Intelligence comes in many forms and doesn't have anything to do with worth. For what it's worth, I think Misa knows you care for her."

"I don't doubt that, but I worry she thinks I think she's stupid. It's just that Mello is so bright. I can't…I dunno. But like you say, there's all sorts of different cleverness, isn't there?"

Lawliet nodded and for a while the pair sat peacefully as a woman on the television crowed over a very expensive piece of artwork that had been hanging about in her attic for twenty years.

"Thing is," Wendy said at last, "I know your sort of cleverness. I don't mean to pry but…why aren't you doing something in a university? You're that type of clever. Why do you work in a supermarket?"

"I started taking drugs when I was younger," he answered flatly, "it started in college, got worse through uni, and it was only when I woke up in a crack den that I realised that somewhere along the way I'd lost control."

"Jesus, what happened to make you start?"

"That's the thing, nothing. It rarely does. People think a big, life-changing thing happened to make you start using, but for me it slowly crept up on me." He looked at her, "am I going to have to leave now?"

She turned quickly from the television to stare at him, as if startled, "what? No, of course not. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. I just need to know that you're reasonably clean now and no one's going to be knocking my door looking for you."

He shook his head, "I went to a rehabilitation centre. I've been clean just under two years. My debtors are all paid off." He looked back at the television screen, suddenly feeling glum. His parents had gone through a lot of misery, and money, to get him back on track. Naomi was angry with them for cutting him off, but he felt that he deserved it. He hadn't been the son they wanted or the son they'd deserved. He'd never been mistreated as a child. He had no bad background. There was no excuse for him to have fallen as low as he had. He knew they were ashamed of him, but loved him enough to make sure he wouldn't be killed. But now, he was no longer their problem.

He wished he could go to them and say sorry, but he also knew that it wouldn't mean anything. Words were cheap.

Across the way, Wendy had glanced over in time to see Lawliet's expression darkening. "Hey," she called, snapping him out of his reverie. She smiled at him, "what you went through is hard, and two years is a long time. Well done."

Was that a blush he was sporting?

Lawliet smiled shyly, "thank you."

Chapter Text

Mello had never had a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It was something he was quietly embarrassed about. Misa had been openly dating from around the age of ten, and even before then had had boyfriends in a childish sort of way (i.e. walking around the playground holding hands). But Misa was straight so things were a bit easier for her, and all credit it to her she had never mentioned it in their fights.

Mello didn’t have real-life crushes either. He had only ever fancied guys from the television or from fictional books. It hadn’t mattered what they looked like. His only crushes so far had been Stephen Fry, Simon Amstell, Sherlock Holmes and Brian Cox. But then, after the book club, he’d slowly begun to notice that one name and one face kept popping up into his mind. At first it had just been yet another intruding thought; one that had to compete with a million others. But this one seemed to be winning, forcing its way to the forefront repeatedly.

At first he thought it was because Nate had managed to annoy him so much. There was something smug and irritating about the white-haired gnome. But then, about three nights ago, Mello had one of the most explosive (and messy) sex dreams of his life. He woke to the cold of their council house, his body too hot, his skin prickling with sweat, his trousers spattered and sticky and him breathing hard. He brushed sweaty bangs from his forehead with a shaky hand. He remembered the dream very graphically. It hadn’t just been dirty though, if it had it would have been easier to digest. Instead, it had been passionate and deep and he had felt…he had felt that someone had loved him. Romantically. Waking up, he felt some shame and awkwardness about the dream, but perhaps most embarrassingly, he felt a sense of loss and loneliness.

He thought of how stunned he’d been that Misa had made friends with Nate. It had angered him, made him resentful. Why would someone like Nate be nice to his idiot sister but treat him with disdain? It had been humiliating at the book club, and Misa fitting in with Nate had emphasised that humiliation. At least Lawliet had liked him, and god knows Mello had liked Lawliet a lot more than Nate.

But still…

Mello got up, peeled off his clothes and went into the bathroom. He scrubbed down his pyjama bottoms in the sink before clambering into the shower. Perhaps it was just a weird one-off. Perhaps Nate represented all the people that seemed to take an automatic disliking to Mello and also of all the opportunities that Mello would likely never have.

He got out of the shower and turned on the washing machine, loading it with his stained pyjamas and adding other clothes of matching colour to the cycle. He then began to make breakfast, automatically making enough for three people.

Wendy bustled into the kitchen just as the kettle boiled. “Hey,” she greeted, “you’re up early.”

He was indeed. It was seven am. Usually on a Sunday neither he nor Misa would rise out of bed before 1pm. Wendy was of different stock, adulthood forcing her to be responsible. She was already showered and dressed. She had been pulling her long blonde hair into a ponytail as she had entered. She smiled, “you made bacon and eggs. Great! Make a bit more for Lawliet.”

“Oh yeah,” he muttered, putting in the extra bits.

She began making two coffees and glanced at her brother. She knew something was up but was unsure of how to approach it. Mello was a teenage boy in a house of women, and sometimes she worried about how lonely he was. Perhaps with Lawliet about he would have a positive person to talk to? Sure, Lawliet had a worrying past, but who didn’t? Besides, after hearing Lawliet talk to Misa yesterday Wendy was thinking that he was a good thing for the twins. However, all this said, it was still her responsibility to look after her siblings. Maybe she could take his advice and stop worrying whether she was ‘clever’ enough for Mello and just try talking to him instead?

She placed the mug of coffee on the side next to him as he continued to stare blankly down at the pan of sizzling bacon and eggs.

“So what woke you up?”

A bit of colour began to glow on his pale skin. “Bad dream,” he shrugged.

“Oh.” She sipped on her coffee. One thing she hated about teens was how reticent they were, especially around adults. “What was it about?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Right…well. Well how did it make you feel? Scared, sad, lonely?”

He looked up at her and shrugged.

“Is there anything I can do?” she pushed further.

He grew frustrated now, “it was just a dream Wendy.”

Wendy felt embarrassed then. She took her coffee and sat at the table, “I know,” she muttered, wondering now whether she should just let it drop, “I just worry that’s all.”

He scooped out the food and served it onto plates, covering the rest for the others, before joining her at the table.

“Got any plans today? Are you in work tomorrow?”

“Yes and yes,” she answered carefully, grasping at her plate. “I need to get the wages back up as I screwed up last week. So I don’t care if Scotland turns into one giant snowstorm and getting there tomorrow. I’ll hire a Sherpa if I have to.”

“Does it matter so much if we have a tenant now?”

“We’re behind on payments. The council are going to take us to court again if we don’t get it sorted. So we need his rent and more. But, I also don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He’s a good guy and isn’t exactly a millionaire himself.”

“I wish I was working. I wish I’d not bothered with A-Levels and just gotten a job.”

She looked at him and smiled. She wanted to tell him to not be stupid, that he needed to do his A-levels and would have to fight to get into university. But she also knew that they were drowning in debt.

“I know you do,” she said at last, “but you’re flying through your course, bad behaviour aside, so you may as well stick with it for now. It’ll be worth it in the long run.”

“Maybe not.”

She glanced at him again, he was moving his food around the plate moodily. “Hardly anyone who finished sixth form last year are in work. I see them just hanging about the shops.”

“You’re different.”

“But what if I’m not?”

“You’re clever, they weren’t.”

Mello sighed and put his head in his hand. He felt dramatic sitting in such a pose, but he couldn’t help it. Stress and anxiety were over-flowing out of him again, seeping through his pores. “Who cares if I’m clever?” he began, hating that he was off-loading on his poor sister again, “who will hire me? Some kid from the shit part of town? The kid who got good grades, but came from a crap school? The fucking weirdo poofter who has one mate?”

His chest hurt suddenly and he felt the hot shame coursing through his veins. “This is Britain,” he complained bitterly, “it doesn’t matter if you’re clever. It matters how much money you have. That decides what school you go to, which decides your friends and contacts. We had a Prime Minister who stuck his dick into the mouth of a dead pig to impress his friends. He was still considered worthier than someone who’s studied part time for over six years at the open university.”

Wendy gritted her teeth and took out a cigarette, “lots of people from working class backgrounds have made it.”

“Not recently,” he bit back, “and the working class ‘making it’ is the same as some hick in the USA getting big in Hollywood; we all know the big names who became stars but they’re a drop in the ocean to all those who failed.”

She lit the cigarette, “well, stay in school and you have a chance.”

“I wish we lived in an actual meritocracy, then maybe I would.”

“I don’t know what that means,” she sighed as Mello opened his mouth to explain, “no don’t worry about telling me. Look, the way I see it is; you don’t try, you fail, you do try, you might not fail. So, you may as well try, ok? I don’t want you working. Besides, you’d get bored.”

Mello let out a tired, frustrated sigh. It was one she recognised; it wasn’t him being rude or obnoxious, but the sound he made when he genuinely felt his loneliest, when he knew no one understood what he was trying to say. He blinked too slowly and stared forwards, eyes blank and unseeing. She hated this expression. He seemed to do it on accident, often literally having to rouse himself out of it.

“Mello,” she said firmly. He raised his eyes to look at her, blinking the darkness away, “Matt isn’t your only friend, you also have the people at the Book Club.”

He scowled, his face like a naughty cherub’s, “I don’t want to go to the Book Club anymore!”

“Why not?” she sighed, feeling frustration building in her chest and trying to let it go.

“They don’t like me.”

“You get on with Lawliet.”

Mello went quiet at that. He looked to the side, scowling lightly and his eyes filling with tears. She stood up and walked over to the counter as he rubbed his eyes angrily. Wendy scooped out two more plates and covered them over; a redundant set of actions performed only to give Mello time to recover.

Just then Misa arrived. Her hair was up in a messy bun and her face was pale, free of all make up. Apart from slightly fuller lips she looked exactly like her brother. She wore a pair of Pyjamas decorated with the characters of Dragon Ball Z – they had once belonged to Mello. She was on her phone.

“Hey,” she yawned, sitting at the table and thanking Wendy for placing breakfast before her, “why we up so early?”

“Just one of those rare mornings I suppose.” Wendy sat beside Mello opposite Misa.

“I checked in on Lawliet earlier,” Misa grinned fondly, “he was sleeping like a baby. I don’t think he’s very well still.”

“Don’t go into people’s rooms without permission,” sighed Wendy, “especially when they’re sleeping.”

“Transport is more or less back to normal today,” Misa carried on, “I’m going out with a friend to the fun fair.” She glanced at her phone and said nonchalantly, “do you want to come Mello?”

He shrugged, still feeling tired and miserable, “yeah sure.”

Misa cheered suddenly in a way that would normally make him suspicious, but he was too glum to care.

 

 

Later, the twins were in Misa’s bedroom arguing loudly as they dressed for the day, switching clothes between them.

“You stretched out my shirt with your big tits!” Mello was shrieking in rage.

Wendy had just gone downstairs with a cup of tea for Lawliet, and stopped for a second to listen.

“My tits are not that big,” Misa hissed like she was speaking in parseltongue, “you know I hate admitting that, you know it!”

“Well they’re bigger than mine,” he continued unrepentant, “and you ruined my tightest shirt!”

Rolling her eyes, Wendy was about to knock Lawliet’s door when it opened. His hair was messier than usual, but his eyes looked like shadowed. A light scruff was on his chin. He looked quite sexy actually, which stunned her a little.

“Morning,” he said in his quiet, low voice, “oh is that for me? Thanks.”

He took the tea and winced as he took a sip. It needed more sugar. Like, a lot.

He looked over to the bedroom door where the twin harpies could be heard still bickering. “They seem excited.”

“They’re going out to the carnival,” she sighed. “I’ve got to go for work.”

He nodded, “me too, but this afternoon.”

“That reminds me, here’s the spare keys.” She gave them to him with restrained sadness. They used to be mum’s pair.

“Thanks,” he answered, not picking up on her emotion.

“Breakfast is upstairs, if you like fry ups.”

He nodded vaguely and floated away in that day-dreamy manner he had about him. She watched him go and sighed. She needed a boyfriend. Like, a real one. Crushing on her new tenant would be bad. Plus, knowing her luck, he was probably gay.

 

 

The paths had turned to a muddy grey sludge as the twins trooped to the fairground. It was situated on a field, not that you could tell with the intense snow fall.

“I invited Matt,” said Mello quietly, “he said he’ll meet up with us when he can.”

“Cool.” Misa snuck a side glance at her brother. He’d been pretty morose the last few days and she wondered if he was falling into a depression again. Unlike the stereotype about twins, Misa and Mello did not have some sort of  "psychic connection" and could be as strange and indecipherable to one another as they could with anyone else.

“I said we’d meet my friend by the Big Dipper," she said, "he’s never been to a fairground before, can you believe it?”

“He?” Mello stirred like a waking dragon, “who are we seeing?”

“Oh my god, don’t cause a fuss!”

“Is it Nate?”

Misa crossed her arms, “look, he’s had a hard time of it, so give him a break and be nice today. Please?”

Mello was about to ask what she meant by that when she suddenly spotted someone, smiled and waved.

He looked over to see a small figure, wrapped up in a large coat, thick gloves, hat and scarf.

Nate looked over, big dark eyes blinking.

It caught Mello’s breath slightly. He would have stood frozen in the snow like an idiot had Misa not grabbed his hand and dragged him over to the ride where Nate stood.

“Nate! Glad you could make it!”

Nate nodded. It actually had been quite difficult to leave the apartment. He’d worried that he would get lost trying to find the fair, or that this was a prank by Misa or that she’d back out last minute, or that they’d have a horrible time together and the whole friendship thing would fail.

“Hello,” he greeted the twins, who were rosy-cheeked and both looked lovely.

“You’ve never been to a fair before?” asked Mello.

“No.”

“Ok, well this isn’t the best one around, but it’ll do as an introduction. What ride that we go on first? I reckon Bumper Cars, they’re a staple.”

“You choose Nate,” Misa grinned, “it’s your first time.”

Nate looked between them, deciding to try and get on Mello’s good side, “let’s go with Bumper Cars.”

Mello whooped, before checking his phone, “brilliant, Matt’s nearly here. That means two against two. C’mon!”

Each twin took one of Nate’s hands into their own and the three ran off in the direction of the Bumper Cars. Nate was slightly slower than the twins, not being used to moving his legs so much. But they held on tight anyway, almost dragging him along in the snow. The wind whipped against his face. His gloved hands felt warm.

He felt alive.

The first round Nate sat with Misa, watching her control the car and actually chuckling when she began screaming and shouting at Mello, who rammed into them.

“It’s the point of the game you dumb bitch!” Mello had shrieked at her as he passed them. When Misa finally got them out of a rut she’d chased her brother round the ring. The twins personal war resulted in the casualty of many other people in the ring also, screaming people having their cars rammed so hard they went hurtling across the ring as the twins chased each other around. It was fun.

When their go was up, Mello announced that he was going to go collect Matt.

Misa and Nate waited together, standing under a canopy and stamping their cold feet on the solid snow.

“Are you ok with their being a new person?” asked Misa.

The truth was, Nate had been quite worried about meeting yet another person. He could just about handle Mello, and only because he’d seen him before. Matt was a new creature entirely.

But he didn’t want to seem like a loser. He was already a little older than the twins but he felt like a child compared to them.

“I’m ok,” he shrugged, aiming for nonchalance.

“If you are uncomfortable,” Misa insisted, “let me know and I’ll make an excuse so we can go. I’ll make it about me. It’s nothing to worry about.”

“Thanks,” he looked at her, assessing, “you’re kind Misa.”

She went pink then, but smiled happily at the compliment.

“Hey.”

Nate turned around to see Mello standing with two take-out cups. He handed one to Nate, “it’s hot chocolate.”

“Thanks.” Nate took the drink cautiously and sipped it. It was watery and weak, but welcomingly hot on this cold day. Mello looked embarrassed, sipping his own hot drink. Nate wondered what it was.

“This is Matt,” Mello gestured to a red-haired boy who was giving a cup to Misa.

“Hey,” the boy smiled.  He had a sort of vacancy about him, as if his mind was elsewhere. It actually made Nate feel a bit better, as if some of the pressure was off.

“Where to now?” asked Mello eagerly, “Bumpers again? The Whizzlers?”

“Nah man we have drinks,” answered Matt. He looked over at Nate lazily, “you cool with us going on the Ferris Wheel? It’s chill.”

Nate smiled and nodded. He didn’t know what a Ferris Wheel was.

 

 

Naomi was gently playing a few keys on the grand piano out in the foyer, gearing herself up to playing a tune at some point when their maid quietly announced someone was on the phone for her.

Naomi got up with a sigh and thanked the maid. She felt bad not knowing what her name was, but this girl was new and Naomi had spent the last couple of days with other things on her mind. She knew who would be calling.

“Hey Ray.”

“Hi.”

A taut pause.

“So,” Ray began carefully, “what’s up?”

She shrugged, tears forming in her eyes. She swallowed a few times. “I um, I just needed some time.”

“How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

Naomi pressed her fingers to her eyes and took in a deep breath. She cleared her throat. “I-I’m not coming back, Ray. It’s over. I’m sorry.”

“O-K…” he drawled, as if struggling to comprehend what she was saying, “ok…I know it’s been a rough couple of months but…is it because of the arguments? Some of the stuff I said? I’m sorry. I’ve had a hard case at work. It’s no excuse but,” Ray swallowed, looking down at his bare feet whilst standing in their cold corridor, “but it has been gruesome and sometimes I take it home with me. I’m sorry, sorry for being harsh. Even with Lawliet. He’s…he helped at work actually. Did you tell him I said thanks?”

Naomi was crying now, silently, “it’s been more than a few months,” she whispered, choked with emotion, “it’s been like this for some years now. I don’t think we’re good for each other anymore.”

“But…Naomi I still love you. And I know you still love me.”

She nodded even if he couldn’t see, “yeah but we don’t like each other anymore. It can’t work like it has been.”

“Then we’ll make a change. Look, we’ll go on holiday. As soon as my case is done. All three of us, if you want. We’ll bond, get to know one another again.”

“Ray-”

“We’ve been together too long to just throw it away,” he sighed in frustration, “I’ve loved you since school!”

“Maybe that’s it. We need to see new people.”

“This is Halle isn’t it? You spend one night out with her and next thing you wanna see different people! Look, relationships aren’t supposed to be easy. They’re hard work. It’s not like a Jane Austen film. There is no happily ever after. We just have to keep going.”

“I think,” she sniffed, “that one day you’ll meet someone who will be right for you. And you’ll be glad we did this. That we were brave.”

“Naomi–!”

“And we let each other go. I do love you and I’m going to miss you so much,” she began to sob, “so, so much!”

“Naomi don’t!”

She hung up the phone. Running up the stairs Naomi flew into her room, slamming the door behind her, and shoved a pillow over her face as she allowed herself to cry freely.

Ray put down the phone receiver carefully before slipping to the floor. It was ok. This meant he could focus on work. And she was right, they could now meet other people.

Only Ray didn’t want to meet anyone else.

They’d broken up many times in the past. But he had a still feeling in his stomach. He knew that this would be their last break up because they really weren’t getting back together. It was all over. Sixteen years they’d been together, off and on. Sixteen years and… nothing to show for it. No marriage. No kids. Nothing. Barely any good memories even, but maybe they would resurface in time. He was in his early thirties now. Stuck in a job that sucked the life out of him and now his life partner was just…gone. Just gone. In a night.

Slowly, he heaved himself up and went into the living room. The case files of the Kowalski situation were on his coffee table. May as well get some work done.

 

 

“Dude you’re fucking awesome.” Nate inwardly glowed at Matt’s praise. “Seriously, nothing phases you. How are you not scared of anything?”

“I was concerned about the safety measures of The Wipeout and the red rollercoaster.”

“But not how fast they were?” grinned Matt, his attention on the little white haired boy and not his games console, “or how high they were?”

“No.”

Matt turned to an unimpressed looking Mello with a grin, “this guy is cool.”

“Ugh,” Mello rolled his eyes, “no he’s not. Stop gushing it’s embarrassing.”

They were sitting in a small café. Outside the snow had started coming down heavily and it had become too cold to be outside. All of them had mugs of hot, sweet tea and a plate of chips in front of them.

“All the busses will have stopped,” Misa complained, “we’ll have to wait until it’s stopped snowing before we can go home.”

“We could walk?” shrugged Mello.

“In this weather?”

“No way it’ll damage my Gameboy,” muttered Matt, who was already back on it, plate of chips and mug of tea forgotten.

“It’ll take ages,” Misa continued. She then gave a sly look to Nate, “Nate’s flat is closer…”

Nate looked up suddenly with his wide eyes.

“Unless you need a break,” she amended. She knew she and her brother could be a bit much sometimes. Wendy loved them to bits and she often had to take a break.

Nate smiled, “it’s fine,” he gave a quick glance to Mello who was staring moodily into his tea, “you can come over.”

Misa clapped her gloved hands together, “excellent! Thank you! I’ll let Wendy know.” She pulled out her phone and began to text.

Nate observed Mello. He’d been somewhat sad all day. He wanted to reach out and touch Mello’s hand, like they did in films. But he wasn’t sure if that was the sort of thing that happened in real life, and the thought of doing so made his stomach feel fluttery and strange. He opted for staring at Mello instead.

To the side, Matt gave Nate an odd look, before glancing at Misa, who smirked over her tea.

Matt rolled his eyes and continued with the game.

 

 

 

Lawliet had asked to work extra hours. He liked Wendy and the twins, but he needed money. His usual hours only paid enough for the rent of his room and his share of the bills. If he wanted to buy anything extra or actually start saving money, he’d need more hours. He’d considered getting a loan, but his credit was shot to pieces after years of wasting thousands on getting high or escaping his family. If it hadn’t been for his parents paying for his rehabilitation (again) he would still be in some hovel shooting up somewhere.

Lawliet still found the staff room grim, but he appreciated it now. It was a place of free tea and biscuits, which saw him through most of the day.

The shop was near closing and he was restocking shelves. Anthony and Guprit had done it earlier, but the teens had done such a bad job that Ukita, his line manager, had asked him to redo it.

“Lawliet,” that was Ukita.

Lawliet turned to see Ukita looking a bit nervous. Next to him was Ray, who looked like a stereotypical hard-done-by cop. He had an afternoon shadow on his chin, giving him a rough look, and tired eyes ringed with red. He had his hands jammed into his leather jacket. He must have been cold. Though it was early evening, outside was already pitch black and snowing.

Lawliet approached cautiously.

“This man wanted to see you,” said Ukita, sounding doubtful. “He said you were family?”

“Yeah,” (kind of).

Ukita nodded and walked away.

Ray sniffed, “sorry to bother you at work, I said I was an officer and it was important so hopefully you won’t get in trouble.”

“It’s ok,” shrugged Lawliet, at a loss as to what was happening here, “Ukita’s pretty nice.”

Ray was nodding, not looking at Lawliet, “cool…you’re working late.”

“Overtime.”

“Volunteered?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow,” he let out a sardonic laugh, “I feel like you and your sister have just…changed, overnight.”

Lawliet didn’t know what to say to that and so stayed quiet. He hated situations like this. He couldn’t read the signs. He couldn’t read between the lines. He didn’t understand.

“Or is it that everyone’s changing and I’m just staying the same?” Ray shrugged and looked at Lawliet with glassy eyes. “I wanted to say thank you, for your notes on my case. You shouldn’t have looked but…it’s fine now. I told my sergeant about you. He and the rest of my team also convey their thanks.”

Lawliet nodded.

“You ever think of going into law enforcement?”

Lawliet blinked, “um, no. And I doubt I could be, given my history.”

Ray bared his teeth in what could pass as a smile. “A rich kid like you should know there are always loopholes and ways of getting around things. You’ve got a big brain. It’s a shame to waste it. I always knew you were smart but I never respected it. But when I saw those notes, how quickly you made those connections,” he looked Lawliet in the eyes, “I respected that Lawliet. I did. You’re someone who could do a lot of good.”

Lawliet looked back at the shelves and began to resume restocking, thinking about what was being said. For all that he was gruff and didn’t like people, Ray was a true humanitarian and so was naturally altruistic. Lawliet was not. But what Lawliet did have was a sense of justice. He’d done wrong to a lot of people, and this thing with Light, whilst feeling good at the time, sat uneasily with him now.

“Do you have any suggestions yourself?” he asked at last.

“Help us out now and then,” answered Ray quickly, “should we need it. We’ll count it as volunteer work. It’ll help you in the long run. It’d be easy for you.”

“Sure,” Lawliet answered to Ray’s relief, “I’ll give you my number and current address.”

He handed over the information to Ray on a strip of paper.

“Thanks,” rasped Ray. He looked at the strip, “this is a rough area.”

“What?”

“That you’re living in.”

“Oh. Well, the people are nice.”

“Ok,” Ray nodded, “to be fair, even though I know you’re soft, you don’t really look it. Your height helps. And that… well… this could be the making of you.”

Lawliet nodded, wanting the conversation over. Ray gave a small, weak smile, “have you heard from your sister?”

“Just that she’s ok. She’s with our parents.”

“Right…right. See you around Lawliet.”

“Bye.”

He watched Ray walk away in the corner of his eye, before getting on with his job quickly and efficiently.

Working for the Met? Possibly paid work, one day? He wasn’t sure, but he kind of liked the sound of it. He had just started accepting he’d be in this job forever, which had made him panic slightly. It wasn’t that he looked down on his role as cashier. Oh no. Working here, all the long hours and with the rest of his team, made him understand that people worked hard here. There was passion and drive and a desire to do a good job. But…it wasn’t satisfying. And it hadn’t been what he wanted to do. Even those who did love the job and who’d done it for years, decades even, were all people who had a lot of other things going on in their lives. This job was somewhere close to where they lived or where their kids went to school, it paid the bills and enough extra for them to go on a humble holiday once a year and so on. It was still the sort of role that was a means to an end. But Lawliet didn’t have that. He didn’t have a wife and kids. He didn’t live close to here. It didn’t pay him enough.

He wanted to be in a laboratory originally, but that all fell through when he lost control of his drug habits. Since then, he had just sort of wandered through life…

“Lawliet?”

“Sir?” He turned to see Ukita.

“Hey, it’s closing time. You can hitch a ride with me if you like, it’s bad out there.”

Lawliet allowed himself a genuine smile, feeling some of the anxiety and tension leave his body. He knew in this weather that the busses wouldn’t be running and had ben preparing mentally for a walk home.

“I appreciate that Ukita. Thanks.”

 

“I’ve been informing our store manager about you,” Ukita said whilst they sat in the car.

Idlewild were playing quietly on the radio. They were stuck in traffic, crawling through the dark city.

“Ide?”

“Yeah. We’re impressed by you so far. You show up early for every shift. Get the work done to a good standard. I was surprised at how quick you learned everything and Ide told me you were bright. Lachlan is going on her maternity soon, so we’ll need someone to pick up hours. I was thinking of putting you on her contract for now. It’s an extra seven hours a week.”

“I’d really appreciate that. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Do you celebrate Christmas by any chance?”

Lawliet blinked, surprised by the sudden shift in topic. “Not really,” he answered. Naomi used to get him gifts, if they were in contact, but most of his Christmas’ had been spent like the rest of the year, with him alone and cut off from the rest of his family and without any friends.

“But I don’t mind it,” he finished.

“Awesome, it’s just that we have a bit of a Christmas do every year,” Ukita grinned cheerfully, “but we respect other religions of course. So we just call it our Holiday Party. Marian got a bit haughty about it all, but overall everyone agreed and it was nice having Samir, she’s left now you don’t know her, Guprit and the others join us. We have a bit of a drink and a dance down in the local social club, not far from the ASDA. Lots of fun, there’s a buffet, we do a quiz, give out silly prizes, who’s the funniest, who’s got the best ankles, that sort of thing. Just a bit of fun, nothing too Carry On as we don’t want a lawsuit, but you know. Oh and a Secret Santa, though officially it’s called secret gift. We don’t start arranging it until December but I wanted to let you know now.”

Lawliet thought it sounded like the seventh circle of hell but was grateful that he might have enough time to think of a plausible excuse not to go.

“Sounds good,” he muttered.

“Bring a partner or friend,” grinned Ukita, “We like to meet the Mrs. Or a Mr, if you’re so inclined.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Ukita kept talking for most of the journey, regaling Lawliet with tales of Christmas Parties past where Gareth got drunk or when Finlay made out with Sakura and the amazing samosas Suneeta made one year.

“The fella who came to see you today,” he said at last. They were out of the city and closer to the estate now. The snow was thicker here, the ground unsalted. “He didn’t look too happy.”

“He’s working a difficult case.”

“Oh dear…”

A pregnant pause.

“He um,” Lawliet cleared his throat, “was asking if I could help out the coppers now and then. Nothing major. Just I’d helped a little before. Had an idea that I gave to him.”

“Woah!” Ukita looked at him quickly before returning his eyes to the dark road, “now that is impressive. Gonna leave us for the police young man?”

Lawliet let out a laugh, “no, definitely not. But it’s volunteering and I could do with helping out more often.”

“Very noble,” intoned Ukita, “my Mrs helps out at the local shelter. Homelessness is through the fucking roof,” (Lawliet jolted at the unexpected profanity, “the government are shit. We want to vote for an independent Scotland if we get the chance. Away from them lot down in London, faces in the pig swill! Ah, here we are, home sweet home.”

Sure enough the Kenwood’s home appeared through the shower of snow.

“Thanks Ukita. You haven’t got far to get to yours now do you?”

“Not at all,” smiled Ukita, “only about another fifteen minutes, with the snow. And the Mrs has Shepherd’s Pie on tonight, my absolute favourite.”

Lawliet smiled at the man, feeling a genuine like for him. “Have a good evening Ukita, thanks again.”

“Not a problem, anytime I’m on the same time as you and the weather is like this, I’ll give you a lift, it’s no trouble. We’re going the same way, more or less, anyway. Think about the Christmas Do.”

“I will.” Lawliet got out, slamming the door and watching as Ukita slowly drove away, the tyres spinning now and then as he left the estate.

Lawliet turned and ran into the house, skidding now and then. He jiggled with the keys for some time before finally getting in. He sighed in relief. The house was warm.

Kicking off his shoes and putting the keys in a bowl, he wandered into the living room where Wendy was curled up in a fluffy nightgown watching the news.

“Hey,” she smiled at him, “the kids are out. The snow meant that they’ve been forced to have a sleepover at a friend’s house. Not that they sounded too sad about it.”

Lawliet nodded, “it’s grim out there. I got a lift back.”

“You look cold, go take a bath.”

He nodded, taking her advice and slowly making his way to bathroom.

 

Chapter Text

Nate’s flat was warm with all the kids crushed together in his little living room. They were all wearing pyjama sets that belonged to him. Nate was the only person he knew that owned more nightclothes than day clothes, but then again he didn’t know many people. They had then watched the news before Mello convinced them to watch ‘The Boondock Saints.’ After getting over the initial shock of violence and cursing, Nate had settled into the film and had enjoyed it. The twins had cheered the anti-heroes throughout, whilst Matt complained that the film was pretentious for an action movie.

Nate had fed the kids with pasta (the only food he had in bulk in his kitchen) and none of them had complained about how plain it was, though he felt a little embarrassed. He needed to start shopping more often and a bit more adventurously. It’s not as if he couldn’t afford more food.

They had then sat under a quilt, watching the telly. Nate was in the corner, Mello next to him, Misa beside him and Matt on one of the beanbags playing a game. They were watching old episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, a fey Simon Amstell tearing apart minor celebrities with a cheeky grin, when Mello turned and asked, “do you have lessons tomorrow?”

“Lectures? Yes, a couple. But the first one isn’t until ten.”

Mello grunted, “I just didn’t want to keep you up out of obligation.”

“Do you have school?”

“Sixth form, and no. Me and Misa were suspended for two weeks. Matt does though. He’s always up all night playing games so it shouldn’t make a difference to him.” He sighed, wriggling deeper into the warm quilt.

Nate could feel his body heat. He looked over at the boy. The screen of the telly was reflecting off his eyes, making them an electric blue. He looked unreal.

“I want to go to uni,” Mello said suddenly, his voice low and quiet.

“The same one I go to?” asked Nate.

Mello shrugged.

“You should,” Nate suddenly felt quite excited by the idea, “it’s a very good university. What do you want to do with your life?”

“Make enough money so I don’t have to rely on anyone ever,” Mello answered quickly, and with some passion. The light in his eyes grew. It was nice to see after a day of them being dull and lifeless. “To maybe even look after my sisters. Especially Wendy.”

“She’s the one who looks after you now, right?”

“Since mum left, yeah. I don’t have to go through uni to make money, do I?”

“No,” answered Nate carefully, “but it depends on how you want to make money. Some jobs require a degree. Many more a post graduate of some sort. What are your passions? What sector do you wish to work in?”

“I just want to not be poor.”

Nate watched him, “you need more than that as a goal in order to succeed. With a goal like yours, you’ll become a Del-Boy, going from one thing to the next with no real direction.”

Mello started, turning to Nate with a grin. “Del-Boy?” he repeated incredulously, “you watch Only Fools and Horses?”

“Is that so strange?”

Mello laughed, light and sweet in its sincerity. “I just wouldn’t expect it.”

“I binge watched the show before coming to the UK.”

Nate felt the full force of Mello’s gaze suddenly upon him, “you aren’t from the UK? I thought you were English.”

“No. Not English. Not British at all. I’m from Holland.”

“Cool! I’ve never been out of Scotland.”

They were quiet for a moment before Nate tentatively offered, “you could come visit Holland with me one day, if you like.”

Mello beamed, “that’d be awesome. Thanks.”

Nate blinked, his heart racing. He forced his eyes to turn back to the telly, feeling strange and light headed. One by one, the breaths of those around him slowed until each teen fell asleep. Nate was something of an insomniac, and uni tended to ruin one’s natural sleeping habits anyway, so he stayed up a little longer, revelling in the warmth and listening to the soft snores.

 

 

“What’s this Nate character like then?” asked Wendy.

She and Lawliet were sitting in the warm living room. An electric heater was on, the rest of the house was cold as they couldn’t afford heating. Lawliet was getting paid at the end of the month, same time as Wendy, and she couldn’t wait. Until then they had to deal with being on rations.

One of the good things about having Lawliet around as well was that he worked in a supermarket. This meant that he’d been allowed to take home a bag full of items from the fresh food area that was about to become out-of-date. So he’d come home with some fruit, yoghurts, bread and some chicken. It was all out of date the following day, but no one followed those instructions. It’d keep for a week at least.

Normally at this time of the month the family would have to swallow their pride and go into the food bank. It was something the twins hated to do but Wendy refused to go through it alone. Everyone there was the same; grim and sad-eyed. Embarrassed that they had been bought so low. Many of them were disabled. A number were homeless. Most were like Kenwoods; people who had both homes and jobs but still were unable to make ends meet.

As it were, Lawliet and Wendy were together in the living room, she stretched out on the couch and he scrunched up on the armchair, his knees under his chin. They both had two slices of buttered bread and a hot, sweet tea.

The telly was on low, neither watching it. It was something about rich teenagers throwing tantrums on their birthday.

“He’s nice,” answered Lawliet, “he goes to the local university. Seems quiet.”

“Mello reckons he’s similar to you.”

Lawliet blinked once and slowly nodded.

Wendy laughed, “are you not so convinced by that?”

“No, no,” Lawliet smiled lightly, lowering his knees a little so he could reach over to get his tea. He took a sip, “we share some similarities by what I can tell.”

“How old is he?”

“Twenty. Why?”

“I think Misa has a crush on him,” Wendy grinned, “though he doesn’t seem like her usual tastes.”

Lawliet hummed. “I think Misa’s trying to do something different,” he said, “I think she knows she’s at some sort of cross road. I’m not sure she’s the one with the crush though.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think she’s just looking for a friend. I don’t know if she and Nate will be suited to one another, but it’s admirable for her to try.”

Wendy narrowed her eyes at him, “why don’t I feel like you’re telling me everything you think?”

He smiled mysteriously and shrugged.

She sighed, “I have nothing to sorry about though?”

“No. Not at the moment. If I ever think you need to get involved, I’ll say.”

“Maybe I should join this book club.”

“The more the merrier.”

“No…I don’t like reading. Plus, this is the twins’ thing. I shouldn’t get involved.”

She ate her bread for a while, watching the telly. Lawliet observed her for a bit before staring off into space for a little while. He could feel his mobile chirruping in his pocket now and then. He ignored it. He knew who was texting.

‘You have two phones,’ his mind chastised, ‘where this family only have one between them. You should stop these silly games and give them one of yours.’

‘But then,’ whispered his brain, ‘you’ll be bored. Plus, you have to show that you are right.’

He shuddered and pushed away the line of thinking.

“Wendy,” he began.

“Hmm?”

“How are you? What’s your work like?”

She rolled her eyes, turning her body so she was facing him again. “It’s a mixed bag. I like the early mornings and my team. They’re all women like me. Most aren’t actually Scottish, you know, they’re eastern European or North African. Apart from the older ladies, they’re Scottish and have been doing this for decades. But we all get on all right to be honest. We’re not friends, don’t hang out together or anything. But we’re good colleagues which is all I want really.  And I like that I get to work early in the morning when no one’s there really. Allowed to just get on with it. But,” she sighed, the image of Steven in her head. His overbearing presence. His weight and smell. She gulped, “but I feel trapped there. Like I’m never gonna get out. I don’t mean that in a snobby way; I’m fine being a cleaner. I take pride in my work. It’s necessary, even if everyone looks down on it. But…” she rubbed her upper lip absently, “I feel like it’s a trap. I don’t know. I just wake up in the morning, I look up at the ceiling and I just lie there. And it’s like…is this all there is? Every day? I’ll be a seventy year old lady one day and I’ll have done the same thing all my life. It’s why I push for the twins you know?” she relaxed, her comfort zone of conversation being about her siblings, “so they can live a life as wild or as ordinary as they want. I think they could do anything. Especially Mello.”

Lawliet knew what she meant about waking in the morning and staring at the ceiling. Of being caught between defending your life and genuinely being unashamed of it, but also knowing that there was something that caught you  there; that made it so you had to live this way, that even though you’ve made the most of it, it was never really your choice.

It was called poverty.

“Why do you think everyone looks down on your job?” Lawliet asked instead. Something about the way she had spoken about work had sparked warning signs in his head, “your team are supportive?”

“Yes, very.”

They stared at each other for a moment, both analysing their next move like chess players. Wendy wondered how much she should tell Lawliet of Steven? On the one hand, he was a skinny ex-addict and not her boyfriend, so what harm would it do? On the other, she didn’t like the idea of him looking down on her. Would he think she was a slag?

Well, she was, in a way. It wasn’t a lie. But would he think she was unfit to look after her siblings? Well they were eighteen, the state wouldn’t take them away even if she was reported.

He couldn’t spread the information around because he didn’t know anyone. And he didn’t seem the type to blurt it out to the book club, thereby shaming the twins. But then again she didn’t know him that well.

“Is that your phone?” she asked instead.

He shuffled about under the blanket he’d been under, taking a mobile out of his back pocket. He stared at it for a bit before muttering, “just my sister checking in.”

“She seems nice. She calls you a lot.”

“She’s like you, she worries.”

“Maybe I can meet her someday?”

“I hope so,” he nodded, “her boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend, came to see me today.”

“At work?”

“Yeah.”

Wendy sat up, “he didn’t harass you did he?”

“No. He’s a police officer and said he was interested in getting my opinion now and then. It was weird though, he’s never liked me and he didn’t look too healthy.”

“When did your sister and he split?”

“Not long ago.”

Wendy hmm-ed knowingly, “he probably wants to get in good with you as a way of getting back to your sister. Or maybe, you know, keeping you around he still gets to keep an element of her. Will they get back together?”

“I doubt it this time. They’ve broken up a lot in the past but…she had sex with someone else. He doesn’t know. She feels bad and…and I think she knows it’s the end.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah.” He shuffled uncomfortably before defending Naomi, “she’s not the type to do that normally. She’s not someone who lies and cheats. She’s been with him since school. But I think he just sort of pushed her too far. They weren’t good together. He was casually cruel to her and she…well she didn’t do anything wrong apart from being a bit of a doormat.”

“I wasn’t judging her,” Wendy said, “these things are usually complicated. And I’m sure there’s right and wrong on both sides.”

Lawliet shrugged, and she could tell he wasn’t prepared to believe there was any wrongdoing on his sister’s side. The loyalty was sweet, and it made her smile.

“Some people aren’t meant to be,” she said, “even if they were once, that doesn’t mean they always will be. People change. Some grow and evolve together, some don’t. It doesn’t mean they failed, it’s just the way it goes sometimes. They need to heal and move on.”

“But I think most people who cheat are bad,” said Lawliet, resolute, “it’s wrong, to treat someone like that. Even if you don’t love them anymore, you should just let them go. To drag on a relationship, never really committed to someone, is cruel. But then to start an affair with someone else is even worse, because you’re humiliating the person who loved you.”

Wendy was surprised, “you think that about your sister?”

“No, I said she’s the exception. She had her reasons. But overall people who cheat are disgusting.” He looked at his phone again, his face blank but his eyes dark with frustration.

Wendy stared at him, aware that somewhere she was missing a trick with this conversation.

“I’m not justifying cheaters,” she said slowly after a few beats, “I’ve seen lives ruined and people’s self esteem destroyed by cheaters. But… I think that everyone has individual circumstances. It’s best not to judge. You just have to care for the people who were hurt. That’s all really. You don’t like your sister’s ex-boyfriend, but in this scenario he was the one left behind. Even if he was cruel, as you say, he wasn’t allowed to fix it. She just cheated and then left. I’m not being a bitch about her!” (Lawliet had looked up from his phone and glared,) “but I’m saying that you’re right, cheating hurts people. And those people need looking after when it happens. You say the guy didn’t look well and that he even is looking to have you around, despite your differences. I think that says a lot.”

Lawliet sighed, “you’re right. It’s always so…messy with people.”

Wendy smirked, “of course. None of us know what the fuck we’re doing.”

 

It was late, gone midnight.

Lawliet had left Wendy watching telly upstairs. Down in his bedroom, he lay on his bed staring at the text messages.

 

Hey. How are you?

 

I really enjoyed our conversation. Will you meet me again? Maybe for dinner, somewhere a bit more suitable for a lady like you!

 

I tried to look into you, as you requested. I couldn’t find anything online. Was that why you asked me to search; to show me how mysterious you are? I already figured that much out.

 

If you aren’t interested, that’s fine. I just wanted to talk, but I won’t bother you if that’s what I’ve been doing. Maybe I’ll see you around. It really was great speaking to you.

Lawliet read them over and over. He went to reply a few times, but never did. He then went onto his sister’s thread and typed:

Why did you do it?

But he deleted it before he could send it. He knew why she did it. Because her boyfriend wasn’t giving her the relationship she wanted. Because she had ben drunk and not thinking properly. Because she had been angry. Because she felt trapped and the only way she felt she could ever really get away from her relationship was by destroying it.

Lawliet sympathised with his sister because he felt like she was the victim. Ray was a jerk.

But he hadn’t looked great today…

Lawliet sighed, pushing the thought and all the uncomfortable feelings it brought with it away. He didn’t like Ray.

And he didn’t like Light. Light wasn’t Naomi. What could possibly trap Light? His own stupid ego? Being well-off and middle class? Being horribly comfortable in a house with heating? Not worrying about food? Not having to carry the shame, every day, that he ruined his own life for no reason?

Lawliet didn’t like Kiyomi anymore than Light, but as far as he was aware, she wasn’t the one with the wandering eye.

He took out both his phones, looking at one which held a text saying:

I do not remember? Come round to mine, we'll have dinner. Come round Wednesday. Kiyomi will be out then.

Lawliet rubbed his thumb along the screen holding the text. He felt hollow and miserable. The lessons he learned on his travels ultimately meant nothing. He was still as malicious and jealous and bitter as he’d ever been.

He wanted to text his sister, ‘I need help. I need comfort.’ Something like that. But he didn’t. He’d never asked before and felt it would be embarrassing to do so now. Naomi had always just known when he needed her. But now, she was focusing on herself as he’d asked. He had told her that he was an adult and didn’t need her coddling him. So he needed to follow through with that. Of all the fuck ups in his life, ruining the relationships with his family had been the worst.

Instead, he opened the drawer next to his bed and put both phones inside. He switched off the light and lay in the darkness. He felt as if he were drowning in it.

 

 

 

Mello too was in a dark place. His breath came out in short, hot puffs. He felt his heart rate picking up. The walls were dark wood. It felt like they were closing in on him.

No, no, please, no.

His thoughts, simple but distorted. A murmer of thoughts woven underneath. He knew something wasn’t quite right but he almost felt outside of himself,like watching himself on screen.

The panic was real though.

He shut his eyes tightly before snapping them open.

Lighter now.

The whirls of the wood could be seen. It looked like he was in some sort of cabin. The light was coming from a window. Outside, the sky was white. There were tall fir trees stretching up to touch it with their tips. Nate was there, small and pale.

Mello felt himself gasping for air. He knew that he couldn’t get out. There was no door. He wanted to scream for Nate but there was no point because Nate was outside and he was inside and Nate would want nothing to do with him.

 

 

“Mihail!”

Mello’s eyes snapped open. Misa was in front of him, staring intensely.

“What?” he grumbled, “fuck off.”

She scowled, her nose wrinkling, “you were having a nightmare,” she whispered harshly. The sky outside was dark, but birds were singing. It was early in the morning.

He squirmed under the duvet, feeling over heated. Looking to the other side, he saw Nate sleeping, his head resting on the side of the settee. Mello felt his face growing red. Nate looked like an angel; curly white hair, long black lashes against fair skin and rosy cheeks, lips plush and pink.

A giggle.

Mellow whipped round to glower at his sister.

“It’s cute,” she smirked.

“Your hair’s a mess and you look like a slutty Bratz doll.”

“I want to look like a Bratz doll,” she argued, keeping her voice low, but climbing out from under the duvet and stretching, “they’re cool.”

He followed her out, resisting the urge to tuck Nate back in.

“They are not,” he spat quietly, “your make up is all over your face as well. You look like a drunk clown. Fuck’s sake, go to the bathroom and sort yourself out.”

Misa looked around cautiously, making sure the other two boys were definitely asleep, before suddenly pointing her ass towards her brother and letting out a short, high-pitched fart.

“EW, FUCK’S SAKE MISA!”

She ran off giggling leaving behind a stench, his anger and now a groggily awake Nate and Matt.

“Whattimeisit?” muttered Nate, rubbing his eyes in an adorable way whilst Matt asked, “what’s that smell? Did you fart Mello?”

“No!”

“Seriously mate, with us in the room?”

“It was Misa!!”

“Pfft, yeah right.”

Nate stumbled out of the duvet and walked towards the kitchen. He needed a hot drink to fortify him. Mello watched him, looking humiliated. He gave Matt a quick kick (“Ow! Oh you’re taking the piss man!”) and followed Nate into the kitchen.

As Nate put on the kettle, looking bleary eyed, Mello took out four mismatched mugs from the cupboard.

“Thanks,” muttered Nate, a little surprised by Mello’s closeness to him. Well it was a small space.

“Misa’s an idiot,” said Mello quietly, paranoid about his breath and how he looked. Like Misa, he tended to have ridiculous bed-hair. “I’m sorry we work you up.”

“It was just you,” yawned Nate, “I didn’t hear her shouting and farting.”

“I didn’t-! Forget it.”

There was quiet for a little while before, “thanks for yesterday. I had fun at the fair.”

“You’re welcome,” answered Mello without emotion, “I’m surprised you want to hang out with us and not your fancy Uni friends.”

I don’t have fancy uni friends.”

Mello wasn’t shocked by this answer, but it had given him the confirmation of his suspicions.

“Why not?” he asked, unconsciously stepping further into Nate’s space.

“I’m not interesting,” Nate shrugged, “and my social skills are not very good.”

“You are interesting, and most people are stupid.”

“You hardly know me. You cannot make such an assessment already.”

“I can because I am good at reading people,” argued Mello, “I don’t have many friends because I chose not to. It’s not hard for me to act like…like Light or Takada, or Sayu or Matsuda. I can be cheerful and sweet and I can influence people. I just… didn’t like doing it. Turned away from it all. And I can tell that you’re an interesting person. You’re different.”

“Everyone is different.”

“Then you stand out. You caught my attention,” Mello lowered his voice. The deeper timber reverberated within Nate, making him feel strange. “That means something.”

The kettle had finally boiled, and Nate busied himself with making hot chocolate. “Thanks,” he’d accept the compliment if it meant this awkward conversation would be done with.

Perhaps sensing this, Mello finally moved out of his space. He felt cold without the presence of the younger man, but he was relieved also.

Mello said nothing for the rest of the morning. He drank quickly, not looking at Nate and ignored everyone, even when Misa continued bullying him.

“We should go,” he announced twenty minutes later, standing up, “Matt needs to get to school.”

“It’s pretty early,” Matt argued, but Mello was getting his boots on.

Misa sighed, as Matt went into the hallway after his friend. Turning to Nate she gave him a quick peck on the cheek, “sorry he’s being so rude,” she said. “We had fun yesterday! Next time you can come hang out at ours and we’ll feed you. You’ll get to see our sister Wendy.”

Nate smiled briefly, but it wasn’t genuine. His attention was on the two boys in the corridor.

“What’s wrong?” Matt was quietly asking Mello.

“Nothing.”

“Mello.”

“I just made an idiot of myself,” Mello finished tying the laces to his large boots, “I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s go.”

“Ok.” Matt turned to wave at Nate, “it was nice meeting you. See you around mate!”

Outside it was dark and lightly raining, turning the compacted snow into a deadly sheet of ice.

The thre teens stood at the bus stop under a street lamp. Misa and Matt spoke quietly under the light (mostly Misa but Matt listened well.)

Mello stood away from them slightly, more in the darkness. He didn’t want to join in the conversation even though he knew he was being antisocial. He wanted to be alone, so just not speaking was the closest thing he could get to that. He couldn’t stop thinking about that morning; waking up next to Nate, having that conversation, him being so cheesy and creepy, Nate being so uncomfortable. Mello cursed himself; why was he so lame and stupid! He was eighteen but had never dated anyone, never been kissed. He didn’t know how to flirt. He had no way of knowing if Nate was even gay never mind interested. And why would he be?

Mello was nothing.

He hadn’t meant to say those things, they’d just come out. “You caught my attention.” Seriously, how weird was that?

No wonder Nate froze up.

If some weird kid came up to him saying stuff like that he’d be creeped out too.

The Council had finally gotten themselves together enough that the roads were gritted. A bus trundled along, driving slow. They each got on and sat quietly, all sleepy-eyed, as the dawn began to break over the horizon. The sky became a speckled pale blue.

The bus stopped outside their school, Matt getting out, not caring about not having his Sixth Form ID or a bag, and waved goodbye to the twins.

They continued on for a few more stops, Misa resting her head on her brother’s shoulder. She took his thin hands into her own delicate ones. Neither said anything, if they did it would embarrass them, but instead they comforted each other silently.

 

 

Chapter Text

Kiyomi Takada was a determined woman.

She had no other choice.

Born to immigrants, a Japanese father and a bi-racial mother from St. Kitts, both of whom had arrived in the UK in the 1960s Windrush, she had been raised under the enormous terror of knowing the ground she walked on was thin ice. One wrong move, just one slip of over-confidence and lack of care, and she’d be underwater.

She woke up at 5am, as she did every morning accept Sundays, and did fifteen minutes of meditation before getting dressed and going for a run.

The streets were hard, the air was cold. She wanted to return to bed, but at her age she couldn’t afford to become lazy about her exercise regime.

Once inside she showered, moisturised, did her hair and prepared her notes for the day before leaving at 7am.

She left the polite, middle class suburb and found herself in the increasingly impoverished city centre. The homeless lay on the streets, covered in thin, dirty blankets. Some were up and walking, stiff from the cold, pale and hungry.

When she stopped at a red light, several Romanian women charged into the road, determined to wipe her windows.

“No!” repeated Kiyomi, used to this argument, “no! I do not want this! Leave the road!!”

The light turned green and she inched forward, one woman still wiping the window. Behind her, people began to beep their horns in anger.

One woman was almost hit as she scrambled back to the curb. Kiyomi finally pulled away when the woman accosting her car was forced to move by the cars around them pushing forwards with determination.

The driver behind her made rude gestures at Kiyomi. She rolled her eyes but didn’t retaliate.

Instead, she turned up the radio (BBC 3) and thought about the case she had to defend today.

It was going to be difficult, which is exactly why it had been assigned to her. Kiyomi was the type of woman people didn’t like; she was ambitious. It just made people (men and women) itch with the need to knock her down a peg or two.

What they didn’t know was that Kiyomi had no other choice but to be ambitious. That was the trick of it all. Trap her with privilege, contain her in a box of stereotypes she had to be grateful for, doom her to always be the villain.

She parked outside the Courts and made her way into the fine, red-brick building. The inside was less impressive than the outside; depressing 70’s tile flooring that had that weird yellow tone to it, blandly painted walls, worn carpets with ugly patterns, seats with holes in so the stuffing was sticking out.

She went to her table, jammed into a large room with other solicitors and lawyers.

Taking her paperwork from her satchel, she looked through it again. She stared at the picture of her defendant. The girl was homely. Dumpy. Early-thirties. She was going to elicit zero sympathy.

She ground her teeth together, frustrated already.

They’d have to settle. Her defendant was doomed to take a beating. A steep fine. Possibly a short prison sentence. But that would be better than her going in front of a jury. It would have been easier to defend a child killer than this woman.

“Hey Chinatown.”

Kiyomi looked up to see Mark Waterton smirking down at her. The nickname he had for her was obviously offensive, extremely so. But that was the point; it was so offensive it had to be a joke. Therefore was nothing she could do about it. Report it in and she was a weak-willed woman with no spine or ability to laugh at herself. Laugh alone and she was a weak-willed woman with no spine who actually laughed at herself.

“I was wondering,” he continued at her icy stare, “if you fancied getting lunch together. My treat, of course, for you always dealing with me!”

“Sorry, busy.”

“You always say that,” he implored softly, leaning against her desk. Around them, the office had quieted, the others listening in. “C’mon,” he grinned, “it’s just lunch.”

“I really am busy,” she answered, trying to sound genuine and a little reluctant, “I have the Rowhawn case to get through.”

He rolled his eyes, “oh, the bitch that cried rape. Yep, that’s a toughie. If anyone can get her off, it’ll be you.” He winked at her and began to saunter away, “you owe me a lunch though!” he called.

She let out a quiet sigh.

The first time he’d asked her out, she’d said she had a boyfriend. It had resulted in chaos. He’d been offended and incredulous, (“I only asked you for a coffee! Why would you even assume I’d want to date you?”) and it had gone so high that within the week she was in front of her line manager and two people from Human Resources asking her if she felt harassed and if so this wasn’t a place where that happened and so she needed to look elsewhere for a softer environment.

After that, claiming she was needed for work was easier. But it wouldn’t hold him off for long. And it wasn’t even so much about Light; she just didn’t want to spend extra time with this guy; he was an idiot.

She got up and went into the kitchenette. Despite the office being quite nice overall (miles better than the hovel poor Light worked in) the kitchen was filthy. It revolted her that her fellow colleagues, all grown adults, left this place in such a mess.

Kiyomi hid her things in a small section of the cupboard behind some ancient crackers that no one touched. She got out a spoon and a mug and began to boil the kettle.

Outside it was raining furiously, melting away the last of the snow. The snow never stayed long in the city, but I the outskirts it’d still be knee-height.

“Are you ok?”

Kiyomi turned to see Melanie standing in the doorway. She was just a step up from homely; her make up was on point and her clothes were impeccable. It couldn’t make her pretty, but it was a step up from what god had given her.

Melanie came into the kitchen, closing the door behind her conspiratorially and Kiyomi had to resist rolling her eyes.

“I don’t know why he’s like that with you,” Melanie said, her voice as soft as summer rain, “he’s never like that with me. I wish he treated you the same way.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Kiyomi busied herself with making a latte from a sachet.

“I know he sounds…” Melanie dropped her voice to a whisper, “racist… but he isn’t. I swear. It’s his sense of humour.”

Kiyomi turned, mug in hand, and answered in her normal volume, “I don’t know what you are talking about Melanie. I never said anything about any of that.”

“Don’t be upset,” Melanie warbled, “please, don’t get upset. Don’t yell.”

Kiyomi sighed and brushed past Melanie, who sobbed, “I was just trying to help!”

As she walked back to her desk, she received a few glares from people who had overheard Melanie’s plea and now her soft whimpers.

Kiyomi sat down and stared at the computer screen.

She was trapped.

 

 

Further in the city, Light was sitting with his father in his tiny office.

Matsuda had greeted him profusely before running out to buy the Yagami’s lunch.

Soichiro chuckled, “he’s a nice boy that one.”

Light barely stopped himself from grimacing, “yeah… he’s great.”

Soichiro fixed him with a look, clearly unconvinced, which made Light feel ashamed enough to look away.

“You did good work with Sunshine Insurance. They were so happy with your work they say they’ll use us again in the future.”

“It was a pleasure,” answered Light smoothly and without emotion.

Soichiro sighed, rubbing his large hand over his face. “Light…I do not know what more I can do for you.”

Light winced, “dad –”

“The best grammar schools. That got you into the best university.”

‘No,’ thought Light venomously, ‘my hard work and grades got me into that university!’

“I’ve done all I can for you. Me and your mother have worked so hard, all our lives. And yet, here you are, unhappy and ungrateful.”

“I’m not ungrateful…”

“Then why that mulish expression?”

“I’m just tired,” Light muttered, hating how his dad made him feel thirteen years old. “It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. I’ve had stuff on my mind.”

Soichiro leaned forward, “such as?”

“Just restless.”

His father gave him a searching look before answering, “you went travelling after university. The “gap year.” Then you go on holiday a lot with your pretty fiancée.”

Given the chance Light would still be out there, wandering through Italian streets, through the Pyrenees mountains, eating ackee and saltfish on the white beaches of the Caribbean, watching the packs of monkey thieves stealing from tourists on the Great Wall of China. Not because he loved travelling, but because he was searching.

It was why he went to university which was difficult to get into. It was why he strived so hard at school to do well. It was why he couldn’t make friends or maintain relationships. It was what kept him up at night. It was what made his eyes mist with tears and a lump form in his throat and why he felt sometimes like he was drowning.

Was he trying to run away from something? Trying to find something? Trying to challenge himself?

He thought of the woman he met in the dingy café. How desperate he’d come across as he text her message after message with no response, aware the whole time of his fiancée and that this was yet another relationship he was just coasting along in.

Soichiro watched his son in confusion. He didn’t understand Light’s angst.

“People would give so much to have what you have,” he said instead, watching Light’s eyes flick up to meet his own. “To have a career. To have options. Money. A beautiful and loyal partner. A childhood full of happiness.”

“Maybe that’s it,” said Light suddenly, but without enthusiasm, “maybe I just need to help people. I want to help people. Kiyomi does criminal law and defends people. Many of them innocent. Probably. Perhaps that’s what I need.”

Soichiro let out a frustrated groan, “Light, I love you, but you’re being a brat right now. Maybe I should have allowed your life to be harder, said no more often.

“Go donate to a charity or spend some time in a homeless shelter if that’s what you feel you need to do. But you have a good, solid career now. And you are excellent at what you do. This feeling will pass in time. You will be content. I think you and Kiyomi just need to stop all this messing about and get married already. I think once you have your house in order, maybe some kids, you’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

“I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful,” Light argued genuinely, “please dad. But…”

‘I need more?’ How bratty did that sound? How entitled?

Light shook his head, as if shaking out the cobwebs and put on his most convincing smile, “you know how I get sometimes. Maudlin.”

Soichiro wagged a finger at him jokingly, “remember the old saying? Depression is a rich man’s disease. You wanna know why that Matsuda kid is so great? He’s grateful to be here because he worked for it. It’s why I put you here. I know it’s not a glamorous office, but it’s real and you need to work.”

Light nodded.

The office, as much as he liked to sneer, wasn’t really the problem.

He didn’t know what the problem was, and he was the smartest person he knew. He thought of the text messages again. Would he ever see her again? Or even anyone like her? How many encounters like that did one get over a lifetime? How many chances would he have to make it mean something?

Chapter Text

“Yes, you see, there’s no such thing as coincidence. There are no accidents in life. Everything that happens is the result of a calculated move that leads us to where we are.” 
J.M. Darhower, Sempre: Redemption

 

Kiyomi sat down in front of Felicity Rawhawn. The woman was wearing and ill-fitting mustard cardigan which she anxiously pulled over her ample bosom. They were in a small office rented out by the Chamber of Commerce because there was no way she was taking Felicity to her work office; not with people like Mark and Melanie judging her.

“Ok,” Kiyomi began, “I’m going to try and make sure you have no prison time for obstruction. Luckily there was no particular man you accused of rape, so we can argue that no one really got hurt. It was just a waste of police resources. If we keep this away from a jury trial, both sides should be amiable to a fine.”

“How do I keep it from going to jury?” Felicity sounded like a broken woman; soft like Melanie but not fake.

“You need to plead guilty to obstruction.”

“I need to tell them I’m lying?” Felicity’s eyes darkened.

“Yes.” Kiyomi pinched her lips together. It wasn’t really a lawyer’s job to care whether their client was guilty or not. Her job was to defend her to the best of her ability. But still.

“Felicity, did you lie?”

Felicity looked out of the murky window into the grey streets, “no one believed me.”

Kiyomi sat back in her chair. That wasn’t really an answer.

She thought of that stupid fucking book she had to read for the Book Club Light insisted on them going to. It was a cheap chick-lit book, as expected. But it had surprisingly stayed with her long after she read it. Possibly because she hadn’t predicted the ending. Possibly because so many of the characters had been so gleefully dislikeable; which was true to life.

She had related a little to Thea; a woman forever chasing after a man who didn’t notice her. Was surprised by her lack of empathy for Wife no. 1. And, even more surprised by her slowly growing empathy for Poppy who was essentially Misa as an adult.

Kiyomi knew she came across cold and hard and smug. Where people forgave Light for it, she was not. But she wasn’t evil, and there was a genuine desire to help others underneath all of the layers.

“Did the police make you feel that way?” she asked tentatively, “that you weren’t to be believed?”

Felicity’s story, to be frank, was pretty bizarre. She alleged that she woke up one night to see a man wearing a werewolf costume. The man raped her. They had both been essentially silent during the violent attack. She had lay still and frozen. The man left. She didn’t know how. She lay still until morning and went about her usual routine, even going to work. Then she had returned home and upon seeing her bedroom had some sort of meltdown. She’d called 999 almost hysterical and when police arrived she was washing all of her bedsheets in the hot wash. She’d reluctantly agreed to a rape test and whilst it showed recent sexual activity, it looked a little rough at worst. There was no sign of how the intruder got in or out. No one had heard or seen anything. Added to the fact that she was an older unattractive singleton who looked like she should own a lot of cats and it all seemed unlikely.

Felicity looked at her with dull blue eyes. “I’ll say whatever you want. I’ll take the fine. I don’t want to go to prison.”

“Ok,” said Kiyomi softly, “ok.”

 

 

She was dying for a cigarette. She’d given them up a month ago when Light complained about her stinking like an ashtray.

Kiyomi was outside the Chamber of Commerce. It was freezing cold and she was shivering as she waited by the carpark for her Uber. Felicity, taciturn and depressed, had left after a short meeting. The whole thing was off.  Her gut was screaming something incomprehensible to her.

With a shaking hand she took out her phone and text Light.

We still on for lunch? Remember, 2:15 today?

She put it in her pocket and waited. Light was a slow responder. Sometimes she waited for days. It was annoying but she had to appreciate that he wasn’t one of those people locked on his phone 24/7.

The Uber showed and she clambered inside, “Pret a Manger,” she instructed because for some reason Uber drivers never seemed to know where she wanted to go even though she would put it into the app beforehand, “the nice one on the High Street.”

The man, East Asian, stick-thin and young, nodded and took off. She stared out of the window. Like most women, she was repelled by women who cried rape. It screwed all women over. All women carried the burden of that small minority of liars. Kiyomi couldn’t even imagine what would make someone want to lie about that. Sexual deviancy was about the worst thing you could accuse someone of; be it fucking animals, kids, or forcing yourself on another. She should have been angry at Felicity. Instead, she believed that either she had been raped, or at least something very, very bad had happened to her. But was that her own bias? Her own determination to believe in the honesty and dignity of her fellow women?

She got off at her stop, thanking the driver. Inside the restaurant she checked her phone. It was twenty minutes past two. Light hadn’t responded. She gave the Uber driver five stars; he didn’t talk to her and drove at a sensible speed; and ordered a coffee.

Another twenty minutes later, with no word from her fiancé, she ordered her food. A small soup, no bread, and another coffee.

Kiyomi wouldn’t allow herself to feel sad.

Instead she went back to her case. They would present themselves in small court to the judge within three weeks. Thanks to an agreeable defendant, it should be a quick decision. The police would state the price of their fine, the defendant would agree, the judge would agree, no jailtime, everyone goes home.

It was the local police who’d looked into the case. They’d barely spent a month on it before writing it off as time-wasting.

One guy though, had been pretty persistent by the looks of things, before being allocated onto another more pressing case. Probably the crime lord case; there was a lot of buzz around that and solicitor firms were keeping their ears close to the ground (well, police stations) waiting for the outcome to that.

One Ray Penbar.

Kiyomi delicately ate her soup and tried to ignore how much she’d prefer to eat a burger. Ok Mr Diligent Cop, let’s see what you have to say…

 

 

Light checked his phone and sighed. He’d forgotten to text Kiyomi back. He sent her a quick apology along with an explanation that he’d had a meeting with his dad which went over time. He didn’t mention that he, his dad, and Matsuda all had lunch together in the office.

Soichiro had gone home and Light and Matsuda were finishing off invoices for last week.

“How have you gotten along with the book?” asked Matsuda apropos nothing.

“What?”

“The book for the Book Club? The one Misa suggested? The Model Wife?”

“Oh, yeah, I read it a while ago.” Light looked up and pulled a face, “it was kind of dumb.”

Matsuda leaned forward, looking almost gleeful, “is it me, or were there a lot of spelling errors in it?”

Light grinned, warming up to the subject. He’d never known Matsuda to be critical of anything. “Yes,” he laughed, “an embarrassing amount for such a short book. Editors aren’t what they used to be.”

“Sayu reckons it was like reading fanfiction,” continued Matsuda, “not that I would know, of course. We want to be honest when we meet later this week, but we don’t want to upset Misa. It was sad to see the twins so distraught last time.”

“They’re drama queens,” Light sneered, “we’d be better off not buying into the melodrama. Besides, if anyone can find a nice way of criticising the book, it’ll be you. Even my dad likes you.”

Matsuda let out a small bark of self-deprecating laughter, rubbing his hand on the back of his head, “I’m sure your dad likes a lot of people.”

“I sometimes think he doesn’t like me very much.”

The air seemed to be sucked out of the room. Light paused, wondering where the hell that had come from. Matsuda seemed frozen out of embarrassment.

“So you and Sayu,” Light recovered quickly, “what’s going on there? You never told me you had a girlfriend.”

“She’s just a friend,” smiled Matsuda, looking relieved at the change of subject, “we met in uni. She’s smart and fun. The kind of person you can be really open with, you know?”

Light didn’t know but nodded anyway. “Sounds like you like her.”

“I do. As a friend.” A pregnant pause. “I was thinking about my suggestion for the Club, when my time comes around.”

“Uh-huh,” Light was signing his name on the invoices, his attention slowly returning to them.

“I was thinking Giovanni’s Room.”

“What’s it about?”

When there was no answer Light looked up. Matsuda was staring at his work, blushing. Light repeated his question.

Matsuda shrugged, “just… heartbreak and relationships and … social issues. It was written in the 50s I believe. In France. It’s a classic.”

“Sounds a lot better than the tripe we read this fortnight,” Light offered, making the two men chuckle again, the strange tension breaking.

 

 

The police station was a hive of activity. Desks were overloaded with piles of paper and coffee mugs.

 Kiyomi asked around for PC Penbar before finally arriving at a small desk. Ray was a tired looking man, old before his time, with short black hair and tanned skin.

“Hello,” Kiyomi greeted, “I’m Miss Takada, can I just have a few minutes?”

He didn’t look like someone who had a few minutes, instead he looked up at her with a glower. “I know who you are.” He stood, going through the office doors into a small stairway. He leaned on the wall, his arms crossed, and observed her with dark brown eyes that spat, “what?!” at her.

“Ok so you know I’m defending Felicity Rawhawn?”

He nodded.

“Well,” Kiyomi continued, “we’re not really fighting, she isn’t fighting. But I can’t help feeling like there’s more to this story.”

Ray nodded before pushing himself off the wall, “something happened to her. But we’re overloaded with cases. This Kowalksi mess, I’m sure you’ve heard of it as you guys and the media are circling like vultures, is taking a lot of time and resources. I was one of the officers on her case. I was still looking when she told everyone that she lied, that she’d dreamed the whole thing up!”

“She’s a rape victim who feels disbelieved,” argued Kiyomi, annoyed by how frustrated he sounded with her client. “Was she pushed into saying that?”

He shrugged, “possibly. But I couldn’t get through to her. Her story was too odd. Not enough things added up. When she said she’d lied that was the nail in the coffin.”

“But you think there’s something to this,” Kiyomi pushed, “look, even if she’s pissed you off, that means there’s still a rapist on the loose, which is reason enough to keep hunting, right?”

“We don’t have the manpower. No detectives.”

“Can you not convince anyone?”

“The Guvnor won’t go for it.”

She bit back her sharp retort. She could tell this man was worn down. Bitter and angry.

“Ok,” she relented, seemingly, “well I can see there’s nothing you can do. I just thought to at least ask. She’ll be in court in a couple of weeks and pay a fine. Hopefully she won’t have jailtime…and hopefully her rapist won’t come back for round two. See you later Officer Penbar.”

She had seen him wince, just slightly, on the potential outcome for Felicity. He was a tough cookie, but nowhere near as unflappable as he thought himself.

Outside the station, she read the text from Light. She slid the phone back in her pocket. She didn’t know why she even bothered with him.

 

Ray stood in the stairwell for a few minutes after the lawyer left. That bitch, with her implications. And fancy clothes. And fancy accent. Typical middle-class snob. Easy for her to swan in and give him all the guilt. He was the one who had to wade through the mire.

Two officers were walking down the stairs so he bolted back into his office.

Aizawa was there, two mugs in hand.

“Hey,” he looked surprised, “you ok?”

People had been asking Ray that a lot recently.

“Yeah fine,” he muttered, gratefully taking one of the mugs and sipping the rich, sweet tea.

“Who was the woman who just left?”

Ray repressed a glare. So it wasn’t just an innocent meeting between them, Aizawa had been watching him. The pair had been partnered for only a little over a week and whilst he appreciated Aizawa was a good officer, they weren’t quite friends yet. Ray found the man a little underhand sometimes.

“Kiyomi Takada.”

“That name sounds familiar,” Aizawa began walking, Ray automatically following until they came returned to their desks, a chair of either side so the pair faced each other. Between them were two computers and a mound of paperwork.

“She’s the lawyer, right?” Aizawa continued, “a new up and comer. Already making enemies. A bit up herself apparently.”

Ray grunted, it was true. “She’s defending a woman in an old case. The woman made a false rape allegation.”

Aizawa let out a light, cynical laugh, “Jesus, she mad at an ex-boyfriend or something?”

“No,” Ray said soberly, “she never named the man. He was in a costume.”

“Wait,” Aizawa leaned forward, “is this that werewolf story? We heard about that, back in my old team. She lied? It was so weird we thought it had to be true.”

“It was similar to the Kowalski case,” Ray was frowning now, glancing through the files on show on his desk, “very little evidence, she’d destroyed some of it, no signs of fighting back…”

“But the rape kit bought back an unknown man. And she’s not a prostitute or a foreigner, right?”

“No,” Ray looked at Aizawa, “no…she’s Scottish. And a receptionist. Works for some sort of cleaning company. But,” he grimaced, “something was always off about the case. Made me uncomfortable when we dropped it.”

Aizawa frowned, “it happened near about the same time as the Kowalksi rape, right?”

“You think there is a connection?”

“It’s what you’re suggesting, though it’s tenuous as hell.”

But both men knew the Kowalski case was growing cold. Only one woman was willing to talk in defence of her slaughtered friend, and she was a thin prostitute and an illegal immigrant. She’d be torn apart in court. Attitudes towards Europeans was growing cold in the UK as the migration crisis, the housing crisis and the jobs crisis all were becoming amalgamated into one fuse ready to blow up a nation.

“We may as well look into it,” said Aizawa, “no one needs to know.”

Ray nodded, appreciative. “The place where she worked,” he said, “it was that which bothered me. The girls there, they would look at us with these sort of wary eyes.” He frowned in sudden realisation, “we thought, at the time, it was because most of them were Eastern European or African. We figured they were illegals. And they probably were.”

Aizawa nodded, “just like the prostitutes the Kowalksi’s specialise in. Where does this company get it’s cleaners from?”

Simultaneously both men dived into their paperwork, looking for the answer.

 

 Three hours later, Lawliet received a text from Ray.

>U live with woman called Wendy Kenwood?

>Yes, Lawliet text back, she’s my landlady.

>Need her for a case.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s stupid not to text him.

I should text him and say, “what do you want to eat?”

No.

Too bossy. What he wants.

Rather, “Hi, I was wondering what you would prefer to eat when you come over? Any dietary needs I should know of? Look forward to seeing you ~ Light.”

No.

Too pleasant. He’d see it as condescending (because he doesn’t understand manners and has none himself.)

Plus, too nice. I’d be sickened to type that and be tempted to say or type something scathing afterwards.

Light.

I shouldn’t text him at all. Just leave it. Now I’m back at square one. No I’m not, I’ve analysed the choice of texting him beforehand to ask what he wants for dinner and decided that it is wrong. So not texting him at all is the answer.

I shall deduce what he’d like to eat.

He’ll be impressed (albeit begrudgingly) at how well I read him. Then when I reveal myself as not the person he thinks I am, I’ll win.

Hahaha!

Light…

So, what does he like? I’ve only known him a short while, but all occasions involved him consuming something.

He’s obviously an addict. Or ex-addict (no such thing; addiction always just waits in the wings…) So it makes sense that he’s the same with foods. Saturated fats, processed meats and / or sugars. Processed sugar, specifically. White bread over wholemeal. Chips. Microwave meals. Fizzy drinks, squash at the minimum. He’s also working class.  Cheap foods. Easily made for reasons of speed and poor education.

Fancy food? Roast dinners. Sunday. Highlight of the week. Most nutrients.

But… foods like pizza, low curries, and chips preferred. Food as treats not nourishment.

But!

He drank the hot chocolate. The dish he was trying to make was_.

He wasn’t overweight.

Likelihood of eating a lot of junk was lowering. But it was possible he is a sugar junkie. Sugar; highly addictive, people with low-resilience, a lack of discipline and levels of self-control succumb to it. Food that isn’t just a treat, but a way of continuously self-rewarding. Like a child.

He likes sugary stuff.

Focus on deserts. Chocolate. Ice cream. Actual sweeties.

Main meal is just something to get through.

Light!

Sweet wine. Rose, perhaps? Vodka with coke or lemonade. Yuck, like at some cheap club when I was a teenager.

No!

He’s an ex-addict. Reasonably confident. Confident enough to not serve him alcohol. Can’t be responsible for nose-dive back into addictions. Plus, he’d drink it to save face over his past. Or would he come clean? I could be magnanimous. An example of me not being a pompous ass like he thinks. But if he’s as egotistical and proud as I believe, then that won’t happen. He’d drink it. I can’t do that.

He likes Hot Chocolate.

Serve that.

Light!!

With sprinkles. On whipped cream. And little marshmellows.

He’d be delighted. His face would light up. He won’t be able to help it, as much as he doesn’t like me, he does love chocolate. I’m sure of it. So he’d be happy. Maybe smile. Softly. Small. Shy. Not shy. Just hesitant.

Greyeyesdarkhairlike!cute!feathersbrushingagainstpaleskin!reallycute!longeyelashes

LIGHT!

He started.

Kiyomi was glowering him with hazelnut eyes. Then she sighed, looking defeated.

“I’ll see you in a few days,” she said, presumably not for the first time.

Light felt bad. He didn’t like being a bad boyfriend. It was another way of failing. And Light didn’t fail. “Sure,” He kissed her forehead, “I look forward to it. Enjoy yourself and tell your parents I said hi. I’ll miss you.”

She had her face turned away from him so he didn’t see her pull a bitter face at the obvious lie. And when she turned to him, she had a seductive smile painted on her face. “You’re so distracted, what or who are you thinking of?”

Light held in a long-suffering sigh. He hated it when she put on that stupid coo-ing voice, sort of hushed and soft like one would reserve for a small child. It wasn’t sexy or…whatever she was going for. He tended to prefer Kiyomi when she wasn’t acting. He liked her very much at her worst, actually. When she was being a bitch. Or being clever. That’s when she really shone and what convinced him that, out of the many women he’d casually dated over the years almost as a hobby rather than for any actual emotional attachment, she would be the one he could feasibly settle down and make a life with.

But she started all this play acting and he couldn’t stand it. He’d bought it up with her, of course. In fact they’d talked about it many times. But it was something that they could not understand in one another. He didn’t get why she felt the need to do it. She couldn’t understand why he didn’t see how it was necessary for their relationship to progress.

But he didn’t want them to part on ill terms, especially with this meal with L coming up which made him feel slightly uneasy and sick.

“Just thinking about our next trip together,” he smiled, “I thought we could maybe go down to Wales. A nice little cottage somewhere.”

She smiled with too many teeth and stressed eyes. She did not like that suggestion.

“Not New York?” she asked, her voice high, “maybe shopping?”

Another repressed sigh. “We’ll talk about it properly when you come back. It’ll be something you love, don’t worry.”

They kissed and she got into her car. He waved her off before scrambling back into the warmth of his townhouse.

New York. New fucking York.

To shop.

Christ.

 

 

It was morning.

The sky was crisp and the sun was actually out. The winter was finally leaving the land, albeit slowly, and spring was determinedly fighting its way in slowly.

Naomi sat at the kitchen table with her parents. She had enough money to move out, but wasn’t ready yet.

“Mom,” she began tentatively, “dad, is it ok if I stay for a couple of weeks?”

“I thought that’s what you were going to do anyway,” said her father, staring at his mobile phone, probably reading the news. Her mother was reading the Financial Times.

“Are you and Ray sorting things out yet?” she asked, looking up.

“No.” Naomi ate some of her eggs before, “we really are finished. I want to get my own place.”

“On a PCSO’s salary?” her father sneered, “no. Better you go into the actual police force.”

Naomi clenched her fists and tried to swallow her annoyance, “as I said before, they’re not hiring. They’re have been cuts. I’m on a decent wage. I’ll be ok. But that’s why I was hoping to take my time. Then I can get the best deal possible. I don’t want to act out of desperation.”

“Of course darling,” said her father, returning his full attention back to his news app.

The breakfast room, located to the back of the house in an extension, was beautifully lit up by the white early morning.

The room, the wall a pale blue, the other three made of glass looking out to the intricate but prim back garden, looked light and airy.

The table was full of food; toast cut into triangles, butter on the butter dish slightly tarnished by toast crumbs, cereal placed in opaque plastic tuppaware, milk in a milk jug of blue and white stripes, porcelain tea cups and a matching tea pot, which was covered over in a non-matching tea cosy, orange and apple juice in large cartons, a tall glass by each diner, scrambled eggs in a bowl, no bacon as the parents were going more vegetarian encouraged by their friends down at their club where dad golfed and mom drank. It was stereotypical. But comfortable.

The table was full, but felt too large. Everyday she came here for each of her meals, her eye was drawn to the same place. The chair opposite hers’. Where Lawliet had always sat. When they were kids, they had flicked peas at one another before being scolded by mom. It was here that they were forced to stay, their food growing cold, made to sit at the table until they finished their plates and absolutely no dessert if they threw any of it away. That was dad. It’s where they had both cheered for jam-roly-poly and custard or artic rolls. Where they had eaten choc-ices in the summer. Where they had set up a tent because they didn’t want to actually camp outside, but they liked being able to look up at the stars.

They’d always gotten along, even with him being so odd and so eccentric and she being so ordinary and relatable. Chalk and Cheese. Best friends.

Her parents refused to talk about him, driven to exhaustion at the wasted potential and all the lies, but the chair was still there.

“I’m going to see Lawliet later,” she ventured, cautious of the calm morning being disturbed, “for lunch. After his shift. At his job. He’s still there. Doing well, apparently.”

Her mother flicked the paper. Her dad was still.

“Should…I tell him anything? Relay any message?”

Birds could be heard chirruping outside. They had a bird bath in the garden which always excited the birds. Naomi had wanted a cat as a child but mother had been dead set against it because she loved birds; loved them so much she didn’t even want one as a pet. She couldn’t bear the idea of locking it up.

“No,” said dad, after a moment. It wasn’t stern, or angry. Not even sad. Just a statement of fact.

Naomi looked at the empty chair. Their parents had nothing to say to their son. Not anymore.

 

Halle checked her phone. She’d text Naomi, again, but Naomi still hadn’t responded. Halle knew that Naomi blamed her for the whole ‘Cheating On Ray’ thing, which was unfair. Naomi was a grown-ass woman. Halle had egged her on, but she refused to feel bad about her part in it as Naomi and Ray were an awful couple and bad for each other. They had suited in school when they were fifteen, but that was a long, long time ago.

She put her phone on silent and away in her bag. She needed to prepare for the next visitor.

In front of her, on her desk, were the files of Mihail (aka Mello) and Misa Kenwood. Their grades were fantastic. Their behaviour was appalling, haven’t got worse since their mother left back when they were twelve. Big sister had done her best, Halle was sure, but she herself had been a girl on the cusp of adulthood. Of course, the years had aged her. Halle had almost called social services to take the twins for Wendy’s sake, but she didn’t. Partially because social services (correctly) considered the twins better off being fostered by their sister than strangers or less able extended family, and also because breaking the siblings apart would destroy them.

But this was unsustainable. The twins had only Spring and Summer term to get through before they could go on to university or wherever, but at this rate they were going to destroy any potential they had.

Halle had had many conversations with the twins where she’d read The Riot Act, Laid Down The Law or Been Real. But nothing worked for long. It didn’t help that the twins were aware that they’d be leaving school soon anyway, or that they would never be permanently expelled thanks to their grades, or that they held onto the cynical belief that the school – and Halle herself – only cared about their grades and not them specifically. Their behaviour was typical of those with Attachment Issues, something the education sector had been aware of for decades but as of yet no one really knew how to manage it.

The door knocked and the Halle’s PA ushered in a grim Wendy. The woman sat down on the comfy seat facing Halle.

She didn’t look quite as defeated as she had done in the past, but she was still very pale and stressed.

“Good afternoon Miss Kenwood,” said Halle pleasantly.

The young woman nodded.

“May I get you a tea perhaps?”

“No,” bit out Wendy, “I need to get to work soon,” she then bit her nails, an anxious habit she’d had when she’d been a school girl herself. Back then, Halle had been her Maths teacher.

“Well, we both agree that the twins are wonderful young adults,” began Halle, deciding to get down to it, “but their behaviour is very trying and not improving. I’m worried about the on-going havoc they will cause during their last few months of sixth form.”

Wendy looked at her then, hope in hr eyes and a slight smile on her face, “no, see, it’s ok. It’s going to be ok. I had an idea Miss Lidner,” (Wnedy always ended up calling Halle ‘Miss Lidner,’ a habit from her school days. It made Halle a little sad that she had never ceased being a stern authority figure for Wendy.) “I had this idea to send Mello to this Book Club. I figured he needs something to do with his time. So of course Misa wanted to go as well.”

Both women smiled, a moment of comradery.

“I think it’s working,” Wendy continued, “they’ve only been once, but they’ve got another meet up again this Friday. Already they’ve accepted one of Misa’s book requests. It made her feel part of something, you know, clever. Then they’ve been hanging out together. Going to the fair and stuff. And some are University students and others all have actual jobs. I thought it’d be a good example to them, you know? And…and also one’s now our tenant. And he’s so good with them. I just,” Wendy brushed her hair back behind her ears, “I really think this is good for them.”

Halle nodded, “while Mello has an excellent friend in Matt, I do think Misa could do with a different set of people to mix with. Her friends don’t seem… very supportive of her unless she’s behaving erratically which they find amusing. Unfortunately she’s the one who gets into trouble.”

Wendy nodded, “she’s a joke to them.”

“Basically…yes.” Halle folded her hands in front of her and smiled at Wendy, “a book club was a very good idea. The twins definitely need something to occupy their minds. School isn’t enough and even if we had the funds to have more after-school activities, I feel like you are correct in believing that they need to start making friends outside of the ones they know here. Stretching their horizons. Honestly, I wish I had thought of it myself!”

Wendy beamed, hating how much she craved this validation but also keenly lapping it up. It was rare that anyone told her she was doing a good job.

“So,” Halle smiled, “they’re going again this Friday? How about they return on Monday? I shall speak to them first. Zak, the young man hurt by them, is now ok. But it could have been much more serious. There’s a lot of bad blood brewing in the school, I know Matt’s not had an easy time of it, being Mello’s friend. I’m worried about the twins returning.”

“What can we do?” Wendy heard herself whining, already knowing the answer.

“Very little,” Halle answered honestly, “I can tell teachers to keep an eye out, but really there’s not much. I just need the twins and Matt to stick together and ride out the storm. Any misbehaviour or bullying will be dealt with but… you know as well as I do that things happen between students that we don’t know about.”

Wendy nodded, feeling bitter. She hated not being able to protect her siblings and even though she knew Halle was being honest, resented that the Head Mistress seemed to be doing little to protect them.

She started slightly when Halle suddenly put her hand over Wendy’s wrist.

“This will all pass,” Halle said, looking Wendy in the eyes, “your sister and brother will have the opportunities that many in this school won’t. But it’s still going to be very, very difficult for them, especially if they don’t learn to manage their emotions and start to grow up a little. They need to be brave.” She let go of Wendy’s wrist, “I’ll see them on Monday. It was nice seeing you Wendy.”  

“Thank you, you too Miss.”

 

 

Naomi saw Lawliet sitting near the window, looking contemplative. He was wearing an old pair of jeans, some beat up converse and his ASDA shirt. 

“Hey Lawlipop.”

“Hey.”

She sat down, “you haven’t bought any new clothes yet?” she ruffled his hair fondly, “or gotten a haircut? You look scruffy.”

“Most of my wages go on debt, rent and travelling to and from work,” he smiled wryly, “you look well.”

“I’m ok,” she shifted uncomfortably, “I’m sorry. I’m being looked after my mom and dad and then I come here and laugh at you…”

“No. That’s,” he sighed in frustration, “that’s not what I was getting at. I just noted you look well. And I’m glad. You were sad before…so I’m happy for you.”

She nodded slowly, watching his face for any hint of insincerity. He looked embarrassed and annoyed.

How long had it been that she had stepped on eggshells around him, that everything had orbited around Lawliet and his emotions and his feelings, that it had become second nature to always apologise and always assume she had hurt him somehow?

When had he grown up, or began trying to grow up?

The last few years had seen the spaces between relapses growing longer. Then the last Rehab Centre, the one mom and dad had to take a third mortgage out in order to pay, really did the trick. When Lawliet declared he was taking the last of the funds he had from credit cards and loans to go travelling (instead of returning to university) it had been the straw that broke their parents. It was already at the point where they wouldn’t give him money, shelter or their time.  They had accepted his death was inevitable. But they still had enough of a flame of hope to send him to rehab, only to be repaid with the latest insane, spoiled-boy idea. Everyone, including Naomi expected him to die out there in a drug haze or to return a mess.

“We never really talked all that much about your trip abroad,” she said, “never any details.”

He shrugged, “stuck to the country. Met the locals. Got to use some Cantonese and a bit of Tibetan. Managed to get to India in time for Holi.”

“Oh wow! I remember you always wanted to see that. How was it?”

Lawliet nodded.

The waiter came over, and they ordered, Naomi taking ages because she never looked at the menu when she was supposed to but would leave it until the waiter arrived.

Lawliet watched her fondly. It was something that had always driven him mad. Him and dad would get so angry with her. He wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t a big deal. It was as if they were embarrassed that she was wasting the waiter’s time (who most likely didn’t care) or that somehow this frivolity in choosing a meal in an appropriate amount of time reflected poorly on them, her family.

“It’s nice of you to treat me,” she smiled as the waiter walked away. She had ended up ordering what she always did; a salad and a soup. She was always worried about her weight. Had been since she was thirteen. It bordered on obsession whenever she was stressed.

“But I’d rather you spend your money on yourself,” she continued, “like getting a haircut!”

“I want to pay,” he said, “just let me. I’ll get a haircut as well…next pay day.”

“Deal,” she grinned. It was false. She did this as well, when stressed, acted like a character out of one of those prime time shows she loved from the US. “So you stayed and partook in Holi?”

He nodded, “I heard from Ray.”

The persona and smile dropped, “what? What did he want?”

“Something about a case. He looked tired. Are you going to get back with him?”

“No,” she picked up her napkin, fiddling with it anxiously, “not after what I did. I’d have to tell him and…I can’t deal with that.”

“It’s not so bad,” muttered Lawliet, “it was one night. You didn’t really consent. If anything, that guy is in the wrong, sleeping with a drunk woman.”

“I wasn’t that drunk,” she answered, “I had a bit of a hang over but a single glass of red does that. I chose to do it…” She let out a sigh of disgust, putting her face in her hands, “I just…was angry and bitter and…sometimes,” she lifted her head and stared glumly out of the window. Her eyes were dull, like Mello’s. “I just felt like I was stuck. On this loop with him. Sometimes I would be sitting on the settee watching a film with him or doing the dishes and I’d think, ‘I’m gonna do this today and tomorrow and the next day and this time next year and for the next ten years and ten years after that and one day I’ll die.’ And it was horrible, this undercurrent flowing hard and fast underneath the knowledge that I love Ray and enjoy his company, most of the time. Enjoyed it. Most of the time. And then in the darkest crevice’s I’d wonder if I did love him, or if it was the affection of simply knowing him well and having been with him since I was a child.

“I ended up filling my days with just nonsense. You know? Filling my head with worries about what we were going to eat that evening, or what the government were doing, or the war in the middle east and our part in it but utter inability to stop it, and the electric bill rising along with the council tax and that Ray needed to stop leaving his toenail clippings on the carpet and how you were, wherever you were, and should we have a referendum to leave the UK, and how mom and dad were cutting themselves off and…just everything but even that wasn’t always enough. Bloody Halle would come swanning in, bad mouthing Ray, and I’d join in and… I think that night I just wanted to do something crazy. I wanted to destroy my life. And I did.”

The waiter arrived and dropped off their food. Naomi wiped her tears away, quickly and embarrassed. No one mentioned them.

“Do you ever feel like that?” she asked in a whisper, ashamed, a few minutes after they ate silently.

Lawliet cocked his head to the side, thinking, “no. But I think I did something similar. I think I was just more efficient than you were. Instead of putting my energy in to stuff, I put it into heroin. And from there anything else I could get my hands on.”

“Is that what it was all about? Wanting to escape reality?”

Lawliet sighed. It always came down to this whenever the whole ‘drug abuse’ thing came up.

“It was everything and it was nothing.”

“You know I hate that answer,” she said around a mouth of food, rolling her eyes.

“I know, but it’s the closest thing I have to the truth.”

Just then, because life hated him, he walked into the café.

“What are you staring at?” frowned Naomi, twisting her body in the chair to look behind them. “Oh,” Lawliet heard her mutter, sounding a little dumbstruck.

Yeah, Light tended to have that effect.

 

Chapter Text

Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty: he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in-spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware…

~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

 

“Who is that guy?” Naomi asked, turning back to her brother, who looked faintly ill. “Lawlipop? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing…”

“It doesn’t look like nothing.”

“Hello,” said a smooth, warm voice.

Both siblings looked up at the same time with wide, dark eyes.

Light was smiling over them, the grin strained on his mouth.

“L,” he greeted, his voice oddly high and put on, “how are you? Who is this young lady?”

‘Oh god,’ thought Lawliet, ‘does he now fancy my sister or something? Why is he looking at her like that? Fuck.’

“I’m Naomi,” she smiled, frowning slightly at the slightly unhinged look Light had about him, “will you join us…um?”

“Light,” he offered, sitting down. He seemed to collect himself before looking back at her. He refused to look at Lawliet, “so Naomi. It’s nice to meet you. I know L here from the Book Club.”

“Ah yes,” Naomi allowed herself a small, secret chuckle, glancing at Lawliet, “I have heard a lot about this Book Club. I understand it was pretty unusual.”

Light smiled, “yes, yes, very strange.” He glanced between the siblings, the lady dressed in well-made clothes, L looking his usual messy self. But now he was looking at them, he was beginning to see similarities. She was a healthier, feminine version of L.

“I’m Lawliet’s sister,” Naomi continued after a brief tense quiet. Lawliet was still sitting completely silent and still.

“Lawliet?”

Naomi gave him an odd look, her polite smile fixed, “yes…that’s his name. My brother.” She pointed at L and Light realised that a) of course his name wasn’t L because that would be ridiculous and b) this woman thought he was quite stupid and this impression was entirely his fault.

He blinked hard, trying to re-focus his brain. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Naomi…L – Lawliet never told us he had a sibling.”

Her brother then chose to speak, staring with wide, defensive eyes, “we only met once and briefly…”

“Still,” Light let out a false laugh.

“You came just in time,” she said brightly, “we were beginning to get maudlin. Always the way when you speak to Lawli here. It starts off bright and breezy but soon becomes serious.”

“What bright and breezy thing were you talking about?” asked Light feeling like he was having an out of body experience.

“Him travelling all over the world.”

A pause.

“What?”

“Asia,” clarified Lawliet, sipping his sweet latte, “I was…searching for myself.” He rolled his eyes, “I’m a cliché.”

Light was feeling angry now, he could feel it boiling up inside. It came so quick and so completely that he couldn’t even analyse why he was feeling this way, “so you must be pretty well off?” he surmised, his smile becoming a grin that bordered on a snarl, “why are you working in a supermarket? Why…? Did you just want to lower yourself with us plebs? Just for fun?”

Lawliet let out a sardonic laugh as Naomi began to curl into her chair, not understanding the bizarrely hostile turn the conversation was taking.

“As if,” Lawliet sneered, “you consider yourself to be a pleb! One of the proles. Please, Mr. Lawyer. I have my reasons for doing the things I do. Frankly, I find your entitlement to other people’s time and personal information disturbing.”

“What are you on about?” hissed Light.

Naomi stood, claiming she needed to visit the bathroom, and promptly fled the scene.

“I don’t understand you,” continued Light after she left, “I don’t understand anything about you or what you do or why you say the things you do.”

Lawliet looked away, “I’m not so difficult to understand.”

A waiter came over, asking Light his order. Light requested a tea with milk, almost without thinking.

The moment was one of reprieve.

Light collected himself.

“This is my fault,” he said at last, “I’ve been rude today. And to your sister. I want to make it up. Are you still able to come to mine for dinner?”

“Yes,” Lawliet gulped, swallowing the feeling of guilt. He turned to Light, “I haven’t been…at my best either. I need to apologise. I did something that…it was stupid. It didn’t seem so at the time but since I’ve had time to think…”

“Hello again,” Naomi interrupted, sitting down happily, “things seem less intense. Did you guys get whatever you needed to out of your system?”

Light let out another fake, if charming, chuckle, “I’m sorry Naomi. It seems that L and I clash quite a bit. But I think we’ll make a good pair of friends.”

The waiter arrived to deliver Light his tea.

“What is it that you do?” asked Naomi, “lawyer, Lawliet said?”

“Yes, I’m a lawyer. But not…” he looked rueful, “it’s not like how it seems on TV. I’m not some hot shot in a fancy car. My dad owns the company and I’m kind of under his foot! It’s a small business and we mainly work with insurance companies. My fiancée, Kiyomi, does the more fancy stuff. She does criminal law and so is involved with the police and so on.”

Naomi’s eyes lit up, “I want to work for the police,” she said, “I think I’d make a great detective! There’s no places at the moment, what with all the austerity cuts, but I’m a PSCO and making up good experience there. And I’m still making a difference. Even if it is mainly breaking up drunken fights on a Friday night.”

Light smiled warmly, his brown eyes like liquid caramel, “well that sounds pretty important to me.”

Lawliet scowled, “where is Kiyomi, by the way? You know, your fiancée?”

“She’s visiting family. It’s only a short trip because something big is happening in one of her cases, but she’ll be gone a few days. It’s why I invited you over. It’d just be me and you. Less intense. We can get to know each other properly. Maybe discuss the book ahead of time. I’d really like to hear about your travels. I’ve never been further away than Wales.”

Lawliet’s head shot up in surprise, “you’ve never been beyond the British Isles?”

“Never,” Light smiled very tightly, “I’ve never been on the sea.  We weren’t rich growing up. We sacrificed a lot so that we could get the lives we have now. We only became wealthy when I was in my mid-teens. Dad sent me to a fancy private school, I got into a good uni, met Kiyomi. And you know the rest.” He shrugged and smiled at Lawiet, “I’m a cliché.”

Light had to try not to laugh at how stunned Lawliet looked. He felt better now…honestly this tea-break was a rollercoaster…and he felt as if he should feel as though he had won. An emotion of victory, because he had beaten Lawliet. He had proven to Lawliet that he was a biased little idiot and that he was wrong about Light.

But Lawliet had done the same to Light also. He had completely switched upside-down his expectations. Light still wasn’t sure where to place Lawliet, but it was clear he was some sort of middle class, mildly spoiled, slightly childlike man. And clever too. More clever than Light had anticipated, simply by showing how sly he could be. Book Clever as opposed to Practical Clever? Possibly. He would have to find out more.

What Light didn’t like, and possibly what was preventing his feeling of having won, was the reactions to this upheaval of expectations. Where Lawliet was simply surprised, Light had been angry. That wasn’t good…he needed to be more careful with himself. To fly in a rage at being proven wrong was, well, embarrassing. And in front of a stranger too.

No, as Light watched Lawliet staring at him, all he could feel (other than slight shame of his earlier outburst) was this sort of warm feeling in his stomach. Light was seldom ever surprised by people. He rarely felt as if he had to fight to keep up with them. And it was sort of… beneath the anger and embarrassment… it was kind of nice. A new feeling. Something new in a mundane life. The feeling was tickly, but pleasant. It made him smile. And made him notice nice things. Like how the light of the back window behind Lawliet shone through, making his skin less a ghastly pale but more delicate and porcelain. His hair became darker as a result, inky and wild. His eyes stood out, they were tired, but deeply brown with long lashes against pale eyelids. They were grey, a rare colour, and reflective. He was a good-looking man, albeit in a strange fashion. Not handsome, not like Light; not pretty like his sister. But…beautiful. Sort of ethereal.

He let out a sigh, not realising he had been holding his breath, “I betta go,” he announced suddenly, getting up and ignoring his untouched tea, “I’ll see you later Lawliet,” he said the name slowly, revelling in how it sounded and how it felt to say, “it was a pleasure Miss Naomi.”

He bustled out of the door without looking at either siblings.

Naomi watched him go and walk down the street out of sight, before rounding onto her brother, “Lawliet what the fuck was-?”

Lawliet had his hands over his mouth, the way he always did when he had done something wrong, when he was about to admit something horrible, “Naomi,” he said, “I’ve fucked up.”

 

 

 

Light wasn’t able to concentrate at work.

Whilst Matsuda made calls to various Insurance Agencies, Light stared out of the window into the dirty streets.

“Are you ok Light?” Matsuda put down a mug of dark coffee in front of him. Light took a sip. It was without milk and just half a teaspoon of sugar. Just how he liked it.

He looked over at Matsuda who’d taken a seat opposite him.

“You are,” Light said, “a good person. Really,” (Matsuda had turned a violent red and had begun spluttering,) “you are. And a good co-worker. Matsuda…am I a snob?”

Matsuda looked like a deer frozen in the headlights.

“You have good taste,” he settled on diplomatically after thinking far too long over the answer, “and … a discerning constitution.”

Light took a sip, “so I am a snob.” He looked back out of the window. When had he become like this?

“It’s Kiyomi’s fault,” he decided, turning back to Matsuda, “you know she’s always bullying me into living this lifestyle that I don’t really buy into. I mean…I can’t even really afford it.”

Matsuda didn’t look as surprised at the last statement as Light had expected. Instead he shrugged and smiled sweetly, “I think she just likes nice things and wants to live a certain way. And I think she wants nice things for you Light. Maybe it’s a bit… um… brusque at times, but I think she’s trying to push you. To motivate you culturally whereas you and your father push yourself in your career.”

“You don’t think she’s just trying to change me?”

He shrugged again, clearly enjoying actually talking to Light as an equal but uncomfortable with the subject matter, “I think…I don’t know, honestly. But I just doubt it’s from a bad place. I think she means well.”

“Maybe…” Light doubted that. Kiyomi was really quite conniving at times. It had been one of the things he liked about her at first, but he didn’t like the idea that she was conniving against him. “I met someone else,” he admitted.

Matsuda’s eyes nearly popped out of his head and he went bright red again.

“It’s nothing scandalous,” Light soothed, “I just bumped into a lady in a café. We talked about books and laughed. I dunno. She was just… sharp. We texted a little but it just… petered out. I’m unused to the idea that someone could get bored of me. And then I saw Lawliet and – “

“Who’s Lawliet?”

Light blinked, “the guy from the book club? Dark hair and eyes?”

Matsuda thought for a moment before nodding, “oh yes. I believe he flashed Misa at one point. I thought you didn’t like him.”

“I doubt he flashed her Matsuda, he doesn’t seem that weird –”

“He doesn’t?”

“I didn’t like him. But I didn’t like him for reasons that I think I may have gotten wrong. Or that I possible, maybe, exacerbated slightly. It’s made me question my own ability to read people.”

Matsuda tapped his fingernails against his own coffee mug, his skin recovering from its earlier flush was now a pale pink, “hmmm… well it’s possible to get wrapped up in your own pre-conceived ideas of what someone is. People are going to be cautious around a teen wearing a hoody and a tracksuit more than a woman in a yellow cardigan and a sundress. I mean, we have to have these ideas because it’s what can keep us safe in a situation where we need to make a quick decision; who looks dangerous, who looks safe, who looks like I can flirt with, who looks like someone who wants to be left alone? And on and on. We make snap decisions all the time based on bias. I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it.”

Light sat contemplatively, “the first time I saw Lawliet,” he said, pronouncing the name slowly, “he was standing in the shadows, staring up at the building where Nate lives. He looked like a Goya painting. One of the chiaroscuros. Dramatic, you know?”

Matsuda did not know but nodded anyway.

“I pulled Kiyomi away,” he continued, “crossed the street. Because I made a snap decision. He looked like a junkie. But before that…”

Matsuda waited, intrigued.

Light shrugged, “I don’t know.”

“Well,” Matsuda said after a beat, the confidential atmosphere between them seeming to break, “you can always make up for a first impression if you’re worried. We meet again soon.”

“Before that even, I invited to mine for dinner.”

“Well there you go!”

“Yeah… I have no idea what to make.”

“Ask him for his preferences,” Matsuda said as if it was obvious, but Light recoiled. He’d wanted to impress Lawliet, to show him that he knew him. But he didn’t… and … well… it was unexpected. It was all unexpected. He didn’t like not knowing immediately where he stood with someone.

Matsuda’s light laugh broke him from his thoughts, “seriously Light,” Matsuda stood and walked back over to his own desk where his rickety laptop was, “just ask him. He’ll probably respect you showing that you care.”

 

 

 

“Oh my god Lawliet!”

“I know…”

Why do you do these things?”

“I don’t know? Because I’m stupid and petty?”

“And it was so dramatic!”

“That too.”

“Don’t say anything. Not a thing. He won’t ever know. He can’t know. Tell Mello to keep his mouth shut at all costs.”

Lawliet shifted in his chair. It felt wrong. The Buddhist teachings he had said he would follow haunted him.

“I feel like I should tell the truth,” he muttered, “I was an utter arse and should just…take the rap.”

“No, that would only make you feel better,” answered Naomi harshly, “right now you have to think of him and his feelings. He’d be humiliated!”

‘Well he didn’t think much of my feelings,’ thought Lawliet sullenly and then he felt ashamed again. Oh god, when would he grow up?

“Would he care so much?” he asked instead, “I mean, we’ve only met a couple of times and not gotten along… though he does seem determined to be friends. He’ll probably leave the club and go somewhere else. I won’t show my face again out of penance, but Mello and Misa should still go. They made friends.”

“Everyone should still go,” insisted Naomi, “look, he won’t ever find out, ok? How would he recognise it was Mello dolled up? He met the kid once, right? Right. And he didn’t recognise him as Jan. So he won’t know. Plus, I think it would matter to him Lawli. I think he’s… you know… a bit infatuated with you.”

Lawliet scoffed, “don’t be stupid, of course he isn’t. I’ve gotta go… I’ll take your advice.”

“Please do. Don’t ruin this Lawlipop.”

He was about to get out of his seat and paused midway, “don’t ruin what?”

“What this relationship could be. You could do with a… a friend. And someone from the real world. Friends who have jobs and read and are smart and articulate. And who don’t always give you your own way. He’s probably good for you… even if he is a bit intense.”

Lawliet straightened up (well, relatively, he was slovenly by nature and tended to slouch). “Well all right. I don’t really know what you mean.”

He kissed her cheek, “we’ve only really spoken about me. I’ve dominated the conversation topic again.”

She held up a hand, “I’m fine with it. Honestly I don’t want to talk about me and this has been a pretty fun distraction.”

“I’m glad my drama and idiocy are light amusements for you.”

“Well you do do the stupidest things sometimes. Remember, keep it to yourself. All the best relationships have secrets. It’s why me and Ray didn’t work out, we knew each other too well.”

“You didn’t work out because he didn’t appreciate you enough. I’ll see you later. I need to think.”

“Text me after you and he have dinner. And after the next book club.”

“Ok.”

They kissed again and Lawliet breezed out the shop, his sister allowing herself a small sigh. She honestly thought the mildly madcap nature of her brother would settle with sobriety; foolish of her really.

She ordered another coffee and got out her dog-eared paperback of Pride and Prejudice.

“Follies and nonsense,” she read, “whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”

Smirking, it took her a couple of minutes to notice her phone was vibrating. Taking it out of her pocket, she saw she had a text. From Ray. Anxiously she opened it.

Hey, it read, not bothering you. It’s about work. I may need your help.

 

Chapter Text

These women, constituting the nascent feminist group in our area (…)  were firmly placed in the category of those way, way beyond-the-pale. The word ‘feminist’ was beyond-the-pale. The word ‘woman’ barely escaped beyond-the-pale.

  • Middle Sister/Maybe-Girlfriend, The Milkman

 

“We don’t snitch,” Wendy put a cigarette in her mouth, sucking in the sweet nectar. She rarely had enough money for cigs, but if this cop was going to give her one of course she’d take it.

It was just the one guy; big and tall and broad. There was a skinnier guy, his partner, but she didn’t see much of him before he went to talk to her co-worker.

“It’s not really snitching,” said the cop, who said he’s name was Aizawa or Aizwan or something.

“’course it is,” she sneered. “None of us will snitch. One; that isn’t how we do things ‘round these parts and two; there’s ourselves to think of. We don’t trust you. Whatever you want on Steven you won’t get from me.”

“You don’t report on one another,” he surmised.

“Yep.”

“Not even a nonce?”

She paused. Ok, that changed matters. She took the cigarette from her mouth, a frown on her face, “Steven… you think he’s a kiddy-fiddler?”

“No.” He answered lightly, “but we do think he may have raped someone. Someone you know.”

She tensed. This was a difficult one. In their community, no one narked. Apart from paedos, they were fair game. But rape was a weird middle ground. The rape of men was rarely spoke of and in the extremely rare cases of it, the pressure would be on the victim to reinstate his manhood by beating to shit out of his rapist. For women, rape was seen as a grim part of life. Sure, they could turn to mob-law, but then what of the potential innocence of the man? And getting the cops involved? Why? She would automatically win the case and again, what if the poor bloke was innocent? The most acceptable form of retaliatory justice for the woman was to send around her kin, a brother, father or uncle, to beat the shit out of the bloke. But for some women there were no men, or no men willing to take their side. More often than not, the victims of rape – male and female – simply had to hide their faces for a while and lick their wounds.

Feminism was a bit of a dirty word around these parts. Seen as a group of odd women and strangely soft men, shouting about highly uncomfortable issues like periods and intimacy and sex and consent and foreign issues like ‘female genital mutilation.’ That last term alone was disconcerting. Not something you could bring up over tea and biscuits. Or in a pub with mates. It was all a bit much and a bit loud and so garnered eye-rolls and laughter.

But the rape issue and the grey area of where it stood in the realms of seriousness stuck in the craw of women a bit. A lot of men too, though they couldn’t say it lest being accused of being a faggot.

The rape of a child was heinous. But the rape of an adult? Well then, where were they? What were they wearing? Were they flirting beforehand? Was there a past or present relationship? Why couldn’t they fight back? Why couldn’t they read the signs? Was it all a misunderstanding? Was it a lie?

Mob law didn’t account for these sorts of complicated questions. Police did, because they did an actual investigation. But they were part of an establishment that everyone knew to be unfair and a lie. So there was nowhere really to go.

Men who were raped usually left; either by actually leaving or killing themselves. Women banded together; freezing out the villain. It caused ire amongst the men sometimes; the guy was sorry! Let it go! She led him on! He didn’t know! She’s a liar!

But that was only if the woman was liked. If she was a bitch, a sket, or the rapist had a stronger female member in his family or social circle, then the woman went the same way as a raped man.

Wendy knew one such woman.

Felicity.

She was chubby and shy and mousy. She had never had a boyfriend in all the years Wendy had known her, and she’d known Felicity since school.

Like most people on the Estate, Felicity and Wendy had grown up together; going to the same school, the same shops and so on.

But they had never been friends. Felicity had always been shy and quiet. Low self-esteem bled out of her pores. It made people uncomfortable. Made the cruel focus on her. Made everyone else look away.

She’d been bullied from Nursery to Sixth Form (though Wendy had been kicked out by year 12 and so didn’t know much about it.)

Wendy ran in very different circles as a kid. She had been very similar to Misa in fact. She had been loud and gregarious; had taken up space, snogged the boys she wanted and brushed it off with a light shrug in the rare case of being rejected. Her friends had been the same.

But then life had happened. She pissed off the school so badly she had been permanently thrown out and so near the end of her education no one bothered letting her into their school or college. She was ‘home taught’ which meant she learned nothing as there was no one to teach her.

Then mam and left and well… it all went further downhill.

She and Felicity met again properly as adults, slaving away under Steven’s lascivious rule. Steven had never paid Felicity much mind (no one ever did) other than the odd occasion where he made some choice comments about the size of her tits.

Steven only really flirted with white, pretty, slim women. She hadn’t seen him flirt much with the Nigerian ladies (other than a few comments about ‘jungle fever’ and their alleged sexual prowess) and never with anyone over-weight.

But she also knew that Felicity had become increasingly pale and ghostly. There had been rumours that cops had been ‘round her place, further isolating her from the community; why was she cavorting with cops?

Then it got about that someone had actually fucked her and she was having the audacity to complain about it. Rape wasn’t funny in itself, but in this case it had been.

Wendy had stayed out of it, too focused on her siblings and paying the bills.

“This about Felicity?” she asked lightly, smoking languidly.

Aizawa looked serious.

“Didn’t it come out that she lied?” That had been the nail in the coffin. Felicity was now the worst. To rape was bad. To lie about being raped was worse. You were betraying everybody by doing that. Women and men united against you.

“We’re double checking some ideas,” he answered vaguely, “We think it’s connected to a few other things. I can’t say much more than, even if this is grassing, it is so for good reason. This isn’t about some scallywags nicking a couple of DVDs or some Heart of Gold prostitute. These are bad men.”

“You don’t have to talk down to me!” she spat, “I ain’t stupid!” She cursed the improper grammar; a side effect of being angry. It wasn’t fair, posh people also had accents that meant that pronounced things oddly or wrong, but only people like her was it used as evidence of their intelligence.

“I’m sorry,” he seemed genuinely contrite, “that isn’t what I intended.”

She was quiet for a tense moment before muttering, “I can’t see you like this. Can’t be seen talking to you.”

“You have a housemate, a guy called Lawliet Misora?”

“Yeah…?”

“His sister is a PSCO. She can come to yours acting just like a sister seeing her brother, but then she takes your statement.”

Wendy thought. She thought of that group of feminists. The estate had a small group of them. They went on marches now and then, you would see them going to the bus stop carrying placards. There had been a time when Misa had been around thirteen and she had wanted to go to one of the feminist’s meetings. It was the first overt sign that she held a curiosity similar to her brother’s – if not as clever and reasoned. Wendy hadn’t allowed her to go and sometimes she wondered if she made the right choice.

Back in school, she had ignored the bullying Felicity went through. It wasn’t her problem. But now, with two of her own, she saw that she had been part of the problem itself. An accomplice of the bullies, offering tacit approval by her unwillingness to even try to stop it.

And then, there was the issue of Steven. What did she owe him, really? What did she owe anyone? Sure, she couldn’t wrap her head around him raping someone unattractive, but that wasn’t her decision to make. It wasn’t her investigation to conduct. Steven never thought of her reputation when he pressured her into doing him favours for all the times she had to leave early or take time off for the twins. Steven never thought of the women’s feelings when he said embarrassing things, when he stood too close, brushed passed and touched. He didn’t care. So why should she? And sure, part of her felt that she was tougher than Felicity. She could handle the advances. Unlike Felicity. But then…why should she put up with it? Why should Felicity? Why should she look down on Felicity putting down her foot in a rare display of defiance? (Had Felicity actually been assaulted in some way; Wendy still had doubts.)

The final thought was that if Lawliet had feds in his family. Should anyone find out, they’d be ostracised anyway. Or worse. It had already happened to Mello, for being clever, gay and out. Then Misa was more accepted but laughed at because of her sexual exploits. Should Steven get his hands on her… or someone like Steven, people would shrug and laugh. They’d say she wanted it, invited it, deserved it. They were already pariahs.

“Ok,” she said, throwing the cigarette on the ground and stamping it out, “ok. Come round sometime this week. She can anyway. As a sister. I’ll say what I know. I don’t know anything about Felicity and she doesn’t seem his type, but ok.”

Aizawa smiled, “thank you,” he paused, contemplating before, “I’m not lecturing you. It’s just, for what it’s worth… rape is rarely about attraction. It’s the power. Having the power to exert over someone. Anyway…”

He walked away, leaving Wendy chilled and oddly haunted by his final words.

 

 

Kiyomi’s family lived in a detached house in the North Pennines in England. There she would find her mother, father and brother. Well, not father. He spent almost all his time all the way down south in London. As a child she thought it was because he had to and it was a necessary sacrifice. As she had grown into her early teens she discovered it was because he greatly disliked his entire family. This can be quite a hard pill for a young girl to swallow and perhaps accounted for some of her desperation regarding Light.

It was early evening by the time she arrived home. The sun was setting and had turned the horizons a blaze of pink and red with only a sliver of precious gold low in the sky.

The emergence of spring was much more evident, even though this was the tip of England and only a hairsbreadth away from Scotland.

She parked in the driveway and paused for a moment before getting out, relishing being back home.

Her brother, slim and tan, came from the back garden somewhere, dressed in a long house-robe, pyjama trousers peeking out the bottom, a pair of slippers, a cigarette in one hand and a book in another. He looked like a character from a E.M. Forster novel.

“Hello,” he called, “welcome back. I have news for you actually.”

“Oh yes,” she grabbed a nightbag out of the backseat and they headed inside.

“Mmm, tea?”

“Please.” She was exhausted, “is mother not here?”

“No, went to grab shopping. She’s got company tomorrow.”

“Oh?” they entered the kitchen, a wide open space that looked like something out of a magazine, mostly because it was rarely used.

Her brother, Mido, put on the kettle and went about getting mugs and teabags and so on as Kiyomi sat down heavily at the table. Thought she’d been travelling for hours, and therefore sitting down, she felt wearied by the journey. She had never been a comfortable driver, but had to get a rental for the last lap before home. Previous to that had been a taxi and then a train journey. She had re-read Sense and Sensibility on the train and wondered if she propose it as the next book and Book Club. Or maybe Pride and Prejudice, as that was more popular? Anything to wash out the bad taste of Misa’s suggestion (which she had been slightly surprised by and had actually enjoyed. Ok, maybe she needed to be less harsh on the young lady. Yes she had blatantly flirted with her boyfriend in front of her, but she was very young. No older than Mido surely. And she put up with him behaving like an idiot regularly.)

“Yes,” he continued, turning to look at her as the kettle boiled, “she’s met up with all these local women and they talk about the issues of the day. You know, child poverty, the wage gap, class, the Iraq War, all of that. It’s been eye-opening for her. She’s no longer a staunch Tory. Even has a few doubts regarding Thatcher now.”

“Crikey.”

“Yep.”

“Didn’t mother say she cried at how they dragged Maggie away from Number Ten?”

“Yes,” Mido laughed, turning to make the tea now the kettle was whistling, “so anyway. This group is a real mix. A few like mom, middle class Tories. A few champagne socialists. Two young members of the Socialist Worker’s Party, can you imagine? A couple of Labour supporters. A number of Green Peace Animal types who vary between The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats. It’s a scream. But I think it’s been very good for them. The first meeting was a mess, they all argued and shouted and nothing got really discussed. The second wasn’t much better, all the tensions and hurt feelings from the first meeting flowed over. But then the third was better, you know women, they all apologised to one another then began to confess their admiration for one another which then got the wine out and then next thing you know they’re all promising to be friends forever, to marry each other should things not turn out for them at fifty, and swearing their allegiance and love to each other.” He sat at the table, offering Kiyomi her mug of tea and opening a pot in the middle of the table which had within it half a dozen digestive biscuits.

Kiyomi sipped her tea, a bit at a loss of what to say.

“Gosh…” she settled for at last. “And you say it’s been good for mom? She’s more…flexible in her views now?”

“Very much so. She isn’t flying the red flag or anything. But she’s become a feminist.”

“What?” Kiyomi pulled a face which made Mido laugh.

“Yes. She inspired me actually. I went to a Feminist Meeting at college. I was the only guy. They meet every week. I went and gave my opinion.”

“Can’t say that went down well,” sighed Kiyomi, sipping her tea.

“I didn’t get much of a chance to say anything. They told me to be a good ally and to do that I had to shut up and listen.”

“And did you? I can’t imagine that was easy.”

“I walked out in a huff.”

“Oh dear. Well it is rude to tell you to shut up.”

“Yes but after I felt ashamed of myself and went back.”

“Why?” Kiyomi rolled her eyes, “don’t get me wrong, as an unmarried woman of nearly thirty with no children, a career and in a sexual relationship with a man, I’m very grateful to the feminists of the past for fighting for the rights I currently have. Bu modern feminism is appalling. What are they even standing for anymore? It varied from child marriage to prostitution to how much razor blades cost. It’s all over the place. And the less said about online feminism the better.”

“You’re not a feminist then?”

“I think it’s foolish to put your name to an ideology that cannot decide what it stands for anymore. They fight a war on all fronts, and don’t seem to understand that people don’t want to be sexist, overall. But if they stopped shouting and marching over every and any issues, focused on one or two high-profile important issues, then maybe something would actually be achieved. But right now feminism is the equivalent of a disorganised bunch of idiots random splashing handfuls of water into a forest full of smoke because they know there’s a fire in there somewhere.”

“Repeat that; I want to write it down and bring it up at the next meeting,” he joked, pretending to grab a pen and paper.

“So you’re a regular there now?”

“Yep. I went back and I did as they asked, listened. Though sulking and at the back. Anyway, it was pretty interesting. Some stuff I find more pressing than others, as you infer, but it has made me look at things very differently. I even speak differently now. Jokes I would have made, or comments, seem less comfortable now. I just don’t. And it isn’t oppressive, like is sometimes suggested. I just feel like I understand and empathise better. I feel better for it. It’s um,” he waved around his hand lazily, one with the cigarette in it, the smoke making hazy circles, “it’s helped me grow. Develop. Kind of keen to do it more, maybe with transgender people – whom I do not understand. Or other races, though I understand that more. Or gay people. Y’know. I’m interested, I like listening. And occasionally chipping in.” He popped the cigarette in his mouth, looking a little smug.

Kiyomi took a biscuit and dipped it in her tea, “well you’re eighteen. Everyone goes though the stage of wanting to change the world and feeling good about themselves by being oh-so liberal and grown up. You’ll be talking of living in Paris next, working in the Shakespeare Company bookshop and pretending to be poor, living only on baguettes and sex.”

Mido laughed again, “you’re so cynical nowadays. You never used to be.”

“That’s the stage after the one you’re experiencing.”

“No…” he made a show of thinking, “I believe that you’re just cross. Let me guess, Light? Not pulling his weight in the relationship?”

Kiyomi let out a long-suffering sigh, leaning back in her chair. “I don’t even want to talk about it.”

“Relationships aren’t supposed to be this much work.”

“Of course they are. You’re still a kid, you don’t know.”

“Ok, but not like this sort of hard work. It isn’t worth it. It’s a wasted investment. Do you want to end up like mother and father?”

This wasn’t a new argument. They had discussed this many times before. It was a script at this point. The thing was, at one point in time, she had wanted to be her parents. She wanted to coax a distant, handsome man into loving her. She wanted a nice house and two very clever children (preferably one boy and one girl.) But as time progressed she wasn’t sure.

“What’s your big news?” she asked instead, changing the subject.

“I got into university. One in Stirling and one in Glasgow. I’ve decided on Glasgow.”

“Stirling is nicer.”

“I’d like to be close to you,” he shrugged, aiming at nonchalance but blushing slightly, “and it’s diverse. Which the North Pennines are not. I’d like to be not the darkest person in the vicinity for once.”

“Well…. If you are sure. It will be nice, I’m sure. We can meet on weekends for coffee.” She was oddly touched actually.

“Good,” he smirked, “and I get to be scathing around Light because I disapprove of him.”

Chapter Text

Lawliet could have stayed with Naomi longer, but shame drove him back home early. He was an idiot. An idiot!

The plan had been absurd.

“Why didn’t you just catfish him normally?” Naomi had asked, “just using a fake Facebook account or something?”

Lawliet didn’t know anything about social media other than he distrusted it and it sounded awful.

“I just didn’t think,” he’d answered, “I was angry. He…played a trick on me first.”

“Oh?” She looked interested, and he resented it.

“Yeah… he gave me the wrong instructions for a recipe. I was making something for you.”

“Aw!”

“And it went wrong. It took hours to clean and I…” he had gone uncharacteristically pink, “was embarrassed.”

“I’ve never really known anyone to get one over on you,” she answered thoughtfully, a smirk lingering on her lips, “he must be pretty clever. You didn’t notice the recipe was wrong?”

“Obviously not,” he was annoyed and uncomfortable, “and Light isn’t clever. He’s devious. So anyway, I got talking to Nate then Mello. And I remembered that Light and Kiyomi had been uppity with the twins, and Mello is good looking and kind of androgynous…”

“You got a kid involved!!?”

“He isn’t a kid. He’s eighteen!”

“Eighteen!!???”

 

Apparently Naomi still very much counted eighteen as young. As Lawliet walked up the path into the house, waving at a neighbour eyeing him suspiciously (this neighbourhood was not friendly,) he had to admit that living with the Kenwoods had highlighted that perhaps Mello and Misa were quite impressionable still. And he hadn’t been a good example. Even if the idea had been funny. Even funnier that Light fell for it. Less funny when it was clear that Light was…possibly, maybe… not quite as bad as first impressions had suggested.

Lawliet entered the front door and into the dark hallway. The Kenwood residence was unusual; it as well as all the houses along the street, were built on a very slopped hill. As a result, the downstairs area was very dark, the two back rooms having thin windows near the top of the wall, much like a basement. Therefore, the council designed the upstairs rooms as having the general living quarters; the living room, kitchen, bathroom etc. Down a short set of stairs led to a back door which led to the back-garden. Continuing down the other set of stairs led downstairs, where four bedrooms were situated, a small toilet, and the front door.

Putting his keys in a bowl on a small side table located in the hallway, he listened for signs of life but received none.

“Mello?” he called for good measure.

A muffled, annoyed grunt responded from the bedroom area. He took off his jacket and coat before knocking politely at Mello’s door and then letting himself in.

“Hey…” he paused. The curtains were drawn. Mello was in bed. “It’s two in the afternoon,” he said then.

No answer.

“Are you sick?”

Mello sighed, pushing his head above the duvet. His hair was a mess and his eyes were red. “What is it Lawliet?” The kid was trying to be polite, but it was clear he didn’t want to be disturbed.

Lawliet looked around the room before sitting at a chair by a desk, “are you not well?” he repeated.

Mello looked away, eyes dim, “no… I’m suffering with boredom. And inevitability.”

“The book club is tomorrow night, are you still coming?”

“Definitely! It’s actually the highlight of my fortnight.” He sighed, “even if the last one wasn’t great.”

Lawliet looked about the room. Books, tatters and dog eared from years and years of use, lay about the floor. The walls were bare aside from pictures printed from the internet that had witty comments on them by famous authors and thinkers. A handmade diagram of the Periodic Table was above the bed.

“I um…” Lawliet coughed, “I am going to Light’s house later. Um…for food. Do you want to come? Get out of the house for a bit?”

“Why are you going to that guy’s house for? After the way he spoke to us?”

“He’s trying to apologise.”

“Yeah, to you not to us,” the boy said in a low voice, looking down at his quilt, “because you matter.”

“Mello, that’s not…” Lawliet pressed his thumb to his bottom lip, worried and out of his depth. “Where’s Misa?”

“Gone to see Nate. Again.”

“You didn’t want to go?”

“He doesn’t like me.”

Oof. Lawliet needed to escape this conversation quickly. “You want me to make you a sandwich or something?”

An angrier sigh now, “you’re as bad as Wendy! I’m ok, just let me sleep.”

“Ok… I’ll be upstairs if you need anything.”

He left the dark room that stank of teenage boy and suggested that Mello hadn’t bothered getting up all day.

In the kitchen he text Wendy, I’m worried about your brother.

The NHS waiting list for a therapist, she responded ten minutes later, is about a year. I spoke to a cop earlier. He mentioned u. Do u know anything about this?

No idea he lied. Better not get too involved in whatever Ray was doing. Even if he was a little interested in the offer Ray had made. Well…very interested. He had never thought about being some sort of civil service worker, he’d wanted to work in biochemistry. Perhaps doing research as a postgraduate. But he had figured out some tantalizing clues in Ray’s paperwork, which had evidently been useful. And the idea of perhaps working in Forensics sounded pretty interesting. But police couldn’t be ex-cons, could they?

His mobile began to ring. It was Naomi. He grimaced, not wanting a repeat of their earlier conversation. He considered ignoring it, but already felt bad for lying to Wendy, potentially lying to Light later this evening and having run away from Mello who was depressed in his room.

“Hey.”

“Hi,” she answered breezily, “still going to Light’s later?”

“Yes.”

“Mmmm,” he could hear her smirk, “and with his fiancée not there, as he was keen to point out.”

Lawliet narrowed his eyes, “what’s your point…?”

“Nothing! Ok, so Ray called me earlier. He needs me to be part of a case, something about the girl you live with. He said you knew more.”

“Not really,” Lawliet began to make sandwiches, “he’s holding the cards close to his chest. Something about a current case and needing information from her. He’s suggested that I could get a job on the force.”

There was a pause, “really? Would you like that?”

Lawliet shrugged, “maybe. I don’t know. Better pay than what I’m doing now.”

“I thought you wanted to go into… working in like, making medicines and pharmacy and all that?”

Lawliet shrugged, “well I never really had a hard plan or goal. I just studied what I was interested in. Maybe that was part of the problem, you know? I wasn’t focused enough and got bored…”

“You became a drug addict out of boredom?”

“Well when you say it like that it sounds stupid.”

In her parent’s house, Naomi stood in the upstairs’ hallway, just outside Lawliet’s old bedroom. The phone was an old-fashioned house one, with a curly wire and everything. She wound it through her fingers, something Lawliet used to do also.

“I don’t know if you should go into the police force just because someone suggested it,” she said at last, her chest feeling tight, “I’m not sure it’d be your thing. You’ve never shown any interest before. I don’t think you’d be allowed anyway, with your history.”

Lawliet finished up his sandwich. It was messy but smelled nice, so he took a big bite and spoke around the food in his mouth, “mmmm… I suppose. I sort of helped with one case and it led to a break through so I can’t be that bad.”

Naomi scoffed, rolling her eyes, “of course it did.”

A pause.

“What’s the problem?”

“Nothing,” she answered, “just in a funny mood. Look, before you go to Light’s I was going to pop round.”

“Why?” Lawliet looked around the house in a panic. It wasn’t too messy but it wasn’t like his parent’s house. Shit, he was going to have to tidy up.

“You can’t go to Light’s looking homeless.”

“I don’t look- “

“You do. Lawlipop you’ve looked like a junkie for years, which was understandable as you were one. But you’re not anymore, you need to… clean up a bit better. So I’ll bring over your old things, ok?”

“Ok…” suddenly, Lawliet brightened, “in fact, could you bring something else also?”

 

After hanging up, Naomi tried to swallow her jealousy and anxiety. She and Lawliet had a complex relationship when it came to his big brain.

Naomi was four years older than her brother. And she was profoundly ordinary. She had developed as an average toddler.

When she began school she was often praised for being quiet, conscientious, nice to her schoolmates and polite to staff.

She wasn’t praised for her academic ability; not being bad enough to warrant concerns, but never good enough for it to be commented on.

It was pretty clear that there was something special about Lawlipop from when he was around three year’s old.

He didn’t learn to talk for some time, but it became clear that he did understand language. Lawliet was particular; he liked his food and clothes a certain way. He disliked certain materials. He spent his early years being fascinated with birds (specifically pigeons.)

He was diagnosed with having high functioning autism.

Which was fine. It was considered the cousin of being ‘quirky’ and the family felt they could handle it. Their father had often joked that he thought their mother was possibly on the spectrum (which she often accepted) and so it was probably hereditary.

But then, around five, when Lawliet started talking and going to school, it was clear that he wasn’t just autistic. He was very, very, very clever.

Had he stuck to something as a child; the violin mother got him or the chess set father did… and so on… then he would have been a genius by the time he was an adult. As it was, his special interests tended to fluctuate and change. One day it was the human body, a few months later it was anthropology, a year after that it was learning latin-based languages. But this worked well, because by the time he was eleven year’s old he was highly academic and strong in every field. Unlike many students with autism, there was no ‘spiky profile’ with his academic prowess, he was straight at the top for everything.

And whilst Naomi still had a nice reputation and decent grades, that was nothing she could compete with.

Not that she tried. Competing with Lawliet would be ridiculous. She’d lose. It was just hard having a much younger brother be better than her at everything. There was nothing that Naomi could do that was just her’s; her own little thing that she was known for. Well… other than being nice and responsible. The one thing Lawliet never achieved was being friendly, sweet or sensible. He was always a bit of a wild card and quite rude at times.

Naomi accepted on some level that she had almost exaggerated these qualities within herself which possibly had led her to being a bit of a doormat at times.

It would be easy if she and Lawliet didn’t get on, but there’s the kicker, they really did. It’s not like on tele; Lawliet being clever didn’t mean he could have normal conversations or interests. Despite the difference between their academic ability, she and Lawliet had a lot in common. Their sense of humour was identical, they both like watching and analysing film, they both read and preferred fact over fiction (though she preferred travel writing whereas he preferred popular science), neither liked sports and both found themselves being centrist left-wingers, passionate in political arguments but lazy with political action, neither wanted kids but both liked kids, and they only trusted going out and getting properly drunk with one another.

They got on. Always had.

But it was hard, being unremarkable.  And now Lawliet found that solving crimes was a doddle, was doing it in his spare time like Sherlock Holmes, and would no doubt go on to be an amazing police officer and detective whilst she was still milling about going through her PSCO stage hoping that they’d let her into the force proper once there was a space available. With Lawliet, a space would be created for him.

Naomi went into his room, pulled a giant suitcase from under his bed, and began to pack away his best clothes into it.

Lawliet had exploded his life and opportunities for no reason.

But here he was; a potential career, a group of supportive friends, a very handsome man begging him for dinner. And here she was, the girl who was nice and sweet and played by the rules apart from that one time. And now she was alone, in her parent’s house, stuck in a dead-end job and very single. She gulped, tears forming.

“He’ll save so many people,” she whispered to herself, the words out loud to emphasis their truth. Her voice wavered, “he’ll do great things. I have to help him get there.”

It didn’t matter, ultimately, if she failed. Because unlike her brother, she wasn’t interesting or clever or special. She was just ordinary.

 

Light stood in-front of the full-length mirror in his bedroom. Various jumpers were strewn across his bed and he put each one in-front of his chest, seeing what best matched his jeans. Lawliet was coming for dinner and he needed to look his very best. He didn’t analyse why, he just knew he did.

Settling at last at a deep cream, he picked up his phone and sent out a text. He paced the room, waiting anxiously for a response. Despite waiting, the phone’s chirrup still startled him.

I’m vegetarian, Lawliet had responded. Following Matsuda’s advice, he had decided to ask Lawliet his preferences. It was the right choice. Thanks for asking, the text continued, I often forget to mention that and it causes issues. I don’t mind what you make. Shall I bring wine? What do you like?

Lawliet was asking what he wanted. Asking. No mind games. No working it out. No deducing. Just asking. It felt nice. Clearer.

Light considered being magnanimous. On his dates, he always had insisted on paying for everything. It was old fashioned, sure, but it was a display of wealth and dominance that, in his experience, always paid off.

But with Lawliet, nothing was as it seemed and everything was backwards. Plus, this wasn’t a date.

I prefer dry white. Any brand, I’m not a big drinker and so don’t have a preference. Thank you.

He focused on the thank you. Smiling.

You’re welcome, he replied, see you at eight tonight.

Sure.

Light went back to checking his clothes, maybe the cream wasn’t right. Maybe, instead of a jumper, a thin shirt? Something a bit more fitted.

 

 

Having finished the Three Colours trilogy, Misa and Nate were not on a Studio Ghibli trend.

Princess Mononoke’s credits rolled and Nate announced, “this has been my favourite so far.”

“Really?” Misa looked up at him. They were both on the couch under a heavy quilt wearing pyjamas as usual. (As always, Misa had borrowed his.) “I prefer Nausicaa.”

Nate wrinkled his nose, “I think she’s a bit self-righteous.”

Misa scoffed, “oh, but San isn’t?!”

“No,” he grinned, “she’s driven. Like Lady Eboshi. I respect her.”

Misa snorted, “totally the wrong opinion. Your punishment is that you have to go and make me a cup of tea.”

He rolled his eyes but got up, a smile on his lips.

“Biscuits too!” she called from the couch, switching the DVD to TV mode and putting on what sounded like cartoons.

Nate had a lot more food in his flat now, due to the various comings and goings of Misa and occasionally Matt. He’d even had Sayu over a couple of times, the pair of them teaming up on a joint project after discovering they were taking a class together in university.

His kitchen now had various biscuits and sweets, vegetables and stock to make soups, pasta sauces, coffee and tea as well as hot chocolate and various things to put onto sandwiches.

He also had more to say when he called home. Things his friends had said, anecdotes about what they had been up to. Before he could only ever talk about what he’d been learning.

For most people, this was no big deal. But for Nate, it was huge. His world was opening up.

It was also getting more complicated.

He sat back on the couch. Misa had tidied away the blanket. Spongebob was giggling loudly on the TV. The tea and a packet of chocolate chip biscuits were put on the coffee table.

“So, um,” he turned to Misa, “I haven’t seen Mello in a while.”

She sipped her tea carefully before answering, “he’s still in a bad place.”

“Was it me?”

“No.”

“It was after our last meeting that he…went down.”

Misa turned to him and smiled sweetly. “It’s not you. He… he gets like this. The dark thoughts start swimming around in his head and they just don’t leave him alone. He can’t not think about it. And they get worse and worse. It’s not you, it’s stuff like,” she paused, trying to figure out how much to say without betraying her brother’s privacy, “it’s the big stuff, like God and life and death and where he’s going and adulthood. He thinks about stuff like that and gets stressed.”

Nate analysed her, “do you not worry about those things?”

“Not like that. I don’t fall apart, I just know that things will be ok, because, well, they just have to be. I worry about-”

She paused, looking almost embarrassed.

“You can say,” he assured her, taking her hand. He was used to touching her now, “it’s ok.”

“Stuff that’s on the news,” she muttered, “stuff I can’t control, so I know it’s dumb, but I get so worried. Like, the Gaza Strip and terrorism and drone bombings. I hate that it happens and I can’t do anything. I feel so…helpless and spoiled because nothing like that happens here and I… it’s like I feel guilty and disgusted with myself.”

“But,” Nate frowned, “you don’t cause those issues.”

“I know,” she smiled, a slight manic look in her eyes, “and I tell myself that. But I feel responsible on some level. It’s why I,” she gestured to SpongeBob, “I watch dumb stuff and focus on make-up and stuff…because that’s what I can handle. It’s like….I’m just trying to keep myself busy and  stuff. Like, if I focus on something small like me hair or me clothes, it’s taking a break from all the big ocean of worries about stuff I cannot do anything about. God, that’s so pathetic.”

“It’s not,” his cocked his head to the side in a way that reminded her of Lawliet, “you’re extremely empathetic. That’s not a bad thing. You just have to look after your mental health. I’ll always be here to tell you it’s not your fault. And if we need to go on a march together or sign a petition or something, we can, if it helps.”

She grinned, touched. Looking down at their joined hands, a part of her wished that she had a crush on Nate, and he on her, but of course that wasn’t the case. But, looking back in his eyes, it felt nice, having a true friend. It wasn’t romantic love, but it was love. She leaned forward and kissed his cheek, “you’re going to make someone very happy one day.”

Nate frowned, his language skills failing, “what does that mean?”

“It’s a sort of saying? When you get a boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ll be great at it.”

Nate stared at her for a long time. She was used to it and so waited patiently before he was ready to speak.

“Boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” she frowned at first before it slowly cleared away to understanding, “oh… you’d have a boyfriend not a girlfriend?”

Nate stared at the tele for a moment, contemplating the question.

“At this point in time,” he answered, “yes. I’ve never really… thought of anyone like that before. But I didn’t know many people and I’ve had a lot going on. But with meeting you and the others I feel… I think I prefer men over women. But,” he frowned slightly, turning back to her, “it’s not set.”

Misa grinned, curling up her legs underneath her, “this is exciting! There’s no pressure Nate. Just take it as it comes. Sexuality is a huge, ever changing spectrum. Some of us are pretty settled,” she gestured to herself, “but some of us are more loose. And that’s fine. Did you have any sex education growing up?”

He shook his head, “but mom and Roger have tried telling me the basics. Everyone gets so flustered though. I’ve watched TV to help.”

Misa hmmed, “the tele isn’t always the best. Here,” she grabbed a notebook and a pen that was on the coffee table and began to write, “I can give you a list of documentaries or tv shows that are a bit more accurate. But what you need to do is approach this like your studies; getting books from legitimate sources and reading up. Your sexuality is still something you’re figuring out, which, like I say, is fine and take your time. But if you’re starting to warm up to that side of life you’ll need to know how to look after yourself.” She looked up at him, eyes big and blue, “I wish I had had someone do this when I started having sex.”

“When did you first start?”

“I was thirteen. I know, young. I kinda regret it. The boy was a jackass and I got this reputation that was hard to shake. But sex is good, it’s nice. Just… you wanna do it with someone you really like. Or do it because you really want to.”

Nate nodded, not believing he’d be able to do it with anyone he didn’t like. Or didn’t know. He wasn’t sure if he could be sexually attracted towards someone he didn’t know. He definitely didn’t think he’d do it if he didn’t want to; that was the main factor in why he was still a virgin.

“Mello may be a good person to speak to about this,” she said, “he’ll come tomorrow to the Book Club, don’t worry.”

Nate nodded, looking calm, but inside his heart had suddenly increased in rate.

 

 

“So the PSCO,” started Ray, “she’s my ex.”

“What seriously?”

Ray and Aizawa were in their car just outside of the police station. It was only around five pm, but the sky was already dark and the street lamps were on, their light reflecting off the icy roads and paths.

“Recently broken up,” Ray continued, hating the conversation but feeling that this was going to be a tense first meeting, even if he and Naomi swore they’d act like professionals, and needing to fill Aizawa in beforehand to avoid any awkward questions afterwards. “Like, just under two weeks ago. It came out of the blue.”

“Shit,” Aizawa blinked a few times, “I’m sorry. That sucks.”

Naomi suddenly appeared, turning from around a corner and heading to where they were.

Ray sat up suddenly, a focused look on his face.

Aizawa stared at her.

“Come on,” muttered Ray, grabbing a file from the dashboard and getting out of the car.

“Hi,” he called to her.

She waved, a nervous smile on her face. She looked pretty, jet-black eastern hair flowing in the wind. Big dark eyes. She was always so striking. It’s like he’d forgotten.

“Hey,” she said, then froze, the smile falling from her face as she looked behind him.

Ray turned to see Aizawa, who also looked stunned.

“Oh, Naomi this is Aizawa,” he explained. Had she thought she and him were meeting alone. “My new partner from London, so excuse the English accent.”

“Hi,” she muttered.

“Hi,” smiled Aizawa, standing next to Ray, “it’s nice to meet you.”

It was professional, as they promised. She took the files and listened to his instructions regarding what questions she needed to ask. But there was a weird tension between all three of them.

“Is your brother going to be there?”

“Yeah,” she looked up at him, “why?”

“He was helpful before,” answered Ray, “Mogi is interested in meeting him.”

“He’s got a record,” she muttered, almost reluctant, “and you guys will hire him? It’s not allowed.”

Ray stared before saying, “nothing is ever set in stone.”

“We’ll be sure to note your work too,” Ray started slightly at Aizawa’s deep timbre. It was the first time he’s spoken since getting out the car. Ray turned and saw he was looking at Naomi like she was the Mother Mary. “Your brother made a suggestion, but you’re doing work for us. This is kind of undercover too,” Aizawa continued, “we’ll put it in the report and say to Mogi what a good job you’ve done.”

“Easy,” Ray let out a huff of a laugh, “she hasn’t done anything yet.” As he said this, he turned back to Naomi and saw what must have been a beatific smile on her face – one he hadn’t seen in years – slide off.

“I better go. I’ll call you when it’s all done.”

She walked away, fur boots crunching on top of the sleet covered streets.

He looked back at Aizawa who shrugged at him, “what?”

“Nothing,” muttered Ray.

But he knew something was off.

 

Naomi went around the corner and got into a waiting car.

Inside her father was listening to Classic FM. “All done.”

“Yes father, thank you.”

“It’s fine.”

She looked at him as they drove out, “no really, I know this isn’t easy.”

“I’m not going to see him,” there was some bite in her father’s voice. “I’m doing this for you. I don’t want you lugging about books and clothes for your brother on public transport, whilst also trying to do your job. You aren’t his servant.”

“I know.”

Father let out a sigh of frustration, rubbing his bottom lip with his thumb for a moment before complaining, “what does he even need the books for? Most of them are from his teens!”

Her parents had found her packing up Lawliet’s belongings just after she’d text Ray on where and when they’d meet for the case file. Mother had left crying. Father had gone pale, then red and had refused to talk for twenty minutes. Lawliet’s childhood bedroom belonged to the mid-nineties, when he’d been a teenage boy. They hadn’t changed it. He returned during university holidays, and then later for his repeated relapses and cleanses and relapses and cleanses and on and on until no one could deal with it anymore. Then it became this time capsule. She had thought they simply couldn’t deal with clearing out his stuff, even when they cut him off completely. But now she realised it had become a shrine to what their son once was and what he could have been.

They drove in silence for a while. Naomi didn’t know why Lawliet had asked for the books but also knew that it wasn’t really what her father was wrestling with.

They arrived outside of Lawliet’s shared home. Dogs were barking in the distance. There was a smashed street lamp ahead of where they parked on a dirty roadside.

“It’s actually not that bad,” he dad said wryly, “compared to the hovels he lived in before.”

“He’s working full time and lives in a proper house now. Renting honestly,” Naomi stressed.

“Would you like me to pick you up when you’re done?”

She paused. Her father wasn’t normally like this; generous. Neither was her mother. Naomi had an unusual relationship with her parents. They weren’t cruel to her, but it was cool and indifferent. She’d always supposed it was because compared to Lawliet, she was incredibly dull. No genius. No dramatic drug addiction.

It was good really. Naomi had learned to be self-sufficient and sensible at a young age. She had to be as she basically managed herself.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be.” She answered honestly, “I can get a bus. They run late.”

“I can wait out here.”

Naomi was quiet for a moment, before, “I can send Lawliet out, if you like. Just to say hi. Nothing too much.”

Father sighed, “that’s not it. Look, do you at least have money for a taxi?”

“Yes?” she answered with a frown as he gave her £20 anyway.

“Get a taxi home. No bus.”

“Ok.” She got out and heaved out the boxes of books and a large suitcase of clothes. She waved her father off as he slowly pulled away.

As soon as he was gone, Lawliet came out the house. He must have been watching from a window.

“Thanks,” he said on arrival, “I appreciate this.”

“Well I have a job to do as well.”

“Yeah, Wendy is inside. She’s popped on the kettle for you.”

She took the suitcase whilst he lifted the heavy boxes.

Inside, she was sent upstairs to meet Wendy.

Lawliet, remaining downstairs, knocked on Mello’s door. There was no response, so he let himself in cautiously.

“Mello? You awake?”

The boy lay in the dark. He was awake but didn’t want to talk.

Perhaps deducing, somehow, that he was awake, Lawliet carried on talking, “I, um, have a gift for you. Nothing amazing. Just something for you to do I guess.”

Mello sat up and turned on the lamp next to his bed.

“What is it Lawliet?” he sounded bitchy, which he regretted. He knew Lawliet was trying to be nice to him, so there was no need to be so short. He just couldn’t help it. This is why everyone hated him, because he just had no control over his language or tone.

Lawliet dragged in the main big cardboard box before pulling in a couple of smaller ones.

For the first time in twenty-four hours, Mello actually climbed out of the bed. “What is all this?”

“Take a look.”

Slowly Mello pulled open the first, and largest, box. Inside was a huge pile neatly stacked books.

“Oh my god,” he whispered.

“I read a lot when I was younger,” Lawliet said, his voice quiet and low.

Mello felt his eyes begin to brim with tears.

“There’s my old school books,” Lawliet continued, oblivious, “educational books. I went to a private school, so they’re good text books. Lots of critical theory from English. Lots of chemistry and biology books as they were my favourite sciences, though I do of course love physics. Um, lots of typical fictional classics. My mother wanted me to know the English canon. So Shakespeare, Austen, everything from Beowulf to Catch 22. A few novels I personally liked, a lot of Garth Nix and Phillip Pullman. A few Horowitz short stories, later I went into Stephen King. What else?” He pulled a smaller box to himself and opened it up, all whilst Mello stared incredulous at the large box of books still, “I went through a stage of being obsessed with pre-colonial African history, so there’s a lot on that. If you want to know all about the Yoruba people or the Hunter Gatherer tribes, it’s all here. Oh and then my obsession with the universe. A few religious texts, a lot of atheist ones. I was a big Dawkins fan. Ummm, what else? Oh yeah, how to play the violin, the piano… I can help with that, if you like. I can play both.”

He looked up to see Mello staring, his face wet.

“This is all for me?” he muttered, his voice shaky and weak.

“Yeah,” Lawliet was surprised by how his heart was racing, “I don’t read these anymore so I bequeath them to you. Like, you’re my heir-”

He was about the joke some more, but Mello suddenly flung himself into Lawliet’s arms, pulling him into a tight hug.

“Thank you,” the boy whispered, shaking. “Fuck…I’m sorry I’m crying,” he sniffed, “thank you so, so much.”

“It’s ok,” Lawliet put his arms around the boy slowly, “it’s ok. You’re welcome.”