written by A. E. Stover
this version is not edited
He was unwrapping a piece of candy when the door to the school rooftop opened.
“There you are,” came a voice. “I’ve been looking for you.”
It had been a long time since they last spoke, but L knew who it was. He couldn’t say he was surprised to see him. He was aware that it was only a matter of time before he could be able to again.
In greeting, L picked up a bag of candy he’d purchased earlier that morning and held it out, displaying a level of generosity that even he had not thought he was capable of. As expected, the offer was politely refused and L allowed himself to take comfort in his accuracy while his old friend of ten years stood patiently before him as if waiting for permission to join him.
L dropped his bag of candy into his lap, where it rightfully belonged, and popped a round, green piece of candy into his mouth. “It is rare to see Yagami-kun unoccupied.” He popped the candy into his mouth and added, bitterly; “And even more so for him to come up to the roof.”
Raito’s response came after some hesitation. “What are you talking about? We used to do this all the time.”
“Is that so…?” L murmured quietly, holding the green wrapper in front of him to dye the world with emerald. “It must have been such a long time ago, then. I can’t recall.”
“…Are you sulking?”
L crumpled the wrapper in his hand. “Don’t be ridiculous, Yagami-kun. There is nothing for me to sulk over.” He looked down at his bag of candy. “Except, perhaps, that the quality of this candy does not match up to its price.”
Noiselessly, Raito seated himself beside the dark-haired teen. “You aren’t wearing your uniform,” he noted after a moment, taking in the pair of ragged jeans and the old white shirt that L was currently wearing.
“That’s quite the observation you’ve made, Yagami-kun,” L responded, dipping his hand into the bag for another piece of candy. This one was red, and he brought it before his face for closer inspection. There were actually two shades of red candy in this bag, and one was cherry while the other was strawberry. If you looked at it closely, you could distinguish one red from the other. “Though,” L began again after he deduced that the one between his index finger and thumb was strawberry, “if you paid more attention you would have noticed that I haven’t been wearing our school’s uniform for the past three weeks.”
Here, Raito frowned.
L took the wrapper off his candy and popped it into his mouth. Artificial strawberry flavors exploded on his tongue, and he sucked on it thoughtfully.
“Though, to be fair,” L continued after another moment of silence had passed, “I wasn’t aware you had been granted an internship at the NPA until just last week.”
Raito raised an eyebrow. “That was five months ago.”
L held the red wrapper to the sky and closed one eye. “Yes, it was,” he said, looking at red clouds and skies rolling overhead. “It’s quite something, don’t you think, Raito-kun? That you and I have become complete strangers in the past three years despite having spend the entirety of our childhood together…” L let go of the wrapper just as a wind blew their way. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing east instead of west, so the wrapper came to cling to his nose. L picked it off his face carefully with his thumb and forefinger and frowned. “Human relationships are such a very fragile thing.”
“We’re not complete strangers, Ryuuzaki. And don’t exaggerate — It’s only been a year.”
“Perhaps,” L answered, rooting through his bag of candy again “But I’m inclined to encompass the entirety of our high school years into the matter at hand, as the primary root of our broken relationship lies within our first week here.”
Raito didn’t comment.
L was studying a pink piece of candy he held in between his fingers in that peculiar manner of his. “What flavor do you suppose this is?” he murmured aloud. “What do think, Raito-kun?”
“I don’t know,” came the answer. “Taste it and find out.”
L frowned, making his disappointment in his old friend evident on his face. “You haven’t changed at all,” he admonished, turning the piece of candy around between his fingers. “All work and no play.” L unwrapped it carefully and held the pink gem of sugar in the light. “You have to learn how to enjoy life, Raito-kun. Surely that is something you must have learned from Amane-san—”
“We broke up.”
L slowly lowered his piece of candy. “Is that why you’re here with me today?”
Raito didn’t respond.
L laid the bag of candy on his lap, feeling the familiar weight sink into him. “She was a model, wasn’t she? I wasn’t aware Yagami-kun was attracted to that type, let alone of the opposite sex at all.”
“I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor during our time apart,” was Raito’s dry return.
“Then again,” L continued his monologue as if uninterrupted, “after such a long time apart I don’t think I can say that I know you at all. I’d like to point out that your charming little sister agrees with me on that. She’s lamented on the fact that she rarely gets to see you at all.”
A moment of silence, in which Raito appeared mildly distressed, briefly paused their exchange. “I’ve been busy,” he could only manage to say. “It’s… difficult to explain.”
Knowing Yagami Soichiro’s unnaturally high expectations for his son, L suggested; “You have to maintain your ranking. Your father had been quite demanding of your academic performance as of late, I hear.”
There was a pause that came before Raito’s affirmative “Yes” that caused L to glance briefly at his friend’s face. Seeing Raito’s face after a lengthy period apart, L noticed firstly how much his friend had matured. Gone was the childlike expression of wonder Raito had held in his eyes in his youth, having been replaced with a stern, sharp gaze that seemed to see straight into his heart. It was in that gaze that L seemed to understand that there had been something that Raito had stumbled upon in the past year that had changed him from the very core of his soul.
Something that he was trying to hide.
L popped the candy into his mouth and crunched it, feeling small slivers of sugar stick to his teeth. “It’s getting harder to do that these days,” he remarked purposefully, awaiting Raito’s answer.
It came faster than expected; “It was never easy in the first place. There are more and more people working just as hard as I do to get to the top. The pressure from all the academic competition is harder to deal with now than—”
“Don’t lie, Yagami-kun. It’s very unbecoming of you.” L turned to Raito, looking at him directly for the first time in about a year. “You and I both know you only thought of it as a game. You had no interest in what your father wanted, and even less in the achievement itself.” L turned back to his bag of candy and stuck his hand inside experimentally. “You only sought after it for your own amusement in watching the rest of your peers struggle with how to react to your unusual and rapid success.”
Raito observed his peculiar friend quietly, then broke into a chuckle. “You seem to know me better than you say you do, Ryuuzaki.” He spoke in a placating tone that seemed empty.
“I did say that you haven’t changed at all, haven’t I?” L murmured softly, half to himself and half to Raito. He withdrew his hand and found himself holding onto a green piece of candy. Artificial apple flavoring. Yum. He gripped it between his thumb and forefinger, tightly, staring down at the candy as he asked; “What are you thinking of doing next?”
“To be honest, I’m not sure.”
L took his time in unwrapping the piece of candy in his fingers. The green wrapping crinkled as it was pulled, peeled, and twisted away, revealing a tiny, round emerald gem inside. He hesitated before asking, carefully; “Would you consider working with me?”
Raito didn’t answer immediately, though it was clear from the raise of his eyebrow what it would be. “I wouldn’t mind it at all,” he began, “but I don’t think my interest in it would last very long. It’s a rather monotonous job, isn’t it? No offense to you, of course.”
“Yes, well… We all have our passions. But it’s quite an awful predicament you’re in.”
Raito seemed surprised. “Why would you say that?” he asked curiously.
L gave a thoughtful hum. “Your lack of interest. It’s an awful deterrent to progression.”
“Ah,” said Raito in understanding.
“Especially given your manipulative nature,” L added sardonically, with a hint of a tease in his words. “It certainly can’t be good if you lose interest in your own game, don’t you think?”
Surprisingly, there was another moment of hesitation — this time, one that seemed to change the mood between them. It was something L had not anticipated for, and found the realization both disturbing and unwanted. He was growing conscious of what his limits were with this new Raito, and though it would be a while until he discovered precisely what they were a limit of, as of now they didn’t come with reassuring correlations.
“What do you mean?” Raito finally asked in that placating tone of his with an empty smile.
L responded by producing a plastic wire-tie to tie up his bag of candy. He stood up just as the bell chimed to signal the end of the break. “I’m afraid that must be reserved for another time,” he announced. “I have to return to my class before the headmaster sends another faculty member out in search for me.”
He didn’t wait to hear Raito’s response; L walked straight to the door and opened it. Before he submerged himself into the dark stairway, he poked his head around the doorway. “Please don’t take my abrupt leave as an offensive gesture. I’ve exceeded the number of classes I’m allowed to be excused from with my last case. If I don’t attend on time, I’m at risk of being held behind.”
L didn’t bother to offer his friend a hand in getting up nor did he offer to accompany Raito back to the main hall. L simply walked into the stairwell and closed the door behind him, shutting himself in a narrow path of darkness. He closed his eyes for a moment and stood perfectly still on the stairs, and when another moment had passed he allowed himself to open his eyes.
Having adjusted to the darkness, L began to descend the stairs without trouble back to the main hall.