Anecdotes from the Story of the Century

Friend

"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend."

-Albert Camus

Girls are very strange creatures; emotionally, they seem all over the place. One minute, they'll comment on how your face resembles a monkey's. The next, they'll steal back into the monitor room and try to persuade you to go trick-or-treating like it's a rite of passage and you're nobody unless you've done it. Then they'll get teary-eyed about your lack of a social circle outside of your prime suspect and give you a hug to assure you that no, you're not alone and you're crazy if you believe otherwise, followed up by a blush and a stammered apology for crossing whatever line there was between you, and following that with an angry noogie when they notice that you'd taken the chocolate bar they'd stashed in their pocket (even though she was going to share it with you anyhow), and laugh about it all the while.

Immediately after, she asks for a cup. "You got any more tea? I think it's the least you can do for taking my chocolate, and I for one am parched."

Without a word, he pushes a second teacup across the table and fills it for her. She helps herself to two spoonfuls of sugar, and when her drink is stirred enough for her liking, the spoon makes a soft clink sound against the china as she drops it back over the plate. She raises her cup with a grin, like it's a glass of champagne. "A toast to Halloween! A toast to us, and to our big mouths!"

He finds himself wondering what she means by "a toast to us." Does she mean the task force as a whole? The world at large? Just the two of them? Or all three?

She frowns. "Oh, come on. Don't tell me you don't even know how to toast. Raise your cup."

He hasn't had many opportunities to toast, but he knows the basic procedure (and from what he understands, it's usually done with champagne rather than tea). He raises his cup in turn, and she wastes no time clinking their drinks together, hard enough to slosh the tea towards the rims of their cups.

Bipolar disorder at its most endearing.

To say the least, this may be the most festive birthday he's had, so far. Until now he hadn't thought that much about his birthday except that it meant he had an excuse to gorge on cake (not that he really needed one the rest of the year) and that he was getting older (sometimes he felt quite old, much older than twenty-five. Maybe because he's seen more at this point than most people in his age bracket may get to see in their entire lives).

But somewhere in the back of his mind that isn't preoccupied with the shinigami looming silently in the back of the room and the notebook lying open in front of him, he supposes that if this is going to be his last it wouldn't hurt to make it count.

Before long there's a pile of wrappers between them, and she's running her mouth at sixty-five words a minute entertaining him with anecdotes of Halloween escapades, probably in a last effort to get him to go outside yet. Had she not mentioned bringing Misa along, maybe he would've at least considered it…

"Can you believe that anyone could fall for that? To this day, I can't figure out what's dumber: the fact that I actually bought that real monsters ran amok disguised as trick-or-treaters, or that TP-ing people's houses would scare the monsters away because the toilet paper would look like scary ghosts to them! To top it all off, he and his buddies tried to make it so that we'd take the fall for all that!"

Her older brother Farrell sounds like an important figure in her life, and a possible source of some of her self-doubt.

Throwing toilet paper over a house? How wasteful...

It's a rather one-sided conversation, though she does pause briefly between sentences to wait for feedback. Is she waiting for him to share a few stories of his own, if not about Halloween, about anything in general? As the world's greatest detective, he's bound to have a few juicy tales. Maybe he does, they just don't happen to be stories he thinks she should hear.

"…Needless to say, I've been wary of graveyards, since then. Then again, I've kinda always felt funny about graveyards, even before my brother pulled that one on me. I don't know about you, but I mean, you've got dead people right under your feet, almost every square foot, and you can't help but feel like you really shouldn't be walking over the top of them. It's kinda rude, in a way, almost like jumping on the bed while someone's tryna sleep. Sure, someone needs to take care of the graves, so maybe it can't be helped, and they're dead, so it isn't like they can come up to complain or anything, but maybe that's why I feel bad about walking over them: because they can't complain or do much of anything about it?"

He wonders if Light is listening in on this. What would he make of it?

When he doesn't reply, she frowns and takes a long sip. "Is there any more tea? C'mon, I'm hip!"

Her fingers drum incessantly against the table, her foot tapping on the floor. She's even bouncing in her seat, swinging it back and forth by the ball of her heel. Why, she normally would be squeamish when it comes to the subject of death. It must be the sugar. Crouching would alleviate that, he thinks. Crouching would burn the sugars faster.

"You seem rather hyper," he notes. "Perhaps you've had a bit too much?"

"You, telling me I've had too much? Don't yank me! Nobody can tell you when you've had enough, now you wanna come up in my face and tell me I've had enough? Ain't that the kettle calling the pot black? It's Halloween, kid! Although maybe I shouldn't be telling you that; for you, every day is Halloween! Aw, you crack me up. You're a real cut-up without even trying," she chuckles.

"I'm not getting 'in your face.' If either of us is getting in anyone's face, I'd say it was you."

"Well, at least you're speaking up. A conversation involves talk from both sides, y'know." She holds up her two hands in the air and flaps her fingers to mimic an exchange. "I say, 'Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah,' and you say, 'I don't gotta answer to nobody, 'cause I'm justice and don't need to, and if you don't get that, that's your problem.' Jeez, I thought I was chatting up a brick wall, for a second there!"

Suddenly, her face is in her hands, and she droops a little.

"Are you okay? You seem to be crashing."

She shakes her head, waves him away. "Oh, I-I-I'm peachy. Just dizzy, for some reason. Man, how come I've never seen you crash when you're the bigger junk food junkie? Shoot, you're the biggest junk food junkie to have ever walked the earth hands down, and I've never seen you crash once."

Crouching when you sit also prevents crashing.

She rests her head on the desk, her arms a pillow underneath it. "Hey, don't worry about it, I'm just—I'm just gonna sit here, rest my eyes for a beat. Then I'll be right as…as rain…"

Sure enough, her eyes close. But a minute passes, and they don't open again. A few minutes later still, he can hear her snoring. For a moment, it and the hum of the monitors are the only sounds in the room.

Her glasses are crooked on her face as they bend against her forearm. After a moment of deliberation, he reaches over to carefully pull them off by the temple arms before folding and placing them aside. This girl is his friend, now. So they've at last established. She assumes that they're friends because he hadn't said no when she'd asked if they were. With Erin, it's either "yes" or "no," and she doesn't usually take "no" for an answer. Even after all those unsavory things she's professed to him and about him.

He doesn't oppose. As in, he has no aversion towards the idea. Whether they actually could, or should, be friends, however—

He feels Light's presence from within the doorway. The younger man stands with his arms folded across his chest, staring a hole into his back, scornful, condescending. A drastic turn from the good-natured boy he was just days ago.

"I told her that she shouldn't get in the way if she wanted to observe Halloween," mutters Light, shaking his head. Is that supposed to be a threat?

He pulls away from her. She snores on, as blissfully unaware as the rest of the task force.

"Honestly, how can she suggest we do something as inane as trick-or-treating when we still have a mass murderer to catch?" Why would Light have such a problem with that? The more they procrastinate, the longer he's safe from getting caught. Besides, Erin had suggested going out with Misa. He'd think that Light would be disappointed with missing such a grand opportunity to get his name...

"I'm surprised that you'd let her stay. You two have almost never gotten along, from what I've seen."

"You and I haven't always gotten along, either," he points out. "Say, Light…you're finally free to leave headquarters on your own, but it seems you never go out. Even when Misa comes to visit, you only chat with her for a few minutes outside." He takes his teaspoon and shovels a clump of pure sugar into his mouth.

The two lock eyes. "You realize that you're free to have a relationship with her now, don't you?"

A ghost of a smirk flickers through Light's lips before vanishing, leaving a frown behind. "That can wait until we've solved this case. Frankly, I'm in no mood for love or anything else, at the moment," he scoffs. "Anyway, are you suggesting that I'll be a nuisance for staying here?"

"No."

Wishing him a curt good-night, Light heads up the staircase. They used to stay up into the wee hours of the morning discussing theories and findings that only each other could perfectly understand, but not this time. Light has no business with him anymore except to be there for when he dies. Whatever semblance they've had to a friendship, genuine or not, is gone. And as far as he's concerned, the same goes for Amane. The rest of the task force won't believe a word he says, now that their names have been cleared; currently they whisper about the possibility of Mr. Yagami not only getting his job back, but also getting promoted (not that anything's been decided yet).

For the moment, even if she can't see what's going on, it's just him and her.

He plucks a ball of lint clinging to a stray strand of her hair and calls for Watari through the touch of a few buttons. Moving her up to her room without waking her would be rather difficult.

"Yes, Ryuzaki?"

"Watari, could you please bring a blanket and pillow?"


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