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shame is pride's cloak

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Light has a black Amex card, a grey Lexus, a stock share in Givenchy, and his own room in every hotel suite L rents out, where the cameras are slim and unobtrusive, technological advances and well spent millions allowing for the appearance of complete privacy, even if it is, like the passport for Light Asashi that he keeps in his briefcase pocket with the rest of the ID cards and special clearance papers that L has provided him with, false.

He wears the trench coat, he wears the hat, he brings the briefcase with all of the orders and subtle jabs inside it, pulls L out in his thin silver body, cracks him open, and sets him on the table. He talks in that modulated voice and the teams of grey suits that he talks at frown and scribble notes. Light’s come to notice that no matter where they go in the world, the overall culture of police is more or less the same: they’re eager to prove themselves, easily insulted, and uninterested in L’s expertise until the point comes when they absolutely cannot do without it.

“Ladies, gentlemen, and others,” the laptop says to the crowded room in Stockholm, with the floor-to-ceiling windows that bring in winter’s short bursts of day to glare across the screen that the letter L is projected on, “I don’t expect any one of you to abandon all that you have been taught to do since you started your training, and all that has served you well in the past. There is no reason that you should trust me implicitly, just because I’m famous, or because of my consistent success rate. There is always room for human error, and even though I don’t look it right now, I am human.” That draws out a few thin and polite laughs. “But I can tell you with 100% certainty that I will find this killer and I will bring them to justice, and that if each and every one of you does your part, and does it exactly as I say, I will not lead you wrongly. It is up to your own discretion whether or not you believe that, and from here on out I will drop the melodrama and let my record speak for itself. Now, Watari, please set up the slides.”

Light sets up the slides. Light takes the officer’s questions. Light cleans up the board room after the meeting is done, and Light packs L away in his briefcase. He drives the Lexus back to the suite in the Grand Hotel Stockholm, taking unintuitive turns and circular routes to make sure that he is not followed, and lets the valet park it for him after unloading his equipment. He takes the gilded elevator to the top floor, punches in the code for the suite, unbuckles his shoes out of habit—$1,400 double monk-strap John Lobb’s, having appeared in a box on Light’s side table five weeks ago after he and L had gotten into a vicious and unnecessary fist-fight over breakfast the day before—dumps the briefcase without ceremony on the rigid baroque sofa, and goes into the suite kitchen to put on the kettle.

“No, I said that it’s not a lust killing, it’s made to look like one. Our strangler obviously went to great trouble to present the crime scenes in the vein of the sadomasochistic, but they’re too clean, it’s too staged, and since they’re all turning out to be more or less connected, I’m 84% positive that the killer knows each of these men, wanted them gone, and staged it this way in order to disguise their true motive. No, it could very well be a woman. They drugged the victims first, so they wouldn’t have need to overpower them, and have you seen these Swedish girls? I’m sure some of them could easily overpower me.”

L harangues his correspondent for a few more minutes while Light pours him a cup of tea, and sets out a tray of small and delicate Marzariners, special ordered and delivered from a bakery in town. L’s rolling his eyes at whatever’s being said to him as he walks over and takes one straight from Light’s hand and pops it in his mouth, mumbling his next reply over a backdrop of crunches, and Light can see his frustration in that moment, can see exactly what he wants and what he’s going to do to get it.

When he reaches for another pastry, Light grabs him by the wrist.

L lifts the places where his eyebrows would be if he didn’t shave them off, and continues on with his conversation, voice growing duller with agitation, his words more belittling. “Yes, your competence is astounding me, really, excellent work. And next time please do feel free to let your operatives leave DNA all over my crime scene again. The thrill of trying to differentiate it from that of the killer and the victim is making this case twice as challenging.”

He hangs up without a goodbye and shakes Light off. “Is that Earl Grey? What I need is coffee. This is not going to be one of those sleeping nights.”

“I didn’t even think we had those on the books.”

L moves past him dismissively, into the room where the case files lie open across the floor and photos of the mutilated bodies of the fourteen men who have been killed in Stockholm in the last three months are taped up on the walls like decorations. He drops crumbs on the floor after himself and Light sighs loud enough that L can hear it and sweeps them up.

Clean up after him, do his laundry, bleach his whites pure as heaven, provide his meals, organize his cases, act as his intermediary: the list of Watari’s tasks had been over the course of Light’s time with him during the Kira investigation severely underrepresented, but to complain of the workload would present in him a weakness he doesn’t have. It’s not that he can’t do the work, that the twenty four hour shifts he works every day of every week are something he’s physically and mentally incapable of, it’s more that he’s capable of so much more. This is beneath him. L is beneath him. He’d acted as a God and now he’s a chauffeur.

But he’s not dead. His hip bones stick out too far and he’s a better pastry chef than he’d ever had any ambition to be, but he’s not dead, and his being still in existence means his kingdom still is, too, if not in this moment, then in the glowing gold depths of the future. There’s a throne all made of sun and paper and it waits for him to sit in it.

For now, he drives the car, he vacuums, he facilitates, he thinks in L’s stead when L has become sick with the whirring of the computers and blank and without any ideas, when he stares at the crime scene photos and then stares at Light and says, “Well, none of this matters, anyway. We should both know by now that justice is a snake eating its own tail.”

And Light, as is his duty as handler and glorified caretaker, will say, “Oh, shut-up.”

L loves to wallow: in silence, in ego, in nothingness. When Ryuk had told him that nobody goes anywhere when they die, he’d been overcome with pure pleasure, and then his fear had come later, had grown by degrees, and now he wears it, wears Light, like a cloak and shield and dagger. He wouldn’t let Light die even though he’d said that by all rights he’d deserved to, and so now Light’s not allowed to let him die either.

Fair’s fair.

L’s fair to him. He does servant level labor for L, is at his disposal in whatever way at all times, but he is paid handsomely, he is granted all material wants, and he is allowed his one perverse luxury.

L doesn’t look at him when he follows him into the room, just says, “I hope you’ll put a pot of coffee on before you say anything, praise or admonishment. Also, I hope you’ll save it for a day when I actually have time to give a shit.”

Light’s expression is tight, and he sets a pillow to rights on the armchair, adjusts the line of the silk throw tossed over the back of it so that it falls straight. L is, however intentionally or not, goading him into action.

“Oh, and I need you to make copies of the,”—L’s words stop with a snap of his teeth when Light grabs him by the hair and yanks him bodily over the back of the chair, so that it tips and sends the pillows all askew again, and L grunts his displeasure in a way that makes Light get hard so quickly that it’s almost uncomfortable, too much blood all at once, too much sensation after so many numbers, errands, and bleak interactions.

“You need me to what?” he asks, polite as ever.

L’s not fighting it, is no doubt gratified by the relief of pain, but he murmurs without particular intent, “Not now, Light. I have too much work to do.”

“That’s not the deal. You know that’s not the deal.”

“And I suppose you’re fine with this murderer enjoying extended freedom, walking around, drinking lattes, checking their twitter feed, enjoying their life and planning their next vicious strangling and gratuitous corpse mutilation, as long as you get to get off?”

His protests are pretensions. They have a deal.

“You’re never going to catch the guy if you’re this tetchy, tense, and unable to refrain from being a shithead to all the people working for you.” Light slides his fingers along the back of L’s skull, over the jutting edge of his jaw and up to his lips, chapped and pressed tight, to tickle the flesh there.

“Nonsense. I’m always tetchy and tense and a shithead, and that’s how I got my 100% success rate.”

Light grabs his chin, turns him bodily around so that they’re facing each other over the chair back, the plush Rococo splendor probably cushioning the hard-on that L most definitely has by now, being jerked around and told what to do the way he so likes.

“Quit it with the percentages, will you? That’s all I could hear during your meeting, and I know they were all yanked straight out of your ass from the great store of them that you keep there.”

“I do have a 100% success rate. I’ve never let a single crime I’ve tackled go unsolved.”

“Right,” Light says, smirks, watches L breathe too shortly and controlled, “just unpunished.”

“You don’t feel like you’re being punished? I’ve taken your world and your ambition from you. Just because I gave you a few cars and bank-breaking wardrobe doesn’t really make it better, don’t pretend it does. Don’t pretend you have some power left.”

Light shoves him off the chair and L knocks into the coffee table with a sharp grunt. He walks around to stand over him. L’s cock is pressing up against the crotch-seam of his jeans, obvious and vulgar. Light unbuttons the fly of his slacks and flicks down the zipper. “Sit up,” he says. L obeys, and he’ll say it’s because of the deal, but Light knows the deal wasn’t imperative, he could have had him executed, or locked in a five by five cell. He only made the deal because he wants to obey, because he needs somebody around to knock him off his pedestal, and fuck him out of his delusions of omnipotence.

L adjusts himself onto his knees and when Light pulls out his cock and presses it to his lips, smearing pre-come around his mouth, he opens slowly, making full and pointed eye contact, defiant, not ashamed, not yet, but Light will make him ashamed. Will bend him and hurt him and please him and fuck him in whatever way he needs to break that sleek grey power structure that he builds for himself and lives within.

L is angry and he sucks with defiance, pulls Light all the way back in his throat and then pushes him out, sliding off, sliding to the tip and letting it push back in. Light groans and doesn’t let him control the pressure for more than a minute, grabbing him by his scalp and fucking his face in slow, even thrusts, L’s little breaths through his nose getting labored, frantic, hungrier and hungrier, and Light is here, has been kept alive even, to feed him what he needs.

Something whimpery and no doubt endlessly humiliating sounds from L’s mouth, vibrating around Light’s cock, and Light grins because he knows that that humiliation is what L needs from him. “You probably want me to come in your mouth, huh? It’ll make you feel superior to think you’ve gotten me off so quickly. You’ll be able to maintain your dignity, even if you swallow and get harder in your jeans the more you swallow.”

He jerks L back by the head, follows so that his cock smacks him wetly on the cheek and drips there. “Even if I came on your face and you came in your pants, you’d be able to hold onto scraps of self-worth. But I know that’s not what you want. You let me live not to humble me, but so that I could humble you.”

L’s breathing heavily, glassy-eyed, turned on, but still starchy and stiff, unable to relent unless he’s made to relent. “Mostly right now you’re just boring me.”

Light smiles because he’s always been able to tell the lies, and he’s only gotten better at it the longer they’re exposed to one another, locked forever in close codependent quarters. He reaches down and lifts L’s shirt over his head, and L holds up his arms like some king being undressed by a servant.

“You’re obsessed with me, of course,” Light says. “You couldn’t kill me no matter how much you think I deserve it—which is just as much as I think you deserve it—because I’m the only clear picture you’ve ever had of yourself. You’re afraid, but not of your affection. You don’t want to become me.”

“As if I could ever pull off those bangs.”

“Shut-up. It’s my turn to monologue. You’ve said enough all day. Every interaction you have with any person on this mediocre planet is a power trip for you. Now it’s time for my power trip.”

L locks his expression as much as he can, voice moderate and plain. “Whatever you want, honey.”

Light doesn’t lash out, doesn’t move quickly, but slowly takes one of his 40 sock clad feet and rubs it teasingly, degradingly, over the bulge in L’s jeans, making him inhale sharply and rock up into the pressure. “I know it’s whatever I want. Now, I want you to take off your pants.”

L does, when Light steps back, crossing his arms to watch. His fingers are slow and shaky and he slides them down over his hips, thighs, knees, white cotton underwear wet at the front where his dick is pressed, hard and constrained. Light smiles, leans down, and snaps the waistband, so that L sighs, shivery, and his desperation is so obvious, trapped behind a thin layer of pretension, of fearful id-protecting overcompensation. Light doesn’t even really understand why he’s ashamed. This kind of shit is common. Lots of rich, high-ranking, power-mongering people go to dominatrixes. Lots of people like to be fucked and degraded until their suffocating identity dissipates and they can breathe easy, give in, let it happen.

But it’s always so hard for L to let himself let it happen, so Light says that thing that he knows will smudge the veneer: “You’re going to be able to think so much clearer after I fuck you into the floor. You’ll probably solve the case within the day.” Then he cups L’s cock through his underwear, and L, he acquiesces, he lets it happen, he thrusts up and into Light’s palm and groans lowly, horny, allowing himself to drop away.

“Kira,” he murmurs.

Light’s perception of the room dims and shivers. Nothing gets him harder than that word. “Yeah,” he says, “I’m still here.” He reaches up, pinches one of L’s nipples, tugging the skin until he groans again, thrusts his dick into Light’s palm.

“Fuck.”

“Shut-up. Say my name, say my real name, or don’t say anything at all.” He slaps L lightly on the face, not hard enough to hurt, mostly just to abase him with the fact of it, that Light can slap him around, treat him like an object, a misbehaving pet, and L has no desire to fight it, no pride to cringe at it, only his writhing hips, hard cock, open body.

Fuck,” he mewls again, probably just so Light will get angrier.

Light’s not angry. The hate that had permeated every tryst and uncomfortable morning-after during the Kira investigation—when they were still chained to one another and L still used dominance as a scare tactic and submission as a manipulation—has faded out, diffused through the things he owns, his Forzieri watch, his hand-stitched Italian leather, the briefcase, the kitchenwares, the peace, the companionship.

He and L aren’t sworn enemies anymore, but they’re sworn-something. They aren’t in a relationship, they’re in several: legal, monetary, sexual, personal.

“Turn over,” he says, and L does what he says, but it’s just one facet of the relationship. His legs are shaky and his cock is heavy and Light pulls his underwear down his thighs, letting it fall at his knees, hooking his legs vaguely together like disinterested bondage, and he grabs a fistful of skin and L’s flesh presses back into his hand, then ruts down into the hardwood underneath him.

Light straddles the backs of his calves and spanks him once, not hard, hitting the fleshiest parts, and it spreads through him and sends him jerking, gasping a little, hungrier still, and Light presses his crotch into L’s legs and tries not to feel too much, not all at once. His own arousal is distracting, weakening, and he is weak in all ways in his arrangement with L, but for this, the last hurrah, the sliver of power that keeps him from going completely mad, the clause in the contract which L probably threw in for the maintenance of their respective sanities, if they have those, left or in the first place.

He slips his hand between L’s asscheeks, which makes his breathing fast, more labored, makes him curse more.

Light says, “I thought I told you the only word you were allowed to say.”

And L glances back over his shoulder, face reddening with exertion, pupils fogged up like glass, and mumbles, “Kira-sama,” just because he knows it’ll get Light harder than anything else.

He leans down and spreads L’s cheeks, breathing against the rim of his asshole, and licks, licks because the last time he’d done this L had gone liquid, lost all human vowels, lost anything that might identify itself by a giant monogram to pleasure and shame in that pleasure, and came too fast on the bedspread beneath him. He’s going to come too fast again, Light can feel it, could hold back but can’t quite convince himself to want to, just slides his tongue in, against, along, digging his fingers into L’s thighs.

Jesus Christ,” L gasps, and Light spanks him harder than before, pulling up to snap, “Wrong god.”

It’s hard to think about doing this anytime that he’s not doing it. It’s hard to rationalize crouching on the floor, face between L’s thighs, watching him gasp open-mouthed, open-eyed, drooling and horny with the crisp corners, black type-face, tea and coffee and more tea in tiny china cups with silver filigree at their edges, thin lips giving orders. Those lips are biting themselves now. L is writhing and Light is breathing soft and teasing into him, making it worse, making it better by making it so much worse.

He sucks, he spits, he makes it wet. It’s not hard to make it wet enough to get his fingers in, but L grunts, it’s uncomfortable, and not in the nice crick-in-the-neck, rug-burn-on-the-knees way. It’s the sort of consuming scary pain, stuttering in with the perception of helplessness, openness. L’s not really helpless. He doesn’t have a safe word but he’s got a nose breaker of a roundhouse kick and he knows that Light knows that if he ever did anything truly damaging, truly cruel, L could have him back in line for that electric chair within 48 hours. The simulation of helplessness comes from the fact that L had taken him out of it in the first place, let him live, let him have his way in this small way. Nobody forced his hand. He’s face forward on the floor with Light licking and fingering his ass because that’s where he wants to be.

Light pushes his finger in just a little more and L tenses, relaxes, tenses, relaxes. He’s still strung in between, flushed and still, when Light draws back, stands up, limps around the room in loose trousers trying to remember which drawer he’d left the lube in. When he finds it he doesn’t wait, just walks though his bedroom doorway and calls back, “Follow me.”

It’s his reward for the broom and dust pan, for the iron and all the white shirts, for the four hours spent arguing undeclared Mexican chocolate past UK customs, that L follows, rolling his foggy eyes. His cock juts hard in front of him and he stands before Light trying to appear unashamed but not wholly selling it.

“Still don’t have time for this?” Light asks him, voice blank enough to be taken seriously. “Want to go back to your very important murderer?”

“You just want me to tell you that you’re my very important murderer.” L gets halfway to a smirk before Light takes two steps forward and grabs him by the chin, thumb smudging his expression, pushing his mouth open. He feels L’s tongue pressing up against his finger pad, cheeks hollowing to suck. He slaps him lightly with his other hand, flat open palm, more of a pat than anything.

“Get on the bed,” Light breathes.

L does.

L does whatever Light tells him to when it’s like this, as if they’ve stepped into an inverted reality, swapped the crown between them. It will revert when it’s over, once everybody’s good and satisfied and can step out of the scene, but for now when Light tells L to get on his hands and knees, he does, and when he tells him to spread his legs, he does, and when he fingers him open, L knows without being told to say, “Please.”

The feeling is always frightening. There’s that infantile fear of coming too quickly, of not being whatever sexual mastermind this sort of domination dictates he play the role of, and when he slides in he steels himself, grits his teeth, is glad L can’t see him because L has watched him fail enough times by now. They have a deal though, and the deal means L has to watch the bedspread and feel the tip of the his dripping dick rub against it and know that he can’t touch it because Light is pinning his hands above his head. He grunts each time Light thrusts in, and grunts louder as he goes faster, so Light speeds up and slows down by turns to hear the change in rhythm, and eventually just covers L’s mouth with his hand to hear him struggle to breathe.

Light pulls back to rest on his heels, leaving only the tip inside L, and reaches around to jerk him off, feeling him wet, hearing him gasp. “I could come in you and then get up and leave,” Light says.

If L were up for it he’d probably say, “That’s fine, I’ve got two good hands,” but instead he just gasps harder, thrusting into Light’s hand and back onto his cock, and that’s really all he needs to do, this isn’t a conversation, and it’s no longer even a performance, it’s just what bodies do when they’re up close and in each other, it’s oxytocin, serotonin, phenethylamine, it’s overcoming, it’s hard to hold himself up, so he slides forward, pushes L flat, and fucks the flesh in front of him.

He comes with a hand wrapped in L’s hair, jaw locked, soundless and emptying and emptied.

L grunts, this time with discontent, and after a moment Light puts in all necessary effort to push himself up, pull out, and roll L over so that they’re facing each other. L’s flushed and gauzy-eyed and not managing an expression. Light slides down his body and sucks him off in long, determined strokes, playing with his balls, and L thrashes a little, clenches his jaw, and after a minute or two, just as Light pulls back, comes all over his own stomach with a short groan.

They breathe heavily at each other without meeting eyes, and within minutes the sweat has cooled and room gone silent. Early night has come on and turned the whole suite grey, elongating all the shadows into one another. Light wants to stay still and quiet and rest his forehead against L’s shoulder, but that’s not part of the deal, so he sits up and straightens his sleeves.

“Will you run me a bath and get me the number for the superintendent detective for Stockholm?” L asks, when Light’s halfway through buttoning his shirt. “I’ve just remembered a promising lead that I never put anyone on.”

Light snorts. “You’re welcome.”

“I haven’t solved the case yet, don’t get too self congratulatory.” L’s curved awkwardly across the bed, still completely naked, chewing on a hang nail.

“I wouldn’t dream of being anything but perfectly humble.”

“Of course. You were so humble just a moment ago I think you pulled my shoulder muscle.” He flexes, trying to stretch without really sitting up, and Light rolls his eyes and buttons his fly. He’s filthy, needs a shower and a damn day off, but he doesn’t get those, he gets this.

For now, he’ll take it.

When he’s in the doorway, L calls out, “Oh, and don’t forget that pot of coffee that you never brewed,” and Light doesn’t blink, doesn’t protest, just adds it to his mental tally of slights that L will repay him for tomorrow night, and goes to the kitchen to get out the grinder.