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Light didn’t bother looking up from his book when someone was led to the bed next to his. He ignored the doctors moving about, settling his new neighbor in.  He heard the words “regimented meals” so he suspected some kind of eating disorder, but couldn’t be bothered with any of it.

What was the point?

“I’m L,” his neighbor said. His voice was interesting, soft and unobtrusive, while still drawing attention.  Light raised his head, considering him.

The man had deep circles under his eyes, and his hair was wild and untamed, stark black sticking out like feathers on a flustered bird. He seemed to have a slight hunch as if he habitually worked over a computer.  But he also seemed to be holding himself carefully, on his guard, as though Light had the energy to be a threat to him.

“Yagami Light,” he provided, turning back to his book. He was pretty sure he’d read this one before, actually, but he wasn’t sure anymore.  It could have been a year ago; it could have been last week.  It was just so hard to care.  He was already imperfect and a failure, so why bother keeping up appearances anymore?

Light found himself earnestly wishing he’d succeeded instead of winding up in purgatory.

“Look, they’re not giving me much to occupy myself with, so could you do me a favor and, I don’t know, play board games with me?” L sighed. He was obviously deeply affronted by whatever they were withholding from him.

“I don’t see the point, really,” Light said, keeping his eyes on his books. “I may be a failure in the ways that count, but I’ve played all the games here, and I haven’t lost yet.”

“That was before you met me.”

And, well, Light knew it was pointless, but he’d never turned down a challenge. He wasn’t going to change that now, purgatory be damned.

 


 

Light was… frustrated.

It was probably the first time since he’d been admitted that he felt more than numb, actually. It was both surprising and irritating.  Also emotions he’d been without for a while.

His first game of chess since winning the national championship in middle school and he loses to some upstart in a long-term care facility. Unbelievable.  If his middle school self could see him, he’d be ashamed.

“You seem surprised, Light, but I did warn you I was good,” L shrugged, giving the smallest smile, like he was nervous about letting someone see his happiness. (Like someone might try to rip it away.)

“I was the national champion when I was 13,” Light said, staring at the board as if it could tell him where he went wrong.

“I suppose you’ll just have to keep playing with me. Practice makes perfect,” L said, voice too cheery.  Light flinched at the phrasing, reminded abruptly of his demons.  L’s expression turned serious.  “I said something bad, didn’t I.  If you tell me what it is, I’ll never say it again.”

Light got up to leave, hesitating at the door out of the common room. After a long moment he took to collect himself, he said, “The practice thing,” and left L to figure the rest out on his own.

Practice makes perfect, but perfect makes boredom. Why bother playing if you know you’re going to win?

 


 

“Please play Battleship with me before I die of boredom,” L said, leaning on his bed, wide eyes gazing at him.

Light turned back to his book, probably new this time. “It is physically impossible to die of boredom.  Trust me.”

L remained silent for a long moment, but remained slumped over the foot of his bed. When personal space had ceased to mean something, he wasn’t sure.  Maybe sometime after the game of checkers?  Surely it was before that robot game L’s friend had brought for them to play…

“How about this then: Please play Battleship with me before I’m forced to become more of an annoyance to you than I already am.”

Light sighed. “If I expressed any doubt, you’d do it out of spite anyway.”  He sighed again and closed his book.  “Lead the way, I guess.”

L’s expression was triumphant. Light felt something approaching annoyance, but couldn’t bother himself with feeling more.

 


 

Battleship was not a game they should have played together. They drew a crowd, partly because of L’s overdone sound effects, and partly because they’d only had four misses between the two of them.

If anyone could play to a tie in Battleship, Light had a feeling it would be the two of them.

“At long last, Admiral Yagami, you have, indeed, sunk my battleship,” L said, voice low with pretend mourning, pressing an imaginary hat to his breast. The people watching them and who, for whatever reason, were rooting for Light cheered.  “You were an admirable foe, and I will not forget this stunning victory against me.”

Light sighed, giving a brief roll of his eyes, putting the pieces away methodically. “Don’t be so dramatic.  You’re not a child,” he said as people dispersed.

“Who says adults have to be boring?”

Light shrugged, folding the board and standing to leave. “I’d like to spend from now until dinner in peace, so if you’re still feeling rowdy, I’d appreciate it if you stayed out here.”

“No, I’m satisfied for now,” L said, standing as well. “Reading might be nice, if you have any recommendations.”

For the life of him, Light couldn’t remember a single book he’d read in the last two months. He spent the whole walk down the hall thinking, slowing to a stop in front of his bookshelf, eyes roving over each cover.

Finally, he caught sight of the most well-worn book of the lot. Glancing away, he gestured to the shelf, “I read a lot of Plath before.  If you’re interested, that’s where I’d start.”

Light sat down in his own bed, curling up and turning away, clinging to whatever book he was reading for safety. L hummed his affirmative, probably kneeling in front of the shelf.  When Light peeked over his book, he watched as L ran a spindly finger down the cracked and battered spine.

Too late, Light remembered all the highlighting and underlining he’d done while he was in high school. There was no time for that if he wanted to—

“Thank you, Light. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.  After I finish, would it be alright if I told you which I like best?” L looked up from the book.  His expression was open and his posture purposefully relaxed and casual, like Light was some kind of spooked animal or shy child.

“I’m sure you’ll do what you want, as usual,” Light turned back to his book, sure L had taken it as intended: not a no.

L settled into his own bed before falling blissfully silent. Light felt the tension slowly drain from his shoulders.  When his eyes travelled over the page, he was surprised to find he was actually reading.  He got swept up in some Poirot story he didn’t know he was reading.  The rest of the afternoon was… pleasant.

 


 

“So, Light, have you been writing in your journal at all since we spoke last week?” his counselor asked, eyes cool as ever.

Light stared at the wood of her desk, eyes tracing over the grains. “I haven’t.”

The doctor sighed. “Light, we’ve spoken about this.  You need a constructive way to acknowledge your feelings if you aren’t going to talk to me more openly.”

“Communication and honesty are the keys to a successful recovery,” Light recited. He dropped his eyes to the carpet then to his feet.  Horrible, ugly slip-ons, because he couldn’t be trusted with laces.  He sighed as heavily as the doctor.

“If you won’t talk about yourself, why don’t you tell me about your new roommate? I’ve heard a few people say he’s something of a wild card.”

Light heard himself snort. “Understatement.  Imagine a bird, but with the eyes and mouth of a frog.”

The woman laughed, looking surprised by it, but kept the smile. “Do the two of you get along?”

Light shrugged. “If I ask, he’ll usually leave me alone.”

“And if you don’t?”

“He harasses me until I agree to play board games with him.”

“That sounds fun. Why does he do that, do you think?”  Her eyes betrayed her interest, sharp like she was closing in on some important personal detail. As if.

“He’s bored. Why else would a grown man play games meant for children?”

The woman said nothing, merely jotted something down. Light sighed.  It was obviously going to be one of those appointments.

 


 

By the end, Light was feeling wrung out and cranky, as usual. He ate his dinner in silence, ignoring even L’s magnetic voice.  He was sure L knew, but for whatever reason, he was avoiding the subject, leaving him more or less alone, without really leaving him alone.

It was maybe kind of nice. Maybe.

 


 

When L returned from his own appointment the next day, they walked to dinner together in silence. Light tried not to pay it much mind, but the way L was looking at his food…  He looked disgusted and more than a little uncomfortable.  Possibly afraid?  Maybe he was right about the eating disorder after all, although L hardly seemed the type to be concerned about his weight…

He wasn’t eating anything special really, some kind of plain noodle dish. Light considered it and compared it to his own soup.

Definitely more appealing.

“It’s probably not poisoned, but I’ll check for you if you want,” Light said, eating another mouthful of soup. L’s eyes were wide, wider than usual even, and seemed frantic.  He laughed, but like it was punched out of him.

“It’s not the poison I’m worried about, but the rest of it,” he said. His voice took on a tone of confession.  “It’s… It’s gross looking, and it’ll probably make me sick.”

“I don’t think so. My mom makes me those when I’m not feeling well.  They’re really gentle on the stomach, actually.  Like I said, I’ll check if you want.”  Light shrugged.  He wasn’t sure why he was bothering to make the offer, but whatever inner turmoil L was dealing with seemed pretty rough.

“Would you?” he asked after a long pause, voice even softer than before. Shy.

Light scooped up the chopsticks from beside his own bowl, and gathered some noodles from L’s. He moved them quickly to his own side of the table and ate them before they could drip.  He chewed slowly, giving the textures and flavors his full consideration.

“Not too mushy, but not hard—firm, really. It’s light, a little salty, but overall pretty pleasant, if plain,” Light decided, setting the chopsticks down.  “Luckily, it shouldn’t taste bad even if it cools down, so you can take your time if you need it.”

L bit his lip, looking young for the first time in the week Light had known him. “It won’t make me sick?”

“I doubt it.”

L took a deep breath to center himself, staring the food down like he was facing one of the labors of Hercules, before finally taking a small, hesitant bite. He chewed with all the focus of one disarming a bomb before swallowing.

A long moment passed while he waited for something bad to happen. When nothing did, he took another small bite.  And another.  Before too long, he’d finished a third of the bowl.  Light hadn’t been paying attention before, but he was pretty sure that was the most he’d seen him eat.

L shot him a small, grateful smile. Light nodded once in acknowledgement, finishing his soup in silence.  L didn’t leave him, even though he was done.  Light felt strange about that and decided to ignore it.

 


 

“Your sister wants to visit you,” the counselor told him the following morning after breakfast. Whatever pleasant blur he’d settled into was abruptly dissipated.

“The answer is still no,” Light said, turning away, folding his arms over his chest.

“Would you like me to tell her anything?” She sighed as though she were Disappointed in his decision.

“You can tell her what you like, but I won’t see her or Mom.”

“What about your father?”

“Yeah, right. Like that would happen.  If it does, go ahead and let him,” Light snorted derisively.  “Don’t say a word about that condition, though.  It has to be him that asks or the answer is no.”

“Of course.” She sighed again, like he was the one being unreasonable here.  Yeah, right.

 


 

“I’m not playing Monopoly with you, L. Pick something else.”

“How about Sorry?”

 


 

“I promised your sister I’d give you a letter she wrote. You don’t have to read it, although I think you should.  Your sister was adamant that I see this personally into your hands,” the counselor said during his next session.

Light sighed, but accepted the letter as he left. “We’ll see.”

By the time he got to his room, he was resigned to the fact that he was going to read the letter. Of course he was.  Despite everything, he did care about his sister, and sometimes he missed having her around.

Light,

I miss you and love you a lot. I feel like maybe the reason you won’t see me is because you blame me for all of this, although Mom says that’s not possible.  (She thought a lot of things weren’t possible, didn’t she?  I wish she’d been right about more of them.)

I feel like I owe you an apology. Not for this, but for putting you on a pedestal like everyone else did.  It was wrong of me to see you as more than human, and subsequently less than human.  You have feelings and thoughts, too, and it was wrong of me to ignore them.  It’s a mistake I won’t make again with anyone, but especially with you.

You’re my big brother, one of the people I love the most and one of the strongest people I know, so I think you’ll definitely be able to come home soon. And then I can see for myself that you’re alive doing better than before.

I love you!

Sayu

Light stared at the letter in stunned silence, unable to do much more than look at it. His mind caught on his sister’s assumptions—how could he blame her?  It was his own failings that landed him here, not hers.  It was his fault he couldn’t keep it together, and it was his fault that he couldn’t even die right.  He had to be caught by his sister, someone he used to protect from that kind of darkness…

He pulled out the journal and pen he was allowed and began to write a reply.

Sayu—

Where did he even begin?

I don’t blame you. I have never blamed you.  The person at fault here is me.

He forced himself to stop the next sentences before they hit the page—she didn’t need to know he considered the continued beating of his heart a failure. She wouldn’t understand what he meant and might feel guiltier.  He didn’t want that.

I love you, too, but I don’t know when I’ll be home. I don’t feel ready for visitors, yet.  It’s hard to explain, but I think it’s better if I stay away right now.  Tell Mom I love her, and tell Dad I’m sorry.

Take care,

Light

He folded it and sighed.

“Letter from home?” L asked, sitting down on his own bed. Light jumped a little.

“Yes.”

“I’m not allowed to see my brothers. We’re apparently bad influences on each other.”  L leaned back, playing casual.  “Only one of my brothers got by without mandatory counseling after I wound up here, actually.  He’s kind of a shut in, but he’s better off than the rest of us, I guess.”

“There’s something wrong with everyone, so there’s a good chance he’ll catch up someday,” Light said. His eyes drifted to the ceiling as he fingered the edge of his reply.

“Maybe,” L agreed. “But then again, maybe not.  We’re all foster kids, so we’re all full of fun surprises.”

Light let the comment slide. Family was still a tender subject for him, even if L seemed comfortable joking about it.  Maybe he’d ask for more information if it ever came up again.

 


 

“Come on, Light, please will you play Monopoly with me?  We’ve already worked through almost all of the other games.”

“I don’t think…” Light kept his eyes on his knees. The last time he’d played was before, with his sister.

L sighed, “I guess I’ll just have to ask someone else…”

“No.” Light protested too quickly. L’s surprise mirrored his own.  Where had that come from?  What was he doing?  L asking someone else would get him out of his hair for several hours!  But somehow, the thought of L playing board games with someone else made him feel ill.

“No, don’t play with other people? Or no, you’ll play with me?”

Light closed his eyes, wishing for his old bubble of numbness. Whatever was wrong with him now was inconvenient.  “No, I’ll play.”

L’s face lit up. “That’s great!  I don’t like anyone else here, so I wasn’t actually sure who else I’d ask,” L admitted, scratching the back of his neck.

“I’m sure you would have figured something out.”

“Maybe, but now I don’t have to. And I know you don’t really want to play, so we can play a half-game if you want.  We just wouldn’t allow loans from the bank.”

“No, no, if we’re playing this, we’re playing it right.”

 


 

Light wasn’t just frustrated, he was actually getting angry.  Over a board game.  God, L was dragging him down to his level, slowly but surely.  He was acting like a child.

“Light, are you alright?” L sounded hesitant. “It’s just a game.  You don’t have to have a perfect monopoly to win.”

Light’s breath caught and his pulse sped up. He stood abruptly, palms sweating and left the room.  His heart rate was too fast.  He needed to calm down, but none of his usual tricks were working.  If he wasn’t perfect…  If he wasn’t perfect…!

By the time L got back to their room, Light was buried under a pile of blankets. Each breath was difficult, his pulse still racing.  If he couldn’t get it together, he’d have to see the counselor, and that thought made everything worse.

Where had his peaceful bubble vanished to? Why couldn’t he go back to feeling nothing?

The bed shifted as L sat down.

“I’m sorry.  I thought about what I said, and I think I’ve figured it out.  Is there anything I can do for you?” L asked, voice soothing and as magnetic as always.  Light peeked out at him.

The black feathers of his hair looked even more frazzled and messy. His frog eyes weren’t bulging for a change.  The dark circles were even pretty light compared to when he first arrived.  Instead, his eyes were downcast, like he was ashamed.  His dark eyes were focused on his knees, not even looking at Light.

Light wanted L to look at him, see him.  Light wanted those eyes to ground him to reality, challenge him like they always did.  (Always was so relative a word; two weeks and forever felt interchangeable.)

As if reading his thoughts or feeling his gaze, L met his eyes. The darkness pulled him in, not suffocating, but warm and soft like his blanket pile.  Light remembered after a beat that he’d asked a question: what can I do?

“I… don’t want to be alone,” Light admitted, forcing the words out. What was it she always said?  You have to ask for what you want?  He was going to clarify, but L was already standing, moving closer.

“Should I sit up here with you, then?”

Light nodded, scooting over and lifting the blankets for him. Smiling, weaker than usual, L slipped under the blankets, leaning against Light’s headboard.  Light felt faint with relief.  L understood him better than anyone ever had, knew what he meant without needing Light to clarify.  Light couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d been shoulder to shoulder with someone, couldn’t even remember the last time he wanted someone to touch him.

L let him lean into his shoulder, saying nothing. Light felt himself relax bit by bit, until it felt like he was leaning all his weight on L.  Still, L said nothing, just sat with him.  Something about the situation felt right.

“That was the reason I did it,” Light heard himself say. “If I couldn’t be perfect, there wasn’t really a point.  Making the decision was just another imperfection to add to my shame.”

“You lost your reason to live?”

“I don’t know if I ever had one. Couldn’t even die right,” Light muttered.  He jumped as the weight of L’s arm settled over his shoulders.

“For what it’s worth, I’m glad you failed in that. I would be unhappy if I’d never met you.”

Light felt his pulse speed back up for a different reason. He made L happy?  But he was never particularly nice to him.  Light liked L to an extent; the situation at hand was clear proof of that.  But L liked him, liked having him around?

“What if you found a different reason to live?” L’s voice was as soothing as ever, washing over him like the tide.

“I don’t know. I can’t remember the last time I was interested in, well, anything.”

“Do you still want to die?”

“I don’t feel like I’m living, so it doesn’t really matter either way. Death would at least get me out of purgatory.”  Light tried not to think too hard about the fact that he was still leaning into L, grounded by the arm around his shoulders and his voice in his ear.

“What did you used to do as a kid? You mentioned being chess champion, right?”  L’s thumb rubbed along his shoulder.

“I was perfect at chess; no one could challenge me, so I quit. Tennis, too.”

“Well, that cinches it. You’re going to need to live long enough for us both to get out of here.  I want to play tennis with you properly,” L decided.  Light could hear the smile in his voice.  He rolled his eyes.

“A tennis match is not a reason to live, L.”

“And why not? It’s something to look forward to.  I was the English national tennis champion in middle school, you know.”

Light sighed, “And you won’t rest until we’ve tested the mettle of the Japanese and English middle school tennis champions against each other, will you.”

“I won’t,” L agreed.

Light rested his cheek on L’s shoulder, feeling tired, drained, all of a sudden. L moved his hand to settle on his side instead, thumb rubbing soothing circles over his shirt.  He had the sudden urge to write in a way he hadn’t since he was a teenager, before everything he once enjoyed lost its appeal.

“I guess I can make it long enough to beat you at tennis,” Light sighed, shutting his eyes.

“Big words,” L teased, leaning into him so his cheek rested against the top of Light’s head. Light could feel his own smile trying to form, but thought it probably didn’t make it to his face.  He was just so tired.

 


 

They never really talked about it afterward, but L watched him more than usual for a few days before nodding once and letting everything return to normal. Light wrote poetry once he no longer felt like he was under surveillance.  The poem wasn’t long, but it was something.

 


 

“Have you been writing in your journal?” his counselor asked at their next appointment.

Light hesitated. He hadn’t written a journal entry in the journal, but…  He kept his eyes on his hands.  “Kind of?” he kept his voice soft, like maybe he could keep her from hearing what he’d said.

“Oh? What did you write about?”

“Nothing.”

She sighed, “Light, do we really have to play this game today?”

“No, I,” Light huffed. “I was answering you.  I wrote about Nothing.”

She blinked at him, considering and sharp-eyed. After feeling the weight of L’s gaze for two days, he didn’t feel as nervous as usual under her stare.  “You wrote about Nothing.”

Light’s eyes rolled heavenward of their own volition, breathing through the urge to snap at her for repeating instead of bringing forth something new. She was responding with surprise, he reminded himself.  It wasn’t her fault he was growing accustomed to the way L just knew things.

“Did you feel better after?”

“Not really. But I felt like writing, and you said I should.”  Light shrugged.

He didn’t really want to go into how hard the poem was to write, like every word had to be dragged into the light, kicking and screaming. It had been like trying to catch and hold darkness, like pushing a boulder uphill.  It had been exhausting.

Poetry used to be so easy for him, like breathing.

“I’m glad that you’re writing, although you should write for you, not me.  After all, unless you choose to show me, I’ll never see anything you write.”  She smiled, aiming for disarming.  “Now, how have things been with your roommate?  I heard the two of you had something of a disagreement the other day.  Did you work everything out?”

“He struck a nerve, but he apologized.” Light moved his eyes from the ceiling to the desk.  Best to keep it simple.  He didn’t want to talk about it.

“That was mature of him,” she said, approval evident.

Light rolled his eyes, “Children know to apologize when they’ve hurt someone. It’s adults who forget to.”  Light stood to leave.

“Have you been feeling any better, Light?”

“I feel very little as always.”

“I think we should try upping your dosage. What do you think?”

Light shrugged. “I don’t think it matters, but why not.”

 


 

L’s eyes caught on his medication the next morning at breakfast. “Experimenting?”

“The doctor wants to try a higher dose. It wasn’t doing enough, I guess.”

“You remember our promise?” L asked, poking at his oatmeal, nose wrinkling. Light pulled the bowl over, taking a spoonful before pushing it back.

He chewed and swallowed thoughtfully. “It’s kind of like cereal, but softer and warm.  Soft corn flakes.  Pretty bland overall.  If you’re allowed to add something, cinnamon might make it taste a little better.”  Light took a bite of his eggs.  “Ask about trying French toast.  It’s like sweet bread.  I’m sure you’ll like that.  And of course I remember.  Why?”

“Soft cereal?” L grimaced, but took a spoonful to stare at. “I just wanted to make sure you remembered.  If you get more energy, you might start thinking about it more actively.  Why would anyone want soft cereal?”

Light shrugged. “No idea.  I’d never had it before.”

L’s gaze snapped back to his. They held eye contact for a long moment, Light keeping his expression flat and disinterested as L’s eyes raked over his face.  Nodding once, determined, L took the bite, wincing as he did.

He chewed gamely, but struggled to swallow. When he finally got it down, he pushed the bowl away, looking like he was about to gag.

“Horrible.”

“Have you ever had tater tots?” At L’s nod, Light passed him his small plate of hash browns. “These are like the outside of a tater tot.  Want to give them a try instead?”

L cut a sliver off with his fork, eyeing it. “Like the outside?”

“They’re crispy and pretty plain.  My sister likes them with ketchup.”

L took the bite without as much hesitation. He nodded once.  “Better,” he decided.  “But definitely needs ketchup.  May I?” L fingered the edge of the plate.

“Help yourself.”

 


 

“You’ve been encouraging L to eat more, haven’t you?” a man, probably L’s nutritionist or counselor, asked him the next day.

“I guess? I just tell him what the food is like and leave him alone after.”  Light shrugged.  “It’s not a big deal.”

“I thought I should tell you: we’re avoiding sweet things until his situation is more… stable,” the man said. “He has a problem with sugar.  But you’re right about French toast, and you got him curious about it.”

“And?”

The man looked off-balance. He hadn’t been expecting his impatience probably, but L was setting up Jenga today.  Light had never played.

“And, we’ll be using it as a reward, something for him to look forward to if he tries a bit of meat.”

“Then he’ll never get to eat it.”

“What?”

“He nearly threw up when he ate oatmeal, you think he’ll stomach meat?” Light rolled his eyes.  “Egg is a source of protein.  If he tries it on French toast, he might try egg on its own.  Pick your battles.”  Light walked away.  He had a game to win.

 


 

Even though he’d won the first game, the second game marked a loss, one that hit harder than he was expecting. He stood abruptly and left for their room without a word.  He paced the floor, feeling angry and disappointed and hurt.  He deserved the hurt, though, deserved it for losing, for…

L’s hand squeezed his shoulder.

“I’d like to give you a hug. I don’t remember ever giving a hug, but I’d like to try with you.  Is that okay?”

Light looked at him, perplexed. His hair was as wild and feathery as always, but his dark eyes were worried, his brow furrowed.  L wasn’t slouching like he usually was.  They were actually about the same height.  If they hugged, he’d be able to rest his chin on L’s shoulder…

Light felt himself nod.

L wrapped careful arms around his waist, pulling into his space until they were pressed chest to chest. Light dropped his head on L’s shoulder, eyes falling shut.  He matched his breathing to L’s and let the tension ebb away.

One of L’s hands rubbed his back, tentative and gentle, the other stayed anchored around his waist. Light shifted to drape his arms around L’s neck, tucking a little closer.  He sighed.

“Maybe we should find something where we play on the same team.”

Light huffed. “That would mean involving other people.”

L laughed, “True. Don’t want to?”

“Not really. Other people are boring.”

L didn’t say anything else, but Light could tell he understood. L squeezed him a little tighter, but didn’t let go.  Light didn’t want him to just yet.  He felt safe.

 


 

When Light got back from his appointment a few days later, he froze at the sight of an older man he’d never seen before standing in his room. He stood staring in the doorway for what was probably too long.

L peeked around the man and smiled. “Light, hello.  This is my father, Quillish Wammy.”

Light bowed politely, “I’m Yagami Light. It’s a pleasure.”

“My L has told me quite a bit about you. I wanted to thank you for taking such good care of him.  I know he can be quite a handful.” The man smiled, eyes twinkling with mischief.  L may have been adopted, but he could still see the resemblance between them.

“A handful is one word for it,” Light agreed, smirking at L’s petulant huff. “He’s been a good friend to me.  I’m glad he’s my roommate,” he admitted, tone turning more serious.

Wammy seemed pleased. Light thought L might be blushing, but it was hard to tell.

“Now, why don’t you come sit with us? I’ve brought tea and pastries.”

Light nodded and took the remaining seat beside L. L bumped his shoulder with a small smile.  Light felt warm even though he wasn’t under any blankets.  He allowed a return smile, equally small, to settle on his face.

 


 

After having so many good days in a row, it would figure he was due for bad news. The sight of his mother and sister standing outside his room drew him up short.  His heart pounded.  L bumped into his back, making a soft noise at the impact.

“What did you stop for?” he asked, probably frowning. Light couldn’t look away, couldn’t move, could barely breathe.  L gasped, voice dropping to something much quieter.  “Your mom and sister?”

Light nodded, unable to do much more. His face was hot with remembered shame.

Apparently giving up on waiting for him to move closer, Sachiko walked up to him herself. “I’m sorry, dear, I know you said not to, but it was an emergency.  This isn’t the kind of news I wanted someone outside the family to deliver.”

“What?”

“Your father had a heart attack yesterday.” At her words, Light thought his own heart might have stopped.  “He’s in the hospital, and he’s okay, recovering, but…”

“But he had a heart attack,” Light repeated, swaying a little on his feet. L took his arm and gestured for Sachiko to follow him into their room, introducing himself as they walked.

L led Light to his bed, easing him down. His big, dark eyes were as concerned as he’d ever seen them, but Light couldn’t make himself respond.  Light pulled himself against the wall, drawing his knees up.  L had good reason to be concerned.  On the one hand, Light felt numb again.  On the other, he hadn’t felt like this in weeks, not since L moved in.

Sayu hesitated in front of him. “Light, would it be okay if I sat with you?”  She looked like she had been crying for a while, and was likely to continue crying.  Light nodded his assent.  He was still her big brother, even here.

Sayu scrambled up the bed, sitting next to him, shoulder to shoulder. Sitting with his sister wasn’t as comforting or grounding as sitting with L.  Sayu leaned on him, resting her cheek against his shoulder.

“I’ve been so scared,” she said, too quiet for their mother to hear from where she was talking with L. “We almost lost you, and then we almost lost Dad.”  She started to cry.  “I don’t want to lose either of you.”

Light took her hand, giving it a squeeze. “I’m okay.  I’m not well, but I’m managing.  L made me promise not to even consider doing anything like that until after we’ve played tennis, so you won’t have to worry for a while, alright?”

“Will you promise me something, too?”

“Sure.”

“I want you to be there when I graduate high school.”

Light sighed, but squeezed her hand. “I promise I’ll see you graduate.”  It was easier this time, somehow.  Even feeling the worst he’d felt in weeks, making one more promise didn’t feel as insurmountable.  He felt L looking at him, and when he met his gaze, L was smiling.

His mother pulled up a chair, and sat beside the bed, resting her hand over Light’s ankle, tentative as if she wasn’t sure of her welcome. Light gave her a tired smile.  She seemed relieved, but it was enough to tip her into tears as well.

Light’s eyes found L again, sitting on his own bed across from him now, watching the proceedings with that small, sad smile. Light let himself sink back against the wall, feeling grounded again.

L’s eyes remained on his, and he was able to relax. He was still unsettled, unmoored, but he could manage this until they left.  He could hold himself together at least that long.

 


 

As soon as they were gone, L took a single step closer, into his space. “Am I allowed to hug you again?”

“Please,” Light mumbled. L tugged him into his arms obligingly.  Wrapping his arms around his waist, Light settled his forehead on L’s shoulder.

“Can you tell me what you’re reacting to right now?”

“Mom and Sayu being here,” he said, muffled into L’s shoulder. “And my father’s in the hospital.”

“If it helps, your mother and sister were clearly just glad to see you doing so well. As for your father, he’s going to be fine.  He’ll have to take time off work to recover, but he will recover,” L said, voice as low and soothing as it always was.  Light sighed.

“I didn’t want them to see me like this.”

“What, recovering?”

Broken.”

“You’re not,” L said, voice firm, his hold tightening for a moment. “You’re not broken, Light.”

Light sighed. He didn’t really want to fight about this.  L seemed to detect his disagreement anyway, sighing as well.

“I’ll drop it for now, but only because I want to read you my favorite poem from that book you leant me.”

Light felt his face turn hot, but nodded, allowing L to push him toward his bed. Once he was settled in, L joined him, shooting him a silly grin.

Stars Over the Dordogne,” L read.  Light smiled, closing his eyes and resting his cheek on L’s shoulder.  He liked this one, too.

 


 

When L returned the book, Light decided to reread it himself. It had been a long time since he’d read Sylvia Plath, after all.  He missed the imagery and lyricism of her work.  (L picked up one of the Poirot books Light was finished with.  Light didn’t think he’d be challenged by the twist, but the story itself was interesting.)

 


 

Light found himself drawn to “Love Letter” and was deeply embarrassed by what it suggested about him, about his feelings. He decided not to mention it to L.

 


 

By the end of the next week, Light and L fell into a habit of sitting shoulder to shoulder on their room’s small couch to read. They finished the afternoon’s board game and spent the rest of the time before dinner on the couch.  Usually they read silently, but sometimes, they would talk.  About the book they were reading, about a memory they were reminded of, about anything and nothing.

It was while they were sitting like this one day that they received a knock on the door. Glancing at each other, they tried to decide who would answer it without words.  Resigned to the stubborn set of L’s jaw, Light sighed and got up.

When Light opened the door, he regretted it.

His counselor was standing front and center, but his father and mother were just behind. He took a startled step back.

“He asked,” she said, keeping her smile gentle. Light frowned, crossing his arms.

“Why?” he turned toward his father, but kept his eyes averted. He could feel L’s gaze on him from the couch.

“Am I not allowed to want to see my son?” Soichiro asked, frowning and crossing his arms as well. “She said you would allow me to visit.  Was she wrong?”

Light sighed. “No, she wasn’t.  I didn’t…”  He sighed again.  “Please come in.”  He stepped away from the door and returned to the couch, gesturing for them to sit in the available chairs.  His counselor smiled from the doorway and gave him a nod before leaving.

Once his parents were seated, he took his own seat by L.

“Father, this is my roommate and friend, L. L, this is my father, Soichiro, and you’ve met my mother already.”

“I have. It’s a pleasure to see you again, ma’am.  And it’s nice to meet you, sir,” L bowed his head, closing his book and setting it on their small table.  He glanced at Light for permission to stay.  Light leaned into his shoulder.  He didn’t think he could manage this alone.

“L… That name seems familiar for some reason,” Soichiro said, tapping his chin.  L’s shoulders drew up and he hunched over a little more than he had been recently.  Light glanced at him, but left it alone.  He could always ask later.

“Light, you look well,” Sachiko said, eyes warm and expression soft. “Have you been sleeping okay?  Eating well?”

“I’ve been sleeping eight hours a night,” Light said. He decided not to mention that he used to sleep twelve hours a night and take the occasional nap.  Eight hours was an improvement.  Luckily his mother seemed to understand.  She smiled.

“Have you thought at all about when you’re going to return to school?” Soichiro asked. Light flinched.

“I haven’t.”

“The school is willing to wait, of course, but I,” Sachiko smacked his arm, frowning. Soichiro looked confused, but stopped speaking.

“If you’d rather not return to school right away or at all, we understand, Light. Please don’t worry about it.  Whatever you decide, we’ll support you.”

Light eyed them both, crossing his legs. “I don’t think I want to join the police.”

Soichiro straightened up, opening his mouth to say something, but Sachiko beat him to it. “Have you thought of something you’d rather do, then?”

“I don’t know yet, but right now, I think I’d rather work with books,” he said.

“Would you want to write? I remember the poetry you used to write was so beautiful,” his mother sighed.  “I was always so proud of what you could create.”

Light felt his cheeks heat. He’d showed her, of course, and his father, but for whatever reason, his father’s response was what he remembered best.  The brush off had… hurt, more than he could stand.  Had his mother really been proud?

“Wasn’t there one… It was about a bridge,” Sachiko remembered, her smile fond.  “The wording of it was so lovely.”

“You… You remember that?”

“I remember reading all the poems you showed me, although some of the topics escape me now. That one was one of my favorites.”

Soichiro looks uncertain when Light chanced a glance at him, but he could feel L’s smile from beside him. Somehow, Soichiro’s disapproval was less frightening with his mother’s smile and L’s support.  He could tell his mother was noticing how close he and L were sitting, but her smile never wavered.  Her smile felt like approval.

 


 

When they left, his mother kissed his forehead, cupping his cheeks. “You take care, okay?  I’d like to visit you again soon, but I’ll request properly next time.  I’m sorry we surprised you like this today.”

Light shook his head. “It turned out fine, so it’s alright.”  He glanced at his father.  “Don’t forget to rest, Father.  You’re recovering, so you need to be careful with yourself.  You can’t charge back into work right away.”

Soichiro smiled. “I suppose the tables have turned.  My son is giving me the advice that I was going to give him.”  He laughed quietly and turned to face L.  “Thank you for looking after my son.”

“If anything, your son is looking after me. He’s been a very good friend to me.  I’m lucky to be his roommate.” L said, fidgeting a little, scratching one foot with the other.

“I’ll walk you to the front,” Light said, leading the way.

While his father went through the checkout procedure, his mother sidled up to him. “I’m so glad you’ve made such a good friend, Light.  I hope you’ll remain close when you both leave here.”

Light nodded, hiding his surprise behind a vague smile. He hadn’t really thought about it, but eventually he and L were going to leave, weren’t they.  The thought of no longer sharing space with L felt… wrong.  Horrible, really.  What was he going to do?

 


 

When L asked him to play Scrabble with him again, Light called off, claiming he wasn’t feeling well. L gave him a dubious look, but allowed it.  Instead, they read in silence—Light avoided the couch.

Light was a little disappointed. Scrabble was one of the more fun board games, especially with L’s propensity for picking words that looked fake.  If Light didn’t check each word he suspected, L could occasionally slip ridiculous fakes through his defenses.

Light wanted to play for a change, but he needed to figure out what he was doing.  He couldn’t rely on L forever, that much was clear.

 


 

It was hard, untangling his life from L, but it was something he needed to do. He needed to find the things that made him Yagami Light, not Light-and-L.  But the longer he took, the more Light could feel himself freezing over again, slowly but surely.  The thought of separating from L was scarier than it had any right to be.  L made things interesting and kept him from feeling numb.  L was…

Staring at him. Had he been spacing out again?

“I’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t stare at me while giving me the cold shoulder. I’m getting mixed signals.”

Cold shoulder? Had he been that obvious?

“Yes, cold shoulder,” L huffed, sounding petulant. Light winced; he hadn’t meant to respond out loud.  “You haven’t spoken to me properly since your parents visited.  Everything was fine until they left, and now you’re back to how you were when I met you.”  L crossed his arms, lips pressed into a thin line.  “I miss the real you.  The ice prince thing really hurts, Light.  I thought we were friends.”

“Of course we’re friends,” Light said. He sounded frantic to his own ears.  “It’s—I—”

“Don’t force yourself on my account. Thank you for at least speaking to me at mealtimes, but really, you don’t need to push yourself to do what you don’t want to anymore.  It’s fine.”

Light stood up, fists clenched at his sides. “I’m afraid to live without you!”  Light could feel the heat in his cheeks, but he ignored it.  L was so, so infuriating, jumping to the wrong conclusion and not letting him explain.

“I… Sorry, could you repeat that?” L’s arms dropped back to his lap.  His eyes were...  It was hard to tell.

“I’m afraid of living without you,” Light repeated, enunciating. “My mom mentioned that we’d have to, to keep in touch when we leave, like we wouldn’t still be near each other and I—”

Light paced the room, anxious. He wasn’t supposed to bear his soul like this.  He was supposed to be cool and collected Yagami Light, but now he couldn’t manage either of those descriptors.

L’s arms closed around his waist, his chest coming up against his back. Light froze, body turning tense.  L rested his chin on Light’s shoulder, settling.

“If I’d known that was the problem, I could have eased that fear when it arose, Light,” L said, voice soft and relaxing. “I wasn’t sure how you felt about it, so I was planning on waiting, but I don’t really want to leave without you either.  I was thinking, if you wanted, we could travel together.  See the world, the two of us.”

“You, really?” Light pulled out of his arms so he could face him.

L took his hands and nodded. “I’ve been thinking about it, and the only person who doesn’t make my food thing worse is you.  I’d ask you to move in with me, full stop, but you haven’t seen most of my bad habits yet.  After all, I haven’t been allowed to work or research at all while I’ve been here.”

“Married to the job?”

“Something like that,” L hedged. “Either way, I really don’t want us to just go our separate ways.  You’re my first friend, after all.”

Light’s cheeks felt hot all over again. “I—Me, too, I think.”

“Then it’s settled. Either you join me traveling, or I’ll just have to stay in Japan for longer than I anticipated,” L said, smiling wider than he had in days.

“I’d like to stay for a few weeks before any traveling. My sister would never forgive me if I didn’t.  And you still owe me a tennis match,” Light said, squeezing L’s hands.

“Yes, although, I suppose we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Neither of us has been cleared for release, after all.”  L sighed.

Light blinked at him in surprise. “I’m here until I’m no longer seen as a suicide risk.  Right now, I have too much to live for, don’t you think?  I’ve never left Japan, you see, so killing myself before I’ve even left the country seems a little premature.”

“Your counselor will buy that?”

“Of course she will. It’s the truth.  And if she doesn’t, I’ll let her read the poetry I’ve been writing.  I’m sure she’ll agree that I’m no longer as much at risk.  She saw how I was when I got here, so she’ll see the difference.”

“I can certainly see a difference. I’d say your new dosage is doing wonders, but you were improving before then, too.  I think it’s just you.”

“It’s a combination of factors,” Light allowed.

Better medication: very helpful. More awareness of his own depression and sense of self: also helpful.  Finally having someone on the same level: irreplaceable.  L was the reason he wasn’t drowning in a mire of boredom, the reason he found the energy to move forward.

L was his catalyst.

“Then I suppose all that’s left is getting me cleared,” L said. “To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what they’re aiming for anymore.  I eat a nonzero number of foods without what other people consider too much sugar.  I eat what my father likes to call ‘real food.’  I can stomach eggs even!”  L swung their hands as he thought.  “Maybe I can make a case for my early release.”

“Or at least convince them to release you to my custody,” Light teased.

L’s look of surprise was enough to send Light into hysterics. He laughed long and hard, his stomach aching with it.  When tears started to leak from his eyes, he realized he couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed.

L’s giggling only set him laughing harder. He felt… free in a way he wasn’t sure he’d ever felt.  Perhaps as a child, but not since then.  Maybe L’s childish nature was a better influence than he realized.  His mother surely thought so.

L’s eyes and smile were bright with joy. So much so that Light was struck by the desire to kiss him, as if he could soak up L’s warmth and happiness, wrap himself in it like a blanket to keep the darkness at bay.

Of course, in their present circumstances, that would be inappropriate, so Light refrained. There would be other chances, he was sure.  Other chances when they were both more sure of their footing, when Light was sure his recovery wasn’t entirely contingent on the presence of L, and when they both knew where they stood, both in the world and with each other.

There was plenty of time, and for once, Light’s future felt bright.