No tennis in the park on Saturday, but no heaving up every ounce of bile in his stomach, either, so he supposes the whirlwind illness has decided his suffering should settle.
The tile is fluorescent under his cap-toed leather oxfords. He’s sure he still looks dreadful, perhaps a touch exhausted, but two showers in one evening had left him feeling prepared enough to return to his duties. And knowing the next day is paperwork day perches in the back of his mind. Just a bit of motivation.
“We missed you yesterday,” the receptionist nurse perks over to him. Without her nametag, he wouldn’t have recalled who she was in such a split moment. He wonders where Nori’s gone for lunch today.
Closing a folder over itself, he collects it beneath an arm, carrying more idle smalltalk with her until he’s able to wave himself away. A slight wobble bats his knees. He collects himself, straightens, marches forward to the doorway just ahead whistling its siren song to him.
“You’re late,” L is sure to inform him. Eyes closed, Light breathes in sharply through his nose; yes, it’s just what he’s been lacking.
“Sorry.” A glove pulls from the wall box to fit against his skin. “I’m here now, doesn’t that count?”
L says nothing at all, staring through the window to the snowy courtyard breeze.
“No physical therapy today, I think,” Light says, stepping forward as he folds the second glove down. “I’m not feeling my best. We’ll start up again on Tuesday.”
“Fine,” he earns back. A curious quirk touches his brow, though he shakes it off. It certainly has been a strange week. Starting fresh will do them both well. The stethoscope touches beneath L’s shirt. After every second and a half of silence, a soft bah-bum. Back to business.
New Years Eve finds him with two separate invites to parties from peers at university. He declines them both, preset to spend the night alone. He’s to rest up in preparation for the double bypass he’s to perform the next day (because, apparently, one physician cared null for being the dickhead who scheduled surgery for New Years Day).
Watari, by nature, brings a double dozen coconut caramel cookies he’d baked just for the occasion, that of another year completed with his son still intact. Light’s picking coconut shavings from his tooth as the clock strikes midnight.
January is two more echocardiograms, a slightly less functional bicuspid valve, and twenty or so walks through the snowy courtyard that decrease more and more in awkwardness, even with the absence of other visitors spread about. Sitting alone, just the pair of them, in the walled in patch of grass and concrete, feels right.
February is three pacemaker implants on three invalids, seven heart attacks not severe enough to lose the temper over yet still a fuss given, two post-op check ups. And on its final day, a call from his mother, a sweetly wrapped cologne smelling of ocean salt and wind in his hair from Misa, and two hours of drinking with the few colleagues he cares to see after work hours end. He’ll only ever turn twenty-nine once, afterall.
L tells him, “Happy birthday, Light. I wanted to get you a cup of coffee, but unfortunately they only serve swill here,” and that is perhaps his most favorite gift of the day
As March turns the corner, he receives the email notification that the seasonal tennis team he plays in for weekend recreation is approaching its start soon, and that brightens him ever slight into a bite of an orange slice. A glance to his gilded wrist, once he’s tucked his phone away and disposed of his lunch trash, tells him his next client should be beginning his impatient inner tantrum right...about...now, being so that he’s three minutes past his usual afternoon visit time. They’d gone without the walk today, too, meaning he’s bound to be thrice as irritable. The poor thing.
Light walks the long way round the wing to get to room 211.
“Good afternoon,” his princely smile calls. “How are we feeling today?”
Rather than an answer, L glances up to him, then buries himself back into the yellow notepad perched on his knees.
Pulling a thermometer from his breast pocket as he strides over, Light shakes it, pokes his nose over what L scrawls, removes the sterile cap from the tip. “What’ve you got there?”
“Just keeping track of all your arrival times. They’re very rarely according to schedule.”
The thermometer presses to his mouth. Whether it’s to shut him up or for the true dignity of medicine, he isn’t sure.
“I’m sorry, I have other patients besides you, you know. Ah-Ah.” His chide carries with it a finger wagging toward L’s hand lifted near his lips. “No talking until I get an accurate read.”
Obediently, L silences, busying himself in folding the papers up and tucking them away beside him. His pen clicks once, gaze tipping to the ceiling until he’s to raise one pointer finger at the very same second the timer beeps in his teeth.
“36 degrees,” Light reports. “You're a little warmer than yesterday.”
“Yes. The weather is improving,” L says back in the same time he grasps the blankets to tug up over himself. Light blows a laugh out his nose.
“Tomorrow we’ll go for a walk,” he promises once he’s recorded the temperature and set his things back away. “How have you been feeling after the small exercises we started?”
“Drained,” is his answer, and he nudges himself forward at the feel of cold metal on his bare back.
Light listens, as protocol, before tucking the ear prongs out and scribbling more data. “When was the last time you had your iron levels tested?”
He’s hardly visible anymore underneath his linen cocoon, only a sharp nose and tufts of dark hair out standing. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“That’s not what I asked, L.” A hand slides to his hip. “What’s with you today? If you feel sick, you have to tell me.”
“How is one to tell what sick feels like when that is their reality?” His knees pull tighter to the center of his frame, covers intact still.
Annoyance sucks Light’s cheekbones in. He releases with a snap of the teeth. “Come on, L, be serious. Your last echo wasn’t as strong as I’d have liked. If you’re feeling badly, you need to-”
“I’m fine, Light, the only problem is that I can’t get a moment to myself.”
Had Light anticipated such a level as this of irritability, he’d have accounted for it in behaving more clean cut. Over the line for daily physician’s notes, he scribbles moody and licks his thumb to cast the page over to the next.
“Okay, I’ll leave you alone.” His geniality will get him places, he’s certain. A final glance over L’s unmoving form in the middle of his mattress. A tightening of his own two shoulders. “We’ll go for a walk tomorrow, I promise.”
Light does not realize the calendar marks today a Friday until the moon has fallen and he’s packing his belongings to head for the parking lot.
When he arrives again on Sunday, checks himself in, sets his things down, steels himself, he knocks just once on the door of his first patient, where on the instant is shot with a hunter’s arrow through the lungs.
He feels the urge to crumple to his knees in Shakespearean sorrow. “I know, I know. I made a mistake, I’ll admit that.”
Through the parted curtains, sunlight uses L’s face as its canvas, piecing a mosaic together of springtime and serendipity. His pouting mouth makes for a handsome tautness of his bone structure.
“I’ll make it up to you, we can go out right now and sit under the sakura. They should be blooming any day now.”
Still, silence massages his muscles. He doesn’t ask himself why he’s bargaining with someone under his total control, because to debate oneself, in Yagami Light’s mind, is to inevitably in one way concede no matter the outcome. He will not be his own fool.
“Or, how about this,” he starts, shaping as he goes the idea that he’s been tampering with a while. He sets himself to the bottom corner of the bed. “Next weekend, when it’s even warmer outside, and you’re a little more ready for it, I’ll bring you to the park beside my house. We can play tennis together. Lightly.”
L faces him. A soft blink kisses his lids together, and a soft hush melts his lips apart.
“I like it when you sit on the bed with me,” he says. “You aren’t afraid to break me.”
Certainly do his insides flare.
And certainly, another week’s worth of twenty minute walks ease the preparations for the following weekend, a Saturday where Light signs off the release form for his patient to leave for the day, then turns to grip two wheelchair handles despite the ocean of protests. “It’s humiliating to be seen this way,” L had started out, though once with the feeling of being carted around by another, no exertion of himself whatsoever...he’d kept quiet about it the car trip over.
“See the river?” Light points once he’s parked at the front of his driveway, and they the two of them walked over toward its hushing stream. “It’s an amazing view.”
“Yes,” L says without taking his eyes off it, not until he’s ready to tempt the other with his hourglass stare. “Shall we go?”
Smoothed rocks guide the water flow down its path, and the concrete one aside it, where he’s apt to take his bicycle on kinder days, takes the slow steps of he and the force ahead. He’s careful to keep from jostling him, so long as L agrees not to let go of the rackets or sleeve of green felted balls placed in his lap as cargo.
The early spring still boasts with it a tinge of cold every so often in a breeze, but the overall warm mystique and sunshine catering every step proves a comfort. L rises from the wheelchair, Light coming to accept the items before they slip from his legs. The rackets distribute between each other. Light selects a ball, feels its soft outer fibers in the palm of his hand.
From the opposite side of the net, L sips in a burst of oxygen, then takes a stance of his racket thrust forward that answers the question all its own.
One bounce of the ball, and Light sends it sailing over the net. The ferocity at which it returns shocks him into missing it.
“Love-fifteen,” L calls.
Light shakes his head, collecting the ball back up into a hand. “Don’t strain yourself too hard. We’re here to have fun, not to stress your heart out.”
“Just a friendly game of tennis, nothing more,” he says, a wicked edge in his eye.
The ball cascades over to him, sent back more gently, returned again and back and again and back until Light manages an angled thrust forward for his own gain.
L drags himself to gathering the ball. It smashes forward so hard Light must censure him again.
“It must be a sign,” L’s voice announces to fill the whole court. While Light stands in a bend of himself forward, hands on the knees and breath in the throat, the other dares smirk upon his pitiful stance. “The world is changing in my favor.”
Another inhale, and Light pushes himself straightened, sweat gliding from the inner flesh beside his ear and jawline. “Nice job. What can I say, you played a really good game.”
Though the sales associate tone he takes could be tested for polyethylene levels, his pride to note the other’s firework of confidence rings true. If winning a tennis match is what it takes for L to think his life has meaning, Light would be the most tepid gentleman to serve him.
“Come on, let’s head back t- ...L?” His blinking beams across the court to where L stands, shadow behind him, hand lifted to clutch at the front of his head. Light watches his eyes pinch together in what looks of ache. “Hey, what’s the matter? L?”
His crumple downward onto his haunches is Light’s trigger to toss his racket down and rush to him.
“I’ll be fine,” settles his pulse rate just an ounce. L keeps his hand pressing that same tender spot of his skull, until arms find beneath his own and he’s grappling blindly for something to latch onto. Light without hesitation lifts him to his feet, halfway carrying him toward the seat rolled aside, and they take the pathway back in half the time.
“...I don’t mean to cause an issue.”
The inside air is strained thin and clear, the most breathable concoction of elements available. Light prides himself on that, on his dustless house and pristine air quality out here in the forestry, hindered only by flecks of pet dander shedding in every shake of the ears.
“Boof, BOOF,” the dog insists, even after already having his initial meltdown calmed by Light’s stern command. His snarls rain still toward the stranger lain to his sofa in his living room. The fine fabric of sport pants block the two of them.
“Hush, Chizu,” Light shoos, finishing his propping of pillows about the couch. “It isn’t an issue. I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard. I’m just relieved nothing serious happened.”
Every so often, his eyelids flutter, and all the while true, his chest expands shallowly. “Just shortness of breath. I can handle it.”
“I know,” Light replies, and he does not catch how fond his smile shines before there’s time to fix it. Half his focus trains to clearing his throat, waving Cheeseburger away with one hand whilst tending still to his patient. “Can I get you anything? Are you hungry at all?”
Had L answered with his short yes any later than the split second wait, Light would suspect something were truly off. Rather, that smile returns, and he makes toward the kitchen hall. “I’ll see what I have.”
“Coffee would be nice,” he hears over the click of paws trailing behind him. Stress manifests its release in a derisive snort.
Something burrows itself inside his skin, dirty and unkempt, the wild bit to him his parents would chastise out of bloom with every jog home splattered knees to feet in mud, every elbow on the dinner table and broken curse at inconvenience. Light likes the way he lives alone now, and he isn’t six years old walking home from school anymore with his big squeaking rainboots on, and there’s no one to tell him what he’s doing is wrong even if it is. Even though it is, when he’s up to dawn thinking of the way L’s ribs had felt beneath his fingertips in that afternoon’s exam, or the faint blue in his irises should the light hit them just so. And he’s laying on his couch now, after a plan to play one short easy game of tennis had strayed off the ideal, but Light doesn’t mind so greatly that he’s stretching up searching his cupboards for instant coffee because if he’s honest with himself the way others continue to urge, then he thinks L could just about be the first real friend he’s ever had, too.
“I think I’m out of coffee, but I have some black tea,” calls his findings from the kitchen, to which a mighty sigh answers back before the defeat of, “Bring sugar.”
No, he’s never brought a patient home and no, he’s never waited for the kettle whistle with such anticipation as to return a tray of one steaming tea cup, one bowl of granulation, and the sleeve of creme cookies he’d been saving for himself out to the living room.
That’s what he thinks of L. If he’s to put his feelings for him into one motion, it is bringing tea and cookies out into the living room to set on the apothecary table, and watching in softness as he leans up on an elbow to reach for the sugar spoon. Once. Twice. Three times- a taste now, and a stir. Four times. Five. Another taste. Light could watch him go on all day stirring sugar into his tea, and that, too, is what makes him believe in earnest heart that it’s the first time he’s ever found hope in someone else’s life.
“You live alone here?” questions in a smoky murmur after sometime of stirring and watching. Light acclaims the way his thoughts can be read in such accuracy.
“Yeah,” he says, sitting in the armchair juxtaposed beside its matching couch. He doesn’t wish, either, that he’d thought to make himself a drink, just to have something to busy himself with now, and that indicates yet another way in which L Lawliet has proved a great change to his story. “I bought it a few years ago, once I finished my first undergraduate program.”
By the time L’s gotten his tea just right, he’s taken enough test sips to reduce it to a half cup’s serving. “It’s a nice area,” he comments as he sets the drink back down. “I’ve always enjoyed the scenic lifestyle. Where we lived in England was much too close to the city...”
“Is that what brought you out here?”
Because he’s always wondered what a- no, hold on, he can remember, a quarter Russian quarter northern Italian or some French perhaps a bit Eastern on his mother’s side and all the rest English...person, could be doing living in the midst of Kyoto. Leaning back into the couch cushions, Light watches only the top of L’s hair beside him as he speaks. “I was investigating a case a few years ago. It required close and constant surveillance, though by the time Watari and I had settled in here I’d already solved it.” More slow motions of his chest, and his nose tips back to eye Light from his position behind his head. “But I like the people here. Had I gone to a hospital in the UK, I’d have been dead within an hour.”
They watch each other a moment before L, hands resting to his abdomen, nestles his head against the sofa arm and allows his lids lay closed.
“You go out of your way for me quite often.”
“Well, of course,” he assures. “I’m your doctor. If I weren’t willing to do whatever it takes to care for you, then I’d have no right to be a part of the medical field.”
L hums. At the foot of the sofa, Cheeseburger kicks his leg out in the fantasy of dreams.
Time’ll come any day now to call it summer. Light anticipates open windows the way most people wait for winning lottery numbers. Everything’s fresh, and all the sick and sad from autumn forth can accept its honorable discharge from his life. In the now, he feels the glow from the front window against his outstretched ankles, golden, a chalice within which he owes prayer.
Just beside his hand brushes the soft of warm summer in itself. Inside, in his perfectly clean air, L breathes, a luxury his own, and Light flicks a finger back, forth, back against a stray black cowlick that prods his touch with every expanding inhale. The silk of it curls around that finger, then. He thrives upon the touch of it, and such as one would fold the evening news open for a read, a pipe huff, a stroke of the exorbitant purebred at his side, Light runs his hand through L’s hair, bangs to crown, and it’s much more lush a sensation than one may expect from gandering at such a wet towel of a man.
A heavy noise sounds through his nose, one that makes Light almost wonder if he’s wronged the both of them, but a halt in his touches garners a nudging of head against his hand, so he complies in more slow strokes.
“I’m going to schedule your implant surgery for next month,” he decides there, and L joyously replies back, “Thank you, I’ve been thinking my breasts could use an upgrade as well.”
“The CRT-D,” cuffs back, never humoring him. His hand retracts to rest to the arm of the couch. “You’ve made a lot of progress. I think by late April, you’ll definitely be ready.”
In his experience, he’s yet to see a patient who’s chomped at the bit to have a blade stuck into them. The look on L’s face is the tell, not that he’s an expression smoke signal, but the subtle pale to him, the knit of his lips against each other- Light sees it all.
“You’ll be perfectly safe,” is his promise. A shift goes through L, dragging to sit up and resting both hands in his lap. “It’s a five centimeter incision. I insert the leads through your coronary sinus veins, you recover in less than a week. It’s a simple procedure, I’ve done hundreds of cardiac implants.”
“And how many full transplants?” L murmurs, clutching his knees in front of him.
He’d rather the tension in his eyes not give him away, but it is the moment he thinks that that he knows it is mute. “You’ll be my first one.”
“Just as I suspected,” says L. “I’m going to die afterall.”
“Would you not talk like that? I’m the head of cardiology, if anyone in that whole hospital is qualified to do this for you, it’s me.”
Darkness crosses his legs as they lift. Desires outweigh clarity in his moment of tempered flush, of plucking himself up and placing back down on the empty seat not an inch from their hips meeting. Candor in his eyes. Silence.
“...If you still doubt my skills, it’ll make you feel better to know there’ll be a number of others assisting. Surgery is never a one man job, especially not six hour open heart surgery.”
“Six hours,” comes from him in almost a hiss. L’s tongue prods from his lips. “At that point, you’re just playing with it.”
Shaking his head, Light scoffs in rebuke, “Five to six hours would be the minimum for that type of operation. There’s many intricate arteries and veins to reconnect, plus at that point I’ll have to remove the CRT-D implant first-”
“Then why bother with it?” L asks.
“Because you have no other choice,” Light answers.
Though it’s truth, the space they share only pins it in further sting.
“...Look,” he says, steady and clear, beneath the window sun and perfect air. “Up until now, I’ve been adamant about telling you you’re going to live. And I believe that, with all that I have, but in order to make it happen, there’s some things that need to be looked at realistically.” Light stares at the knuckles of his right hand. He flexes the fingers. L keeps his chin pressed to his kneecaps. “AB blood type is the universal recipient, which is great news. You can potentially receive an organ from any donor. The issue is the negative typing you also have, which makes matches more rare, but- but it’s only a matter of tissue typing, once we find a donor. And that can take some time, I’ll be honest, but once you have the CRT-D implant in, your longevity will increase, which means we’ll have plenty of time to find the perfect match.”
Idly, he observes the way L plays with the hem of his pants at their ankle cuffs, the way L breathes and the way L talks and the way L over the afternoon’s course has drank half his tea and eaten three of the five creme cookies, but he’d left two there, he’d left them, and the way L sits there watching out the curtains like some sort of gift, and to which Light refers as such never decides to be important enough.
“Why do you choose to care so much,” he says, does not ask, says in monotone that begs no response outside placid thought. But Light, he’s a bull with horns of diamond, and with a fist clenched before him, answers, “Because, L. You’re my patient. I made a promise to care for you, to both you and your father. I won’t break that promise.” And when a breath should be found enough, “...You’re my patient, but I also feel like, in all the time we’ve known each other, I really feel like you’re...my friend.”
Like friends do, L lifts his gaze up toward him, and has thieved from his lap the weight of his fingers to be grasped, determination the shade of Light and his magnificent face.
Like friends do, Light feels next that same hand, released, move up to cup him behind the shoulder, two forms pressed together with L’s arms wrapped around Light and Light’s head rested to L’s chest, Light and L, L and Light, remaining in their closeness of touch long enough to be lulled by the tenuous bah-bum...bah-bum...bah-bum.
“We should go back soon…” Tulip petals dust his flesh. “You shouldn’t fall asleep without oxygen on.”
“I’m not tired,” L says back, and soothes him further with a hand tucking brunet behind an ear.