When he was ten or nine, he’d read- because he’d matured two inches that summer before grade four -his first book with not a single picture, not even on the cover, and it’d started out in mystery. Everything changed the day Kimiko met Kawaguchi-san. And it had, he thinks, if he could remember correctly, but he finds himself plucked by less thoughts of the past and more of the present, of which there are too many to manage in just one mind. So Light does not recall what became of Kimiko and Kawaguchi-san in their pictureless fantasy world, but he knows now that in the story of his own acres, everything changed the day he met Mr. Lawliet.
“Mister?” he’d questioned when the chief of staff had handed him the file work, pointed down the hall toward his next patient.
“Yes,” and Light’s eyes hadn’t met then the chief’s but rather a flip of the paper on the clipboard handed his way. “He’s a European. But he has insurance, so there’s no sense to turn him away. And it wouldn’t be right,” and the page had flipped back down to catch a gleam in his amber, “considering he probably won’t make it through the week.”
Blinks had caught him then, a pinch of the shoulders caressing his midst, a breath, a battle. He always hated being handed off the sick ones, and granted, in a hospital, everyone is sick, but only certain people are sick, and one more sobbing wife he’s to speak the vile words of hospice or tried everything we can- well, he thinks his job may just not be worth it. Every person healed by his hand is a miracle. Every person saved sans the corruption of dirty eyes is all he needs to peel him out of bed each morning. But as his steps echo through the porcelain white of the halls (that’s always what his patients complain about, the white walls and the white sheets and the white life they bleed against, but if he were to pick a color so free of all filth and greed, he’d quite like a white pressed button down to tell the world of his hourglass perfection), he’s tempted to balk at the doorway; there’s just something not right about how the little dry erase board outside room 211 spins katakana, read in a breeze before jotting his signature down beneath it, sweeps through the open doorway to follow it.
“Mr. Lawliet?” His voice is no more heavenly than the man lain within the bed, clutching with hands the same shade the sheets, pulse points stuck up the blue stricken length of his forearms, breathing so slow as to never alert his presence before sight. His voice is no more sugar spun than the echoes of a November first soon to come. With crisp English, if only to be a polite host, he goes on, “I’m Doctor Yagami. How are you feeling today?”
His breath smells wonderfully of cough syrup when he smacks together the dry span of both lips, Light notes mentally, and he’s one of those awful people who look like a wet towel balled up on the hamper bottom until it’s far too late to save. He could be the extra in any of those emergency room dramas (that with more than just one passion does he despise, though digression proves taut in times of patience) that’s paid fifty thousand yen to lie there and be the greatest medical mistake of the season. Light supposes it’s morbid to say his patient looks dead, most especially if their chief of staff had been earnest to weave his woes, so he tucks his chin lower to peer against the dark of the other’s eyes as they, too, obsess over his every crease.
“Everything is very white here,” Mr. Lawliet drawls back in untouchable Japanese, pinching the top sheet between two fingers, as if to gesture it higher. “It’s disturbingly boring. And the meals are...subpar. Do you cook those?”
Drawing the clipboard nearer to his chest, Light purses, inhales his cheekbones more sharp to keep himself from making a mess.
“No, I don’t cook,” he replies, flatly, in as mild a temper he can. “I’m one of the head doctors here.”
“Oh?” Fingers move from the blanket pinch to instead prod his mouth, and Light does not have to wonder far as to how he’d gotten sick. “Well,” comes muffled a touch, “I don’t suppose my last physician is coming back, then. And here I thought handing my case off if I complained about the coffee one more time was only an empty threat…”
Light clutches his nails against the thin wood. Certainly, he’s adept enough for this. There’s no worry.
“I have to ask, where did you get your medical degree? Are you qualified to care for me as I need?”
Nothing at all.
In a breath, Light moves the prongs of his stethoscope to rest in the grooves of either ear, clipboard left away to lift the cold metal end. “To-Oh University,” he says, guiding one hand behind the curve of his patient’s back whilst the other goes to his front. “I can assure you, ten years of schooling and residency has prepared me for anything.”
“That’s interesting,” he says back, never once flinching to the feel of steel exploring beneath his shirt. “I wonder how many doctors you worked with in that whole decade who didn’t wash their hands before examining a patient.”
And where no wince came then, Light takes it himself, shock not but rather at the audacity of tongue. He tugs the stethoscope back to rest at his shoulders, lifting pen to paper to record the vitals. Professional, always. Yes.
“Those are my charts?” calls from ahead. He dips the task down the shortest inch to catch the gaze stabbing upward to him. One hand reaches. Light tightens himself in just too short a time to stop the clipboard from being snatched out from his hold.
Despite the grievance of him, he stands with shoulders back and broad, keeping at bay the ire lapping his flesh like a monsoon. “I need that back-”
“Mhm... Acute dilated cardiomyopathy… Arrhythmia, too. Bradycardia, I’ll assume.” Light watches the way his stare scans back and forth across the page, right left and over again, before plucking the first paper up for a peer at the backmost, and that there is when his attention perks upward. “And you’re Yagami Light, MD. With a specialty in cardiology, I presume?”
“...Right,” he must allow, accepting back the lift of the paperwork. Into a cleared throat, he promises, “My work is dedicated to exactly what you have going on with you. You’re in good hands.”
“Good isn’t as preferable as clean, but with only so many days left to live, what’s the use in complaining…”
By the time he’s finished with this case, he’ll very well be the one with heart problems.
“Don’t talk like that, Mr. Lawliet,” he moves to brush off, clicking a smile into place to fool a million as he sets the clipboard to a table he passes. A box on the wall grants his hands full again, two short tugs, and from there he’s to turn and snap against a wrist the pristinity of sterilized latex.
“You said you went to To-Oh?” Gloved fingers prod at his lifted wrist, only the most gentle. Internally he counts the thrum of every beat against him, seconds stretching between each one, until his lashes brush open and he’s facing again the lush of a burning gaze.
“Yes,” Light nods, to which the other inhales a great, labored measure, and says, “I was accepted there. Well...I never applied. But they wanted me. My father urged me to attend a few classes, but I wasn’t interested at the time. Had I that opportunity now...things might go differently.”
Another round of stethoscoping goes to his back this time, just left to the crook of his spine. Light, quiet and staid, murmurs aside the mess of his hair, “Well, it’s like the philosophers said, life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” Several more seconds of listening satisfy him enough to draw back. “Have you been prescribed a diuretic?”
“They’ve given up on me,” he dramatizes, settling back against the lush mountain of pillows behind him. “I’m not on any medication. I haven’t had an echocardiogram in over a week.”
As soon as his back turns, Light’s eyes are rolling, stripping his gloves away to claim the clipboard charts again. “I’ll prescribe you 500 milligrams of chlorothiazide. Take it in the morning.”
“And something for the pain, doctor?”
The pen halts, and a glance for him alone. “...You’re in pain?”
“Existence is pain, doctor.”
Light thins his gaze, shadows fallen to the tempo of his disregard. “25 milligrams of morphine…” he mumbles, signing off on the sheet with rigid flare.
Peering up grants him the smirk rattling his patient’s mouth, leant back there in his place and silent to the windless breeze of the wing.
Light watches him, the way his chest lifts so shallow, the way his eyes rest closed, and for once in forever can hear the atmosphere surrounding him; not once an afternoon will he have a moment enough to listen to what’s grown idle, the beeping and the whirring of machinery, shuffling of wheels and coughs two rooms down. The natural ambiance of his life. He stands there, watching Mr. L Lawliet (he’d read that on the chart, Lawliet, L, thirty-four years old and blood type AB negative) rest as well as he can in such a dreary cage as this white, white room. The white room where the meals are bad and the coffee not sweet enough, and every morning sharp he’ll stand the hurt of entering, too, for himself. For something.
Beeping, whirring, shuffling.
“524 made it through the night. I was surprised, I swear I saw blood in his pee yesterday.”
A perfect manicure fans the yawn that follows her shrill. Light doesn’t often linger by the nurse’s bay. He’s only got to check his lists.
“Good for him, it’s so sad when sweet old guys like that die. It’s sad when any patient dies. Although…that guy in room 211,” there flick his eyes to the round swish of her hips, facing away from him to chatter on with the first girl. “Asahi said he probably wouldn’t last the week, but he still couldn’t take it anymore, and dumped his case on somebody else. I just went in to deliver his medication, and he was totally staring at my butt. He’s such a pervert! I won’t feel bad once I don’t have to be work with him anymore.”
“That’s not even the worst of it, Nori. Last week, I put a thermometer in his mouth, and he bit down so hard the tip came off. How do you even do that?!”
For long enough, he’s the wallflower growing toward the sunshine of passing gossip- far long enough, tumbling into the decision of a cleared throat and focus pounding him new. The first nurse, Nori and her brunette bangs, shies away to feign written work found on the desk before her. The second, the one with the noisy voice and full chest, pops a giddy smile on her face, very practical in a hop of herself over before him. “Liii-iight! There you are, I haven’t seen you all morning! Are you busy? Maybe we can have lunch together today?”
From the foot above his eye span from hers, they meet, Light never striding away from the immaculate color of his persona. “Actually, Amane, I was just about to go check on a patient. I’ll see you later.”
“Oh, Light, you’re always so businessy,” she whines with still that cherry beam. “At least call me Misa! A nurse and doctor pair should have that kind of intimacy, you know. It’s what’s best for our patients’ health.”
“That’s alright,” Light says, and nods to the two of them. “Excuse me.”
Behind him, his white coat swings. The pace around him is not so frantic as the emergency floor below, though every so often there’ll be an echoing clack of steps much too quick for his taste (one of the first things he’d learned in medical school is that sprinting in a hospital is never a good sign). Right now, in the early afternoon of a new day, new shift, it’s as placid as a factory of organ failure can be, weaving his way toward the little dry erase board with the messy katakana, smudged and rewritten over in a few odd places as if uncertain, and beneath it, he signatures right beside yesterday’s.
“Good morning, Mr. Lawliet.” To a side table, he sets the charts with a soft click, focusing instead on the shift of his body closer to the midmost bed. He’s wearing the same white tee shirt as the day before, and Light wonders how absolutely sick the last physician had gotten of hearing him say the room’s cold before finally allowing him its long sleeves, even rolled up as they are. Patients don’t get luxuries that impede IV tubes. Not unless they’re next day terminal. Or annoying enough.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d prefer you not to call me that,” he informs, “There’s no telling who’s lurking around here. Waiting for me.”
Before Light can place the stethoscope plugs inside his ears, he just has to gawk at him, blowing off the issue as easy as he blows out his breath. “Fine, I’ll stick with L. Is that alright?”
“I’d be more fond of something less suspicious. Ryūga, or Ryuzaki… Ryouko, even-”
“How did the new medication treat you?” Latex snaps against Light’s wrist. “Any stomach upset?”
“Yes, constantly,” L nods. “Though, I don’t think it’s from the medication. It must be from your terrible coffee.”
If he’s to keep his position here, Light decides sifting through his comments like fine sand is the best option, resolute to ignore him in the lift of his fingers high upon the pulse monitor, reading its slow doppler. He hadn’t heard anything. He won’t
“That nurse of yours, the one who’s been seeing me since I got here,” he starts, twisting his arm only to fiddle with the gauze stuck to the inside elbow. “She’s quite attractive. You two are an item?”
He hasn’t heard a thing, but he gargles on a gag at the very idea.
“...No,” he responds, smoothing the fine layer of dust from the machine top as he retracts from it. “Amane is my assistant. Whatever she told you about me is more than likely a lie.”
“Oh?” chews him raw in this chilled space. “But that can’t be the case. You most certainly are a handsome, chiseled, life-saving miracle worker. Why, Light, you’re a regular Adonis.”
“Yagami-sensei,” is all Light can cut back to him, refusing very nearly to look his way, and when he does, it is only out of duty once the pulse monitor picks up more hopeful a speed; Light glances to its almost normal EKG line, then to L for rationale. He finds it in his stretched grinning, eyes acid washed with humor, first two fingers lain against the lip. Some sort of terrible aura paints him there, propped up in his bed and smiling like that, so wickedly at his own teasing. Light, were he to touch his face with one palm, would feel it burn.
“I think you’re all set for now,” Light murmurs, peeling the gloves from his hands if only for distraction. He glances another while to the monitor, watching the sway of it relaxing again to L’s norm before he decides it fine to leave him unsupervised. “Ring for a nurse if anything-”
“Excuse me, so sorry for being a little late today, Ryuzaki, but I- Oh, dear, pardon me for interrupting you, doctor.” At the cornered door, open to allow inside the hallway light, a pocket-size gentleman emerges, plucking the trilby from his head as he nods a short bow forward. “Please, continue.”
“It’s alright,” Light waves, glancing between the pair of them. “I was just about finished. Is this a visitor for you?”
“Yes,” the man himself responds, hat placed beneath one arm now as he stands straightened, box filling two hands to walk forward enough and place it upon the swivel table top. “I’m his father. I come every morning and stay as long as they’ll let me. Ginger snap?”
Blinking, a cookie comes into his view, though to the proffering he can only shake his head, smile polite, taut. “Ah, no, thank you. I’ll leave you two to your visit now. L, I’ll check back in with you tomorrow.”
“What bakery are these from, Watari?” is all that’s said back to him, just hardly deciphered through the mouthful of sweets. Light rolls his eyes, clicks his pen, and carries on to the rest of his day.
“Oh, excuse me, doctor? Could I have a word?”
Or, tries to. But he doesn’t make it so far as a foot from his room before oxford heels chase after him, a little bit frantic and a little bit shy, halting him in place to catch up just round the bend of the hall.
Inches away, Light pities every square inch of his sorry skin.
“Are you filling in for Asahi-sensei today?” the man asks, the sweet old man who should be being taken care of by his thirty-something son, not this distorted realm of reality. But, regardless, Light urges himself to shake his head, and his tone is low to correct, “I’m the new physician on your son’s case. Asahi-sensei decided to...transfer him to someone more qualified.” And there, he pushes away any possibly questioning to extend a hand forward. “I’m Yagami, the lead cardiologist here.”
“Yagami-sensei,” he says, accepting his hand in his own and topping it over with his second, that desperate type of move as though Light’s his final anchor to this Earth. Some kind of sad magic whisks his age old gaze. “Could you tell me, is he getting any better? Do you think we’ll see Christmas, at least?”
If Light weren’t wound so tight as thread on a line, he could picture himself being honest. He’s a professional, but he’s likewise just as much a son, a brother, a human.
“He isn’t getting any worse,” Light tells him, to which there are no fireworks nor further dismal lush. “I haven’t been on his case very long, but sometimes people in his condition deteriorate by the hour. If I were you, I’d keep doing what you have been, and...consider everyday like a little Christmas.”
“Right,” he nods quickly back, clutching his hands back to himself, nodding and nodding like a flicked bobber toy lost within his own forever. “Oh, please, call me Wammy,” comes suddenly, bowing forth the shine in his eyes. “Thank you so much for not giving up on him. I know he’s certainly a handful. I can only hope you’ll continue to do your best to care for him.” Rather than a tearful mourn of heart, the old man can only chuckle beneath the comb of his mustache. “He quite likes desserts. Perhaps that would make him feel better.”
A nurse curtsies by them pushing a wheeled IV, fluorescence reflecting off the dog tags between her breast. Someone coughs in the room two away.
Upon his arm, Light rests one hand.
“I promise I’ll do everything I can for him, Mr. Wammy.”
And that, in his field, is a best possible promise. Too often is it an instinct to vow, and too often do the dirty hands go on without any extra inch of care for a car crash victim than a paper cut. With Light’s word, upon his very name, once the order is issued, then so shall it be done. Perhaps he wishes he’d thought it through more before asserting he’d do every last thing to keep L Lawliet’s heart pumping smoothly, as he’s considered already thrice how an accident could bring an unplug of his overnight oxygen- but never, ever ever never would he ever harm with purpose another person. Certainly. And gazing upon the milky white lenses of the poor brat’s father had just about killed Light right there, had seen the man and in his face etched what could any day be Yagami Souichirou pleading for help that way, so Light has promised he’ll do all he can, and by God’s witnessing eye shall all he can do be done.
L Lawliet will walk out of that hospital with a clean bill of health.
“The amount of urine I’ve been producing is quite a cause for concern.”
Another day post, he’s worked his scheduling around the morning visit he wouldn’t care to interrupt, sweeping his initials on the little white board just after lunchtime from there on, scrawling his observations and snapping his gloves and doing every white-collar transaction he’s to make.
“That’s the medication. A small side effect. But at least, now I know you’re hydrated.” A palm caresses his shoulder. “Lean forward for me.”
Rather than anything L could say, his energy goes toward a sigh as he’s folding himself at the waist, legs two cylindrical shadows beneath the top sheet and clothed only on the bottom by a loose pair of boxer shorts. Light wonders if he’s changed his clothes since he’d been admitted, though the hem of the shirt he lifts between two fingers seems clean...enough. More pressing comes the cool curve of his back below it, where he lets the latex roam just a moment for any abnormalities. He’s tempted to ask him his orthopedic history before deciding possible kyphosis has null to do with the heart.
“You’re awfully tactile today,” comments L, eyelids at rest beneath the dark lush of his bangs. “Keep going. I could use a deep tissue massage.”
The heat of Light’s sigh licks the ends of L’s hair; to the bony ridges of his shoulders, his hand lifts, pressing the stethoscope end to the left portion of his upper back. Several breaths are eavesdropped on before satisfaction draws him away.
“Your lungs are sounding clearer,” he nods, pulling the earpieces back to rest. “When was the last time you said you had an echocardiogram?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Everyday is the same.” L takes his time in transitioning back to comfort, back laying again to the pillows, hand squishing the gaunt pale of one cheek. “It’s almost depressing me, to be quite honest.”
“If you’re feeling that way, there’s plenty of psychology specialists available here.”
Light isn’t sure as to why he’s even bothered, as he starts out certain of the scoff that meets it afterward.
“I don’t need a psychologist,” L asserts. “Just better coffee.”
Once their own time, his gloves peel away for the corner trash, which Light speaks clearly over. “Alright. Just remember, I’m a mandated reporter.”
“Of course, Light.” The sheets rustle with his turning form. “That’s why I haven’t told you about the bodies.”
Still from across the floor, Light twists just enough over one shoulder to meet his stare, fiercely, in pride. “Yagami-sensei.”
Lain to his right side, L watches his steps break from the room, one by one, as the light creepingly dissipates from the plush of his lips.
It’s late afternoon today.
Weekly, once a Saturday, where robin beaks chatter, foliage smattered in morning sunlight drawings, and the path of the park careens between the riverbed and the picnic-flattened grass bay, he doesn’t hate so much a bicycle ride through the nearest town park with rackets in his front basket. The tennis courts at the mouth of the stone pathway are open every weekend til sunset, public and prodding, brimming not with spectators but rather he and perhaps one or two others. A regular, most often, that he faces in a friendly match when they find themselves on the net’s opposite sides at the very same time; on occasions where more than the pair of their shadows will lay across the pavement, they’ll invite the extras over for a doubles match, ones upon which Light and the weekend stranger will always succeed. This Saturday, he lays his bike to the side fence, picks his racket up with gusto and turns to search for a wave. And it comes on instant- “Hey, Yagami! Ready for a game?”
The canopy trees billow with the autumn breeze. Round the end handle, he tightens his fingers, relents, nods himself forward in a smile and scamper.
He can hear the river ripple in his ears as he takes position on the empty court side. Arm reaching high, he stretches a quiet moment, allowing his ribs be felt in every breath. Eyes closed, he works his muscles to light preparation, hips swiveling right and left before at last his glorious machine is deemed ready to take position. A flash of green swipes over the net. He doesn’t miss a beat.
It’s just nice to have a luxury this way in between so hectic a schedule he keeps the other six days of the week. Granted, his Mondays are for office work and no patient visits, but that in itself can drive him silly after so long of it. Every last transfer from emergency to recovery, all the code blues and reds and mints, it all strains him in such an exhilarating way that cannot be named. Saving a life makes the stress a worthwhile chokehold.
“Yikes, Yagami, you’re treating the ball like it insulted you personally.”
So why the stranger acquaintance laughs such, he’s almost puzzled, though can shift back to reality enough to comprehend the tight ache in his shoulder. Every swing downward of his arm is a tug of all his sinew in a rush, carrying downward the weight of all his woes. What’d he been pondering over- right, stress, and it’s released with every slam of the ball back to his opponent. Nothing but a friendly game of tennis. A healthy form of release.
If he didn’t have tennis, he’d doubtlessly be room temperature. Or, better yet, his newest patient would.
“Right, keep up with the physical therapy, but remember not to put too much strain on yourself too fast.” Bare fingers graze the folder in his hands. He glances up with a smile, artificial illumination stinging his early Sunday eyes. “Remember, we want you to get better, Fujioka-san. Your grandson is counting on you to watch his baseball games again.”
With idle gleam placed to the eye, Light nods along to the old man’s guffawed excitement, chuckling just the slightest as he excuses himself back into the hall. A gurney wheels by, empty, by a nurse’s tired hands, waiting for its pass before he makes his way forward. His attention wanders from her polite nod and his own returned, glancing along the tan trim of the wallpaper lining the corridor, and just upon chance does he note the opened door of room 212, inside of whom he knows naught but supposes a check in upon its neighbor is within his rights. It’s early for the routine they’ve silently adopted, though he wouldn’t mind so much disturbing the sanctity of a father-son visit. He almost wishes Mr. Wammy would come see him from time to time. The single vanilla cupcake he’d accepted a visit ago still barks within him.
He treads, in his brown shined shoes and white ironed coat, toward the curve of the room. Today’s a milestone, very nearly, being his fifth day knowing his new patient that’d practically been already toe-tagged when they’d met. Five days, and no signs of immediate declination. Yes, the history books will say, that Yagami Light is one miracle worker.
On his approach, a quick knuckle tap to the door goes in time to a drop of the mouth, only to find himself stopped short. His brows raise. L is there, as he should be, pulse monitors and wiring all stuck in proper place, however it is his lean forward upon one bandaged elbow that drives Light’s curiosity, leads him to glance for the perch of L’s hand resting on the woman in the chair beside his bed frame. The woman he’s never seen once in his life, though in a hospital environment, that isn’t so odd. Neither is it odd that, in a hospital, he’s to see a woman with her middle stuck out a swollen nine months, but he doesn’t so often see those rounded warmths with L Lawliet’s skeletal hand atop them, and the sight, to him- it’s honestly a touch unsettling.
“I-” he attempts, lifting one fist to cough against. “Ah, obstetrics is on the other side of this floor, Miss.”
The point of her knees shifts more toward him. Above them clings the pale cloth gown administered to all, woolen socks with their sticker pad bottoms warming her either foot.
“Oh, I know,” the woman, young and earthly, smiles, resting both hands for herself now at the top of her stomach. “They said walking around would help speed up labor, but I still haven’t had a contraction in twenty minutes. I was walking by and noticed Ryuzaki-san’s television was showing the newscast. There was a big fire in Kanagawa a few minutes ago. How awful, my daughter has to born on the same day as something so sad- oh! Oh… I think walking might have helped out afterall...”
The woman lifts herself at the knees a very steady measure, Light striding toward her side to guide her. Casual conversation ushers his natural panic away, assuring him she’s able to make it back toward her designated wing in perfect safety; he pokes his nose from the door after her, relaxing only once he spies a nurse practitioner and a taller man with most probably a silver band on his left hand escorting her down the hall. The breath finds him back behind the tongue.
“...Friend of yours?” Light murmurs, back inside the quiet of 211. He moves pen to paper for a swift second, giving L times to answer, “She was very interested in that fire. It makes me wonder what part she could have had in it…”
Olympians envy the strength of his eyes’ rolling. Light laxes his shoulders against a breath outward. The files set down to the side table, and he prepares himself while congratulations spill forth. “Well, we’ve made it to the start of a new week. That already defies what you bet of yourself.”
The blankets shift as the one within them does first. Knuckles clutch them higher to his chest. “In England, the week starts on Monday.”
Something struggles in his tone, some sort of thousand pound paperweight repressing his potential. It worries Light as to what could be causing it, if the new medication could have more adverse effects, or if his skills could be lacking, or if or if or if- he gathers up his wonders in his throat, tilting forward enough to dispel them over his vitals. “Has Amane come in to see you yet?”
“No,” he’s quick upon the heels of him to reply, not in anger or anything else- in fact, as Light sees, his face and motions are all of the calmest he’s held, sitting there clutching the sheet to his waist and watching Light’s every inch with those drill point pupils, and- oh, there’s just no way he’s seeing this.
“Uh,” comes in a gruff exhale. It isn’t like him to befall ever away from a perfect gentleman, but on the opposite line has he never walked in a patient’s room and etched with his eyes the outline of an erection beneath the crisp white sheet. “You’re- Do you need something?”
As a sane man, who reroutes aortas for a living, Light could picture the situation flipped, and he could picture himself behaving quite ashamedly. He wouldn’t- read it, would not -sit a meter from the doctor’s disgusted concern and tempt a smirk on his face.
“Well...as long as you’re offering-”
“Don’t.” Light’s fingers clench inward toward their palms, cringing away from the view ahead. “At the very least, I know your circulatory system is functioning properly… Ugh.”
L shuffles himself another time. He gnaws his taut bottom lip with a twist of a hip. “Yes,” calls his dull voice. “If you’d just get out of my line of sight, then. My father is going to be here any m-”
“Breakfast tiiime!” Wheels squeak against the tile flooring, soft flats padding in behind. Misa is perfectly cheerful entering her dreaded room 211 knowing the head cardiologist is already within, awaiting impression. “And look, I found a special guest.”
Behind her cart of a single tray and water glass, the benignity that is L’s Watari wanders in, eyes creased with the effort of a smile. He carries in one hand a stack of cellophane wrapped cookies. Chocolate chip, this time, Light guesses by the looks.
But chocolate chips are hardly so pressing a matter when the pulse monitors behind his shoulders pick up their whirring. Light tosses attention for them, watching the EKG line translate high sparking right atrium beats that quicken with the moments. The culprit, short to find, comes from the trail of L’s focus pointed toward the low button of Misa’s top.
“Oh? Is everything alright?” Watari says in quite sudden a murmur, eyebrows lifted as he ganders for the monitors. Light assures him otherwise with a wave of one hand, the same that lifts to cup L’s eyes behind its heat. Afront him, his legs carry the blanket to a wrinkle of knees bent, lap pressed closely to his chest.
Misa’s expression bends to confusion as she watches onward. Within moments, the pulse radar relaxes again, and when Light reclaims his hand, the first thing L looks to is his waiting parcel. “Are those chocolate chip?”
The heavy wood door echoes behind his back.
“Yagami!” An eight second reprieve proves plentiful, in his least candor. The woman rushing her way toward him has flush in his face and fever in her eyes, a gnash of the mouth that tells him with a point, “They’re requesting you downstairs in OR1. Emergency valvular replacement. The patient was already revived once on the ambulance ride over.”
“What?” A quirk balks him back. “How… Alright, there’s no time to ask questions. Thank you for the message.”
With her trusted hand, he leaves all he holds, working his way toward the stair flight whilst stripping himself as appropriately as possible on the rush. As he reaches the designated operating room, he’s down to a half undone button down and slacks sans the belt, and very practically is the surgical technologist holding his scrubs out with open arms for him to float himself into on his first step forth. It isn’t his first call for emergency, though more often do the waiting family see his face handsome with youth and falter toward someone of six decades experience. Does he blame them? With a shift of himself within the doctors standing around the operating table, a flick of a scalpel's silver handed his way in the meager life supporting monitor light, he thinks with certainty, yes. His expertise cannot be matched.
Adrenaline chases him back round the same way he finds it, in the delicacy of his cuts and suturing, in calm orders given to attending nurses and any who’ll bow, in his motions of a painter more than a mechanic with blood up to the wrists. It’s the rush of energy and of ever simple triumph once he’s scrubbing his hands in iodine and the bed is being wheeled with fragility toward the recovery bay. Plucking the mask from each ear, he allows a hot sigh to escape after it. All in a day’s work, if he’s to be so cliche.
By Wednesday afternoon, he could use another tennis match.
He’d been certain he’d locked his office door. Not that he’s actively trying to keep people out, but he likes his lunch break free of favors, and if there ever comes an emergency during his single daily half hour to himself, well, there’s plenty of other staff members. A napkin corner touches to his chewing mouth. No, that isn’t it. The doors are thin enough to speak through. He carries no guilt.
They’re thin enough to speak through, to shout urgency, and even easier is it to hear a passerby without the door at all, with it unlatched and opened before his blinking eyes, even though he’s certain he’d locked it, though on some days does his mind wander too far ahead with too much emphasis on the wanpaku sandwich in his cooler, and little things like the lock on his office door will slip to the wayside.
“Ah,” calls from the opened threshold. “So you do wear glasses.”
Behind a swallow, Light sets the paper in his hand back to his desk top and with it the silver frames plucked from his face. Just for reading. He’s not old. How unprepossessing. “L,” he says back in stern. “What are you doing here?”
Such a sight itself comes rather...unsightly to him, what with the white of his knuckles clasping the IV rod, its wheels the cane to his every step forth. He’s barefoot and bedheaded, cocking his nose around the square little office to suck up a peek.
“You haven’t visited me in two days,” he says, eyes meeting only the surroundings of the room. A blue cooler beside the desk. A fern in the corner. Half a sandwich on its napkin before him.
Light gathers himself up into standing. “I don’t see patients on Mondays, and yesterday I had to attend to someone in surgical recovery.” For honesty, he doesn’t know just why he feels he owes explanation to the escapee standing in his doorway, on his lunch break, with his sunless legs broadcasted below boxer shorts. Tightly he draws his mouth. “I don’t normally visit my patients everyday, anyway. I was keeping a close eye on you when you were set to die any minute. Now go back to your room before it actually happens.”
As he looks to him, L, for his first time, takes an expression of sadness, with no other word better to describe his pouting lip and droopy, pitiful eyes.
“Won’t you escort me?” His hand nudges just a touch the IV pole he leans on. “I’m quite frail, you know.”
Fingers to the desk, he drums them, peeling his eyes over toward the wall in one dosage of exasperation.
“Who even put that IV in you to begin with?” his scrutiny asks, several paces south down the patient bay. “You eat and drink like a starved animal, there’s no need to put you on intravenous fluids.”
L’s sigh, Light cannot discern, likely sounds of breathlessness and dissatisfaction. “Well...Misa insisted. She said two days without ingesting anything was cause enough to stab me.”
“Two days..?” Their steps approach the familiarity of the single suite of 211. Light frowns. “You went on a hunger strike because I wasn’t checking in on you?”
“It’s like you’re a...detective,” is all L can muster, setting himself in a hunch upon his bed. Without speech, the room fills only with the weighted husks of his respiration.
As he swivels himself to a propped up lay, a usual demeanour, Light’s trepidation whisks him forward into fingers set upon the wheezing wrist.
“You’re going into tachycardia,” he censures, reapplying electrodes to the chest and vitals clamp upon his left ring finger. “All this trouble just to stalk me on my lunch break?”
“I can’t breathe, doctor,” L squeezes out, to which Light sighs against administering an oxygen cannula to his nose.
Keen watch is kept on the EKG. The heartbeat it illustrates runs ragged in comparison to even a normal civilian’s, pulling Light into a purse as he listens for the stabilization of his patient’s breath. When he glances over to find him leant more backward, eyes shut soft, panic is immediate to rise within him, though relaxes to understand it’s best here; the monitor gradually smooths itself. L relents a long breath through his mouth.
“I’m going to call for an echocardiogram for you every two weeks. First one tomorrow morning.” The gloves snap into place over his hands. He wastes no time leaning forward to dance a stethoscope across the highpoints of his chest.
“The patient you operated on,” melts out in the coming seconds of silence. L’s dark rimmed irises seek the light with slow openings, watching the work go along his skin. “What did he need?”
A slow respiration cycle is listened to on the far left before Light considers answering. Three taps against his clavicle, a nudge of an electrode into more precise placement. “Transcatheter aortic valve replacement.” Another breath in, out. “Normally, it’s not an invasive procedure, but the patient was already in a severe stage of cardiac arrest when I got to him, so we had to go open heart. Still,” and he pauses to consider, to tap L’s shoulder and lean him forward for a listen at his back, “he’ll probably be able to go home in about a week or so.”
“Such a luxury,” he drawls back, forehead resting to Light’s shoulder. “You’re awfully skilled with your hands.”
“If this is going to cycle back into a comment about Sunday morning, I don’t want to hear it.” The ear prongs rest back to his shoulders, allowing L to lean back against his bedding. And stare upward. Blank.
“Sunday… Oh, yes.” There is no humor on his lips but beneath his flesh, the subtle consciousness of devilry that Light has learned to read as it manifests. That sort of humor. “You’ll have to excuse me for that. I don’t get much time to myself anymore to take care of that sort of thing. And...sure, what man can resist the fantasy of his offspring inside a well-endowed woman.”
“I don’t relate,” says Light, and L smirks back, “I assumed you wouldn’t.”
With a bite on his lip, he stands as straight and tall as permissible by his joints, glancing one last search over L’s outline. “I’m going to have Amane check in on you every few hours until tomorrow morning. I’ll have her take the IV out if you promise me you’ll eat and drink on your own.”
“That depends,” L interjects. “If I have to drink the coffee, then I can’t fulfill that promise.”
Were there a wall behind him, a sharp indent would be made in his skull back. Lids clenched toward the ceiling, Light keeps his arms strict beside him, tipping his chin righted to match his dead stare. “Water. And one full meal.” His head shakes then, to go on, “You shouldn’t even be having caffeine. You’re hypertensive as it is.”
“I agree.” His index finger traces the chap of his bottom lip. “Decaf prepared by the groom’s fine hand would suit me much better.”
And if he can be cliche just once more- if looks could only fucking kill, L wouldn’t need a hospital bed so much as a pallbearer.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, L,” he dismisses in a swivel of himself, tight to pretend he hasn’t heard the, “Thank you, Light,” offered back.
Forty more years to retirement.
As winter taps the shoulders of the damned, he likes more and more to dress himself in cashmere.
The nurses like it too, if their gushing compliments of his cardigan collection indicate at all the truest feelings of soul.
“I love that sweater on you,” cherry lips chatter in her lean on the receptionist counter. Misa gazes to him with both hands supporting her chin, her lovesick eyes and melting lust. “You might have to give my heart a check up if you keep dressing like that!”
Just almost as awful is it a flirt as the hundred times she’s told him what a perfect field of specialty he’s taken, because you definitely stole my heart! Light could gag.
Beside her forward lean, silver cross necklace swaying away from its normal lay upon her chest, Nori perches in a swiveling chair as she files off something inside a manila folder. Casual work. “You look nice, Yagami, but you should’ve dressed up! You’re way too serious.”
Dressed up sits at his tongue in some dirty salted flavoring, as if he’s any reason to understand the code she speaks in- although, now that she does mention it, yes just now, the willingness to glance at Misa for more than a moment does alert him to the set of angel wings sprouting from her back, the halo above her golden hair he doesn’t think he’s seen before. And with quite assurance he can say he’s never noticed Nori sporting red horns from her hair or the pointed tail that hangs from the pin on her skirt.
“Don’t worry, Light, you can tell everyone your costume is...the most talented and wonderful cardiac specialist in all of Japan!” Misa claps her two palms together. He cannot help the laugh cracked for her.
“Right, I’ll go with that.” A glance for his schedule, of which he’d stopped by to check, tells him he’s to be in room 501 by the next clock click. “Excuse me.”
In tandem, the angel devil duo wave his goodbye, and his trip to the elevator introduces him to three black cats and a fairy carting lunch into a recovery room. Some sort of smiling finds him on his trip up the next levels. In such a high strung line of work, it sits sweetly with him to know the staff still finds time to loosen the tension.
Not loose enough to kill a man, but still, some lighthearted fun is best every so often.
“Ah, Touma, my favorite patient,” carries from him into an exam room, the tiny boy in his tiger face paint and Pokémon tee shirt grinning boldly to wave him hello. Light sighs the softest measure, smiling, nods politely to the boy’s mother and carries on his normal check up routine all the way to a parting one half hour post; “Remember, not too much candy tonight. You don’t want your mom to have to tell on you to Yagami-sensei,” sends the boy into a frenzy of shaking his head and his mother into laughter, only so relieved to have been told this six month post-op check in has gone beautifully, and the ventricle defect her son had been born with has healed over without a hitch. Light returns her wave of goodbye, excusing himself back out into the hall exit. Lighthearted fun, kindness. It’s a wonderfully luxurious day, and his cardigan looks dashing, and the elevator’s opening for him and- and he perhaps should have taken the stairs, but...he can be civil enough.
“Yagami,” the man in the elevator nods, to which Light returns, “Asahi,” with all the normality a professional should have, stepping inside to select a floor beneath.
His tongue stills itself. This isn’t the time nor place. Though, he argues back if it shall ever be, and the elevator’s gearing up now, so he supposes he’s got only seconds to rev up potential.
“Asahi,” he ventures in gusto. Tilting just a touch to face him, the other doctor turns for him, older and more broad, silence in his waiting eyes, until Light demands, “What made you give that patient to me? Lawliet, the cardiomyopathy patient.”
One hand lifts to adjust the glasses up the other man’s nose, tucking back afterward behind him as he clears his throat. “To be frank with you, Yagami, I was afraid I’d kill him before his heart did.”
Quiet permeates his mind as though a siren does at daybreak. Asahi checks his watch, if only to glance away for rationale, straightening up again once the elevator dings and slides the chrome away to open air. Light watches him go, mesmerized in a sense.
“Oh, Yagami-sensei!” snaps him awake, and in due time enough to look upward, catch sight of a waving arm, and stick his own between the closing elevator doors. He stands a moment, dumbly, then sneaks his skinny body through the opening to stamp out against the clean tile floor. Several paces draw him nearer to the threshold of room 211.
“Mr. Wammy,” Light bows a tad, returning high to check the wall clock above them. “Ah, it’s late for you to still be here, isn’t it? Is something wrong?”
Rather, Watari chuckles to him. “Not at all. It’s a special occasion today. Surely you have time for cake?”
Cake. No, not entirely, with the type of schedule a head cardiologist faces on the day-to-day, but Watari is beckoning him deeper into the room, past the divider curtain that never unfurls, to stand in the midpoint by the bed that houses L’s perch atop it, three quarters of a frosted shortcake on the swivel table, and a pointed red hat placed on the crown of his head, its string slicing into the flesh of his chin.
“I’m thirty-five,” is just barely decipherable within the grotesquely full mouth of cake.
“Ryuzaki’s birthdays are like...miracles,” Watari says, gazing fondly at the smear of frosting on his son’s cheek. Light catches the glance that turns back to him, setting himself with respect to listen on. “He’s had problems like this ever since he was young. We only ventured into public hospitalization once caring for him became...a bit of a strain on me, in my old age.” A hundred years billow in his face, smiling still despite the flow of dolor through his tone. “But every birthday, we’ve always celebrated together. Another birthday means another year the world has been blessed by Ryuzaki’s wonderful mind.”
“This cake would go well with coffee,” L says through another mouthful. Light feels inclined to keep his commentary to himself.
And he needn’t bite his tongue so hard, for there streams then a cascade of noise to steal the focus from him.
“No, dude, I guarantee you nobody saw us, and if you’re gonna be a baby about it, I’ll never Juul with you again.” Shoulder to shoulder, a thin pair of denim-clad boys shove each other into the room. The first, the loud one, who’d been chattering on their way in, lifts his smile higher, a hand of fingerless leather carried once up. “Hey, Grampa. We were just in the bathroom.”
“Ah ha,” Watari nods to them. Light carries on in his silent observation, piecing together what of their conversation his mind can process once switched over to intaking such rapid English. “And, hm, where has Near gone off to?”
“Huh, oh,” the first boy replies, jerking a thumb toward a corner chair. “He’s been over there the whole time.”
Watari raises fingers to his glasses to adjust them in one motion, peering in the direction gestured. Surprise seems to pinch him for a flash, though Light cannot blame him- he hadn’t noticed the sickly little figure crouched in the corner either. He stiffens. “Why, yes, there he is.”
The third boy, the one yet to speak a lick, stays in his place with his bare arms folded and hip jutted out in such a perfectly sassy way, Light can’t be bothered that he hasn’t yet opened his mouth.
Shifting back to natives’ tongue, Watari bows toward Light, informing him, “Yagami-sensei, we are all pleased to meet your acquaintance. Matt, Mello, and Near. A few of L’s younger brothers.”
“Hey, we’re talking Japanese now?” says the first boy, who Light assumes is, of the trio, Matt. His mouth spreads to a baby-faced grin. “That’s cool, I can speak English, Japanese, French, Spanish, German, Mandarin- you name it. I know some Icelandic, too. Hey, doctor, you like Björk?”
“Are you gonna shut the fuck up? He’s supposed to be curing L, not making small talk,” that quiet moody boy says at last, who can only be Mello if the corner phantom has claimed already the other name. Though it’s been set as a dig toward the palaverer, Light can’t help but feel the blood of an arrow shot toward his own knee.
“Whoops, fyrirgefðu,” Matt salutes, then bounds off toward the bed before Light has even the chance to figure out how his mouth could make such a sound. “Hey, L, I got this mega-awesome game for my Switch. When you come home, we’re gonna play it together, and you can kick my ass like you always do so I can get better at playing.”
From his place, L reaches a hand out to dig knuckles into Matt’s shoulder, who laughs back with a thick thumbs up that altogether drop at the sound jutting from the back corner.
“It isn’t likely that he’ll be coming home any time soon,” adds Near in his dull, dead, some sort of sullen and firey and all over terrible voice. A curl spins on his index finger. “If, at all.”
“Don’t say that!” Mello is swift to throw back, casting a hard point his way. “I bet you just want him to die so you can try and take over as his successor.”
“Mello-” Watari attempts, though all the commotion clatters away with the lift of L’s tone.
All stares flutter to him, the most gradual being that of his requested; once Near shifts a look toward him, it is to see L’s hand waving him forward. He complies in a climb from the seat, paying no mind to the world outside the pathway to the bedside. Standing there, all are silent, Light himself likewise for no reason prominent, just solid in his place watching L scoop up a pawful of frosting and smear it boldly across Near’s nose and mouth. Light steps back one measure, perhaps out of apprehension (as if he’d ever done such a thing to his own sibling, there’d need to be cleared a full room for her counterattack of a launch for his carotid artery), but no motion comes back, not until the most subtle twitch taps Near’s lip. That one, Light notes newly, he snorts when he laughs.
Mello is the first to crack a cackle in return, perhaps most in jest, though follow do Matt and even Watari, the most light chortles as he steps forward to swipe a handkerchief over his youngest’s messy face.
Light isn’t sure when he’d started smirking, knows only that his professional face is tacked back on in immediacy to the short raps upon the opened door. “Excuse me, Yagami?” Nori interrupts. “Ah, the results of the echo you ordered this morning are ready to be looked at.”
A space of thought follows. Right, yes, business. Light nods, sparing a glance over one shoulder to see L at full attention, bated, wondering. He turns back, ready to step out when the path ahead is cut across by stamping feet. “Hey, sweet little devil nurse lady, don’t tell me you’re gonna leave so soon- hey, don’t run off like that! My name’s Matt, I’m twenty four and I can take apart a computer and put it back together in eight and half minutes-”
“Asshole,” Mello clips, folding his arms across his chest another sharp time, nose upturned to refuse the sight. Light tips a look at his wristwatch before slipping himself from the mess with a curt nod.
On the car ride back to his home, moonlight gleaming off the windshield glass, he thinks what a luxury it is to be going home at all, and thinks how starved he is after missing his Thursday lunch break in favor of poring over echocardiogram results.
All in a day’s work.
“Lift this leg- no, not that high. God, L, what are you, a majorette?”
Though he speaks with exhaustion, the sun had hit his car in the nicest ways this morning, and he’s been complimented twice on how he looks in black, so today is rather nice, and he doesn’t mind so much when he grasps L’s leg to check for muscle atrophy and the patient says to him, “You’re getting awfully comfortable with me, doctor.”
He’d snorted out some kind of amusement there, and carried on with the exam.
“You had a nice birthday yesterday, did you?” Light roves, squeezing delicate at the base of his gastrocnemius.
L rotates his ankle as the touches raise higher up his leg, exhaling a sound of fatigue. “Yes, it was alright.” Gently, his leg is laid back to the bed, Light moving instead to prod at his right bicep. “It would have been better if your nurse hadn’t stolen from me, but...nonetheless.”
“Confiscating isn’t the same as stealing. And I’ve seen the way you go at desserts, leaving a whole bag of Halloween candy with you is a dangerous game.” With one hand, Light flexes, rolls his wrist back and forth and instructs the other to mimic. As he observes, he continues, “Either way, you looked a lot happier yesterday than you normally do. I didn’t know you had so many brothers.”
“They aren’t so much brothers as they are my sons, really. Test tube babies with too much free time.”
Behind the curtained window panes, sunshine still blares, still the same nice day and the same color of cotton in his voice, even as he retracts in disturbance. “...You sure do say a lot of interesting things, L.”
“Yes,” L replies back. His arm is released gladly back to his side. “Now, tell me. What’s my reward for surviving another year with the entire world against me?”
“Your birthday present,” Light translates, popping a hand to his hip as he stands over the bed, “is that your muscles haven’t started to waste away yet. You will need to start moving around some soon, though.” Then, a finger lifts high. “And, your echocardiogram looked a lot better than I expected. The left ventricle is still abnormal, of course, but the rest wasn’t so bad.”
Hands resting in his lap, L peers over toward the wall and its curtained window, chest easing breaths in slow rasps.
“You have quite a lot of faith in me to schedule those at two week intervals.” Machinery hums around them. The ground refuses his stare.
Light, for all his worth, keeps his chin high. “Of course I do. You’re being treated by the best doctor in the world, afterall.”
Where his smile is of a handsome bastard there, if only to ease the stress if only to make L smile, too, not that he cares very especially for L or his smiles- everything shreds itself down until only in his hands holds he the fibers of a sewing disaster. L does not smile back to him, nor to the window or at all. He tips their eyes to solid meeting, and in his hottest breath, asks, “It’ll be lonely, won’t it?” And Light has no time to beg him elaborate, because he floats on the wash of desperation to tell him, to relay, “You and I will be parting ways soon.”
Machinery hums. The vital monitor translates the clamp of his finger into statistics on screen, slow beeps of his pulse.
Suddenly, Light laughs.
“Don’t be that way, L. I just don’t have shifts on Saturdays, that doesn’t mean I’m abandoning you.” Mentally, he tosses his schedule around from mitt to mitt. “I have a pacemaker to insert around noon on Sunday. How about I check in with you Tuesday, first thing?”
The wide rims of his eyes wring Light in their vise. “Tuesday… The fifth? November?”
“Yes, that would be it,” Light replies, never lifting his focus from the note he scrawls on the clipboard picked up off the table. “Be good to Amane in the meantime. She told me about the finger biting when she was checking your teeth.”
By the time he’s finished writing, L has still yet to speak, stuck instead on peering through the blockaded window, a cat trapped in the cellophane of a house’s four walls but with a mile more melancholy.
“I’ll see you Tuesday,” Light says, and no response finds it.
He loses his tennis match against the weekend stranger. The weekend stranger then gawks in first time glory, and offers to buy him lunch. Light declines, yet there’s something chewing the back of his head that tells him bending the weekend stranger over a park bench and fucking him raw would release the proper aggression he feels to have faced no victory. But he declines. It’s only eleven:thirteen AM.
In the sweat of desire he bicycles down the path to his home again, set back far enough from the river not to worry for floods but still in such a proximity as to pull an armchair by the front windows in the summertime and make out the bright green heads of mallards through the billowing chiffon shades. A tidy little two bedroom one story with neighbors not for a kilometer. His retreat, certainly. He sets his bike against the lattice of the side porch and trails up it, rackets in hand to set inside the door once his keys twist it open. With the first tap of his keyring down to the white painted trinket hutch, keys and coins and the old fashioned Polaroid he’ll never use, an alert is made of his entry, one he expects with every patter inside, everyday, routine always kept; “WOOF.”
Exhaling from the nose, Light turns forward, smirking on one side, to greet the nails that skid at full speed down his hardwood flooring. “It’s just me, Chizu.”
One hundred pounds of fur and ears and spit barrel toward him, losing along the way his vicious edge to instead rub his runny jowls along the mesh of Light’s jogging shorts. “WOOF,” he insists again. Light skirts a knuckle between his pointed ears, pushing lightly past him to find the kitchen hall.
As he moves his way through, a lean toward the bathroom tugs a folded towel from the shelf, white and lush, dabbing with one corner the perspiration from his temples. The shelf rests empty after it. He doesn’t have quite so much time for laundry. Or housekeeping, he finds, once stepping through the kitchen to see the half gallon of milk he’d left out on the counter after this morning’s coffee. How lovely.
Cheeseburger clicks his nails across the tile, paws hooking on the counter’s lip to watch Light tend to his mess. An attempt to shoo him down dies in vain- the shepherd’s a stubborn one, though Light can understand why he’d retired from the police force with listening skills like that. His father had told him the dog (who’d come prenamed, no fooling there- Officer Chizubaga, in his glory days of violent criminal apprehension) needed a temporary home after his retirement. Three years later and a few more grays in his face, he’s still standing with his paws on Light’s granite countertops.
The milk slobbers down the sink drain in wet globs. Light could vomit. As if he weren’t lactose intolerant enough as it is.
Swaying a hip against the refrigerator door, he’s uncapping a water bottle in time to the dial tone between his shoulder and ear. “Hey, Sayu, it’s me. I- What? It’s Light. Your brother? There you go.” His head shakes, selecting an apple from the bowl on the counter, the one with the least bruises present, to take a short knife to the skin of. “I was just wondering how you’ve been. Is the job search going well?”
Awaiting her reply, he lifts the water again to tilt against his lips, free hand tossing a fresh slice of apple to Cheeseburger’s salivating maw. He’s swallowing just in time to respond, “Oh, yeah. It can be tough out there. I was thinking, though, I could help you out with that. I could definitely use someone to help me keep my place up and running while I’m at work all day. And night, sometimes. It- No, you wouldn’t be my maid, God. I just need someone to, you know, keep the laundry done and the kitchen clean, and- No, Sayu, not a maid- Fine, if you don’t want to be paid five thousand yen an hour to eat my food and play with my dog, then I’ll just ask someone el- Oh, you’re listening now, are you?” A smirk wraps around the bite of an apple, one he half swallows before speaking courteously around, “I’ll give you a call later once I figure out my schedule. Mhm. Mhm. Bye now.”
“Woof,” says Cheeseburger. Light crouches and shares his water with the thin silver dish on the kitchen floor.
On Sunday, because his days are quite eventless without the seasoning of his work life; On Sunday, his twelve o’clock pacemaker patient turns into his twelve:twelve pacemaker patient, because it’d taken that long to convince Saito-san that the surgery wouldn’t do any harm to him, only good, and he’d been wheeled promptly in to OR1 for his hands to determine the fate of.
Of course, naturally, Saito-san and his faultlessly thrumming heart are taken to recovery no more than an hour later.
Light washes quickly up in order to serve his next check ins, one of those being the swift peek of his head inside room 211. No notice falls to him from neither L nor his visiting father as their conversation bounds softly between them, so Light packs his smile in a carry on and carries on down the hallway toward the new mother worrying over the pains in her shoulder blade.
Monday is paperwork.
Tuesday is November fifth.
“Knock knock,” calls his voice without glancing away from the folder in his hand. “I told you I’d be back. How are-? ...L?”
Beyond the horizon of his sight, the sheets are left unmade and without the warmth of their usual body. In the room, it’s dark as usual, though far more without the side table lamp nor box television rerun glow. Silence grates the walls. With a crane of his neck further in, he’s able to work his sight over the blockade of machinery to scope out the window on the far end. Along the time of his absence, someone had tugged the curtains back to allow fresh light inside the cat’s cage, yet hadn’t thought of the next days’ forecast of downpour. Outside wrings gray. At the very least, his target is spotted now beside that clear glass, staring blankly off against the distance.
He stands so freely there that one might think him a lost visitor rather than the patient. No wires or tubes restrict him, not a sensor or clamp or pump hooked up to him at any point. Though he should intervene, Light can’t help but...watch him there, standing at the window, even if rain splatters relentlessly against its outside. L’s reflection within it, once Light approaches nearer, does not match for dismality or liberation. Calm, that’s all. He’s calm there by the raining window, with nothing holding him back from the world.
“What’re you doing over here by yourself?” falls from him before he’s to stop it. Light tilts his head the shortest fraction. “Is your father coming in?”
“I told Watari not to come today,” reciprocates, and when Light must ask why, L answers, slow and with thought, “I haven’t been feeling well.”
Perched there still the measure away, Light cuffs a breath in, pursing his mouth at the sides. “Well, let’s get you back in your bed, then. I can take a look at what’s bothering you.”
No move is made. L stands with his arms hung ahead of him, posture curved, staring out the window at the rain outside.
No move is made. Light frowns to his reflection.
“Come on, L. You should rest, especially if you aren’t feeling well.”
No move is made.
“L, I mean it,” Light says finally. “...L? What-”
It’s all in the knees, the way he collapses. Knees that buckle and weigh down the hips, anchor next the shoulder, his leftmost, carrying his weight down as though made of pure iron.
Everything in Light’s grasp mimics the fall, clattering away in time to his burst forward.
“Light? What’s going on-?”
“Bring me an AED. Now!”
From the doorway, Misa rests one palm to the frame, leaning her nose inward until his bark shoves her back in a wave. She spends only half a moment gathering herself before sliding off for a mobile medical cart. In her disappearance, another pair of nurses peek their worry inside the door, and upon seeing head cardiologist Doctor Yagami knelt up on a patient’s bed administering three beats a second CPR, rush inside to assist any way they can.
“Light!” doesn’t falter him for a moment. “Here, I got you a defibrillator. Let me-”
“Stand clear,” he shouts over her, twisting the dial on in the same second he’s back atop L to tug his shirt away. Chest cleared, he sticks with rigid fingers the pads into place, allows the machine to waste a moment on its analyze option.
Shock advised the radar reads.
“Stand clear.” And in the split tick of a watch are his hands strict upon pressing the charge to L’s chest. The three nurses stand in unified tension. Misa slips herself over to clutching an etiolated hand in both of hers, clipping the pulse reader onto his left ring finger as Light leans forth with all his weight again to manually resuscitate.
The rain outside feels as though it bears against his shoulders directly. And in his mind, it very well could, on today this fifth of November, where the frigidity of truth drags him by the ankles underneath a whirlpool spiral that speaks no truce.
Not a blip on the vitals monitor. Light growls through naked teeth.
“Come on, Goddamnit!” He hops back for the paddles and their second charge, hardly waiting for the next stand clear! to leave his mouth before pressing them downward against his flaring pace. Had he more time, he’d notice the way L’s bangs fall across his face, or the angular cut of his clavicle against his skin. He’d notice the tight pole of his throat fighting for intake. But he has no time. Again, every last speck of his strength goes to resuscitation.
“Yagami!” the second nurse yelps after a close full minute of the round. Light does not cease his throbbing hands, yet is able to glance up toward her call- and there falls the tension from his soles as one sips life out a daisy stem.
The electrocardiogram reads three short spikes.
Beneath his pumping fingers, he feels L’s chest move on its own, one shallow, shallow breath, and in several more beats that gradually vacate themselves, the side monitor picks up an easier rhythm enough to find his lingering hands inexcusable.
“You saved his life,” admires the watery spell of Misa’s tone, and with hands clasped beneath her rounded mouth, gasps into one palm raised for a cheek. “Oh, Light- you’re crying!”
Light isn’t certain how to unclench his molars from each other. Breaths come as ragged as his patient’s, very nearly, though his nostril flares, lids glued together in a turn of his head elsewhere.
“...Bring him to ICU,” his low voice instructs. He peels himself back to stand clear himself, this time, of the pair of nurses moving to unlock the bed’s wheels. “Start a drip of 200 milligrams of amiodarone.”
“Right,” one of the nurses nods, and she and the other are careful to follow the commands once the doorway is reopened for their exit. As soon as his feet have left the room, there’s a dozen staff on call outside the room to examine the commotion aftermath. Light doesn’t dare meet a single eye.
“Oh, Light…” Not hers, either. “I think it’s amazing how sweet and sensitive you are. Women trip over themselves trying to find a man like that.”
Misa places a hand on his bent forearm. He stiffens, but does not deny her touch.
“The way you care for your patients is like no other doctor in the whole world,” she goes on. The air reeks of burnt flesh and alchemy. “You’re so passionate about every person who comes through that door-”
“Have dinner with me tonight,” he spits before there’s a thought to push it back. Ever the quick lick worker, his head snaps her way, toward the astonished glaze of her expression so deep she’s to stagger a step backward.
“You- You really want me to...to…” Shaking her hair this and that, Misa implodes against herself into an atom bomb of affection to wrap up around his shoulders and squeeze him silly. “Oh, Light, a thousand times yes! My shift is over at eight, I’ll just need to shower and get ready, so pick me up around nine? Does that work? Oh, my God, you have no idea how excited I am! I have to go tell Nori right now- I’ll see you tonight, Doctor LifeSaver.”
With a blown kiss off her palm, she twirls herself into the hallway light, Doctor LifeSaver left behind to cringe within his own ache.
He wipes a sleeve cross his eyes, and decides Tuesday is paperwork, as well.
“He’s stable now, but hasn’t been conscious since sometime yesterday morning.” The third floor medical attention center runs on silence and stone. Up here, Light can hear every last whir, hum, blip. Up here, Watari rests his hat to his chest and hand to his mouth, listening grimly to the prognosis burdening his shoulders. “Until he wakes up, we’ll be keeping him on minor forms of life support, like oxygen and IV fluids.”
“I see,” Watari says, dark ash against his teeth.
Light cannot help his weighted nodding. Aside them, a window separates the bed of technical equipment burying L underneath it. Sullen, placid.
Capturing the elder man’s gaze, Light ventures, “You said he’s had health problems his whole life. Do you know of any other point where he’s been through any sort of cardiac arrest like that?”
And briskly, Watari shakes his head. “Not that I can recall. We only first discovered his issues when he was, oh, nine or ten. Christmas Eve one year, he was complaining about a shortness of breath, so we brought him in to the local clinic. That was around the time we started training the other boys to, you know...take over, should anything become of him.”
Where Light’s brow goes sternly down, Watari picks up the cue to wave his trilby in surrender. “Oh, it’s nothing important. All I mean to say is, he’s been sick for a very long time, but never this sick.”
Last night’s dinner, if it hadn’t turned him ill at the time, curls back to tighten his stomach now, perching a hand to his abdomen and bowing the most mild touch forward. Yagami Light does not allow his perseverance be taken so easily.
“I promised to do everything I can for L,” he says. “I saved him once, and I’ll do it however many more times I have to. That’s my oath to you and your family. And to L himself.”
Something shivers in Watari’s expression then, a tremble that from there blooms radiance.
“Thank you, Yagami-sensei.” How far forward he bows very nearly tips the old man on his head, returning straight with a smile laced in aeons. “Just from how you’ve cared for L so far, I already feel like you’re a part of the family.”
Tenderness writes the code of Light’s face, and in the following moments, he writes the code for tenderness across a slip of paper stolen from his breast pocket. The back of a blank RX sheet bleeds with the ink of digits.
“I don’t normally do this, but…” After a final underline, Light hands the paper off. “My personal number. Let me know if you notice anything change while I’m not around.”
“Of course,” Watari nods, folding the paper to tuck within his own pocket, and with another bow, “Thank you, doctor.”
Behind the glass, the world goes on.
And behind the glass of his two front windows, with the lattice porch front and the river past the road and forestry to offset his property from all the rest, he dreams that night of a phone call waking him, and in that phone call he’s told by the familiar voice of an earnest old father to come quick, things have changed; and in the dream he rushes faster than any thirty minute commute he’s ever taken, and he’s right there to watch L as he stands by the window in the intensive care room that does not exist, yet he stands there, watching out the window, and just when Light moves to reach his wireless painless form, he wakes from the heat of two blankets and a German shepherd sweating him out of bed. A readjustment later, he’s turned to his opposite, watching the dark outside his own very real window, and the next time he awakens it is to another phone call, and he thinks it’s a dream, but Misa’s sobbing voice on the other line telling him L’s dead, L’s dead! is real enough to break him from sleep another time.
“Boof,” Cheeseburger whispers.
Light glares at his gleaming eyes through the pitch night room, peels the blanket back to find his feet beneath him.
Driving to work on four hours sleep makes his stomach ache in that breathless sort of passion, where every bit is sweaty yet dry to the core, and the eyes hurt, but fatigue exists as another being sitting too far away to care for. That kind of tired.
“You’ve been here all night?” he asks once he steps into the foreign room of machines and sterility. It doesn’t quite need to be a question, but it’s more polite that way, and he doesn’t know if Watari would have liked a cafeteria cup of coffee, so he’d skipped out on bringing one. Seeing him now, his slumped forward form as he watches his son just lie there, so pitifully- all he can tell, then, is that if Light were in such a state, he’d eat the civet beans dry.
“Yes,” comes feebly back, though to his surprise there is no weakness in Watari’s rise. “Would you mind if I used the restroom? I don’t like to leave him alone.”
“Right, of course.” Light’s nodding steers him for the door. He listens to every oxford heel until no more are to be had, and then he looks at L beneath his oxygen mask and his needle lines up the veins, and then he splinters his judgement away from what feels appropriate to tip a wish up to God that this nightmare be over.
But he doesn’t need God- he’s standing right here in the room, dressed to the tens in a black cardigan and white coat low hanging, stethoscope prepared to catch a glimpse at his patient’s insides.
Steady. That’s all he can ask for, truly.
The next check falls upon the bagged fluids hanging overhead. He reads the measurements on it to ensure the ICU nurses are doing their best work possible. His mouth contorts. Everything is on par with his expectations. The EKG blips slowly beside him.
A glace spares to the left. The empty doorway is just that, empty, untouched. Its matching window keeps a thin crosshatch pattern, thick glass to sunder two earths.
Watari’s empty stool creaks with new weight. L’s knuckles are of the coldest his lips have ever felt.
“Come on, soldier,” whispers against them. “I won’t break my promise.”
Short blips. Even breaths. Light stands back up again, laying the hand, with its clamped finger, its braceleted wrist, its soft, cool skin, gently back to rest on his abdomen.
Another minute drifts on with Light and L and their silence, equipment keeping them company as the tide washes against bare feet. Watari reenters in a trade off of nods and good fortune. Light takes to the hallway, careening for the elevator to bring him back down to his comfort zone.
“There you are, Yagami.” Papers stack together to tap against the front desk. Nori points her short index nail his way. “Misa’s been looking for you.”
“When isn’t she…” Elbows perch to the high desk lip to run fingers along his hair. Stress blues his extremities. By the time he’s breathed enough to glance up again, and his lips part to request his location be kept clandestine, Nori has been replaced by the sweet sakura perfume of every evening’s princess, beaming boldly toward him with false lashes batting.
“Hi,” Misa greets. She leans as closely to him as she may, never invasive though perhaps...too comfortable. “I hope you’re having a good day. I had a really great time with you last night. I wanted to thank you for it.”
Though a giggle punctuates, the most he chooses to hear is to the break of the first sentence. “I’m not having the best day, actually. My patient still hasn’t responded.”
“Oh, you mean L? That poor thing…” To her cheek lays both hands together. “Even if he is a creep sometimes, there’s no reason anybody should die so young.”
Both palms move to lay upon the desk. Light taps his fingers, clenches his toes within their designer socks.
With lips parted to speak, interruption calls at never a better time.
“Yagami,” a man beckons from the stair flight bottom. From the length, he knows he’s seen him, perhaps worked closely with once or twice in a critical situation. “Come upstairs- you’d better hurry.”
And he’s vanished back up before he can catch his breath from the first round. Light blinks, which makes Misa blink, which makes Light sprint his way toward the stairs and up them without caring at all for the scuff on his toe as it scrapes against every step. He thinks Misa’s behind him, and he thinks he’s trapped in his dream again where she’s sobbing against the phone line and he’s running and running and running and running up an interminable staircase that leads nowhere but agony.
As he breaks through, in real time, at the top of the stairs upon the third floor, his chest is heaving for the effort yet he does not stop. Catching himself at the entry, Watari’s awaiting him with a perk to his face, though Light does not hear anything but the white noise bleeding against his eardrums.
“I don’t like this.” And...yes, and that, he hears it for certain once he skips inside the intensive care room where L’s been set. The oxygen mask lays by his hip on the mattress, clutching a hand on the cloth gown he’d been shoved into. “They stole my clothes.”
He lays there, still, though more different than ever; not in the sickly alabaster of his face, under eye circles twice as deep, but in the way he conducts himself as if nothing’s gone on. Here’s the set up, go on, a man wakes from a full day coma, and the first thing he does is complain. HAH! A killer, a real killer. Light shivers himself into real time, a step behind him and a step ahead. One fist clenched, the other reaching.
And upon the bed, he blinks his gaze away from the stare downward to his drab garment to rather the other’s shock sallow face. “Yes, Light?”
Now, yes, what role now is he to portray, which mask to flick on?
Evidenced, he’s struck in the place of grievance, fingers curling inside the comfort of themselves to beat two balled fists upon the end of the bed.
“God damn you, L! Don’t ever do that to me again, you hear me?” Turning his snarls away, a point shoves out so harshly for Watari his coat swishes white against his slack leg. “Think about your family. What would have happened to them if you’d just died yesterday?”
“Light…” he thinks he hears Misa murmur behind him, but there’s no telling when such a force of his breath ruins his ears. Light thrashes his head against itself in defiance of will, capturing himself in a calm thick as sin run down the veins.
“Just...start following my orders better,” he declines into. Straight ahead his leer lands, more staid now, less the personal investor more the five foot ten heartthrob doctor with far more passion than sanity. “If you hadn’t been up wandering around without anyone’s supervision, that never would have happened.”
“And you’re sure about that?” L interjects for the first time. His hands rest folded in his lap. A perfect porcelain China doll. A could-have-been should-have-been still-deserves-to-be. “You aren’t just making excuses to placate what you know is true? Not denying the inevitable? Tell me, Light, from the moment you were born, has there ever been a point when you've actually told the truth?”
A step escorts him backward. Tension rivals betwixt heart and flesh.
“The truth is,” L continues, peeling back the tape of the needle in the top of his hand, “I would have had that heart attack regardless of what else happened that day. And it’s likely, too, that I’ll continue to have them more and more until eventually my condition reduces me to...well, nothing. And there isn’t anything to be done about it. Not by this,” and he gestures with the IV line he plucks from his own skin as he drops it aside, then a dead straight stare for Light’s growling amber eyes, “or by you.”
“Ryuzaki.” It’s the first of none that Light’s ever heard the old man’s voice adopt an edge so sharp. “Don’t talk about yourself that way.”
Something nudges L’s shoulders back, adjusts him into an angle of serenity that dips into the pillows behind him- an angel, most definitely. “I’ve been aware of my fate since I was ten years old. Afterall...you don’t become the world’s greatest detective by not paying attention to everything.”
“Ryuzaki…” Watari steps back to repeat, this time without a drip of harshness. Just...sadness, no other word to better fit.
“The world’s greatest detective…” muses the honey blonde still behind them. Misa taps a finger to her lip. “Is that really true? You’re, like, famous and everything?”
“It would appear so.” Next to be picked at goes the lamination of his wrist bracelet. “There’s a lot riding on this life of mine, but,” a pausing point to sigh, to stare upward to nothing but his own thought, “Near and Mello will do a fine enough job.”
The spotlight lures Light back again with a step forward, a fist clenched still around the heavy heavy emotions it clasps. “You aren’t going to die, L.”
“Death is a fact of life-”
“You’re not going to die! The moment you start thinking that way, that’s when you’re truly dead.” Light straightens, tips his chin high. “You’re not giving up that easily, I won’t let you. If you’re really as great of a detective as you say you are, then you’d know just as many people who walk into this place walk right back out. You’re here so I can help you. By admitting defeat like that, you’re not only insulting yourself, but me, and everything I stand for.”
With every new sentence orated toward him, another electrode is worked off his chest by the scrape of a fingernail, until he’s propped there picking at the last connection of himself to the technology beside him, only glancing up to meet Light’s eye after moments of gray deliberation.
“It’s no coincidence that I was admitted to this hospital, the one where Doctor Yagami Light, son of Yagami Souichirou of the NPA, works.”
The doppler of the EKG fades to blank. In one swift swing of himself, L moves to rise from the bed, only getting so far as feet on the floor and knees ready bent before three sets of hands on instinct flare out to shout, “Don’t!” in immaculate unison.
“Ryuzaki,” says Watari again, once the blinking and waving off have passed. Hands clasped now behind his back, he approaches his son from a direction of peace. “If you do as Yagami-sensei says, you’ll be able to leave intensive care much sooner.”
L cocks his jaw leftward. “Nothing ever changes around here. It makes no difference to me whether I’m here or in my normal room. Everyday is exactly the same.”
He continues his pose of half-risen, waiting there on the bed’s edge for rebuttal that comes with no haste from Watari and his pursed mouth. Between he and the head doctor, a pointer finger perks.
“Buuut,” Misa sings. “It’s against hospital policy for visitors to bring our patients any kind of food, drink, or otherwise ingestible item while they’re admitted to ICU.”
Like a cat L’s pupils slink from her smile to Light’s impression.
“...She’s right,” he confirms, the chain reaction to which brings L lifting his legs back up upon the bed and fingers folded politely in his lap.
“Get me out of here, Yagami-sensei.”
Chuckling then, Watari turns on a heel to follow Misa’s beckoning hand out of the room. “You’re learning how to deal with him quite quickly.”
Light glances once over his shoulder to watch their humored exit. Yes, he thinks, with a weighted breath outward, they’re all learning.
Grasping the ends of his stethoscope, he dips his head beneath it in a stride forward to tend to the most esoterically delightful patient to ever meet his sight.
Being three years past prime and fifteen pounds overweight is no problem with fur so luxurious and silken.
Light’s almost envious.
“So, two bowls of kibble a day, and a walk around the river?” She’s crouched on his kitchen tile, jean skirt and pale yellow summer blouse and all, but he supposes twenty-four year olds care more for fashion than the weather forecast. He remembers so fondly those days. But these days now are what stand important to him, where his sister’s kneeled to his kitchen floor rubbing her hands up the soft fluffy chest of his panting shepherd, here now because she’d been busy last Saturday and he the next, so he’d secluded a chunk of a Monday after enough charts had been updated to drive home and find her waiting with her clunky white sneakers and the socks and ponytail scrunchie to match the yellow of her shirt placed upon his porch front; she’d hopped right up when she’d seen him, waving him over as if it weren’t his sunny front porch she’d been scrolling through her Instagram feed on the past twenty minutes.
“Right,” he assures her, busied by the knife in his hand. For every three slices of banana to fill the blender cup, another goes to Cheeseburger’s waiting mouth. “Go easy on him, though. He’ll try to chase anything he sees. But he’s thirteen now. A short walk through the park is plenty.”
“Hah, I wish I was thirteen,” Sayu says back, wrapping her hands around the dog’s fluffy front and burying her nose behind his ear.
Light drops a sidelong glance for them both. The blender top secures on beneath his hand, whirring boldly to life to storm a whirlwind through the fruit inside.
“So,” calls loudly over it. “That’s what I have to do for Chizu, but what about the rest of the house? I can dust and sweep and stuff. I won’t do laundry, though. I don’t want to handle all your dirty clothes and know my brother’s ass touched it first.”
A swivel steals his eyes. “Just the linen. Bathroom towels, bedding, etcetera.”
“Yeah, I know what linen is,” she tells him. “Art school wasn’t that useless.”
Still with a palm anchoring the lid, he revives the quiet, to much relief, and by that expert touch fills two glasses to their midpoints with smoothie.
“Thanks.” Sayu accepts his offering in both hands, risen now to perk a smile up at him. All the sudden do her eyes peddle starlight. “Oh, hey, you still have that porch swing out back, right? Can we go sit out there? It’s suuuper nice out today.”
For the midst of a November, she’s perfectly right. He’d peeled himself from the cardigan over his button up after the drive in to the office this morning. That level of nice out. Pattering nails follow them through the back door and down the short steps, where the grass is fresh and sky bright, shadowed on half the back lawn by the lip of his roof. Beyond it, the creaking wood of the lacquered swing rests still in tact, and she keeps her toes on the grass to push them idly every so often, just a touch, watching the way the forestry wraps around behind his house of no fence. Cheeseburger lays at his feet, arms outstretched before himself, panting in the sunlight in the way one would swear is a grin.
“It’s so awesome out here,” she marvels. The glasses of drink do not quite sweat, only warmed by palms that keep them still in each lap.
Light lifts to sip his, though not before easing out, “Have you had any luck finding a place for yourself?”
Sayu’s gaze cannot help but wander. In an absent tapping, her feet kick out afront her.
“It’s hard enough finding a job, I’ve barely tried looking at apartments.” One hand raises to shield the sunlight, a better glance taken for the deep back wood. “I know it’s totally embarrassing to still live at home, but that’s what everybody does after college. Well...except you, Mr. Perfect.”
The subtle intention of her prodding pulls his face tighter. “Don’t act like I had things handed to me. I was still living on campus until a few years ago.” November sunlight bothers him into a squint no less becoming of him. “Life is difficult, but you still have plenty of time to figure things out.”
“Yeah,” Sayu nods. She’s smiling again now, turning to look his way. “I think working for you will really help get me on my feet. Plus, it’s some time away from Mom during the day. I love her, but sometimes I just get tired of her asking when I’m gonna get a boyfriend, or apply for that interior decorator job I don’t want.”
A bird rustles against a tree over their view. Light listens to their absent chirping, the sounds of the crackling riverbed behind them, latent here, the quiet of a home plucked free of civilization’s filth.
“Just remember to be grateful for everything you do have,” Light says back, not in the voice of a lecturer, but of a philosopher. “I see people everyday who would give anything to be home listening to their mothers nag them.”
Jagged, unpolished, her fingernails tap gainst the side of her glass. “You’re right. I don’t want to take anything for granted. But that being saaaid, it’s okay to complain sometimes, too.” Rather than a fond smile, she’s simpering like a demon now, mischievous in only the most little-sister of ways. “Like, not only is it annoying, but it’s totally unfair, too. You’re way older than me, but Mom never bothers you about when you’re gonna find a boyfriend.”
Her comment uproots him just a second long enough to heat the highpoints of his face. Waving a hand between them, the lull of his voice coughs out, “Trust me, I get my fair share of it.”
Sayu laughs herself folded at the middle. “You know, she actually did say the other day that you didn’t answer one of her calls. You weren’t busy with your important doctor work, you just don’t wanna talk to your poor sweet old mother.”
“Oh, of course,” he scoffs, collecting himself to stand with the cue of an emptied cup in hand. “It’s not like I’m preoccupied having to give CPR to a guy for five straight minutes so he doesn’t die right in front of me.”
“Whoa, really?” Behind him, she trails like a paparazzo. The swinging screen door is held open until the very tip of a wagging tail is safely inside, and she jogs after its swing shut to catch back up to him in the kitchen. “Does stuff like that happen all the time? Being a doctor sounds so stressful, it’s just like when Ryūga Hideki was in that drama, Love Support. He-”
“Please, Sayu,” his voice gags over the hushing faucet. “Don’t compare my work I’ve dedicated the past decade to to a show about some surgeon that kisses his patients back to life.”
“You just wouldn’t understand,” she says, handing her cup off to the wet hand that reaches for it. Freed, she leans back against the countertop, watching him scrub soap through the emptied glasses. “What’s it really like, then? You said that person almost died on you? Does that happen all the time?”
Light ponders on her enthusiasm, wonders just exactly his stance here. Imperial, positively. He hangs a cup on the hook of the drying rack.
“The heart is a delicate organ. The Ancient Egyptians even thought it to be the central organ for all life and intelligence.” As he dries his hands, lids fall closed, completing the posh manner in which he feigns nonchalance. “I’ve never lost a patient during surgery or through fault of my own. Everyone who seeks my care leaves with a perfect bill of health.”
“So what about the guy that almost bit it?”
The flesh of his bottom lip sucks taut against his teeth.
“...That was over a week ago,” Light tells her. His fingers tap the counter. “I’ve been working with a patient who’s very sick, but I’m doing everything I can, and I’m confident he’s going to be alright.”
“Oh, that’s so sad…” Her fingers cover politely her mouth. “Is he an old guy? What’s wrong with him?”
The kitchen lights reflect off the tile where Cheeseburger clacks his paws now. A glance around, and the dog chooses to lay flatly behind his master’s ankles, jowls smacking wetly as he rests his head to the floor ahead of himself.
Light sighs. “He has a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. Essentially, only half of his heart is working properly.” The layman’s terms hurt his head to breakdown, yet it is with greater contempt he chews upon the strength of his next words. “There’s just something about him that drives me crazy. He’s smart, and a detective, and he’s only in his early thirties. He has brothers, and his father comes in to visit him everyday for hours... It’s tragic, especially since he’s starting to just...give up on life.”
“That’s so sad,” she repeats, just exactly that. Sad. Then, in a stroke of her own genius, “Is he single?”
“Not for meee, silly. I was thinking for y-”
“I’m already seeing someone.”
And that’s all it takes for her to gasp, trailing at his very heels again once he shoves himself out of the room. To the ten thousand questions that erupt, he collects himself, moves bravely forward. “It’s one of my nurses. Her name is Misa, and we just had dinner together once.”
“Wait, huh?” pinches her nose. “You’re not gay anymore? How’d that happen?”
“What can I say,” he says. “Sometimes, the right person comes along, and you just fall in love right there.” Through the front den they whisk, door to the outside sun opening to blind them both a moment. “I should really be getting back to work, so if you don’t mind-”
“Oh, bullshit, Light!” Her grin betrays the profanity. One tug on his closest sleeve, and his degrees begin to stack. “I’ve never heard you talk about a patient, ever, and come to find out it’s some hot young guy-”
“I hardly said anything about him-”
“I can read you like a book! Better yet, like a tabloid cover when you’re in line at the supermarket. That’s how well I can read you, Light.” Another tug on his sleeve alerts a bark to sound behind them, capturing her focus a half second before she’s full of diablerie again to point up toward his sun-ridden face. “I have a sister intuition about these kinds of things. You’re totally in love with this diluted cardiomonopoly guy, and you started dating one of your nurses just to stop yourself from feeling that way.” Palms to the chest, she clutches herself in the look of a soap opera poster starlet. “That’s not how the heart works.”
“I know how the heart works,” says he, bluntly, gesturing again to the open doorway. “I gave you the spare key already, so come by tomorrow around nine and get to work. I should be home sometime after dinner.”
“Aw, Light, don’t be mad at me,” oversteps his directions. Looking up to him, he’s amazed by the perfection of her puppy dog eyes. Years of practice on their father, no doubt. “I’m not trying to tease you, I really am trying to help. I know you, and I know you’re like a...like a clamshell when it comes to talking about your feelings.”
Where her hands mimic the motion of a shellfish clamping itself together, he drops his gaze, moves back to her face, moves his lips around an exhale.
“I’m fine,” he says. “You’re just...way off about this one. I would never feel that way toward a patient. It’s completely inappropriate.”
“Love doesn’t care about appropriateness.” The sweetness of her tone evacuates for revulsion. “Actually, that kinda sounds creepy. Maybe I should go.”
Dropping to her haunches, she wraps a broad hug around Cheeseburger’s neck, smothering him with her affection. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Chizubaga. Make sure you help Light figure out his boy troubles.”
She catches him mid-eyeroll, huffing her way toward to door to wave fingers at him. “I’ll be back tomorrow, like I said. Love you! Don’t be too sour about what I said, either. I know my big brother is the best, most professional doctor in the whole world.”
“Love you, too,” is what he musters as the front door latches upon shadowing, faltering steps.
Below him, a whining whistle draws his glance. Cheeseburger tilts his ears with a look of ageless sorrow in his deep chocolate eyes.
After a staring match, Light can only sigh.
Two weeks. Normally, it’s the golden period. The time it takes to trek from the base of the woods to its end. Normally, it’s the slow descent into cries of relief and hugs around the waist, and in even more normal a case, time for shears to split the plastic of bracelets and tired eyes to sip the outside light.
Two weeks since L Lawliet had collapsed in his room of sudden, manifested cardiac arrest, and another two between since his prognosis had been so grim as to expect only a handful more moons. L Lawliet, if Light can correctly add up the dynamics, has been his patient for a month now, a month when he’d only been promised a week, and though he’s confined for the while to rumpled sheets and cloth gown periwinkle, L is alive and breathing on his own twelve hours a day, out of intensive care to instead be again under the eased eye of the second floor cardiac wing. And every morning, his father carries a box in with him, and every afternoon, Light enters to record his vitals and absorb his microaggressions, and on this Tuesday two weeks post exhilaration, he pauses in his steps to what he’s first greeted with.
“I dreamt about you last night,” L says. He’s sitting up a little higher today, knees bent against his chest and clutched within both arms.
“Is that so,” Light murmurs idly out, disinterest the faux beauty of his outside. He scribbles something on his clipboard regarding the date and time and demeanour report. A pulse beat beeps out of line with the rest, making him glance for the monitor a while, but ultimately returns to his notation.
“I dreamt we were handcuffed to one another,” L explains, watching the afternoon light pierce the far window. “You told me, our fates are the same. If I die, you die as well.”
A pause pricks an eyebrow higher, though Light’s able to shake it off in time to say, “Well, that’s exactly how I feel. So no more talk about dying, or else you’ll be killing the both of us.”
“With how my echocardiogram looked this morning, I wouldn’t be surprised if this were my last day on Earth...”
L may was well, in all his speeches, be lain back to a velvet couch, draped in silk and rose petals, a wine glass in hand as he endures the aches of existence. Light flips through his folder of records. “You don’t have to be so worried.” From the pinned stack, he pulls two translucent sheets of black, images atop them a mess of white beamed streaks. “Look, compared to two weeks ago, you’ve hardly had any changes.”
Fingerprints smudge beneath L’s grasping thumbs to glance over the more recent image. Light keeps hold of the first, pointing with his pen’s head on the print out L examines. “Your septum is here, see. It’s gotten a bit more pushed to the anatomical right, but being that you went through severe cardiac arrest, I’d say that’s a pretty benign outcome.”
His nose stays buried within the image. Silence passes between; then, L lifts a finger to trace the widest portion of the image, a dark cavern in the middle of the page. “This is my left ventricle?”
“Yes,” Light confirms. “In the actual video echo, you can see your bicuspid valve is still functioning, just at an abnormal pace to the other side. It’s similar to, say...two dancers, with one out of sync.”
L observes the image another moment, handing it back upward without word. Quiet, subtle, he leans forward his chin to rest upon the tops of both knees.
Slipping the pictures back in place, Light offers the room his finest look of grim valor. They continue in the hush, the lull, until the free space at the bed’s end tempts him too finely not to take refuge there, clipboard in the lap, eyes on the sunrise crouched up by the pillows.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about where we go from here,” he begins, gusto flared into the chest. “I think the ultimate goal is a full heart transplant. The only issue lies in how long the waiting list is for that. You’ll be put on it, but I think in the meantime, something else should be done.”
“Legal euthanization,” L suggests. Light scowls at him.
“I was thinking more along the lines of an implantable device. Have you heard of a CRT-D?”
Where the contused fatigue of his eyelids raise, interested, Light accepts his cue to nod continuum. “It’s a more advanced form of a pacemaker. It can sense an irregular rhythm between the right and left ventricle and correct it, while also maintaining the balance between brady and tachycardia.” Another nod. “It would increase your capacity for exercise, too, which would in turn strengthen your heart muscles even more.”
Despite the proffering, the blankets beneath L’s nose ruffle upon his exhale. “Aaand...tell me the bad news.”
Intuition is his worst adversary.
“Well,” and he needn’t sugarcoat it, not if he knows L as he believes he does, the L that douses every bite in saccharine but couldn’t ease a gentle honesty if it were to cure him in full. “Well,” Light starts, from the seat on his bed and the place in his life, “As it stands now, there’s a very strong chance your heart wouldn’t be able to endure the surgery.” His shoulders sit tensely. Words are chosen carefully. “In order to prepare for a procedure like that, you’d have to go through some physical therapy to strengthen your mobility first.”
“But I can’t do that, because I need the implant to do any sort of exercise, but I need the exercise to strengthen my heart enough for the implant, and by the time there’s a donor available for me- and if my rare blood type doesn’t reject it…” Again, his sigh fogs the world before him. “Well...you went to med school. You tell me. What’s my survival rate as of this moment?”
No sugar. All flaws. In Light’s mind, one hundred percent, once his treatments are accurately undertaken, though he supposes without a problem known, there is no problem to be fixed.
For the first time, Light thinks, L is perfectly speechless.
“But,” he’s quick to patch himself. His assurance carries through with a hand laid forward atop the mattress, closer. “That’s just this moment, with no intervention whatsoever. I’m going to start you on physical therapy, very small amounts. It’ll probably be about a six month cycle of that before I can evaluate you again and decide whether an operation is a viable option. Until then, you’ll be on the donor waiting list, which means about this time next year, you’ll be just about recovering from your transplant.”
For the second time, L is speechless. Light traces the silhouette of his skin, pale like doves and angels and vanilla, nothing sickly or rotten about white in its purity. L is pale like a wedding gown, and his eyes are wet like dew on a five AM field, where no one else exists and the sky isn’t quite yet at its brightest potential, and L is made of miracles and golden bones, and if he’s been sick for twenty five years already there’s no one to say he can’t be for twenty five more.
L is speechless, until he speaks, though that in itself sparkles up Light’s skin like a Hollywood hope.
“I think you’re the first friend I’ve ever had.”
It feels ten minutes have passed by the time he stands.
It feels forever travels in his eyes.
Sayu, if nothing else, is a promise keeper. He’s able to dry himself off after a Thursday night shower with a towel smelling of fresh lilac softener, perhaps a touch too much, but the attempt is in all the right mind. Just as refreshed as Cheeseburger behaves after his newly acquired daily walks, Light is refreshed after his hot shower and clean towel, refreshed in his just washed sheets as he wakes the next morning to rise. Ironed socks work their argyle up his ankles. He slips his shoes on, tucks his arms into his overcoat, and snags his keys just as he’s swinging from the front door. Refreshed.
Faultless timing to feel so reborn, too; it’s best to start on high ground if a day is to knock the wind from the lungs.
“It’s the third day in a row I’ve tried to get him out of bed,” the woman explains, slender and short beneath a bob cut of black. Fridays in the hospital are busied enough as the hours grow later and later into the weekend, so at the very least, she’s caught him early, just a minute post setting his belongings in his office and moving toward a peek at today’s schedule. “He won’t respond to a thing I say. I’d think he was dead if the EKG weren’t still beeping.”
At the receptionist desk, Nori hides her humor behind a stack of folders.
“I’ll take care of it,” Light sighs out, nodding to the physical therapist as she shakes herself away to carry on a next task. Light taps his fingers to the desktop ledge once, then takes off with a snarl toward the direction of room 211.
“What seems to be the problem today?” He enters with a flourish of business. Standing over L’s bed, he confirms the therapist’s description of a cadaver facing the opposite wall on the bed’s midst, shoulders flaring every few seconds just to assure he’s breathing. Despite it, Light reaches to grasp one ankle protruding from the sheet bottom, shaking lightly, niggling. “Not feeling well, or just not feeling like following doctor’s orders anymore?”
Several more shakes, and Light concedes to leave it alone. His throat clears on itself. “If you go do PT, you don’t have to be hooked up to anything. No machines, no monitors. How’s that sound? Maybe I’ll even ask Maebara to bring you outside in the courtyard.”
Strictly, L stays facing the wall, unmoving, unrelenting. Light grits his teeth together.
“Hey,” comes more forcefully. Without answer again, he takes to a dip of the hand down again, dragging one finger along the bottom of his foot. L instantly jerks his leg away from the touch.
Light smirks over him. “See, you’re already doing it.” The praise is followed by a tickle upon the opposite foot, which right as well pulls itself away; another on the opposite, and Light’s just too far off the edge of preoccupied to make the connection between the increased height of the beeping blips from the corner machinery and the foot that lurches up and collides with his chest.
A hollow oof knocks him a step backward. Wincing, he rubs the sore spot above his sternum, and in vexation does his hiss return, “Bastard.” He shakes himself away from amateurism. “Fine, if you’re going to act this way, I’ll tell Maebara to cancel your sessions, and I’ll come in and give you personal Yagami-brand fitness training.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to know what fitness is,” L mumbles against his pillowcase, and Light speaks over him as his pen digs into the page below it, “Sunday morning…nine AM...L’s first PT session.”
A final underlining flamboyance, and the pen clicks, and Light smiles upward and the most deliriously pestilential patient to ever meet his sight.
Saturday, the weekend stranger loses without claiming a single point, offers again to buy lunch for the pair of them at the cafe a mile south from there. Saturday, Light isn’t certain what the man’s getting at, but he takes a shot regardless and tells him no, he’s got to get back to his girlfriend soon. Saturday, he repents for the lie when the caller ID across his phone reads Amane and she invites herself over for drinks four hours from midnight.
Sunday, he’s only vaguely hungover, and nine AM comes far too soon.
“Ah, you’re dressed up today,” Light comments, because he’d expected mopey moody bratty L to still be buried under his covers with all lights out, but instead is greeted by the pleasant sight of L in a long sleeved white tee and department store jeans, sitting at the edge of his bed unattached from all the medical equipment, waiting. Polite. Like an elementary schooler sitting to have his picture taken, but only once he’s told there’ll be a trip for ice cream contingent upon good behavior.
“Yes,” the good boy says. “I had Watari bring me some clothing yesterday. I wouldn’t want to be seen outside with my testicles showing.”
The headache puckers the top left of Light’s skull. Nevermind. “So you remembered what I said, then? You seem ready for me today.”
“Yes,” sighs L another time, chewing the pink of his bottom lip as he speaks. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get this over with.”
“By all means.” Light’s at his side before the first step can be taken. Their ease works through the elevator, where L squints and blinks enough time to adjust himself before careening toward the far left back exitway. The courtyard awaits their steps, paved by soft concrete between squares of grass and tulip buds fighting the coming cold. It’s warm still, today, a given as to why a handful of others strew along the benches and grassland, most visitors with their family and treats in hand. A little girl bounces up and along the bench where an elderly woman sits, laughing behind her glasses at the sweet babbles the girl has to offer. Another selection just off the coast of them sit spread out along a white blanket over the grass, three ice cream cones for three hands and the inability to discern just who exactly is sick.
“Let’s just do some walking today,” Light says, picking up from the short refrain he’d stopped for to allow L’s breath be caught by the doorway. Stable, he casts a look ahead of him, and as if to agree, steps forth with no more a word.
This time of year, the flowerbeds are less so tended to. As they pass a row of roses, bright beaming red as the emblem of their hospital, Light notices the staggering lack of petals on several, bereft to walk by them without lending a hand. The mulch around them sticks strongly its smell into the air. For what he could be doing now, therein, blood pressure and heartbeats and whatever else he’s dedicated his life to, he doesn’t find this so poor a morn.
“I need to,” pipes from beside him, a pace behind, perhaps, and L swallows, “take a break.”
Light is set to accept, to nod him over to the nearest empty bench seat, but what halts him into silence is the clutch of two hands clinging suddenly to his arm, as if he were leading a prom queen out into the purple sibylline night. Right. Go on.
Once acquainted with the bench, Light waits, on-call, as L catches his short breaths until they string together evenly. L sits back against the bench, fingers insistent upon the wooden bottom lip of the seat.
“It’ll get easier the more you do it,” Light tells him, taking a glance for his watch. Ten minutes past the starting point. He supposes it’s a good amount to ask of him for today.
“What’s the likelihood of this killing me before the arrhythmia does?” mumbles out.
Scoffing battles back. “Zero. You’re the laziest person I’ve ever met.”
“How unfair,” L says, tipping his eyes opened again if only to look his way. “I was a tennis champion at one time in my life.”
Surprise is not enough to keep Light’s crave at bay; “Was?” he smirks. “I still am. I play every weekend. I haven’t lost a match in years.”
“Yes, well,” says L, “it’s rather hard to play tennis when you’re bedridden and on the brink of heart failure.”
“...I’m sorry.” Light sets his eyes upon the little girl again, in her sundress and hooded jacket, dancing around in all the world’s excitement for the older woman to clap onward to. He smiles for everyone’s worth. “Look at the brightside. You’re out of bed right now, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.”
Beside him, L’s focus is turned long away somewhere, but he hums some flavor of agreement.
“It is nice out here,” says his tired voice. “Reminds me of the courtyard at To-Oh.”
“I thought you never went there?” Light perks his head. L nods his once.
“I didn’t attend classes, but Watari did force me on a tour every new semester in hopes to convince me to go. He’d never insist I do anything I don’t want to, but he always had hope for me to get out in the world and form a relationship or two.” When L lifts his legs, one at a time, to press his lap against his chest, Light makes no fuss about it. Dreamy in the slurred tone, L goes on, “I always remembered the courtyard there. Every time I would get particularly sick when I was younger, and I couldn’t do much, I’d always wished I had something like that. I like the sunlight.”
Their gazes don’t meet. For all either know, they could be sat alone out there, speaking aloud the unearthed muck of their consciences, fallen on no one but themselves. But there’s two of them there on the bench, and Light moves forward to act accordingly. “I know what you mean. I spent a lot of time studying outside there. And even now- there’s a park right beside my house. I spend a lot of my free time there.”
“You wouldn’t expect a person like that to go into a field of work that keeps them inside all day.” L glances to him, rests his head to his knees to just watch him.
Light smiles. Just a bit. “Yeah, I guess not. But I was always interested in the medical field. Just the idea of healing people, I guess. It’s just like my father, he keeps the innocent safe by arresting criminals. I keep people safe by...screening for atrial septal defects.”
If Light were any less sane, he wouldn’t believe the breath of a laugh he hears from L’s muffled mouth.
“It’s a viable comparison,” he says. “Perhaps you and I aren’t so different.”
“Maybe not,” Light smiles, though cannot help poking his nose higher. “I think if I were in the hospital, though, I’d care about more than just coffee.”
“What would you care about?” strikes him back nearly before he’s finished. Light blinks to the blank expression on the other’s face, his straight mouth and wide eyes, a detriment.
“Well...I’d care about my health, mostly,” he answers, the straight laced businessman. “And I’d care about my family. My father’s been hospitalized a few times, and my mother is always a wreck the whole time. And...I think I’d care about my dog, too, even if that sounds silly.”
“You have a dog?”
Briskly, Light nods. “Yes, I’m just fostering him for my dad. He’s a retired police dog.” A while stretches between them, because Light knows what else to say, but something in him cares too wholly for pride. “...His name is- ...Daichi.”
A sidelong glance shows L’s eyes have narrowed again, though in scrutiny do they squint, as if calculating in his mind from the narrowed leer to the chewed upon thumbnail.
“We should get you back to your room,” Light decides. A breeze cools what deception of warmth had shrouded them. He’s on his feet as the punctuation, offering a hand downward. “Think you can do it?”
“No,” L says, and throws a wrist to his forehead. “I need a dashing young prince to carry me back.”
“Alright, smartass.” But he’s smirking, waiting as L unfolds himself to stand and prance forward.
The world outside vanishes with one sweep of the door. It isn’t so horrific a fate as one could face, though Light wouldn’t rather a life without color. He’s content. He counts each night the favors done for him by destiny, and every morning he’s grateful to wake. That’s his glory.
By the time L lets him leave, he’s stuffed inside the crowded hall of his brain to have Misa do an extra night check, and all the same to savor the scent of every mulch.
December begins the end. Flowers who’d fought in agony for hope are stolen by God’s own hand to wither against the hardening soil. The sky goes pink at six PM, and the street traffic through the night falls muffled against the closed panes.
December begins with a Sunday shift and ends with Chinese leftovers in the living room. Sayu had had her fair share of his shrimp lo mein during her very rigorous work day, and Cheeseburger’s saliva stains the rug beneath him to be placated only by lumps of crab tossed his way. Light keeps his socked feet planted firmly to the floor. The television never once flicks on. Sunday night.
December begins, and then it drags, and the nicest part of most days continues to be the ten minute walks followed by thirty minute conversations. He learns that L is adopted. L learns that he has a nuclear family so cookie cutter perfect they could be picture frame models. He learns that L doesn’t like vegetables. L learns how to sear a perfect salmon with asparagus and shiitake on the side, just a touch of lemon and garlic, absolutely to die for (though Light would suspect he doesn’t so much learn anything as he just hears it spoken of).
By December twentieth, L has had another pair of echos done, both of which show very vague changes if at all. By the twentieth as well, they’ve managed to move their courtyard spot to the next bench down, perhaps another ten feet or so, but it’s something. Light thinks they’ll have to start taking their physical therapy sessions inside, only more so once, on the eighteenth, the first flake trembles upon his bare knuckles, but L’s eyes alight so much to the faint snowfall in his hair that Light can do no more than place his long white coat over his shoulders and let it be, for now.
“My birthday is so soon!” babbles from Misa on that twentieth afternoon, once Light has returned to the warmth of the inside with the will to never return back out. Swiping the frost from his shoulders, he checks his schedule and asks absently, “Oh? When is it?” while Misa can only laugh brashly and shove him against the bicep. “You’re so funny, Light.”
She sways away then, hips first, and leaves Light to wonder when he’d ever told a joke in his life.
When Christmas Eve emerges on the horizon, the elevator dings to usher out Watari’s exit, the same advent calendar underneath his arm as the past twenty-three other days. On December eighth, there’d been a white chocolate truffle inside that L had nearly welled up in tears while chewing, and on the thirteenth, he’d leaned over the trashbin and spit out a peach cream bon bon.
“Mh,” he muffles today. “Caramel.”
“Tomorrow, I’ll bring in the lemon bundt I made,” say Watari, pride flowing freely through his smile.
Light cannot help catch it for his own simper, continuing on past the room as he’d first intended. The chart in his hand flips flatly. He knocks twice on the examination room door before entering, where inside, he’s greeted by a man he’s seen once or twice beforehand, though this time seems tightened by the gruff that gripes out, “Jeez, a doctor’s appointment on Christmas friggin’ Eve. I should be home with my family right now.”
“Ah, yes,” Light does his best to chuckle off. “It can get a little frustrating. Do you have your insurance card?”
Messenger bag swung overhead, the sky outside the windows is a darkened indigo chalk, and when Light approaches close enough, he can feel the cold right through the glass.
“Light,” brings him back from his gazing. The call’s been a weak one, far beyond and nowhere ahead. He almost fools himself to think it’s a nurse in search of him, though one spin round on the heel casts into view the Victorian painting of L in his bed, darkened, ethereal. His hand beckons him forward. Light pauses a moment, because his shift is over, yet collects on thrill to enter within.
“You’ll come in tomorrow, won’t you?” is the first thing L asks. He shifts himself against the blanket pulled higher upon his arms.
Blankly, Light nods. “Of course. It’s just another Wednesday.”
Somewhere inside he believes in L’s ability to understand him. And there, he watches his lean back into the pillows, sighing against the close of both lids. “Alright. Don’t forget to bring Misa a birthday gift if you hope to keep her around.”
Light blinks. Again. “Oh, I-” Again. His hand clenches on the leather bag strap. “Sure, you’re right. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
No goodnight finds him, and had he no better mind he’d think L had already fallen asleep across him. Still, he’s quiet in a manner of benevolence, tapping his way out of the room and down the stairs and out into the startling chill of the executive parking lot.
Twenty-four hour convenience stores are the only blessing his life needs, he thinks on December the twenty-fourth, at ten:fifteen PM. A pit stop on his drive home. He struggles momentarily, pacing the aisle, attempting to delve inside the mind of a twenty-something girl, until ultimately deciding a hundred yen kitty hair clip to be suitable enough. He picks up another one for Sayu, because why not, because it’s in the spirit of giving and he’s going to see his family tomorrow for dinner for the first time in perhaps a good few months now. How busy he gets tends to slip his mind amid being so, well, busy.
At the register, the maniacally placed candy display tempts him enough for a last minute purchase. He can stick a bow on it when he gets home, he figures.
Another wonderful feeling of the twenty-four hour convenience stop are the employees that hate their positions enough not to question a grown man buying two kitty cat barrettes and a KitKat bar at ten:twenty-one PM. Accepting the handles of the small plastic bag, Light roams for the exit, gunning it home along the sleepy suburban streets.
On just another Wednesday, the chief of staff gets off on his yearly reminder that it may be Christmas, but our patients still come first. Light is careful to tread around his perch by second floor reception, slipping inside his first hour appointment without so much as a happy holidays.
“Yagami, hey, I haven’t seen you all day,” Nori calls to him once the scheduled half hour closes out, and she rests sole at that desk again. On closer approach, she tugs from the cup beside her a candy cane to hand his way. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” he laughs back, tucking the candy into his breast pocket in utmost politeness. He glances at the papers stacked beside her, and is poised to speak onward before he’s cut off by the jarring melody of jingles.
“Hi hi,” Misa cheers, the bells hanging from her earring holes doing even more of the talking. Almost so much as the smiling feline clipped within her bangs. Light sighs with what must be relief.
“Oh, Light,” she purrs next, laying a hand to his forearm. His stare burns against it. “I was wondering what your plans are for today. Are you going to see your family? It’d be so nice to meet them all someday, ahh.”
Acting is not her forte. Light glances to her eager eyes, to the hand touching his arm.
“You should clip your nails, Amane,” he says. “They look very nice, but you know it’s against policy to let them grow past your fingertips.”
Confusion ripples first from her rounded lips, then to her nails which hide themselves within her palm. She draws away from him, tucking shyly a lock behind one ear.
“Oh...thank you, Light. I’ll be sure to do that.”
On a nod he descends, curling himself away to find where he’s next to be. Lapses in appointments are thick on holidays- no physician wants to be the dickhead who schedules a surgery for Christmas Day. He wanders not two feet before his attention is caught like a snapper on a line, tugged toward the open entryway from where ruckus sounds.
“-a half nelson. This is a full nelson. Hahah- ouch! Ugh, you just kneed me right in the balls, dude, ow!”
“Boys, come now, settle down.” The orchestra is conducted in the middle by a tempered voice. Once his charges have collected themselves off the ground, the blond brushing dirt from his leather whilst the other snaps his goggles in place over both eyes and drops heavily into a side chair, Watari takes a satisfied glance about that lands through the doorway. “Ah, Yagami-sensei. Welcome.”
“Heeey, doc,” Matt waves from the corner. Beside him, Near bites the arm from a gingerbread victim.
Mello keeps himself quiet off along the sidelines.
Light clicks his pen, tucking it in aside earlier’s candy cane and transitioning into a wave for them all. “Hi there. Merry Christmas to you.”
“Of course, a very merry one indeed.” Watari rocks forward on his heels, back down straightened to step away from the bedside. Upon it, Light gains the new sight of L with a santa hat pulled over his bedhead, blankets rumpled around his legs and plentiful crumbs atop them. What can only be lemon bundt cake stuffs his mouth to a comical bulge of his right cheek.
Entering closer, Light laughs an airy measure. “I guess you really don’t need this then, huh?” announces the pull of cellophane from his coat pocket, tacked seasonally in a glittering green bow.
Scrawny fingertips grasp it from him. “KitKat,” spews through the mush in his mouth, to which Light tells him, “Just something little to celebrate the milestone today.”
A swallow vacates his airway to speak again. “Thank you, Light,” and the candy sets beside his hip. “Watari, if you would.”
He isn’t sure what exchange could possibly be met to his next enchantment, though the period to consider contracts in on itself before solution meets gather. Watari, on his call, lifts a hand from behind himself, and in a white gloved hand displays for Light’s curiosity a slim black case.
Taking it for himself, Light is tentative, yet nods gratefully to be allowed. Whatever’s inside, just clutching the box in his hand pricks his ears rose. And to with caution finger the lid open and peer upon his dimmed reflection inside- for certain they mirror to him in its face a broad scarlet.
“Is this...real gold?” should never be the first thing from one’s mouth upon opening a present, but Light just can’t help it when he pulls the Swiss watch from its case to examine.
“A genuine Camenzind design,” L tells him, and he’s the audacity to yawn as he closes the statement off, as if an eighty thousand yen gold wristwatch is a run of the mill gift he’d toss at anybody. “I believe Watari kept the receipt, if you don’t like it. But, you know. Merry Christmas, and all that.”
Twelve roman numerals stare back at him. “L…” he musters, still with it draped across his palms. A blink guides him to meet Watari’s watchful eye. “Thank you. I...feel a little embarrassed now, since I only got you a...candy bar.”
“Nonsense,” Watari brushes quickly off. “You’ve cared for Ryuzaki for months, better than any specialist we’ve ever visited. He speaks so highly of you, I wouldn’t doubt it if he thought of you as more than just a doctor.” Chuckles died down, he finishes, “Think of it as a thank you gift.”
His reflection in the tiny watch face stares back at him, far more so than L can convoke once Light glances his way. Very suddenly, the window is of his interest.
“Plus L would way rather have chocolate than some fancy jewelry,” reminds him of Mello’s stance at the end of the bed. To have Light’s attention brought upon him, he tenses up again. Thin blond brows lower against his handsome eyes. “Don’t break it.”
On that note, his nod guides the watch back gently to its case, a slip inside the pocket and a kind bow forward. “Thank you. It’s a great honor to have met you all and to know L has all of you to care for him.”
“Such a gentleman,” Watari compliments, glancing back in search of L’s approval. He finds, on that glance, that the younger keeps his vision trained still upon the frosted window glass, a point Light moves toward as well only to be intrigued better by Watari’s sudden cough. “Oh, Mello, Matt, Near, would you all mind helping me bring the rest of the boxes up from the car? There’s still a few more gifts we must exchange.”
“No problem,” Matt hops up to obey, and where he stalks forth Mello is in gradual strides to follow with a red hot leer pinning Light on the way past. Watari clips forward quietly to corral them, rear brought up by Near’s slow steps- not before a look is stolen back for the two of them, some chilled brand of stabbing pain within Light until he turns back and flicks himself out the door.
And that’s that.
The room, once emptied out, betrays its secrets much faster. Wrappers litter the circumference around the trash, hints of a bet I can make it in from over here game, whilst across the side table sits more crumbs and yellow frosted smears than table itself. As Light walks nearer the bed, he sees more of the mess left behind from however many servings of cake and candy L’s indulged himself in, and can only be thankful he’s not the attendant with the job to change his bedding.
Regardless of the untidy stretches, he finds a bottom corner to place himself on, speaking not, listening to the quiet blips of the monitors behind him.
“Are you going to put it on?” collects up his focus, and L is but a shadow within the sheets. A shadow that when turned toward, permits the attachment of gazes to face him inward likewise. Light just eyes him a short moment, then nods, pulls the box from his jacket pocket to lay upon the bed. With the base laid to his wrist’s top, he maneuvers his arm to clasp it, but cannot be matched for time; fingers come to claim his wrist, gelid as they brush his skin, delicate as they press the bottom clasp and secure the watch in place.
“Is that too tight?” L asks, and staring downward to it, Light shakes his head in a soft mh-nh.
It seems a hundred muted ticks of it pass between them in what space remains, for little is left to imagination from the inch of bed that sunders their touch.
By another rotation of the longest hand, he’s greeted by the soft snap of chocolate against itself, and two sticks of a KitKat are proffered his way whilst from L’s teeth already hangs the other half. Hesitant, he accepts the candy, chewing it to its final lick as the seconds patter on.
That ticking is a harmony. Light’s ears are filled with it the same way his eyes are full of L.
And when they next are in literal, it is to catch his smirking mouth dare a prowl.
“Is that mistletoe I see above your head, doctor?”
Breathless, Light harbors the naivety to look upwards, finding null but the white ceiling, finding null but L’s face in its same place with its same color of underground nightclub fever, and all at once time does not move, but he still hears the ticking of his wrist.
“No,” his legs that shoot out beneath him seem to say in time to his barking mouth. Light presses his shoulders hard behind him. Stillness. Caution.
Rather than all the cards he could play, L folds in form of laying his cheek to a fist, and peering ahead of him with so small a sigh it could shatter undetected.
One hand reaches above him and pulls the hat from his hair, resting it instead in a clutch over his lap.
Light can only move himself for the exit.
“Hey, ditching so soon?” calls to him as paths cross. Together, the three young men tumble inside, dropping wrapped boxes in a messy heap on the floor beside the chair array. Matt speaks through a mouthful of something messy and sweet.
“Yes,” he manages back, gaze urgent for the door. “I- I have a patient to attend to now. Merry Christmas. I have to go.”
Before he can dare set sight upon Watari’s entrance, Light dashes forward to find the flapping door of the closest staff restroom, past the ugly sweatered nurse practitioner and past a woman clutching an IV pole and humming a western carol, where he spends the next fifteen minutes listening to his solid gold wristwatch tick away its agonizing beat.
Treat everyday like a little Christmas.
Dinner with his parents is fine.
Souichirou asks him about work, which he says is going fine, and Sachiko asks him about the nice boy who works for the post office by his house, and Sayu stifles her laughter with a duck of the head; the sweater and socks his parents gift him are fine and his drive home is fine, and the way Cheeseburger devours half of his breakfast when he leaves the plate on the counter to turn the kettle off behind him is just fucking fine.
It snows so deeply on December twenty-sixth that he clocks in eight minutes later, and three separate heart attack cases are wheeled in to him throughout the day because men in their mid-forties just don’t know when to stop shoveling.
There’s no PT session that day or the next, because Thursday he’s just so goddamned busy and Friday he vomits enough overnight to convince himself he deserves his first ever sick day.
“God, you really do look terrible,” his sister reminds him for the fourth or fifth time, placed beside his bed on a stool, wringing in her hands the cool length of a facecloth over its shallow tupperware pool. Light doesn’t bother to argue her claim. She’d been soft enough to stick around after showing up for her housekeeping work and finding instead his bedridden majesty. The cloth stings his forehead like a long day’s high-five closure. With what strength he has, he picks at the front of his tee shirt, flagging it forward in an attempt to release any of his built up body heat. Even if he’s freezing beneath it. A hundred pound dog works as a good enough heater when curled up beside him, though.
“I guess spending fifteen hours a day around sick people eventually catches up to you,” Sayu says, leaning back in her pulled-over seat. “Still, it sucks. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
The first thing to hit his mind staggers out- “Water.”
“Oh, right.” She lifts herself starkly. The top straps of her blue jean overalls are clasped yonderly in either hand. “I’ll be right back.”
Promise kept yet again. She returns in what feels like nary a moment with an icy water bottle to hand to him, one that he clasps and rather than sip presses against his burning cheekbone.
“Whoa, when did you buy that fancy thing?” she marvels suddenly, peeking toward the wrist that had accepted the bottle. Light blinks several times, bending his hand to face the incoming window light and groaning only slightly.
“...Do you remember that patient I was telling you about,” he grinds out, because in such a state of fever he’s no energy at all for his usual Yagami Light flourish of on-the-spot fairytales.
Sayu, the goddess, places a set of fingers to her heart. “No way, that guy you said you totally don’t have a thing for bought you a gold watch?” Her arms lay next akimbo. “Jeez, if a guy ever bought me a gift like that-”
“It’s nothing,” Light insists in a feeble croak. “He’s a billionaire.”
“Woof,” Cheeseburger demands.
“Hot damn!” Sayu exclaims, a favorite of their mother’s when she sees something particularly extravagant on one of her favored shopping networks (and of course always will follow to those burdened with an “Oh, excuse my mouth”). “If you aren’t gonna date him, send him my way.”
Vaguely, Light lifts his hands to the cloth on his head, and unfolds the fabric just enough to cover both eyes.
“Oh, come on, Light, I’m just joking.” One leg folds over its pair as she sits anew. “I really want to help you. I know you’re going through a lot with this patient, especially with him being so sick and all…” She brushes hair behind either ear. A handkerchief adorns in a triangle behind her bangs. “Maybe I could meet him. Ooh! I could do an internship at your hospital. I mean...I do kinda feel like puking whenever I see blood, but I could still give it a try. If you can do it, I can do it!”
“Please don’t mention puking again,” is Light’s only reply.
“I’m just saying,” she plows, “there are a lot of signs pointing toward this guy. Fate picked you to save his life, but maybe, in a way, he’s saving you just as much.”
A swallow makes his eardrums pop. He clutches the blanket in a fist.
“Oh, here, let me change that again,” Sayu offers, restoring his vision in damp blinks. She bends over the small bucket of ice water beside the bed, dunking the cloth gently through it. “You’re really burning up. I hope you can get better as fast as you got sick.”
And he thinks, then, that the two of them share similar desires.
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.
Miracles do happen, and their names are all Amane Misa.
A wet April morning, exactly its third. The office of cardiac specialist Yagami Light on the second floor is not locked today, nor has it ever been since a time once forgotten, and he feels only a vague headache over the horizon from the hours of staring and tiny bleating font. When he turns to his computer, he lifts his reading glasses off to lay to the desk, breathing out a huff that would tell any listening of his deepest woes.
The bento in front of him sits cold. Once clicked, typed and scrolled sufficiently enough, he stuffs a bit of rice in his mouth, flicking through reminder emails for appointments upcoming this week and questions from patients that rue the twenty-first century phone call.
It’s a waste, really- the bite he takes, that is, as to only have it choked upon the next second proves it a frill.
There’s time enough to gather himself, being an adult and all that he is, wiping a napkin at his lips as he demands his chest relax. The tab open on his screen stares broadly back at him. Hardly does his mind wish to believe.
Then, that miracle; knuckles pound the outside of his office door. When he beckons her in, she’s all giddy grins and clutching, stamping forward to place herself in his direct gaze.
“I got a fax from the clinic in Shibuya. They-”
“I know, I just saw their email,” his fervor intejects, though the awe their expressions each share build together the framework of intense, powerful, untouchable. “They have a heart.”
Her nails do not exceed any longer than the flesh of her fingers as she hands him forward a thick file. Ice drips down the exhilarated heat of his spine.
“It happened so quickly,” she gushes, pulling a consultation chair beneath her. With all fingertips, she adjusts the tilt of her kerchief hat, glimmering across the cheeks with flush and sweat of thrill. “I mean- faxing over all those record took, like, an hour, but the process itself, I think I just started talking to them in January. Isn’t is amazing? He’s gonna live!”
Light shifts through the folder. It’s a sight. It surely is a sight to behold, beyond his tired eyes that feel no fatigue and throbbing head knowing never an ache. “He’s going to live…”
Upon an instant, he’s standing. Misa claps her palms together in a flutter. The knob is thrown open before him, hardly a step noticed along the walk.
He enters room 211 with gusto. White coat wafting behind, he slides himself inside in time to a half knuckle on the door, matches the rise of familiarity to face him.
“Yagami-sensei?” Watari inquires, tilting his head forward a touch. “Is everything alright?”
“Mondays are supposed to be for paperwork,” lectures L from his propped up position.
Pulse in the throat, Light hasn’t time for objection true. The curtains do not fight the hushing wind’s betrayal off along the open side window.
“It’s the most important paperwork I’ve had all year,” follows the folder’s hand off to L. “Meet your new best friend. Tsukuda Yuuta, thirty two years old, passed away due to gastrointestinal perforation.” Hands behind the back, Light inhales his lip against its teeth. “But his heart remained unaffected.”
“Does that mean…” Watari nudges his glasses. He scans the opened folder over L’s right shoulder. A photographical identification slips from the stack into L’s hands, where he stares at it, the dead man in his hands, and says nothing.
“AB negative?” is his first comment after some time.
From there, he’s silent again, obsessing over the printed photograph on the page, tucking it away only once he’s bold in his sigh. “I won’t get my hopes up.”
“What do you mean?” Light scoffs. “That’s your heart. It’s just a matter of transporting it. The clinic in Shibuya is only about an hour and a half by helicopter flight.”
“That’s wonderful news,” Watari cheers, and Light feels all the urge to smatter him in adoration.
Still, in his signature grouse of living, L closes the folder over his lap and looks him across. “There is approximately an eleven percent chance of this heart being given to me, someone who’s only been on the waiting list for months as opposed to the years some others do. From there, if I should get it anyway, there’s a high probability I’ll die on the operating table, and if that doesn’t happen, an even higher one that my lymphatic system will reject the transplant afterward. Aaand, from the look on Misa’s face right now,” Light pauses in his listening to glance where L gestures, the doorway, the doorway of fret drawn all over Misa’s expression in dead black Sharpie ink, “I’ll say there’s about a ninety percent chance she has bad news.”
His rattling glances trade between the three surrounding him, settling at last for Misa in a swing of himself forward.
“I was going to follow you, but I heard the front desk phone ringing on my way.” Never has he so quickly watched her honey eyes wilt. “They said somebody in Yokohama asked about the AB negative donor, and the man who needed it has been waiting for over thirteen months.”
Light stares at her, shadow behind him as he looks back to the room.
Upon his entry, a gradual slinking in, L has his greeting prepared at the tip of the tongue.
“I figured as much,” he says before Light relays any news at all. Breeze tantalizes what bare skin the blankets free. L watches the outside air with a grip on his own wrist. “Just as well. I’d miss a lot of soap opera reruns if I were recovering from heart surgery for ten days.”
The solemnity wells up inside Light’s shoulders, which he keeps tight, which he keeps safe.
“Tomorrow,” he points sharply. “I’m putting the CRT-D in you tomorrow at ten o’clock.”
“I can’t tomorrow,” L says, still never glancing his way. “I have plans.”
“Please, Mr. Ryuzaki,” suddenly breaks all focus. “Please say you’ll have the operation. It’s the only way to save you.”
A rush forth from the door places Misa in the room’s midst. Golden blonde hangs in curtains around her bowed face, taut with concern, adjuring. “Please accept our help. I’ve never seen Light so devoted to any patient in his whole life. I know how much you mean to him...that’s why, when I die, I want you to have my heart.” She’s standing straight again. All eyes fixate upon her as if she were a solar eclipse swallowing up the universe, a devastating beauty for seconds before she’s gone. “My blood type is AB. I want you to have my heart, so that way, you’ll always have a piece of Light with you, because Light is my whole heart.”
He knows not what to say. None of them do.
Except for L.
“Are those lines from Love Support I detect?” His smirk sears the tension away as quickly as any.
Misa gags on nothing, tosses her arms against her hair to blink and sweat tightly onward. “Wh-What?! I would never, ever do something like that! Eheh...heh…”
“It means a lot that you’d go to the trouble of killing yourself off for me,” that smirk says dryly. He turns toward Light’s gawking cringe. “How long does the implant surgery take?”
“Uh-” Recovery swims to him quickly, shaking into salience. “About an hour. Like I said, it’s nothing too invasive.”
L purses his mouth. Thinking, calculating. A finger taps his lip. And all together come Misa’s cheers, Light’s euphoria, and Watari’s bowed forward sigh of relief when he says, “Alright.”
Light, in some sense, wonders if he jumps too quickly at opportunity. He’s a thinker, for certain, but his carpe diem attitude could so easily entrap him in vice. He’d been brash to bolt directly for room 211 as soon as the news of a potential donor had crossed him- though, in his mind, such a slim window as four hours or so to keep an organ viable outside a human body prompts rash decisions. He perhaps could have spent a minute more thinking over the next day scheduling- though, in his mind, to be a brat tamer is to be forceful and quick lipped.
“How did my blood test go?”
Tuesday, at nine:forty-eight AM, L sits in the surgery prep wing, twenty hours with no liquids nor solids and freshly kempt by fine nursing hands. As Light approaches him, he accepts the facial mask offered to him by an attending assistant, pulling it over his ears and relaying, “Severely anemic. But that’s nothing a few transfusions can’t fix.” His hand pats L on the forearm so endearingly, tugging the mask down one moment to address the nurses gathered around him. “OR4.”
A nod and a push has his bed gliding easily down the hallway light. L lays back in a way that offers his least flattering angle, and to Light’s own can he likewise stare up toward, eyelids fluttering every few steps as he watches him the whole walk through.
“You don’t look good in blue,” L tells him.
The attendants continue their wheeling through a set of gray doors. Light clicks his tongue to his teeth. “I’m about to have your life in my hands, and that’s what you choose to say to me?”
But still, L’s smiling there, just the faintest hint of it as the reflections of the lights above shower him. In another life, Light would kiss it and taste its luck.
In this one, he washes up to the elbows in iodine, and homes in upon the most supple inches of pale sweetened skin.
“I don’t like how it sticks out like that.”
The first minutes after the anesthesia wears off are often hard. Often, though, Light isn’t the one in pain.
Unless of course, it’s L. Sweet, darling L.
“Your body is adjusting to it, it won’t be like that forever. Try not to touch it too much. And try not to use your left arm for anything strenuous- Don’t make a masturbation joke.” From the paper he scrawls on, he glances up just in time to catch L’s mouth. A moment long stare conducts him. Light continues writing. “Don’t have MRIs done, and don’t keep your cell phone in your breast pocket, and you should be just fine And- hey, look at me, L. If any of the nurses catch you picking at your wound-”
“Nobody will catch me.” He clutches the sheets within his hands, more than likely just to feel them, and all the worth of the solid real world around him that he’s made it back to. In a corner of Light’s mind, he’s just as relieved. “I don’t care to be told what to do this much, you know.”
“I’d have never guessed.” He hardly mumbles, barely whispers, signing off a page bottom before it tears from its rings. “Anti-inflammatory,” he says of the prescription paper waved over him. “I’ll see what I can do about a topical pain reliever for that incision. For now, be good. I’ll check in on you again tomorrow morning.”
“Alright,” and he calls it done there, a nod and turn away, though cajoled right back does his messy trouble twist to, “Light?”
He tilts his head, waiting.
L adjusts the blankets, stretching his legs far out beneath them.
“We’ll play tennis again soon?”
All too suddenly, Light finds himself grinning.
“Sure,” he says. “Next weekend.”
The other nods. Bearing his softness still, Light excuses himself from the post-op ICU, coughing against a fist to better fit the appropriate visage.
“He’s still doing well?” greets him as soon as he’s reached the waiting area just outside the doors. With utmost pride, Light is able to assure him rightly.
“Yes. Like I told you before, the procedure went extremely well, and he’s woken up right on time. He’s conscious and responsive. Already arguing with me, even.”
Watari lays a hand to his chest, chortling, relief and love and all else spun together against his lips. “Thank goodness. May I see him?”
“Of course, just make sure he doesn’t exert himself for a while,” Light instructs. His orders stick tenfold as well here, he knows. “Only water for now. No outside snacks.”
“Understood,” Watari bows, following the doctor’s gesture through the doors beside them.
Perseverance shines Light’s shoes on every step out.
That summer consists of some of the greatest milliseconds of Yagami Light’s entire life.
June hits the calendar with a bang, one certain to the stark sweat down backs and thighs, panting against fan grates on morning walks, poolside sunhats envied for their wicker.
“It’s sooo hot,” Sayu summarizes, reaching into his top stack freezer for a handful of cold aluminum. The chilled cola can sears against her neck. Bliss.
Messy are his motions, nearly, to have been benumbed by a knock on his door sans expectation. Cheeseburger had been inconsolable the whole while, howling like a mutant as he grasped his collar to clear the front entry.
“You don’t have to come here on Saturdays,” Light tells her, standing in the kitchen and watching her engulf half the drink in one pull. The dog snakes his way around them to lean his weight hard against her jean-shorted legs.
Sighing a gasped breath, she sets the can to the counter. “Yeah, I know, but Dad still won’t pay for air conditioning.”
Juxtaposed to the outside choke, silken air radiates within his home, so much so, even, that when he’d come to the door in his long pants and jogging jacket, he’d almost been confused by the perspiration clinging to her kitty-barrette’d bangs. “My car died, I had to walk here,” lolled off her tongue. Light may have snorted.
“Oh, and I had to give you this,” she says now, swiping either hand to the fabric of her shorts before reaching into their pocket. Something folded pulls out, Light only seeing it to be a square once she lays it to smooth against her raised knee. “I found this while I was cleaning yesterday. It was underneath your junk hutch by the front door.”
Across the boundary splitting them, he bridges the gap to claim it from her. In the tiny, fingerprint and fold mark marred picture, someone laughs, and from his memory, its photographer croons fashion.
“Is that him?” Sayu asks, tilting her brows high and heedless.
His thumb rubs idly against the photograph. At the base of his throat he contains a swallow. “...Who?”
“Oh, you knooow,” she sings, clutching her arms against her chest, smiling mauve daydream for him. “Your most favorite patient ever. Last I knew, you gave him some fancy heart implant, and he was doing a lot better. He looks cute there.”
There. The half blurred, half framed image, from when a Saturday tennis match hadn’t been satisfying enough to finish with a chat beneath the canopying trees, because L had insisted his chest would start hurting if he didn’t get strawberry milk immediately, and there’s still a fleck of pink on his mouth’s corner, rounded with mid-speech as he sits on Light’s couch. He’d been the first to finger his nosy way through the trinkets across the shelves by the door, and the first to grasp the Polaroid camera Light had been gifted a Christmas or two ago; the first picture had been an alluring angle of the wooden floor, a mistaken snapshot whilst attempting use. Light had grabbed it from him then, he recalls, and worked through all the mechanisms until the second picture developed out the bottom as a smiling perfection L had deemed art of the most bastardly form. The third photo, the one he holds now in his warmth, had come as a sneak attack, a candid L had snatched the moment it spit out the bottom and hurled blindly across the room, never again to be seen.
Light remembers laughing that day, a month ago now, most probably. He remembers laughing that day and smiling the other Monday upon which he’d been begged to leave his office, rest his eyes, sit and watch the made for TV movie playing on one of the four channels his room receives. And he’d smiled because to every joke sewn through the transcript, from beside him had come a point toward the screen and an impossibly dry explanation of it, until Light had been so strung up in true amusement he’d had no other choice but a smack on the arm and a demand he shut up.
He’d sat up from the bed, where his legs had shot out straight and the head on his shoulder hadn’t been leaning there before, he’s sure, at record speed when at the doorway Misa emerged to administer a nighttime dosage. The look in her eye, somewhere deep a home for sorrow- she’d glinted, and said she’d seen nothing, nothing at aaall as she counted out pills into a palm.
On June fourth, his wallet sleeve sits a fraction of an ounce heavier in his pocket. More importantly, it’s another milestone.
“Two months post-op today, how does that feel?”
Color exists nowhere in the room he enters. Someone’d drawn the curtains together, vanquishing the sweet summer breeze from cleansing out the cluttered air. The television is not on, nor the lamp, a scene dirty with familiarity. Light tenses.
He doesn’t want to walk forward. He doesn’t want to see it.
But in his duty, white hot terror folds beneath, and vanishes altogether once he walks close enough to see L’s shoulders expanding mildly with life. The machinery, a mess that no longer entraps him but attaches every so often just for protocol, does not sing. Eerie, he’d call it.
“Hey, L.” Pen tip prods his back. Reactionless.
Light sighs, fit to run through the standard routine of finding L painted a particularly moody shade of gray.
“It’s beautiful out today,” he tries first. “We can go for a walk around the courtyard.”
Not a motion.
“They’re playing Clue in the geriatrics wing. I know you like that game. You’re always the best at it.”
L stays buried within the mess of sheets.
“Did you have a nice visit with your dad today? Eat anything good?”
“Watari abandoned me,” snaps back to the prompting.
Perfect score. Light tucks the clipboard in his hands closer to his chest, pen tapping rhythmically against it. “What do you mean, abandoned you?”
Like a worm through garden soil, his body shimmies itself to move tighter together, shoulders pinching the earlobes, blanket tucked high.
“He went back to England,” muffles against the pillow. “Since my condition has improved so much. He’s gone to help Roger run the facility for a while.”
Light decides asking questions isn’t so pressing a matter as laying a hand forward against L’s arm. He only wishes to feel the tension evaporate neath his touch. He wishes.
“I’m sure he’ll be back,” he consoles. “You still have your brothers, right?”
“I mean nothing to them.” Shadows tap the slats of the shades. His mouth aligns itself, blinking a faint measure as thought buzzes behind.
He almost wishes it would rain, so he’d have something to comment on. He wishes he had a drink to sip or somewhere to be. He wishes he had something to say other than what he wants to say, but in the bounds of ruthless conspiracy, a Yagami knows his licks.
The pen taps out whatever had been on the car radio this morning, when he sang fluidly along to it, sunroof open, future ahead. Mindless is he. Try, he does.
“If you let me take your temperature right now, I’ll bring you with me to pick up my sister’s car from the mechanic tonight.”
And because L then takes a moment of silent thought, then lifts his head to peer one eye sidelong at him, then opens his mouth with nary a word, Light signs off on what must be his tenth patient dismissal form by now, and L makes it all the way to the staff parking lot before losing any breath. His work never ceases to be marvelous.
The upholstery, despite how many trips taken in this passenger seat, always finds its way beneath L’s curious touch. He lifts both feet to rest on the glove box handle. A green pine tree dangles from the left heater vent. It dances by a nudge of a toe.
“What type of car do you drive, doctor?” he asks. Light grins, says, “You’re sitting in a state of the art 2009 Honda Accord.”
“It’s nice. I was never much of a driver.” The pine tree stills itself after several swings, only to be provoked all over again and watched like a metronome.
Dusk brings them around a bend, road desolate still, highbeams glaring ahead.
“There’s nothing spectacular about it,” Light brushes off, and L contests, “Only that a man behind the wheel is twice the sex appeal.”
“Yeah,” he smirks, ten and two. “I guess you’re right about that.”
The gleam of the navy evening strides all the way to parking in the familiar pavement driveway of holiday mornings and sticky fingers, and he needn’t beep when she’s already watching through the left front window to hop down toward him.
“Hey,” Sayu beams. Light does not have to meet her look to know it screams of iniquity. “Is this your friend?”
L peers to her over his shoulder, between the seats, and in the rear view mirror Light can see her surprised draw backward at his proximity.
“I am L,” he mumbles, like he’s chewing on glue. “You have a beautiful smile.”
So often the provoking will blend its concealment, something noted in the way she instantly lifts a hand to cover the broad expanse of her teeth, cheeks pinches above it glowing fine carmine. “Th- Thank you, ahahah…”
The drive is quiet.
Then, a little white Volkswagen Beetle is beeeping its way beside them, windows rolled down between both vehicles for her to lean out her own.
“Thanks for helping me, Light!” Her hand lifts to wave. “And it was nice meeting you, L. I hope you feel better soon. Bye!”
She whips off the lot in a manner that lets Light know just exactly how her engine miraculously shot out. After her exhaust dissipates, he drags his own car into drive, glancing both ways before rolling out onto the main road.
The treetops whistle in the dark. For a midweek night, there is no rush hour traffic, there is no orange halo around the moon. He brings himself on a tour of the late city scope, the plaza center where teenagers feel alive with every lighter flick, straight ahead toward the drive thru coffee shop that never seemed to quite get his order right, a red light of cool air beyond the window glass, and a push on the gas to gaze upon the newspaper stand now coated with cage bars to signal its rest. Light becomes himself as he drives along the minutes. On his left wrist, those minutes harmonize in solid gold. Further left still, past the chainlink brush and round the bend, is a short sidestreet that will take him back to his home after thirteen minutes, and ten more will split into the road of the medical bay.
His blinker flicks on to point rightward. L glances toward it, the iridescent green arrow cutting against the dark, and Light answers, “Getting lost.”
The reflection of his face in the passenger window, his dearest love. “I didn’t take you for the type.”
Light allows a smirk to fade left. He presses the gas pedal just to rev it, the half second thrill, then makes cautiously sure to check his mirrors and stay below the speed limit.
Lost is lost enough once the headlights reflect back at them from the back windows of a twelve hour pharmacy, closed now as they sit parked behind it with more fencing lining the overgrown bits of the parking lot border. Moon pours over them like caramel cream.
“Interesting,” L murmurs.
His hips shift in his seat to better face the center point, hands allowed only to lay at his lap, eyes not daring a wander besides the open night. “We don’t have to head back just yet. It’s a nice night to just...look around.”
L bobs with nothing but breath. His legs pull more toward him now that’s the car’s halted. A certain sort of whistle song waters the flowers in his ever throbbing expression. Light blinks. They’re weightless.
“I enjoyed your sister’s presence.” The calm color sopping up the windshield leaves behind a dew drop star, another, another. “She reminds me a lot of you.”
It makes him laugh. “I think she’s more like our mother. You’d probably like to meet her sometime, too.”
“Indeed,” is L’s reply, until his gall watches past the parking lot horizon at a sampling of new grass, untouched by the human world; flawless, if anyone’s to ask. The outline of Light and his tender face, all jaw and nose and charm, keeps half the window company, the window L stares from as his lips meld the most breathless lush of whispers, “Captivating…”
And staring right back, Light must agree.
Out here, L drinks the night air that cascades against the car, reveling in every last noisy pass of another down the main road behind them, in every dance of the little green pine tree on the left heater vent.
Out here, L’s hands gleam with moonlight, and the heat of his neck just as illecebrous.
Out here, L isn’t sick.
Before he knows who he is, Light is lifting fingertips to the incline of L’s pectoral, tracing the outline of a gradeschooler notebook heart on his left side chest. If he presses hard enough, he can feel the subtle contour of the metal implant just beneath the crevice of arm and torso, of which he feels at in absence, moves downward to clutch L’s heart in his bare wanderlust palm.
“That’s mine,” Light says, barely a whisper between them. He does not meet L at the eyes and L not he, not until together they’ve baltered to the center where L touches a knuckle to Light’s cheekbone, burning with predilection.
So near that his breaths may brush winsomely on brunet, L sews his voice into something new. Cherry flavored. Macabre. Selcouth. “Everything.”
The same way they’d fallen a time so archaic. L doesn’t care to locate his hands, only knows they’ve floated somewhere in the vicinity of Light’s shoulders, neck, hair, and Light places no curfew on his lips that wander along the sweet points of the face before them. They map him. He’s territory Light will chart if it should kill him. L is the image artists envy and a writer will sit up to dawn grappling to shape, no synonym vastless enough to bring life to the way he pulls himself along, and the way he likes to drink applause through a milkshake straw. L wraps all his love around Light there, letting his mouth pucker against his skin until it is that it must be tasted for himself, chaste sparks of pyrotechnics that connect only in short bursts, playing no game that does not take its beauty in its ephemeral edge.
Light’s eyes do not open. He knows that if they do, the feeling of being pulled away from will be true, and in no world can he for certain accept it.
A hand demands L’s wrist. In the front seat of the car, the only noise that lives onward is the ticking of his watch.
“When was the last time,” he starts, holding upon with just a finger pinch, now, the seam of L’s sleeve, lips parting so delicately he’s surprised his voice exists, “you ate a dinner that wasn’t brought to you on a plastic tray?”
Just to see, just to feel his own tangibility, L lifts fingers to split the bangs away from his face, gazing out across the cavern of stars above them.
“There’s a diner right around here somewhere,” he says. Light looks to him in yearning.
Tires spin easily away from the parking lot rifts.
The pavement continues searing the same way birds know to follow their paths home. He remembers being twelve years old on a precious emerald of a Sunday afternoon where his father was home, and he’d carried Sayu on his big strong dad shoulders to the park down two streets from their house, the kind where woodchips are dug from shoes afterward, the kind with swings and a slide that burns the thighs during the hottest summers. It’d been that kind of day, too, Light’s fingers tentative on the chains of a swing once Sayu had run over to some children she’d never met and they’d all taken quickly to each other, the way eight year olds do, so he’d sat on the farthest swing from the rest, wondering if he was too old to still make believe Kawaguchi-san was sitting beside him. Squinting in the sunlight, he remembers peeking a shy look to his left side, riddled in splendid surprise to find his father standing there beside him. Light remembers wishing he’d offer to push him there, on that summer swing, but no gesture had come, only his father’s delicate expression as he moved to squish himself on the empty swing next to him. It’d been just a bit comical to see him with his knees bent up so high, chest broader than the expanse of the chains. But Light had only tilted his head against a smile, tapping his feet with their little black Nike sneakers his mother had bought him when he’d outgrown his PhysEd shoes a semester before. Souichirou, then, perched there like a king watching his land expand out before him, had cleared his throat and said something along the lines of Light’s imminent maturation approaching as he’s set to enter junior level high school soon. It hadn’t been the first time his parents had to talked to him about his schoolwork (and he recalls after the recurring first few that he’d been huffy to learn Sayu had never been through the same, only a chiding if she were to lag on a test grade but with it the reminder that she can do better the next time, and she always did). It was not the first time, at that time, but he carries still the sense of knowing it was...different. His father, he remembers, cleared his throat a lot, hardly looked to him besides a few spare glances where he’d been meant to nod in agreement to whatever had been said. He remembers, once Sayu’s new best friends she’d never see again had vacated the park, she’d sprinted over to them, landing with hands against their father’s chest and his hands at her elbows, to ask if they could have ice cream once they got home. Light remembers his father smiling. Light remembers the vanilla drips melting down his spoon handle.
“Light?” And suddenly, he’s seventeen years and hundred more moments he’ll never forget later, blinking the film from his eyes to look at his father across the table. “I asked you, how has work been going?”
“Oh, sorry,” forces out in a breathed laugh. He picks up both chopsticks to drag against his plate. “Work’s been fine.”
Dinner with his parents isn’t as regular an occurrence as youth had served. The occasional expedition seven minutes across town does not burden him most often, particularly not when his mother makes udon with the works, pork and scallions and spinach and everything he’d kill for on the nights where he doesn’t get home until ten and nearly falls asleep awaiting the delivery driver; Sachiko smells more often of rice steam than perfume, a heavenly melody for his nostalgia to sip.
His father nods to the answer he’s already forgotten he gave, and dinner carries on benignantly.
The faucet is on the same second porcelain hits the sink. To the tile, he drags his chair, carries behind him his bowl and the offer to help, which, naturally, she laughs right out of his head. Her hands scrub tirelessly over the metal inside of a pot, worn with burn rings on the bottom. Leaning to the counter beside her, Light plants himself there to accommodate for the company he knows she adores.
“Sayu’s been much happier ever since she started working around your house,” Sachiko comments over the hushing tap. “It’s so nice of you to do that for her.”
How deep a red herring weaver he must be to do so without intent, he does not know. Light adjusts a touch, nodding ease. “She seems to be enjoying it. She’s been doing a good job keeping up.” His praise brings out the age dimples beside her mouth. Though, in sudden epiphany, with the starlight out the kitchen windows, he must ask, “Where is Sayu, anyway?”
From the moment he says it, he can see how her smile shifts from idle to thin with mischief, circling dish soap up the ceramic of a bowl as she says, “She’s out with a boy tonight. Someone she met at the magazine store.”
“That’ll be good for her,” Light says, almost brusquely, all to demand them away from the topic.
No such luck.
“You know, Light,” his mother starts, dishes all dripping on the lefthand rack and sink turned silent. She dries her hands along her pants as she turns to him. “I read a poll in a magazine the other day that said sixty percent of women find doctors attractive.” Her smile raises ache in him. “It didn’t say how many men do, but I’m sure it can’t be much different.”
A sickening excitement passes between. When he thinks of how he’ll respond, it brings tremble to his arms, tongue tipping tragedy across his dried lip. “That’s great, Mom. ...Actually, I’ve been seeing someone lately.”
“Really?” The wind practically knocks from her at the force she draws forward. Beaming, her hands come together, urging, “When did that happen?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he plays with, looking toward the ceiling, shrugging just one shoulder before turning focus back on her. “Just recently. I know him through work.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful, Light.” A palm spreads its warmth to his upper arm. She gazes with a depravity only a mother can make endearing. She’s poised to speak again, when instead returned from a short jaunt away calls from the kitchen archway, “What’s this I hear about my son being in love?”
“Ah, jeez, Dad,” scalds Light’s face, not entirely wanting to look toward either of them in the moment. He swallows, waves. “I wouldn’t call it that. Just...something.”
“Whatever it may be,” Souichirou approaches closer as he says, “my only concern is that you’re happy. Whoever it is, if he breaks your heart, he’ll be hearing from me.”
“Dad…” His palms lift up to cover his face’s burn, listening to his mother’s goodnatured giggle as he heaves in one breath to calm him. Blinking forwards again, he pushes himself to smile just a little, and the sky behind them is dark.”It’s alright, it’s nothing...serious like that. I think you’d like him, anyway. He’s a detective.”
Admitting to his parents what’s been spiraling inside his head since perhaps the rainy autumn of a year gone by, being so that it is the first time he’s admitted to himself- and just maybe he’d ought to have thought so sooner, what with the last week rendezvous, and all that it may have been whatever it was, nothing nothing nothing -it’s all just a bit surreal, and he’s certain he’s still lying only to placate his mother, though lies exists on a spectrum between fair and sin, and with every moment he feels more energy simmer up his limbs to tell him he stems from a place of truth. And either way, if he is lying, he may as well make it dazzle.
“Yeah. A pretty prolific one, too, I think.” Casually, he holds a grip on the counter’s edge behind his back. “...He goes by L.”
His father may as well collapse into a heap.
“L?” Souichirou pales, the exhilarated color of a roller coaster drop, the shock of a ten million yen check written his way. “You don’t mean to tell me my son is dating the most influential, most- most amazing-!”
“We aren’t dating, really,” Light cuts in, though is overshadowed by his mother’s questioning, “L? Who’s L?”
A fist to the mouth, Souichirou coughs, tucks both arms behind his back in newfound calm. “I apologize for my reaction. But I wasn’t expecting that. L is...an enigma. The only detective in the world to solve as many cases as he does and with such proficiency. Any person worldwide in the police and forensics field knows of L.” A turn of his head points toward his son. “Light, I say this as not only a man of the law, but as his future father-in-law as well, it would be of the greatest honor to be able to meet L for myself.”
“What?” Sachiko laughs, swatting her husband on the arm. “You’re talking about him like that, and you’ve never even met the man?”
“Sachiko, there are few people in the world who have ever seen L’s face, and even less who’ve met him in person.” Grimly, almost, he shakes his head. “Even still, he is the greatest detective I have ever known. Thousands, if not millions, of people have been saved by his work.”
Light thinks of his lie, and the way L sits in bed in the mornings waiting to be taken on a half hour walk, and the frosting on his lip when he’s particularly ravenous for the cake slice Light stopped on his drive in to work to pick up, and all the unsophisticated little nuances about the L he knows that would never ping off in his head as, oh, certainly, this guy’s a bigshot. Light thinks of his lie, and wonders at what point the hues folded into one color.
“I didn’t know he had such an impact,” admits Light, not knowing if he’s starstruck or just plain struck.
Returning to his job the next day feels under the labor of a hundred more kilograms, that being the weight of Light’s uncertainty pushing down on his ligaments.
“That’s interesting,” L mumbles on his seventh trip up the short steps outside the courtyard. The way he turns at the top and walks back down is observed. He gathers a breath at the bottom, and begins again, taking the four stairs up to the concrete ledge afront the exit door. “I’ve never heard of Tanabata. I never realized the social phenomenon it was.”
Light nods to him, attention pinned. “Mhm. Sayu and I used to go with our mom to the festivals when we were younger. There’s all sorts of games and food and performances. Everybody has a really fun time.”
After a reprieve standing at the top step, L takes them one last time down, and ushers himself and in turn Light toward their bench at the end of the row. L crouches up upon it and lays his temple to his knees. The breeze builds a home in his hair.
Light thinks of his life as he watches him. Light thinks of his life. The Tanabata festivals. The hot summer parks. The first time he’d loved someone.
“My father is a fan of yours,” he says, from nowhere, memory alone. L glances toward him, waiting. “He had a lot to say about your detective work. He really seems to admire you.”
Not that L needs any sort of ego inflation, though being confined to a hospital bed most hours of the day warrants occasional pick-me-ups.
“Is that so…” A pointer finger fiddles with his bottom lip. “I suppose if anyone were to be particularly interested in me, it would be the head of the police organization.”
“How do you know so much about my father?”
L turns to him then, stares deeply against the grain of his soul.
“I’m a detective,” he says, “I pay attention.”
Leaves rattle across the path. With a coming wind, the centerpiece sakura tree, with the plaque at its roots commemorating the philanthropist who’d donated its sapling, loses a handful of petals across the grass. An enchanted young girl grasps at them so boldly her mother has to draw her back by the hem of her skirt.
Light smirks to him. “You didn’t even know what Tanabata was.”
And L, he smirks right back, sneers the audacity right out of his veins. “Of course I knew what Tanabata was, Light.”
A flush claims his ears. He smooths the sleeves of his coat up to each elbow, just for something to do, and crosses his arms there. L allows his eyes to gently close, humming down contemplation alongside the breeze.
“I’d like to meet your family. Since my reputation precedes me,” his lips tempt, “I don’t suppose it could go badly.”
Whitely, the air scatters another twist of leaves and sun. An older gentleman leans against his walker beside the flower patches along the wall, gleaming toward their color.
Light reaches softly over, picks a sakura petal from L’s hair, and holds it in his hand for a moment to feel its warmth before allowing it to sail away in the passing breeze.
“I have an appointment at ten:thirty,” he tells him, settling his sleeves back in place and leaning forward to rise. “You did a lot today, you’re really doing better.”
He is not so dense as to not notice the way L sucks one side of a cheek in. The muddle dark of his eyes lower, lingering on the bench as Light stands in waiting for him to follow.
“I’ll stay,” he tells him, as matter of fact as if he were the doctor himself, which is enough to make Light’s vexation tickle, yet all the same hasn’t a qualm with allowance. They part once Light has instructed him to be back inside before lunchtime, or he’d for certain have Misa sent after him. He reaches all the way to the exit door back inside the hospital before he glances back, and L isn’t looking at him, but he doesn’t know what he’s expected.
He adjusts to the inside coolness in a breath. On his way past a leftward room, his attention loiters a moment to hear familiarity, the sweet sky blue sound of Nori’s voice. “It’s okay, just a little pinch, and you’ll be all done.”
A smile finds him. The hallway advances ahead. As he approaches the front desk nurse’s station, he must sigh to himself, something in this late morning dreary.
“Hi, Light,” the antithesis greets, for Misa is nothing but sunshine. “Did you just come back from PT?”
“Yes,” he nods and flips through papers left for him in his dropbox behind the desk. “L decided to stay in the courtyard for a bit, but make sure he gets back in in a little while.”
She assures him as he rises to full attention again. “It’s so amazing of you to spend so much time with him. He seems so much happier than when he first got here, even though he did tell me about what his dad did. Poor guy… I think he just needs a friend.”
Light can only guess what sort of tale of sympathy L has spun for her, though he saves his eyeroll in the same way he saves it the times he’s walked in on women cooing over him in his bed as he just so happens to be wearing oxygen cannulas and pulse electrodes in the middle of the day. Fondly, instead, he exhales as he gazes along the fluorescent white flooring down the corridor.
Something settles along his insides. Something tips his chin high, imagining sun, blinking on what feels the broadest hour of morning.
“...I have a patient to see right now,” Light says against his watch face. His arms lowers as her face lifts toward him. “But if you’d like to, we can have lunch together afterward.”
Sweetly before her, her fingers clasp. “Oh, Light, that would be wonderful.” Her mouth draws back into guilt. “But I already told Nori I’d eat with her. We were gonna share the kappamaki I brought. Maybe tomorrow, though!”
With that, she waves her fingers at him to take off down the hall, medical bag in hand.
Light listens to the silence until it is broken by the laughter underneath his breath.
For all the planning he does, Light can on occasion prove himself a horrible mess when things tumble into each other.
Because, despite the intention, he hadn’t remembered the conversation with his sister where she’d mentioned stopping by on a Saturday when he’d said that weekend tennis was a go. In the time of a drive to the hospital and back, she’d pulled her car in the driveway, emptied it of all her supplies, and set to work in his front garden with Cheeseburger jogging around behind her.
Two black plastic containers lay on the lawn, the kind the pregrown flowers come in at the hardware store, while the flowers themselves have been packed already in the soil. Kneeling still, Sayu lifts her wrist over her eyes as the sound of the car door clicks behind her, despite the shade her sunhat already offers, turning toward them in scrutiny. “Oh, hey!” she beams suddenly, waving the dirty tip of her trowel in his direction. The second door opens and closes, drawing her attention and even wider a beam. “Hey, L! What’re you guys up to?”
“I could ask you that,” Light says, pocketing his car keys.
Evidently, it’s cause for fuss. “Don’t tell me you forgot already. I just told you yesterday, I was gonna come over and work on the garden. Your house needs some color. It looks so boring with nothing out front.”
“Boof,” agrees Cheeseburger.
Inner cheek slips between his teeth. Don’t tell her he’s forgotten. Alright, he won’t.
Before there’s a chance to tell her anything at all, L is blinking over to him, training a finger out toward her handiwork. “It does go nicely with the lattice porch.”
“See, exactly!” Her teeth glint pure white. She leans forward to carefully lift another camellia by its plastic shell. “Wanna come help?”
The idea of dirt under his nails recoils him a step backward. Light’s refusal does not hesitate, though to be so callous as to abandon his guest would he never. ...And he’s halfway certain they’ll talk about him if he isn’t there. But mostly the hospitality- so he plants himself into a lawnchair pulled out from his shed, brushed off and leant several feet aside them for him to lounge within. Three minutes in, he glances over, and the sunhat has already transferred heads, and Sayu’s demonstrating the most effective method to packing stones along the inside of a hole. L sits on his haunches, face shadowed, trowel clutched in his hands, nodding with expression wide in total blankness. However, once she instructs him forward, he follows her every last word with the pristinity of a perfect listener, fingers gentle as they brush away flecks of soil.
Sayu smiles the same way the sunlight does, and Light closes his eyes to allow it to beat across his handsome face.
“Oh, your real name is really just L?” he hears in the warm darkness. The wind carries his sight their way again, toward where her hand brushes along the laminated bracelet that peeks out from beneath his left sleeve. “That’s cute.”
L nods. Light watches him, the next time Sayu leans away to grasp a flower pot, tug his sleeve back down.
“There, that looks nice,” she admires some while later. Sayu stands, brushing the dirt from her knees, readjusting the belt of her jean shorts and tuck of the black tee into them. She wipes a wrist across her heat moistened forehead, breathing a tired phew just before she tells him, “Now we just have to water them. The hose is out back, I’ll go grab it.”
L does not reply outside another nodding. Around the edge of the porch, she stalks away, eager jingles of a collar trailing behind.
Light sits with his hands folded over his middle. The sun shines upon him in a way that heats his clothing pleasantly, the thin athletic suit he’d intended for tennis but is just as fine out here where he can show off the tone of both calves; he rests there in his lawnchair beneath the warm sun, and the patient every other specialist gave a week to live last autumn is standing on his lawn five feet away, chewing his thumbnail in a big outrageous khaki sunhat, so today feels rather nice.
Until he receives a noseful of hose water.
“Hey!” Both arms of the chair are grasped as he leans forward to steady himself. The water stream flows toward the grass, source held in Sayu’s right hand as her left shields the burst of giggles. Cheeseburger shakes himself like a tornado, misting droplets all across the arm Light winces into shielding himself with.
“So lazy…” brings that arm back down to stare at his new opponent. L stands over him, clicking censure to his teeth. “Spraying you with a hose doesn’t even get you off your ass. I guess the term pretty boy exists for a reason.”
A snarl comes to his mouth. Upon that dirty challenge, Light springs to his feet in record timing, eliciting a stream of laughter from his sister and dark staredown from his competitor. L leans her way, grasping the hose in a circle of his forefinger and thumb. Light does not retreat a single step. And he needn’t- not when L turns the spray directly at the one beside him.
Sayu screams a melody of surprise, blocking out before her with both hands. Once relented back to the grass again, she gags on fresh air, shaking her dripping hair out side to side. “I thought you were on my side!”
“RUFF,” Cheeseburger shouts. He lowers himself down to fight the hose water stream in his biting jaws.
“Good boy, Chizu, you’ll protect m- ah!”
The spray catches her off guard again, this time stemming from the traded hand of Light and his scarlet hued smirk.
She blocks it again from all directions, shouting false anger over its noise. Seconds span the torture before she thinks to save herself. Her sprint away toward the backyard does not engender escape, though, not once Light sets himself right at her heels, laughter just a bit too maniacal for a listener’s liking. He can recall a time or two in the past, the roaring 1990’s of careless play in their fenced in backyard. Once, she’d been the knight knocking on the door of his cardboard castle, and his acting skills had been impeccable even then as he the darling princess peeked her head out to see who was there- and Sayu had traipsed back in the house in a disgruntled huff once he’d switched characters halfway through, to become a princess with a ravenous, evil side set to slay her between the shoulder blades, but he decides remembering only the fond parts is best. Now, his ravenous, evil side showers her to a stick of her shirt to all her contours, stance imperial as she shirks away.
“Quit it, Light! You’re such a jerk- ah, ow...ah, wait, seriously, Light, stop, I think I hurt myself.”
That’s all it takes for his soft side to return. The hose lays leaking on the grass beside him, striding forward to her as she kneels down in the dirt.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Sun baking above them, Sayu squints with the pain of the knee she clutches. Breaths come harshly in her shoulders. She attempts to stand in slow creaking bends of her legs, limping half a step, and another, until on the third she’s sprinting at full speed past him, wild with laughter.
“What? You were faking-? Unh!”
Hose water drowns him straight against the face. Together they tear back the way they’d come, Sayu splitting her attention between running forwards and aiming the water at him behind.
“Alright, hey!” he shouts once he’s sufficiently drenched. “Truce, come on!”
She slows a few steps as they approach the bend of the side yard, panting from a kilometer wide grin. For good measure, one last spray lands to his chest before they walk ahead to the front again.
Beyond the scope of the driveway, the river hums softly along its track. Foliage moves only when there’s a bird or squirrel to prompt it. On the lawnchair’s white slats, L is perched, gazing forward at the lattice porch and rainbow of camellias.
“Who’s the lazy one now?” Light japes once he’s caught his breath. His steps forward beckon L to glance his way, head tilted.
“I’m sorry. I have a rampant cardiovascular disease, so sometimes, I get tired.”
Into his sopping bangs, his pupils swivel. Melodrama always looks dashing on L.
Nature ripples and chirps in the brush around them. For a moment, L sits and intakes it, offering forward his hand only once he’s ready. Light clasps it to guide him to his feet, and surely, his fingers linger.
“We’ll have to move tennis to next weekend,” he tells him, eye to eye before him there.
“It would look that way,” L’s breathy tone replies. “That’s alright. I’ve had a nice afternoon.”
Perhaps it’s relief, or pure prismatic mirth, but Light smiles, droplets sliding from the ends of his hair. But life goes on, and he’ll dry off again and the sun will go and come. He’ll dry, and he’d do it even faster without the light shower of water suddenly smattering overhead.
“Oh nooo, it started raining,” Sayu says in her stance a foot away without a single drop above her. The nozzle of the hose rests in her hand, thumb pressed forward upon it to alter the gushing stream to a gentle mist aimed for the both of them. She grins, second hand to the chest. “Right now would be a terrible time for a romantic kissing-in-the-rain scene.”
It is almost humiliation that Light looks toward her with, yet cannot he deny the throbbing at his breast. There is no time to turn toward the center, but he does so anyway, and there is no time to see the blank crystal of L’s face beside his own, but he gazes at him as long as he likes anyway, because time, in that moment, has never been written.
And love, in that moment, does not exist as a lone feeling, because it is manifested in the lift of the sunhat from L’s head to place as opacity in front of their connecting mouths.
Sayu hollers so shrilly it coaxes a bark to match it, and by the time they’ve parted, the rain has stopped, and no moment in the world could ever match his trepidation.
In two freed hands, Sayu wrings her shirt out at the corner. “Okay, I really have to get home and shower. I’m supposed to meet my friend for drinks in an hour.” She runs her fingers through her ponytail, crest of the hair sundried now, stepping past them to find her driver side door. “You guys are totally cute, though. I never thought I’d say that about watching my own brother make out with some guy on his front lawn, but, you know.”
Light’s eyes would do a three-sixty rotation if they could. He waves her away, pausing to watch pale fingers return her hat atop her hair. She smiles all the way to reversing from the driveway and zipping off out of sight.
When Light searches for L, he finds him materialized on the white wood of his front porch, waiting at the door like a stray dog, radiant all the same.
Cheeseburger whines at his feet.
The first time L is let inside Light’s bedroom, it is an exploration. He sits on his duvet, feet hanging to the floor and hands loose by his side. Light permits his glances around. He’s busied for himself pulling open the brass handles of his dresser drawer. A black v-neck sweater lifts in both hands, then offers backward to the other waiting upon the bed.
L stares at it for a moment. “No,” he finally says, shaking his nose lightly.
The gift bearer scowls, and groans once the second choice is spurned as well.
“Too itchy-looking,” L says of the third, legs pulled to his chest now, thumb muffling in his teeth. By the time it retracts, it is to grasp upon a white cotton shirt, sleeves long, neckline rounded. “It’ll do.”
“Anything else?” Light sarcastically inquires with a shove shut of the drawer.
L, peeling his wet shirt up the grooves of his chest, mumbles, “I’d love some bread and brie.”
It proves difficult to remain exhausted with L when his nipples are showing, Light finds. Filthy of him to stare as long as he does, but in defense of himself he hadn’t realized he’d been looking at all until the fresh shirt had started tugging down over his head. All fantasy shatters as his original top is dropped in a heap on the carpet beside the bed.
“Don’t do that with a wet shirt, L,” he scoffs, bending forward to pick it up and drape it over a forearm. The exhaustion returns, suspiring one heavy note. “I’ll run this through the dryer, just let me get changed first.”
He should know through experience that social cues do not exist in a world run by L Lawliet, not those of appropriate behavior when it is suggested they balk from presence, most notably. “Yes. Go ahead.”
Light stares at him without a trace of lechery this time around.
But he thinks, after the leering match brings his own failure, that there’s a man on his bed, wearing his shirt, a man who no less than ten minutes prior had his lips upon his own and Light has the nerve to ask him to leave the room now, as if he does not flare with desire at the thought of heat smothering his sheets. Proper sanity would admonish it, yet proper sanity has not had a single say in his actions thus far, so he pretends he hasn’t had a thought of it. Neither, he tells himself, has he thought of anything past felicitous, and changing in front of another man is no cause at all for shyness. His jacket zipper pulls downward. No shyness at all.
He lays the coat to a chair back behind him. The next endeavor consists of working his undershirt up and over himself. Moisture clings to all his muscles beneath it, arms crossing to grasp the bottom hem without concern for what’ll be seen of his back. His skin is a luxury to behold. As he holds the tee in his hands, shaking the wrinkles from it, he allows himself a sidelong glance for the bed, upon it filling his esteem to the brim as he maps out the color of hunger in L’s eyes.
Though, with it follows illness, knowing too keenly that the way L stalks over to him harbors no intentions innocent. He swallows dryly at the palm upon his lower back.
“Light,” murmurs to his ear. L works to replace the wet fabric in his grasp with his own hand, impelling the other to face him closer, chests sundered by a finger-width gap, moving touch to roam upon the bare strength of his neck’s crook. It is next that L’s lips are there instead, and Light is embraced beneath the shoulders and loved beyond his years.
His perfect exam score, eloquent essay writing, ten years in university and the medical field intelligence tells him not to kiss L, his patient, on the lips like this, but his emotional, passionate, raw and boundless intelligence tells him L, his lover, tastes of caramel, and L, his lover, fills his mouth with his tongue for the first time there, stealing away whatever protest he’d hate the audacity to make.
He feels the chill of hands cupping his face, heads tilted perfectly opposite each other as L kisses him, and he kisses L, and L parts for a breath in half second intervals between each one, puckers that press and pull back as if in his own thoughts the same, bodies flush together now, and L’s hips are scrawny and tight beneath Light’s hands, ones that apply more and more pressure to every press nearer.
“I don’t want to do this, L,” Light whispers suddenly. The kisses fade. L keeps hold of him, dearly, and says, “We aren’t doing anything.”
His hands move up to hold L upon his jaw. “...I just mean...everything. I’m- I’m pretty certain intercourse with a patient is a fireable offense.”
“I just want to touch you,” L says, head shaking within its clasp. “I enjoy whatever it is we have going on here...very much. That’s not easy for me to say to you. But I don’t want things to change.”
Idly embarrassed, Light shifts to rest his hands on each of L’s shoulders. “Right… Professionally, I would tell you not to do something so rigorous, anyway.”
Tongue tip between a half-lidded grin, L tips his head to the side, and stolen away is the melancholy of his throat. “Though...I can’t say I’d hate to see your ass in lace panties. Put on a little nurse’s outfit for me and spin around.”
“You’re disgusting,” Light laughs. Over him, L deadpans, “What about that organization that grants wishes for the terminally ill. Why don’t I get that.”
A smacked clutch upon his ass and a bite onto his bottom lip very practically drive Light wild. “You can stay for dinner,” he says as he disentangles himself, “That’s your wish, take it or leave it.”
“Hmmn…” Tap falls the finger to his mouth. “I suppose. As long as you’ll pay.”
He pushes L away an arm’s length, snorting as he turns to pick out a dry shirt.
An argument arises when Light emerges from his room with the intent to order chicken curry and bhatura. Another, once they’re sitting on the couch waiting for the Chinese food to arrive, and Light’s decision to put on a movie ends instead with the glaze of eyes against a home hunting show, the obnoxious kind where nuclear couples have their houses renovated only to prefer the real estate down the road. The third altercation arises as Light sits back against the sofa with a warm weight against his chest, and with half an eggroll stuffed in his mouth the warm weight comments on how tacky a lamp on some nuclear couple’s dresser is.
“It’s not so bad,” Light defends, tossing half a vegetable dumping toward the dog begging at his feet. “It’s mid century modern.”
L, for whatever reason, feels the lamp has wronged him personally, and lifts a hand to slap the remaining half dumping out of its chopstick pinch just a second before it reaches Light’s mouth.
Cheeseburger enjoys that bite just as much.
Light wonders what sort of doctor specializes in removing chopsticks from eye sockets, an optometrist or a coroner.
Exactly three locations come to mind when he wakes up; the first is of the curtains at the front of the house, as they rest entirely open, and the sunlight that pours in through them lands perfectly against his eyelids enough to bother him. The second is his own, lain with legs outstretched on the floor and arm slung across the sofa back. Lastly comes L curled up on the second cushion, facing inward, not touching him, looking like a ratty little mutt covered by the blanket of repose.
His apothecary table supports containers of cold dumplings and soba noodles. A wine glass sits on a coaster with its half empty bottle beside it. Birds chirp outside the parted, silken curtains, the television displaying its idle service screen, and his heart leaps a mile to the pale tone of his throat.
“I went to do a check in last night, since I hadn’t heard anything from L for a while,” stands as the first thing said to him upon his morning clock in. Misa, goadingly, twirls a blonde curl around one finger. “I guess I was right not to worry. He was in good hands aaall night looong.”
“Misa…” His sneering lip leads to a shake of the head. He directs his attention to the schedule list beneath his fingertips. “...Just keep it between us, alright?”
Silent, she mimics the motion of sealing a zipper across her mouth, ending with a winking thumbs up. Light drives a sigh from him, though cannot deny the sharp pang of ardor for the whole world within him.
By September, there’s good news.
“My good old fashioned lover boy,” melts sweetly against him just as soon as he enters the room.
“Forget it, L,” Light says back. “You aren’t getting out of this. The heart is ten minutes away.”
Matsuura Seiji had, in the early morning hours, succumbed to the alcoholism he’d started working on at age sixteen in form of acute liver failure. Being only thirty four years old, it’s a tragic loss even more, surely the reason behind Light’s stinging waterlines on his race into work this morning after a five AM wake up call from Misa, at the very cusp of her night shift ending.
L, sitting in his bed in the transition bay, takes an awfully pouty look for how little he cares to show his emotions. White ties line the spine of his surgical gown, sheets clinging to his inner palms just as lurid.
“And you’re certain my body is strong enough to endure this type of strain?” L asks.
Light peeks around the room, assessing the amount of staff on call to assist him through the next hours. “Yes,” he says, accepting the nod from a nurse that lets him know the medflight is landing above them now.
“And how can you be certain?”
“Because I’m the doctor,” he says, snapping his facial mask into perfect place.
The rails of his bed are gripped in paper white hands as L groans into laying back; several masked scrubbed physicians begin the process of wheeling him down the open operating room.
L, with his quarter open eyes, his hot flush face and barely expanding chest, reaches upward in what would appear to an onlooker as a dead man’s final strength. On that logic, Light cannot in good nature care for the handful of others walking around him, and clasps his hand around L’s own.
“Check the cardiopulmonary pump.” As soon as the doors close and the lights dim, as soon as Yagami Light enters that operating room, he is a commander, leader, God, gloves on and innocence off. “Start a morphine drip.”
The anesthesiologist’s already had her way with him. He lays there on the transferred surgical bed, sheet spread all across his torso aside from the window to his flesh. Light stares directly against it for a moment, the square of L’s chest visible beneath his lens light, and suffers through a final breath before bringing the scalpel tip down.
Walking out of the surgical bay is in itself austerity.
The medical waste bins have swallowed up his scrubs already as well as those of the full team. Scissors and clamps lay in their residue of plasma, awaiting serial sterilization. Another disposal bag had accepted the metal implant he had so intricately inserted what’d felt like just weeks before- and in a moment of rapture, pure, breathless awe, he’d held in his hands the heart of L Lawliet, beating no longer and siphoned already of its blood, and Light had looked to L and then back to his heart, and thanked silently the organ for its years of duty before placing it to its final resting place of the medical disposal bin.
His patient is stabilized within the closing minutes of the procedure. Light wipes his brow with a shoulder sleeve, fingers stained in red, and allowed himself the pride come from success. First time success. He’s more relieved than he’d like to admit.
Now, nearing noontime and weak knees, Light steps out into the open floor fluorescence to find the closest lift back to his office, but cannot help but stop in his tracks.
“Doctor,” beckons him by the delicate gentleman’s voice. “How is he?”
Watari stands among the waiting lounge seats. His slacks are ironed proper. He reeks absolutely of pristinity.
“Hi,” Light blinks in surprise, though values duty over affability with a clearing of his throat. “The surgery went very well. He’s on ventilation still, and it’ll be a few hours before he comes out of the anesthesia. I’m sorry, you can’t see him just yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as things are settled more.”
“Understood,” nods Watari. “I wasn’t expecting this today. I’d been on my way back already from Manchester, and when I arrived at the hospital, they told me L had been taken into an emergency transplant operation.” He shakes his head either way, strong in the face of such sudden grief. “I suppose I can’t give him this, then,” gestures to the small bakery parcel in his hands, though no sooner does it proffer out forward. “For all your hard work.”
Tentatively, Light reaches forward to accept it, smiling tightly ahead.
The slice of red velvet cake is devoured in a minute flat once he reaches his office again.
September is good news.
Another bout later, he’s tapping his foot on the elevator ride to the third floor. Impatience does not suit him outside times of fret. He secures himself into placidity as he steps to the new story, and finds an even better reason to carry it through.
Among the trapeze act of tubing, L rests in the middle, only tell of consciousness being the slim line of either eye peeking through their droopy lids. The angle of his nose moves to aim toward the new noise at the doorway. He watches him a long while, saying nothing outside the ever subtle flutter of his lashes.
Light steps forward, for the first time taking note of Watari’s presence beside the bed, sterilized hands and mouth mask intact. The vitals monitor beeps through the readings it takes from the clamp on L’s ring finger; it reminds Light all too harshly of however many months ago had begun this process, feeling for a split moment that they’ve backtracked though knowing the start of eminence must trickle slowly. From his glance upon it, and just the noise alone to go with it, the new heart, L’s heart, suffers null from brady nor tachy, thrumming at a melodic pace that will only increase with further adjustment. He checks to assure no clogs or leaks in the IV line. Nothing is perfect until he has asserted it so.
“My chest hurts,” L drawls, everything on him looking twice as heavy.
“Well, yeah,” Light answers as he filters through the settings of the monitor. His eyes move back to L in a gentle drag. “Your sternum is broken.”
From the short length away, L closes his lids again, rail thin among his wiring.
“You’ve done an amazing job with him, Yagami-sensei,” praises the oldest man. “How long shall it be until he recovers fully?”
His steps echo around to the end of the bed, skirting a glance along the insertions up his left arm. “It’ll take about six months to be functioning at one hundred percent capacity again. He’ll be very limited for a while, then begin the process of physical therapy to rebuild some stamina. There’s also the anti-rejection medication, which we’ve already started him on in the IV drip.”
“And something for the pain,” L is weakly able to input.
Light shakes out a sigh. “Crush up a few aspirin in his ice cream, he won’t notice a thing.”
On something of a miracle, L’s fingers are able to slowly liiift themselves to claw forward, just shy of grasping him. Light smirks.
He excuses himself after further examinations satisfy him. The next time he returns, L sleeps deeply under the watchful eye of ventilation, so there is no harm in the touch of lips placed to his forehead or bangs brushed from the face.
Within six more days, L has groused enough to make the ICU staff liable to unplug his vital supports, the rationale behind his movement back to civilization sooner than Light would gift any other. The normal staff surrounding him is instructed to leave their duties to himself and Misa during his off times. She delivers him his meals once his nausea for solids dissipates, and he’s voracious enough not to complain about the wheat bread sandwiches or strawberry gelatin. She redresses his suture wound in delicate fingertips. She guides him in the coughing exercises that reduce the chance for pneumonia to settle in, and Light takes over the reigns after she’s been standing there a good minute and a half fake hacking into her palm because hmm, no, I just don’t quite get it, could you demonstrate one more time?
At his two week post-op scan, Light orders him to standing from his bed for only the second time since the procedure. L is a ragdoll in his arms, of course, though does grip straight onto the metal poles surrounding the scale to find he’s gained nine pounds, which Light assures is partially fluids, partially the sugar free gelatin he’s clung to like a lifeline ever since outside desserts were put on a travel ban.
Though he’s an expert at cracking the ribcage, Light isn’t as precise when it comes to their healing, so three weeks in L accepts a visit from the orthopedic surgeon, who says things are going on smoothly. L shamelessly lifts his gown up to his chin to point out the vast area of bruising between his pectorals. The orthopedist tells him in a laugh that it’s normal. Light ogles his marred flesh all the way to the next day’s mid morning- it’s when he’s decided, though much observation, that the thick scar down the middle of his chest has come together enough to have its staples removed. Leaning over him, and after a regional numbing injection, Light plucks them out one by careful one, all of them clanging in their own personal way into the metal dish on the bed.
“I thought of a good joke,” L tells him, not so proper a timing in his state of staid concentration, and the bone dry delivery is what makes it most when he says, “Light. You’ve really touched my heart.”
The tweezers pause just long enough for Light to lean forward in a choking laugh. More than anything, he’s just relieved he still has his L to say such stupid, stupid things.
By the fourth week, the one month mark, L is still responding to the anti-rejection drugs, though the gradual lessening of his pain medication keeps him in bed longer than Misa has the patience to urge him up.
“You’re actually facing toward me today,” Light marvels when he enters another morning, and L rationalizes, “It hurts to lay on my left side.”
Six weeks into recovery is the time gauge when the average patient would be allowed back behind the wheel of a car, back to their workplace so long as it weren’t too strenuous. But L is a special case. L is a brat, so the only thing he gets to celebrate is an unfrosted cupcake from the downstairs cafeteria.
Around that time as well, Light spends portions of his days catching up on the leather bound medical journals he keeps on his office shelves, reading over and over again the correct recovery process that comes to follow the most significant heart surgeries, just to be sure he’s doing what he already knows is right. He’ll nod when L asks him if his scar is supposed to look so pink, and then the anatomical diagrams in the front pages will confirm it on his next break. At every point in the day when it is asked at what point saturated fats may return to his diet, Light says, ideally, never, but it’ll come to be a fact of life over time. The books advise not to eat anything with more color than dry beige or vibrant green, and that’s when dust sputters up in its shut.
He’s careful, is all, attentive to make sure L is healing in a timely fashion and getting the proper exercises he needs of both body and mind, and cautious as he enters his room on an orange October morning, because he doesn’t want to jostle the flowers in his hands too much. One tulip petal falls among its vase water. Light promises to make it up to it.
“Good morning,” says his entrance. Darkness shades the slats through the drizzly window. Poking his nose around the array of pink petals, Light cannot help his smile, though senses the disconnect betwixt the other participants before him. “Why does the birthday boy look so pouty, hm?”
His timing feels somewhat of an intrusion, yet still he leans forth to set the vase to the bedside table, fiddling with its little index card note to ensure it does not slip lost. As he stands back, L’s voice settles caustically upon his ears. “Watari has just informed me he has no interest in me anymore.”
“It isn’t like that at all,” his gentle tone demands, and Watari stands from his seat not in a threatening manner the slightest, yet Light takes a step back to survey them each. “I have to return home to England tomorrow. There’s been a recent increase of children at our family-run orphanage, and Roger has requested my help.”
“So abandon your only son for a group of strangers.” When L leans backward, arms folded softly, he notices the way his eyes shift thinly and his voice lowers, and the smear of yellow frosting on his upper lip the only evidence not swept away before Light’s entrance. “On his thirty sixth birthday, no less…”
“L,” Watari sternly addresses. To no avail- his focus does not move away from its train toward the opposite wall. Watari sighs, loses what edge he’d attempted. “It’ll only be for a month or so. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have complete trust in Yagami-sensei’s ability to care for you.”
There are blinks in the room then, the hallways light invasive. Light turns away from his stare offward to instead face toward him. And he nods, feeling the way the comment massages up all his aches.
“It’s alright, Mr. Wammy, you do what you need to.” A hand caresses his own hip whilst another gestures pointedly out. “When L is well enough to be discharged soon, like I planned to tell him today, I have no problem letting him stay with me for a while.”
The glint surfacing on the dark of L’s irises does not go unseen.
Fashionably, Light sets himself on the corner of the bed, sitting there still even once they’re alone in the room together, just the pair of them gone on talking in soft murmurs and touches that break quickly away at the first hint of footsteps passing by the doorway; Light is soft with L, as he’s said, delicate to his fantasies and fusses. In the darkest hour of the morning, the rain trickles down in wet streaks that cling to the window glass and makes the benches outside unsittable, though L seems perfectly content once the vase is in his lap and tulips touch his lips and nose. Light watches his fingers stroke the leaves as a mother does a child’s cheek fat. He could swear he feels it himself, right in the core, each time L flirts a kiss upon a flower head, never looking up from them as he does so, never looking up until Light is bold enough to leave a hand upon his thigh where it rests beneath the blanket, just resting there, plain.
“Be honest,” Light starts, leaning forward not enough to befall inappropriate terrain. What lamplight glazes the room flicks off the swaying metal of the stethoscope draped around his shoulders. “This time last year, did you ever think you’d have another birthday?”
L sits a moment, leans over in the process to place the vase back to the table, his fingers stretching to push it as far back as it may. He returns straight to him, chest fractionally more heavy. Plastic round one wrist is picked at with its opposite hand.
“This time, last year, I didn’t expect to live through that birthday…” Either shoulder fills with life a moment, dragging back down to his eyes meeting forward to Light’s hot amber flame. “I still haven’t let my guard down. I know that I may die at any time. But I feel like...you’ve given me hope, if nothing else.”
That hope travels straight to Light’s heart. It travels to his heart and his mouth and his mind, to his lungs as the shampoo drips down his nape in the shower and he’s given in to the parasitic melody invading all his thoughts since the morning car ride radio. It clasps him around the waist as he wraps a belt through its loops. On occasion, it will carry over into his socks as well as he pulls those on, by default, of course, the shoelaces, too. Hope is his breakfast. And must he dismiss the rawest corners of hope that comes in desperation, as he isn’t that sort of dreamer anymore, doesn’t find a lick of time to be. Light does not have time to pray, when at all hours is he busied in rejoicing.
Romance takes the shifts that hope cannot fill. But it isn’t romance of the most frivolous kind, as to be found in the library’s young adult section with sobbed upon pages to boot. Light falls in love with every flick of his wrist and every babble of the river. He thinks, as he watches his sister mourn over her camellias as winter clasps up November’s rolling end, that he’s in love with her and the way she sees the world around them, he’s in love with every last wilted petal and the film they watch just afterward to return her laughing eye watery exuberance back in place. His dog between them, taking up more of the couch than they two combined, is the love of his life as well, and his clean bedsheets and the spots on his wine glasses when they come out of the dishwasher. Light looks at the Earth and at life with a carnation blooming in either eye, because to be misanthropic, he’s learned, is to relent one’s own power to the bothers of the world around. So Light is in love with every time he feels the red mercury of rage trail up his throat, and he’s in love with checking the mail to find letters addressed to the former tenant of his home who’s been decomposing again unto the Earth he’d been gifted for many, many years now- that, for its momentary repentance he feels to find it among his bills and flyers, and the way he glances apologetically to the sky overhead as he feeds them into the recycling bin.
Most importantly, yet even still just one of the endless focal points of his mind, Light loves L the way a high schooler will love their first car, or a blanket loves the heat of the dryer, or the way a woman watches herself in the mirror before her makeup’s done, and she’s scrutinizing every blemish and eyebrow hair out of place, but she leans forward to kiss her reflection even still, to practice the luxurious theory that is being in love with oneself. Light loves L the way sleep finds a person in their darkest hour; a mystery as to how it’s happened, yet altogether left with more care to look ahead, refreshed, than to dwell on wondering how it overtook them to begin with. L, to Light, is a newspaper column that leaves ink within his fingerprint etches. L is what the world does not need to know, just the feeling of the wind making love to their flushed skin as they exit out of the metro station.
Call him sickened, but he cannot convince himself there’s any other way to love than to not know the word at all, only the feeling. That’s what L does to him.
On December second, it’s been a quarter of a year almost since life was sewn back into all the intricate arteries within L’s chest. Light is dressed in his black cardigan for the first time this season, dug out from the far right sway of his bedroom closet. He loves this time of year, where he can start wearing cashmere again, but he thinks he may have said so before already.
“Here I am,” is his pert announcement upon entering. He keeps his attention trained most entirely to the papers tacked in his hold, ink scrawling along their blank lines.
“There you are,” a deep slurring voice returns to him, and his smile stretches outward, still deadset upon the notation beneath his pen.
Light steps slowly, distractedly, closer to the bed, closer to the daybreak that shines sunshine through the opened curtains upon a square of the floor. It drapes off the side of the mattress, half honey golden and blinding to the sight and half cast in the shadows of early morning inside. He can use that, another incentive in his arsenal once he faces what he knows is coming- the same way L buries himself away in the covers and pillows when it’s a stamina training day or when Light’s been particularly busy the past days with other patients, so glancing up to find him facing the window wall, sheets a tangled mess around him, is no surprise.
“Come on,” Light drags out, biting his humor away. “I know you don’t want to do work. But I have to do my evaluation as thoroughly as possible. Don’t you want to be released tomorrow?”
Nothing batters him back. Tucking his pen into a pocket, Light sighs, grasping an ankle to shake him stupid. L has gotten so skilled as to not jerk his limb away in a harsh reflex, remaining still with his face hidden away in the pillow, arm hanging limply off the opposite bedside. It trembles as his leg is jangled about.
“It’s beautiful outside,” Light urges. “We’ll go for a walk in the courtyard, and you’ll be a good boy for me once I tell you I’ll dismiss you today to go get frozen yogurt.”
Not a response. That one doesn’t surprise Light so much, but he’d never replace with a lie of ice cream just to advance his own goals. It’s a dirty tactic, his next one, but having so little left to spend on the venture, Light takes to what he knows; a finger coasts up the base of his foot, a slow, slow dragging tickle across the nerves.
“L?” His exasperation lifts forward a hand to pull him by the hip, and it is far too easy an endeavor to move his whole weight like that, no fight nor reluctance present.
That is the point at which the tile floor is beaten with the jarring clatter of a clipboard against it, Light’s hands immersed in searching forward to take shoulders within them. He doesn’t care for the world in that moment. Everything is silent in a way that hurts his throat.
L’s eyes are open when he’s turned over. The arm that had been hanging over remains in its stiff struck outward position when L is turned over onto his back, and when L is turned over, a contusion mars the left side of his flesh where he’d been lain through sleep, darkened with blood bruises all down the pale of his jaw, neck, ribcage, hip.
When L is turned over, Light does not know anything about the heart at all, considering especially that he himself does not own one within him.
“L,” he says, a louder, more demanding slap of teeth. “L.”
The plush of his lips do not move, and when Light reaches out a thumb to brush along them, he finds, yes, they are as cold as the paper white color of them suggests.
He steps back, just once. His heel makes a deafening clap in that single step to the tile behind him. Every breath, too, the ones that pull raggedly from his timid lungs, sounds of an orchestra front row, a picture he may enjoy if he could see anything but the blinding white sheet as the morning light shines upon it, and the gaze L leaves in eternity toward the ceiling above him.
“I- I...I...I,” flickers from him. a piercing disbelief shot straight into his skull. Light comes to after what could have been forever, drawing backward against himself to again push forth as though colliding with a mile thick barrier he’s to bear the brunt of breaking through all on his own.
“Fuck!” There’s no stopping how his voice pitches back to youth, a scream that crackles his throat of rawness. “Goddamnit, L! Goddamnit!”
Fingers grip as a vise upon the front white fabric of his shirt. Light shakes him toward him, away, shaking what he may of his incredulity out, though L very well could remain untouched as his body responds null in form of wavers, stiff to every rim, and just perhaps Light had been not involved deeply enough looking ahead of himself on his first steps in, and his imagination had filled in what he supposes his L would have said to him then, grappling now for something the same, anything to wave away the shattering quiet. Anything to blind him from the disconnection of all his nighttime monitoring equipment, clamps and oxygen and medical drip all hanging there beside the bed, because he knows in a sound mind it’d never be the work of a nurse.
Light does not breathe. Not as he kneels over L in his bed, nor as his fit is responded to with attention folded against the open doorway.
Misa’s lips are moving, because he smells the scarlet of her lipstick pounding in his ears, but he’s underwater there, and no one ever thinks that the lifeguard could drown.
But that’s just what it is. Light is suffocating in his own passion.
In the broad morning sunlight through the window, L’s irises gleam with just a hint of blue.
In the week following L’s death, Light hears more than ever. He hears the turning of four wheels as empty beds are pushed through the halls. He hears the whirring and the beeping of every last machine, so often that he very nearly feels asphyxiated by it. He hears the broken echoes of himself through the night, with what he used to be and always was gazing down over him, and in those echoes the smartest drops of honey will fill his heart to envy those who’ve never yet loved and disparage all those who refute it.
Above all, he will hold the needle himself to the arm of whoever said that life after loss shall go on, as if nothing at all has happened. Grieve quietly and advance quickly. But as a man of his passions, Light surrenders all shame to clock in while his eyes still sit red rimmed, to buckle at the knees as he watches a new face be wheeled inside room 211.
But in those small allowances, he realizes the hole in his chest fills just a bit more each day. Life does go on without L in it, as visceral a taste it leaves in his mouth. Every day continues, and he accepts the good morning Nori offers him from the front desk, and he lets himself laugh at the little girl who demands he place a kitten sticker on his clipboard whilst he listens to her father’s lungs; he permits, even, the leers from the coworkers who wonder in secret what’s come over him, because someone dies in the hospital every goddamned hour, just about. No fuss need be made for any in certain. Light pads his lashes as he sips a styrofoam serving of coffee from the cafeteria, and decides in that moment that it truly does taste of utter shit.
Monday is paperwork.
Of the days trailing so far, feeling as millennia each their own but perhaps it’s only been two rotations of moonlight total- of every moment he’s endured, the easiest pass when he’s closed up inside his office, computer monitor bothering his eyes for no reason but a presence. Folders rest open across his desk. His pen drags bleeding ink over note lines and echograms.
The audacity to disrupt him, for just one moment, fools him into a fluttering glance, though betters himself to know L never would have been polite enough to knock.
“Come in,” he calls, only as the professional, for the personal early afternoon Yagami Light would glue the latch holes shut. But as the knob tilts, and the refraction of a shadow falls upon the floor, he’s only so grateful to have kept himself open.
“Yagami-sensei,” Watari breathes out, lifting the hat from his head to honor him in all candor imaginable.
Light stands so sharply his legs rattle the desk.
“H-” The tip of his tongue assists what words wish admittance. “Hello. I… I’m glad to see you again.”
For a moment, they stand like chess pieces on a board of deafening ambiance. Only does Light decide to rook himself forward once he notes the exhaustion in the old man’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” his whisper soothes, holding him beneath the shoulders whilst Watari’s hand taps soft pats upon his own.
“It’s alright,” he says, the one difference to his proper tone the wavering that breaks against it. Watari clears his throat. “It was a miracle to have met you, doctor.”
In this instance, Light demands himself be strong, no tears shed upon fine herringbone. He’ll be strong now for every moment he’d failed to before now.
As his own space is gained again, he isn’t sure what to do with his arms or legs or eyes or mouth or nose or heart; Light stands there, in his office, and Watari stands there, in his office, the disconnect between them being his reach downward unto a pocket.
“I came back to gather his things,” and he can’t decide what hurts more to hear, came back or the plain quilted his. Regardless, Watari slips a trifolded yellow paper from his pocket. Flawless kanji labels the front. Light. “I can only assume this was meant for you.”
It takes several seconds before his hands are steady enough to reach out for it.
“Thank you, Watari,” he says, crimping the folded edges in his fingertips just to have a hobby. When he looks up again, mouth flared for speech, he finds his office empty besides he and his humming monitor.
He slides himself back into his chair. The paper sits on his desk, watching him.
After a breath, which he’s certain he’ll need, he unfolds it, eyes perched tightly at the top margin.
You’re reading this letter, which means you’re either a nosy bastard- a point where he pauses in humor that aches his ribs, only to go on in pang - or your promise hasn’t been kept.
His fingers crinkle the delicate page corners. The throbbing begins at the base of his throat.
But don’t get hung up on that. We both know you did everything you could. My fate was inevitable to begin with. You were just the unlucky person that was picked to derive some sense of fruitless hope from it all.
I don’t mean to sound negative. Well...I am dead, but that’s still no reason to complain.
Again, Light laughs , but from the mouth alone in its subtle breathlessness, and in his mind cannot comprehend any touch of feeling.
I’m writing to you so that, even in my absence, you do not forget what you’ve done for me. You saved my life, regardless of this outcome, you saved me every day that you walked into that room and believed in my life. I want you to remember the impact you had on me, in what short a time we’ve truly known each other in comparison to how vastly that impression expands. You, Yagami Light, are my world and everything that I know. And don’t take that the romantic sort of way, I’d never be so sordid. If you know me like I know you know me, then you’ll understand just what I mean when I tell you you are my everything. You’ve absorbed me. Every time you laugh, it’s because I’m in your head. When you should cry, it is not over the loss of me, but the overwhelming acceptance of me into your life.
I want you to see me in these moments, and I want you to see me in the tulips in the courtyard, and the lattice around your front porch, and in your sister’s smile, and the sunrise that wakes you when you’ve forgotten to close the blinds. And in every aching heartbeat you feel right now, know that it is me inside your chest, telling you of this indescribable reverie that we’ve built together, ensuring that you never forget who L Lawliet always wanted to be.
Most importantly, do not think back on this experience with me as any sort of failure. If you should catch yourself thinking that you’ve failed me, I’d like you to instead recall what my cardiologist once told me.
‘Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.’
There exists perhaps a three minute period before he’s able to go on reading, clenching his teeth and praying the wetness does not smudge any single milliliter of ink.
I’m sorry that this letter cannot go on forever. Truly, I am, as I’m sure there’ll never be any experience comparable to this moment right now as you read through it for the first time. Or perhaps you’re on your third or fourth or fiftieth read, and it’s twenty years in the future and you shine your flashlight upon this paper in the latest nights when you’re trying to piece everything together. And that’s the beautiful thing about literature, is that it is endless, it is timeless, and so long as you keep reading this letter, I will never be erased from this world.
Until the end of time, where we shall meet again, my dear.
Light sets the letter down, and that is where it ends.
Going home is everyday’s most difficult point- but, no, he thinks that isn’t right, for the feeling of being freed to leave the darkened nostalgia of the workplace behind is of the best all day. It is arriving home that sets Light’s nostrils ablaze with the cold of this December, and he’s careful not to look for one second to his lattice porch front as he ascends the stairs to the front door.
His dog does not bark to the clinking of the doorknob this evening. Light opens the door, and he’s there, standing on all fours with his head tilted pretty, tail picking up a pace to see Light’s face in the entry after a long grueling day. Light drags his knuckles down his fur as he passes, but offers no more to the nudge against his palm, does not know how to hear the whining outside his bedroom door once he closes it.
He sets his bag and shoes and all else of unimportance in various places around the room, just to move himself to liberation from the day’s crushing thunder claps forcing him thinner and thinner each moment. Light sits, first, upon his bed, and arriving home is the hardest part because he sees L sitting on his porch steps, waiting to play tennis down the parkway path. He invites L in, instead, since it’s getting late, and they have dinner together again, salmon and asparagus that L shoves away with his fork tongs. Afterward, L is tired, so Light takes his hand and he’s led to the bedroom where they sit together now, and it’s another life without the burden of time, and Light leans forward to kiss the silver band on L’s left ring finger, and when they make love, there are no restrictions, there are no scars, and there are no promises left to break.
Someday in the future, he’ll pick his face up from the pillow where it now lay, caring not for the damp marks left behind so long as L is standing there, waiting to run a hand down his back.
Light loves L the way a sinner loves forgiveness, and forgiveness loves Light right back.
He sleeps that night with his nightstand bearing the weight of a folded, endless, timeless paper, listening to the ticks on his lefthand wrist guide him against its forever enthralling allure. A heartbeat.