Death Note Fan Fiction ❯ Chapter Four ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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Champagne Petals
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Not mine.

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– Four –
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Light is making the best of these last days before the new semester starts, carefully marking down preplanned names as she walks in the early morning light, then swallowing the evidence before she meets Ryuuga for a breakfast that slides into brunch that slides into junk food in the nearest park.

In the moments of in-between, she closes her eyes, breathes in, and thinks back on the swill she’d forced herself to swallow down, pile after pile of soppy shojo manga she’d swiped from her sister to make this her finest performance yet.

Two pairs of shoes are lying tucked underneath the bench, but only one pair of socks, and she made sure to wear shorts underneath her skirt just in case she wound up like this, perched awkwardly on the back of a bench, because they’ve been out often enough together that she already knows her dignity is going to get ruffled every time Ryuuga is around. It doesn’t even matter, everyone who passes by stares at Ryuuga, not at her, and like this she can reach out and ruffle that glossy black hair as much as she wants. Ryuuga laughed her strange boy’s chuckle for nearly thirty seconds straight when Light proclaimed herself queen of everything for managing to wrestle a good chunk of the unruly mess into a series of tiny braids, then demanded tribute in the form of an iced coffee, made properly, without heavy syrup or any whipped cream, and certainly no sprinkles on the top.

The manga had made hair-braiding seem much easier, but if you follow the conventions of the standard art style, Ryuuga is a boy, not a girl, and that’s fine too, because Light knows perfectly well what stereotypes she herself falls into, and is trying to play them to their finest.

Light pastes on a smile as Ryuuga returns with a hideously frothy thing and an overstuffed crêpe. « That’s not what I asked for, you know, » she chides, and Ryuuga looks at her and the coffee and then eats the whipped cream right off the top. Then she holds the cup out between forefinger and thumb and Light wonders how she isn’t dropping it.

« Enjoy your disgusting abomination, » Ryuuga drones, and Light thinks of indirect kisses, the soft pink curl of her tongue, and ducks her head just a fraction to deliver a scolding that’s interrupted more than once by her own feigned inability to keep a straight face while Ryuuga is overacting a dramatic reaction to her words–while taking exquisite care to make sure that none of the stuffing slid out of her crêpe, of course.

If she keeps losing her balance and having to catch it on Ryuuga’s shoulders, and if she has to lean all the way down over her to pick up her coffee, and if her bare toes keep brushing against soft worn denim, well, so much the better. It suits her role, and it suits herself, because Ryuuga’s playing back, offering aimless smiles and innocent replies, the quirky love interest to Light’s eager young protagonist, and Ryuk’s eyes had glazed over as she’d explained their game to him, a play inside a play that would be a waste of Kira’s time if her match hadn’t been hand-picked by L.

« What do you want to be when you grow up? » she asks, using the excuse of taking the coffee as her cue to start the new scene, picking up the thread of lazy questioning that they’d begun two hours earlier, over coffee and puff pastries and a newspaper thoroughly dissected and analyzed in fifteen minutes, « a reclusive genius billionaire? »

« I, » Ryuuga declares regally, « am never going to grow up. » She bobs her head once in a decisive nod and takes a triumphant bite of her crêpe, which is hardly undermined at all when she gets whipped cream on her nose because she promptly goes cross-eyed and licks it off again.

Light flashes her a bright smile, but watches the shadows under her eyes and her Snow White complexion, thinks of how she must have slipped into one task force or another, trained to spy and be brilliant and be made just for her, and maybe she’s a little bit jealous, that someone so like her actually got to take that step when she’s still so young.

« Well I’m going to grow up and join the police force, » Light declares, leaning her weight back onto her hands to balance so her bare feet can swing free, « my parents won’t be able to stop me anymore. »

« Teenage rebellion is so passé, » Ryuuga drawls, and Light reaches over and swats at her. Then she steals the strawberry that’s about to slip free of the crêpe and plops it in her mouth with a triumphant smile.

« Teenage rebellion just took your strawberry, » she says to her pose of exaggerated horror, « and I am going to be brilliant and beautiful and a better detective than my father. »

« I believe you, » Ryuuga says absently, still staring mournfully at her now-slightly-less overfull crêpe, « you could do anything with a mind like that. »

Light freezes for a moment, just staring, because she’s appalled that Ryuuga’s breaking character and she knows she shouldn’t be getting butterflies in her stomach with an enemy so sweet, but Kira would be cautious in this moment, suspicious, so she pretends it’s still part of the game and slides down to the bench seat beside her and presses a kiss to her cheek.

« So couldn’t you, » Light says softly, closing her eyes and drawing a deep breath, trying to memorize this, the feel of worn cotton beneath her fingertips, the soft dark hair tickling her cheek, the taste of strawberry and lies lingering bittersweet on her tongue.

Maybe it would be worth it to trade for the eyes, to learn her name and take her for a lover before she dies, but this game is so much fun. She’ll have to kill her eventually, of course, and maybe she’ll let the play stretch on that far, maybe she’ll have a pretend girlfriend for a while. Maybe.

« I know, » Ryuuga says blandly, « I told you I was never going to grow up. »

Light opens her eyes, settles back and curls her lips in amused affection that is anything but feigned. « You’re going to devote your university time to that? »

Ryuuga tilts her head to one side. Light tilts her own the other way just to be contrary. « One more way to prolong childhood, » she says.

One more way to prolong the game, Light hears, and laughs and rests her chin on her shoulder, drops her free hand down to loop around her waist, pulls herself in close and tight and leans forward to take a delicate bite of the crêpe Ryuuga’s holding up for her. Then she gags a little.

« Ryuuga! Did you dump a packet of sugar in that thing, too?! »

Ryuuga gives her a little aimless smile and a condescending pat on the cheek. « You didn’t notice. Sloppy for a future detective. »

* * *

« What are you doing? » Ryuk asks, and Light gives the pile of papers on her desk a disgusted look and smothers a sigh.

« Trying to decide on classes, » she hisses through her teeth, « and planning Kira’s actions for the next week, so shush. »

« But I’m bored, » Ryuk whines, and she thinks it’s very unbecoming of a shinigami to complain when he was the one who dropped the notebook in the first place, « and hungry. You’re so stingy now, I haven’t had any apples in days. »

« Ryuuga would notice, » Light explains with more patience than she really feels, deciding on one execution every six hours for Wednesday, and no pattern at all for Thursday. The notes that will accompany them she’d dreamed up two nights ago, curled up in her bed after another dinner that had lasted until well after midnight, and maybe it was a little bit cruel, to taunt Ryuk like that, but he should understand the need to flirt back, when L was being so considerate by giving her Ryuuga.

« You always say that, » Ryuk grumbles, and Light rolls her eyes and refrains from pointing out that she’s only known the other girl for six days, that she’s only been playing this game for five.

« It’s her job to notice if I’m doing anything strange, » Light says, tapping pen to paper and trying to decide how early she can get away with asking Ryuuga to make up the breakfast she’d skipped this morning, « so I can’t do anything strange, including buying bushels of apples for no discernible reason. It doesn’t fit my character, and it’s not like the real me, so she’d assume it was something to do with Kira, and I can’t risk that. »

Light tunes out his grumbling as she turns back to her work, and when her phone buzzes, she doesn’t even have to look at it, just picks it up, cradles it to her ear, and keeps on writing. « Ryuuga! » she says brightly, marking down a fatal seizure for a serial rapist for next Wednesday, « I’m still mad about you canceling our breakfast. Are we at least still on for dinner? –no, I dunno about that class, but have you heard anything about the professor for Western Philosophy? »

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« Have you prepared your speech? » her mother asks, and she shrugs one shoulder and eyes the coffeepot predatorily. Being Kira and playing with Ryuuga is exhausting, and she’s started to sleep in more in the mornings, because Ryuuga’s idea of breakfast is whenever she gets hungry, which is usually every five minutes or so, but she’s hung up on her twice when she’s called at five in the morning, and Ryuuga almost certainly deserved it.

« A little, » she says, by which she means no, and Sachiko sighs while Sayu laughs.

« You could at least try to be enthusiastic about your position, » Sachiko says, « it’s a rare thing to be so honored. »

Light cocks her head to the side, glances at her sister through the veil of her lashes. Sayu sticks out her tongue and crosses her eyes, and she smothers a smile before turning back to her mother. « The other freshman representative is a girl too, you know, » she says, gently pointed, gently chiding.

« You know her? » her mother asks, and if the question’s a bit sharper than the situation warrants, that just means she’s noticed that Light hasn’t been answering her phone when anybody in the family calls her.

« We met at the entrance exam, » Light says, delicately, like this is awkward because they both know she hasn’t had many–any–close friendships with other girls, and if Sayu’s noticed… well, Sayu will have to grow up someday. « She’s… interesting. »

« Is she why you’re never home anymore? » Sayu asks slyly, and Light has to do a quick reassessment of her. Then she reconsiders her reassessment because Sayu’s the one who keeps begging her for the explicit yaoi manga that she’s always been too cheap to buy.

« Shut up, » she says with a lazy roll of her eyes, then jumps when her phone trills, a ringtone that Light never would have chosen herself, but she’d traded phones with Ryuuga and sworn not to change her selection, a pinkie swear over lunch and a musical choice that just barely pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in their game.

Ryuuga has no problem with breaking character precisely because she knows it annoys Light, but every time Light slips in a double-entendre Ryuuga fixes her with that affected glare she uses when she’s pretending to be cranky. Even though she’s very pretty in an alien kind of way and Light likes to look at her, her dead-eyed zombie stare can be kind of unnerving sometimes, and the one time she pointed this out, Ryuuga proceeded to ask every single person who passed by to kindly donate their brains for the sake of her lunch in a soft blank monotone that was even more disturbing than usual because she also made an extra effort not to blink much while she was doing it.

Oddly, getting escorted out by store security was not nearly as humiliating as Light had previously been led to believe, and she’d been careful to show the exact mixture of embarrassment and secret delight in response to the act, to make Ryuuga swear on the box of puff pasteries that she’d bribed her with that she’d never ever tell her mother.

The elaborateness of that particular pantomime had make Ryuk keep bursting into very undignified cackles for the next eight hours or so, which had been very irritating when Light was trying to fall asleep.

She’s sure it comes as no surprise to anyone when she slips up to her own room to take the call, spends five minutes getting ready, and then flashes her mother and sister a brilliant smile and slides out the front door without a word. It suits what they know of her, what she’s playing at for Ryuuga, and even if Kira would be just as secretive there’s no way she’d be able to pull this off if she were playing Ryuuga’s role–it would jar too much with her character at home.

They have a speech to plan, and probably lunch, and then tea, and then dinner, and fortunately for her own finances Ryuuga’s always been very willing to indulge her in expensive coffee.

When she comes back home again, it’s halfway past one in the morning, and her mother is waiting in the front room, a well-worn novel in her hand and a cup of tea beside her, and Light fidgets just a little, as is appropriate, but Sachiko just looks at her for a long moment, picks up her tea and turns the cup in her hands.

« Are you being safe, at least? » Sachiko says at last, and Light stares at her blankly, listening to the silence that she can barely hear through Ryuk’s delighted cackling.

« …probably not, » she says, because Kira and L’s proxy shouldn’t be courting, because one of them is going to wind up dying, because letting her this close is such a threat, because Ryuuga is so bright and so brilliant and so dangerous, because she’s been scrambling to keep up with her duties and sparring with Ryuuga and trying to coax out her real name and occupation without letting anything slip, because she hasn’t done her nails in a week and she ran out of eyeliner four days ago when she was using it to scribble down a name in a bathroom stall before meeting up with Ryuuga for breakfast.

« I see. » Her mother’s hands are tightening around her teacup, and Light bites her lip and looks down again, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, because it would be uncharacteristic of her to make a passionate outburst about true love because the notion is utterly ridiculous, because she’s gotten a little silly about fake boyfriends before but now that her mother knows it’s an act, she won’t believe the same thing about a girl.

Light licks her lips, drifts closer to her mother, then sits down on the couch across from her. She can play this right, because it’s almost the truth, except for all the lies. « I don’t even know if she likes me back, » she says, keeping her voice low, frightened. This isn’t the place to play for confidence or certainty, and if her mother can believe this, then her mother can help shelter her activities as Kira, and no one will be the wiser. « I don’t… I didn’t know that I–I thought if I spent time dating boys instead it would go away. It’s… it’s supposed to be easy enough to hide if you know what you’re doing. »

Sachiko sighs heavily, sets her teacup down at her side, then looks up with a soft smile. « I’m glad, » she says, « you always were so isolated, so unhappy at school… we thought about therapy, your father and I, but… you hide it well, but I know how much pride you have. How brilliant you are. »

Light blinks at her, pastes a strained smile on her face. Does some quick recalculations. « You noticed…? »

« I may not be a genius like you, » Sachiko says softly, « but I am still your mother. » She’s quiet for another moment while Light inclines her head in mock-humility, considers how she can use this.

« Whoever she is, » Sachiko says quietly, setting down the teacup and rising to her feet, « does she make you happy? »

Light thinks about the scrap of paper in her pocket, the shinigami lounging near the ceiling, the teasing notes she’s left in criminal’s blood, the falling crime waves, the websites showering her with praise, the soft curve of Ryuuga’s smile. « Yes, » she says softly, turning a luminous smile on her mother, « I’ve never been this happy before. »

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Light is very careful to make it seem as though it’s all she can do to keep from giggling as Ryuuga drones out the same eloquent speech she’s just given in a fast-paced monotone that has the administrators in the front row looking blankly appalled, and more than half of the audience staring with varying measures of confusion, but she does spare a moment to shoot a dark glance at a round-faced girl near the front who’s staring with a little too much interest, because the girl is definitely not a threat but she honestly wasn’t expecting anyone else to see her quite the same way, and she’s more than a little annoyed that someone else does.

She brushes up against her as they start down the stairs just enough to make it visible that it’s not an accident, and is rewarded with a quicksilver flash of a smile and long fingers threading through her own.

« Want to know a secret? » Ryuuga murmurs, and Light glances over at her, the impish light in her dark eyes and the soft curve of her lip, and thinks yes and always and time to play. She sidles a little bit closer, hands clasped and touching hip to hip, and ducks her head down against her shoulder, lets her smile and her half-lidded eyes make the agreement for her.

« I’m L, » Ryuuga says softly, warm against her ear like the secrets Sayu used to share when they were small, and suddenly she can’t breathe.

She doesn’t know how to respond to this, doesn’t know what to think, doesn’t know what this move means, does that mean the game’s over now or–no, she wouldn’t do that–would she?

Somewhere in between the shock and the rage there’s a thrill like electricity down her spine, because even if it’s a lie it’s gorgeous, it makes her fingers tingle and makes her heart flutter, because it’s the prettiest trap she’s ever seen.

« Really? » is all that needs to be said, because they’ve spoken of this before, Kira and L and the ridiculous spin the media’s put on things, and she can feel her heart beating a triphammer, but Ryuuga just tilts her head and smiles.

Light pulls her lips into a nervous smile, because that fits, because she doesn’t know how to respond to it, so she closes her eyes for a moment and lets herself fall back into character, reminds herself that this is her beautiful and mysterious would-be lover and she’s just given her a shock, and this is no place for an interrogation, so because she’s a good and proper girl she’ll swallow her questions until later, she’ll try and remain calm but let the nervousness and uncertainty shine through.

When her eyes open again, it’s only natural to step closer, to press against her side, and they sit through the rest of the ceremony curled against each other like she would never have tolerated from anyone else, like sisters or lovers or both. There’s probably some poetry in it, in their clasped hands, something deep and symbolic about the clear polish and neatly-trimmed cuticles and the nails bitten down to the quick, something about fingertips and lives and lies, something about blood and murder and justice, but she can’t quite grasp it, and that’s the problem with being a genius, you think too much when you’re nervous and every time else besides, and if she opens up her lips to speak of it she knows, knows that she would understand.

It would also give her away, so Light keeps her lips sealed and her grip warm and affectionate, and knows that she understands that, too, and that’s why she’s not saying anything either, because this is a game and she’s made her move, but she’s not going to tip her hand, not this early, because part of acknowledging the blow is pretending that it never happened at all, but there’s room for this, quiet admiration tucked into fear and adrenaline, a hint of awe tucked into breathlessness for the sheer audacity of the move.

The speeches that aren’t their own are trite and boring, and Light spends the time trying to calm her breathing and heartbeat, hoping to disguise the fright with the thrill, and it’s probably a bad sign how easy that is, to cast little glances at her and know that underneath the plastered-on adoration it still makes sense if it’s just wonder, that it still makes sense if it’s just shock instead of horror.

The car and the butler make her smile, in-character and out, and Light lingers at the window, indulging in soft pointless chatter and staring into the clear cool blankness in her eyes, and she admires that mercilessness, somewhere beyond the fright and anger, somewhere behind the upside-down inside-out feeling that’s carefully tucked away behind the shy aversion of her eyes and the slow parting brush of their hands.

« Meet me for dinner? » Ryuuga says, and her agreement’s already slipped past her lips before she’s even conscious of saying anything at all.

Ryuk actually flinches at the screaming fit she later has into the pillow, but seems delighted when the rage melts into giggling, when stung pride makes her bare her teeth in a shark’s smile and admiration makes her sigh, and she wonders if this is what it’s supposed to feel like when you’re dancing, or drunk, or in love.

She spends two hours changing clothes, trying to decide which way to part her hair, if she needs lip gloss or not, if the scrap of the Death Note is better hidden in a hairclip or tucked inside her bra, if Ryuuga will notice a pen tucked into her socks or if she should try and hide it in her sleeve instead.

In the end, she keeps the Note in her bra and the pen in her sock and tells Ryuk to stay at home, please, his leering whenever they hold hands is really creepy.

Light takes a deep breath, twirls before the mirror one more time, and goes out to meet her enemy in a simple black skirt and a soft sweater, because she’s never said a word but she’s pretty sure Ryuuga likes her best when she looks comfortable, with her hair undone and her lips and eyes bare, simple and clean and graceful, untouched by the stifling expectations of the world. If they’re dropping the game tonight, if a new one is going to take its place…

« L, » Kira whispers into the warm evening air, face turned to the sky, one hand pressed over her heart, « I promise I’ll never disappoint you. »

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Chapter Three
Chapter Five