"Haruka-chan, did you get a boyfriend?"
"Wha–? No way!"
"Really? I could swear you did! You keep smiling like something good happened."
"No, no. Definitely not."
Unless someone thought Light counted as a boyfriend, but he certainly didn't evoke involuntary smiles. She would have to be more careful with facial expressions. God forbid her father realize something was amiss; he would likely tell Ryuzaki. Even worse if Light caught wind of her unrequited affection! She could only imagine what his reaction would be.
She'd eaten lunch with him that afternoon, followed without comment when he took her to an unused classroom in the older part of the building, and let him have his way with her. He didn't try for much, but it was clear that he was frustrated with the lack of contact.
"When will they let you come home?"
He blamed her for her continued absence. It was obvious he thought she could be doing more to get herself away from L, but that really wasn't the case. She didn't have to lie about that and though he didn't like it he'd accepted her excuse.
"L thinks I have a two percent chance of being Kira. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it's more than anyone else." Almost. "So there really isn't anything I can do except prove that I'm not Kira. But, I'm not there often so it's a little hard."
He'd been pacified by her words, allowed his mind to stray when she said she missed him.
Reaching for his hand, leaning close and kissing him was all it took to change the flow of his thoughts.
It was almost too easy, she worried that it was too easy, but he didn't seem to suspect that anything was wrong and she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Keeping Light happy was still important; if there was any way to change that horrific future she would find it.
Kira would have to die, but did Light need to leave the world alone in an abandoned warehouse? She couldn't let it happen. Even after all the things he'd done, all the things he was still doing, she didn't want that for him. She could hardly think of a worse ending. His life should have been so bright, so full of purpose! How had he taken such a dark turn?
He could have been like L. She saw similarities between the two of them. Light wasn't outwardly peculiar, but they seemed so much alike. She couldn't put her finger on what it was, but L and Light had something in common; at least, they had at one time. The old Light would have worked well with Ryuzaki. They would have been friends.
That was the core of her problem. The old Light. She was still looking for him, searching for any vestiges that might remain, yet she had the sense that her brother didn't exist anymore. She honestly couldn't see him, even buried deep within Kira.
Nothing about Light was the same. He didn't look at people the same way, he didn't speak the same way, he didn't act the same way... There was nothing. Even the way he carried himself was different.
"Hey, Haruka-chan, I got your magazine!"
The publication was produced for inspection during an unforeseen free period and lauded over by her classmates. Haruka was obliged to blush and attempted to downplay the importance of this milestone, but as she'd expected it would be her humility was brushed aside in favor of more praise.
"–already in a major magazine and it's really amazing that–,"
It was all anticipated, the words and phrases were unoriginal. She'd heard similar things before, but she recognized that some of this praise wasn't genuine. There was jealousy brewing, but the end of high school was on its way and would act as a cushion against any blows classmates tried to land. There wouldn't be time for fighting or petty arguments with important college entrance exams on the horizon.
"I bet Light's super worried you'll come home with some amazing boyfriend!"
That called her attention back to the conversation. Of course Light would crop up somehow. He always did.
She answered sharply, "I don't think that's on his mind at all. He studies too often to have time for thoughts like that." It was better to put a stop to this line of thinking quickly.
"How could he not think about that? He wouldn't say it obviously, but you're so close that it would weird for him to ignore it."
"Ahh," someone else whined, squirming in her seat. "Why couldn't I have a brother like Light? Mine is such a slob!"
The conversation took a turn from there and despite her best efforts Haruka was unable to change the topic. She was subjected to a ten minute discussion on Light and all the reasons that he was better than other brothers. In the end he was bestowed the title of Best Onii-chan by the girls in her class and she was sure it would soon spread.
"I think I'd call him Onii-sama, though," Sakura sighed.
"Just thinking about that could give me a nosebleed."
"Haruka-chan, what do you call him?" Minna asked.
"Just his name usually."
"'Usually'. So, when you want help or something, you call him cutely right?"
Of all the vapid, unimportant, ridiculous...
"Sometimes." There were things they wanted to hear and this was one of them. Also, it was true. She'd called him 'Onii-chan' more times in the last few weeks than she had in the past decade.
"Hey," a pair of bright, mischievous eyes looked to her. "The next time Light comes to talk to you, call him 'Onii-chan', okay?"
"What!?" That was unexpected. "No way!"
"Yeah, do it for us!"
"Please, Haruka-chan? We want to see how he reacts!"
"He won't react. He'll just say whatever he came to say and leave. Like always."
"So you say, but if that's the case then there's no problem!"
What kind of request was this? She failed to keep the grimace from her face as she took in the eager looks of the girls around her. This was something they really did want. To turn them down might be dangerous to her position.
"Okay, okay! I just have to say it right?"
"Do it cute!"
"That's too much!"
She was dreading it. All the way to the location of her shoot she was dreading it. All the way to the hotel she was dreading it. All the way to the elevator, all the way down the hall, all the way into the room and past the task force she was dreading it.
Watari was given the task of learning the secret.
"What?" she'd asked, with a harried look in her eye.
"Ryuzaki would like to know what is troubling you. He would have asked himself, but there was an important discussion."
She was reluctant. "It's really nothing."
"Nothing is nothing."
He seemed so genuinely concerned that she told him without meaning to. "It's so stupid! I mean really, it is that dumb, but it bothers me sooo much!"
"What is it that bothers you, Asahi-san?"
She put her cheek to the table, looking toward the window. "Today a bunch of girls in my class started talking about my brother. They do it all the time. Usually I can change the topic, but they were stuck on Light. A lot of things were said and in the end I agreed to call him 'Onii-chan' the next time he comes to talk to me during school. It's so embarrassing!"
Watari was at a loss for words. He had experience with adolescents, the Whammy House was full of them, but his brand of child was generally too busy with their individual interests to have time for problems like this. He'd thought he had a good grasp on young adulthood; dealing exclusively with geniuses had left him with a narrow view.
He was saved from being made to answer though. Once she'd begun, Haruka could hardly stop.
"I mean, why? Why ask me to do that of all things? They crowed him Best Onii-chan right before telling me they wanted me to say it to him! How can they make that kind of assumption? They don't know him!" She stood suddenly, took to pacing. "Okay, so they think they know him. That's not really their fault, they only see him at school and there's a lot of unaccounted for time that they have no clue about. I don't understand why they think everything must be so perfect!"
"Asahi-san, perhaps they–"
"I know that isn't exactly their fault either, but still! How can they make me do something so embarrassing?!"
"The only part of your life they are aware of is what you allow them to see."
"I know! But, still! Why? Why that!?"
"Obviously they think it will be entertaining in some way."
"Oh right, really funny to humiliate me!"
"Perhaps that isn't the way they perceive it."
"Tch." She bit her thumb. "I know that too. They all like Light, but they don't know him. It's dumb to like someone you don't know, right?"
"Things like that can be involuntary."
"Right, but still."
A slight smile came to the face of the older man. It had been a long while since he'd participated in such an informal conversation and this one was proving to be diverting.
"Asahi-san, I suspect this now has less to do with your classmates and more to do with yourself."
"What? No. No way," she shook her head violently. "Not me. Well, just a little, but I am so over that."
"Nothing. That is nothing."
He considered her denial. "Ah. You're speaking of the slight sensitivity," he put it as delicately as he could. "You held for Ryuzaki."
"NO! Not Ryuzaki! That was for L and it was nothing. And still is. It's nothing."
"I notice that you speak in the present tense."
That was when she froze, sank to the floor, put her hands on her head and muttered, "I want to die. Right now. I want to die right now!"
Watari would not tell L. Even if she hadn't made him promise, threatened to harm herself if he went against his word, he would not have told the detective. This was something Ryuzaki would have to find out on his own.
It was a fascinating turn of events. To think that L could have captured the interest of Haruka without putting any effort into the endeavor... Of course, that was likely the reason her regard was possible in the first place. Had L attempted to make himself endearing, and Watari could not even imagine what that might entail, she may well have denied him.
As things stood there was nothing he could do to help Ryuzaki recognize the feelings Haruka was harboring, but L would probably find the challenge interesting enough to search for an answer on his own.
In fact, at that very moment, L was growing curious about the secret. Watari had made a promise to remain mum on the subject of Haruka's unwitting confession, but that did not mean L was unaware that something had been said. He was very conscious of the fact that Watari had spent near twenty minutes conversing with the girl and for him to offer no explanation, except to say that her problem would resolve itself, was unusual.
What sort of secret could Watari be sharing with her?
They got along well enough, but he'd not seen anything to indicate that they were especially close. It was possible that Haruka was somewhat reminded of her own father when she spoke with Watari, he did have a paternal aura and he was very good at dealing with children; perhaps she'd spoken of something to him that she would not tell her own father.
What could that thing be?
She'd been upset at his speaking of her feelings to Chief Yagami and it stood to reason she may have another problem like that. She would not want to tell her father about 'boy troubles'.
So, who was the boy?
Not Light. She wouldn't have told Watari about that. Ryuzaki was the only one in on that particular secret and he knew she had no plans to expose the relationship to anyone. Someone she went to school with? But, no. She was almost as bad as her brother when it came to the way she looked at people. She'd never indicated a preference for anyone in her immediate surroundings. Maybe it was someone she worked with.
Again, that didn't ring true. He'd had her followed on more than one occasion and she hadn't been more than friendly to any of the men she'd come into contact with through modeling. That wasn't to say they had been uninterested in her, but she categorically turned down offers to go out.
He could think of no explanation. Unless–
Watari saw the moment L realized the truth. He also saw him try to deny it. It was a subtle widening of the eyes followed by a small shake of the head.
That couldn't be right. It didn't make enough sense. Haruka had made it clear that she no longer held any feelings but disdain for himself. He'd greatly offended her and even though she appeared to have moved beyond the anger it was unlikely that she would return to that first set of emotions.
He knew she didn't hate him, she would not have sought comfort from him if she did, but that was a far cry from a crush. She didn't refuse to speak to him, but that meant nothing. It would have been more telling if she had.
"What did she tell you?"
"I'm sorry, Ryuzaki. As I said before I promised not to tell a soul."
If what he suspected was correct that kind of promise was definitely in line with Haruka's thinking. She would not only be embarrassed, but disappointed in herself. However it did seem out of character for her to keep this quiet. He would have expected her to declare herself without hesitation.
Perhaps she would have if he'd not insulted her so thoroughly the first time.
"Is there nothing you can tell me?"
The older man considered this petition. She had not forbidden him to speak of her most pressing problem. "Her distress this evening was due to a request from various classmates that she speak to her brother in a particular way."
"More specifically they asked her, and she reluctantly agreed, to call her brother by a perceived term of endearment the next time he goes to speak with her in her classroom."
That was one mystery solved, but the other was far more important.
He left the room, wandered toward her designated space, and stood outside the entrance debating whether or not he should confront her.
If he was right, to accuse her would only earn him a door slammed closed in his face; to even hint at his suspicion would cause the same reaction. If he was wrong she would laugh at him.
What kind of response did he want anyway? Which was the better outcome? What did any of this mean and why was he so concerned?
His eye twitched. That was incorrect. He was not concerned.
L had never seen the point in lying to oneself; after twenty seconds of internal debate he acknowledged the truth.
She opened the door when he knocked, took a step back in shock and made to shut the barrier again, but he took hold of her arm before she could do it.
"Your feelings are not wholly unrequited."
Haruka slammed the door in his face after shoving him away.
"Your feelings are not wholly unrequited."
What–- What kind of confession was that!?
"Haruka-chan, you're smiling again. There has to be guy involved!"
She put a hand over her mouth as she shook her head. She couldn't take him seriously with a declaration like that, she might have misunderstood. It was too ambiguous.
"Your feelings are not wholly unrequited."
Why was it so impossible to be straightforward? This was important! Could he not just say, "I like you too," or "I like you, but not like that,"? Which was it? It could be either one!
She refused to get her hopes up over this. He would have to clarify his words before she would allow herself any kind of hope.
"I wonder if Light will come today?"
"Our classes both have a free hour at ten, so I bet he will!"
"He'd better. I can't wait to see how he reacts!"
"Your feelings are not wholly unrequited."
To L that probably seemed like a definitive statement, but if that was the case then he really was socially inept. There were too many ways to interpret it. If he was unsure of how he felt he could have said so. Making such a confusing announcement did her no good.
Class started then and Haruka was forced to put her irritation, and a small measure of happiness, aside. The day rolled on, from one class to the next, until at ten o'clock the free period arrived. It was then that she remembered the promise she'd made and as her friends had predicted he would Light did come to her classroom.
"Okay, Haruka-chan! Go!"
"Do it for us!"
The whispers of encouragement did little to calm her nerves. She could feel their anxious stares as she approached the doorway, saw Light notice the way her schoolmates were hyper focused on the two of them.
She briefly wondered what he was thinking, but his face gave nothing away. Whether he was annoyed or confused, she couldn't tell. More than likely he didn't much care.
She squared her shoulders; if she was going to do it she might as well go all the way.
When she was almost directly in front of him she 'tripped' forward, one foot catching on the other. Light caught her.
She could hear the suppressed squeals.
So could Light and he had to work to keep his expression neutral. It was obvious to him that Haruka was putting on a show, to what purpose he couldn't say, but there was probably a convoluted train of thought behind it. He couldn't be sure whether he wanted to know or not.
Standing upright once more she kept a hand on his arm, took a step closer, and the kiss she pressed to his cheek was met with a not-so subtle explosion on the other side of the room.
"Thank you, Onii-chan."
His smile seemed genuine to everyone else, and they were all watching by that point, but Haruka detected a hint of arrogance. Even so he preformed flawlessly by moving a hand to her shoulder, putting the other behind her head, and kissing her forehead before saying, "I wouldn't let my dear imōto fall."
Haruka didn't think she was ever going to hear the end of this one.
"He—He is so perfect!"
"I'm dying. I'm dying! I can't stand it!"
One girl had gone to the infirmary after passing out.
"I can't believe it happened like that!"
More than one had a nosebleed.
"The only thing that could have made it better, well, besides me being in your position, would have been him actually kissing you!"
"What?!" She couldn't be serious. "That's so gross, Minna! What are you saying?"
"For anyone else it would be nasty, but I'd forgive it with you and Light!"
"I'd pay to see it."
They were something else, but she doubted their sincerity. Had they been aware of what truly happened when she was left alone with him they wouldn't have been so supportive, right?
Then again, looking at their faces, they might have liked it just as much as they claimed they would.
"You can stop that right now because it isn't happening."
If by some twist of fate Light really did take over the world and she was made to stay with him, it seemed that her friends wouldn't abandon her over it.
"Never say never, Haruka-chan! All it would take is for you to see Light like we do, just one time, and you'd be hooked too! We could never blame you for it."
Their thoughts were so careless. If their relationship ever became public knowledge they would surely eat those words. They enjoyed the idea of it, but in reality? That would be different.
She folded her arms and leaned on the desk. "What if I told you Light and I had already done things, what would you say?"
Multiple pairs of hands met her person and she was suddenly being rocked back and forth. "Did you?! Did you!?"
Haruka shook her head, exasperated. "Of course not! I'm just saying 'what if'. I mean think about it. That wouldn't actually be okay with you, would it? Really think about it."
At least they took this request seriously. The three girls sat in quiet contemplation for several minutes.
Minna was the first to speak. "I know what you're saying, but I really think it would be fine. It's like a whole new world, right?"
"Yeah, criminal activity is way down," Yuuki added. "Thanks to Kira."
Thanks to Kira.
Yuuki continued, "Maybe last year I wouldn't have supported something like that, but it seems trivial now. People who aren't doing anything wrong should just be happy."
"I know you don't support Kira, Haruka, and I still think it's wrong to kill people too, but– I guess I can't help being relieved anyway," Sakura confessed. "It feels so much safer. There used to be a mugger in my area, but he's gone now. I don't know that he died, actually I don't think he did because I'm pretty sure I saw him in town, but he's stopped breaking the law. That's good, right?"
This wasn't an argument she could have. It was too easy to understand Sakura's position, it was the one most people held now. They didn't know Kira, to them he was almost a god; if she had been as uninformed she might have fallen into that trap with them.
"I guess if you and Light really were together that wouldn't seem like such a big deal. So many things are changing. People who really love each other can be together, right?"
"I'm not saying I think you should, Haruka," Minna told her. "Even if that would be the stuff of legend, and I will continue to root for that route because it would be great to watch, but it'd be fine if you did."
Classes resumed soon after that and Haruka found herself lost in haze of thoughts.
Kira really was winning. He'd won the majority of the public, at least in Japan. There were still some who didn't, a few who refused to, openly support him, but many were resigned and slowly growing to appreciate the new level of comfort.
What they failed to recognize was that it couldn't last. Haruka could see the outcome of this. If Light did claim victory and Kira became God of the New World, things would quickly devolve into chaos.
This was where Light failed miserably; he'd always been too idealistic. He was handing down 'justice' without thinking about the reality that would come later. He was completely disregarding human nature. People were not made to be ruled by fear, but they would seize power at the first opportunity and use that style themselves.
If Kira came to power he would have supporters, massive numbers of them, but there would still be those against it. What would happen to those people? The supporters would happen. Even if it was only a tiny percent of them that took the initiative others would soon follow and violence would return in full force.
She could imagine it. They would burn buildings owned by non-supporters, torch their cars, drag them out for public beatings and kill them in the streets.
Kira could not erase human nature and at the moment she couldn't be sure whether or not Light would be against that kind of behavior. If he wasn't the entire world would go up in flames, but Light was one for order. Everything in it's place. She didn't think he would be content with pandemonium; what would he do though? Killing the instigators would be his only option.
Even more death and then the world would be ruled by a monster. Everyone balancing on the tip of a needle, terrified of the new God who killed people who didn't support him and those who were too enthusiastic.
Life wasn't perfect now, but it would be even worse if Kira was in charge. People were too blind to see it and she could foresee the type of blowback that would come if anyone pointed these problems out to the public, but maybe she could still bring it up to Light.
She'd have to ask him out on a date.
She ate lunch with him again.
"They asked you to do that?" Disbelief in his tone, haughtiness in his eyes and a smirk on his face.
"Not exactly," she muttered. "They wanted to see what you would do if I called you 'Onii-chan'."
"And you improvised the rest?"
She nodded with a pout. He could never know about the things they'd said in the wake of that disaster. If she'd known they would take it to that level she wouldn't have done any of it.
Light moved forward, pressed his mouth to hers. They'd been too far apart for too long and his patience was waning.
Did L truly think Haruka was Kira? He was a fool if he did and yet it did indicate the possibility of increased surveillance on their household. The cameras and wiretaps were long gone, but more could be on the way. Perhaps there would be another informant sent to follow him. If that happened it would be unwise to kill them. He'd gotten away with Penber's death by the skin of his teeth; had Misora told anyone of her suspicions he may well have been found.
Having his twin on the inside could be an asset, but he needed to find a way to propose the idea of passing information without making it seem like he was using her. She would never agree if she thought all he wanted her for was exclusive data.
Now wasn't the time and his thought processes were quickly shutting down anyway, her hands were in his hair, her tongue in his mouth. She was pushing him, before he knew what was happening she had him lying flat on the floor, and was purposefully sliding down his body.
This was dangerous. They weren't likely to be discovered, but it was a possibility.
"Haruka, we shouldn't–" his attempt to dissuade her was half-hearted and fruitless.
"Sush, Onii-chan." Her grin was like his own. "You can't go back to class like this. I'll just take care of it for you..."
It would have been a lie to say that he hadn't desired this. For weeks, ever since she went away in fact, he'd been in discomfort. Taking care of the problem himself was unsatisfying and the introduction of another just as worthless. There was no one but Haruka.
He was seeing stars in minutes and she was prodding him to return the favor, though in a different way.
"I don't want that in school, it's too strange for me."
He rolled his eyes.
"Take me out instead. I have next Sunday clear."
She returned to yet another hotel around five-thirty. The outdoor photo-shoot had gone well and even ended a bit early. Her manager sent her off with a few proposals to consider. The agency had received numerous requests for her to appear in various ad campaigns; a couple included television spots.
"Haruka, there's a box for you. I brought it from home."
It felt nice to throw her cares to wind and open an unexpected package, which she did by unceremoniously plopping on the floor and tearing into the container, tossing aside packing paper to get to the contents.
The postage indicated that it had come from YouToo, the makeup company she'd agreed to promote, and their parcel didn't disappoint.
She laid out the different cosmetics in a pattern before retrieving her camera.
Her photography was largely ignored. The older men were eating pizza, something she'd noted they often did, while Ryuzaki spelled out the next phase of the program.
"Unless Kira does something overtly provoking we're backing off, at least in appearance. As I told you previously I do have a plan, but it cannot be put into action yet and it would be unwise to delve into specifics too early."
She caught that phrase. It seemed L rarely used specifics when dealing with important matters.
Rather than dwell on her bitterness she began dividing the makeup by type. Lipstick, lipgloss, eye shadow, everything with it's kind.
Her photos turned out well and were quickly posted with a note extolling the company's good points and referencing her own use of the products, along with a disclosure that they'd asked her to try their makeup while assuring her audience that she wouldn't recommend anything she didn't like.
She spent a bit of time replying to the first few comments before signing off for the day. There were other things to think about, like her upcoming date with Light.
The task force hadn't been busy lately; they'd been sent back to the office more than once and spent many full days away from the hotel. Kira's activities had decreased, followed a predictable pattern and were as untraceable as ever.
Soichiro found solace in having more time to spend with his family, though one member was noticeably absent. The loss of Haruka's presence hit the household hard. Even Sayu was dispirited by her missing sister and asked, constantly, when she would be allowed to return. He wasn't able to provide much consolation; being told that she was well was not the same as having daily contact, as his wife had reminded him more than once.
He'd spoken to L privately to no avail, his thoughts far from reassuring. Haruka had managed to up her chances of being Kira during her one-on-one interview with the detective and, for the life of him, Soichiro couldn't think of what she might have said or done that led to that outcome.
Even so, she was not much restricted in her movements and Light remained the number one suspect.
Knowing that his eldest children were under suspicion of being a psychotic mass murderer, who may or may not have some kind of extrasensory power, was nearly intolerable. With his background in the justice system and strong core beliefs he couldn't ignore L's concern, but they remained innocent in his eyes. He admitted he may be biased, having known the two since they were in diapers, and as their father he sought to see the best in them, but the truth was that there was no hard evidence against either Light or Haruka.
"I have a date next Sunday and–"
Innocent in some ways, though not all.
This was one of the things he least wanted to hear coming from the mouths of his daughters. Light was another matter, but Soichiro's feelings were not based on gender bias. Their personalities were different. He worried less about Haruka than Sayu, but the elder was nearing adulthood and with a career in the entertainment industry, an idea that had never before entered his mind, his concerns had ballooned.
Who were those people behind the cameras? What was her agency, Float, doing to ensure she worked only with reputable companies? Should she have a bodyguard? Was the guidance of her manager sound?
Despite the meetings he'd insisted on being involved in as Haruka began this new phase of life he still felt unsettled.
He'd always expected to see the two go off to college together. Perhaps on in different courses of study, maybe even to different schools, but this was a departure from what he'd counted on. Financial planning had been thrown out the window in Haruka's case. Her cut of the education fund was now under debate; should it be given to her? Should they continue to save? Should it be spent on a long, well deserved vacation to a remote, tropical island?
Since her Dinner Declaration Soichiro had spent many hours in quite contemplation. It wasn't that her request was outrageous, but to think of her moving out on her own...
"Dad? Did you hear me?"
Yes. Of course he'd heard her! She had a date coming up. A date.
Should she move away when would he learn of things like that? Surely she wouldn't be as forthcoming with that information if she was out of the family home.
"Who with? Someone from school?" He hoped. Oh, God, he hoped it was just a boy from school and not some pretty, boy-bandesque fellow model who routinely got into scandals with others in the profession and–-
"Yeah, he's from school."
What kind of boy from school? Did he have good grades? Was it the boy who followed Light in the rankings? He seemed almost acceptable, but was Haruka interested in that? Probably not. She routinely poked fun at Light for his studying habits. More likely she would be drawn to the outsider type. The punk type. The rebel wannabe with hair dyed an unnatural color who was older than her because he'd been held back a few times type and–-
"Dad, it's Light! I'm going out with Light! Geez! Calm down! Kira's not going to have to give you a heart attack, you'll have one all on your own."
The pulsing vein in his forehead ebbed as relief colored his face.
"Wow, Chief! Haruka-chan might be right, you need to stay calm. I'm sure she wouldn't go out with someone you can't approve of."
"You're probably right." Matsuda's words were of little comfort, but he did appreciate the attempt.
"Yumi is still in elementary school," Aizawa spoke. "And I can't imagine what my reaction will be when she comes home and says she has a date." A horrified expression came to his face as he shook his head and said, "No, I really can't imagine it."
L observed the conversation with slight interest; this was something he had no experience with. He did not feel compelled to contribute yet, though he did consider that Haruka's expected behavior would have been normal for her age. He thought it stranger that she'd not had boyfriends in the past, as the Chief was now explaining.
"I guess it was just a shock. She's never come home with news like that before and I wasn't expecting it. Sayu is far more prone to crushes than Haruka."
"Is it possible that she has been on dates before and not told you?"
The team looked to him with wide eyes, but L paid no attention to that. His gaze rested on Yagami as he waited for an answer.
The older man considered the question, but answered in the negative. "Someone would have known. Light, her sister, even her mother. She may not have told me, but I would be aware. None of the children leave the house without providing specifics."
"When I was her age I often left the house for days without telling anyone where I was going or explaining my absence when I returned." He either failed to notice the air of awkwardness that had descended upon his team or didn't care. "I don't recall that anyone was particularly concerned."
Matsuda tried to dispel the heavy atmosphere. "Uh, Ryuzaki! Why don't you tell us more about when you were a kid! I bet it'd be really interesting to hear about how you grew up!"
L thought over the request. He was disinclined to agree.
"Yeah, Ryuzaki," Haruka returned to the main living area, sat on the floor beside L's plush chair. "Tell us a story about when you were young."
His eyes narrowed. He knew an insult when he heard one, especially when it was as thinly veiled as that. "To speak as though I was once young but now am not is an improper use of terms. I don't think I fit the popular definition of 'old', Asahi-san. But, I suppose I can tell you something about when I was younger."
"Matsui," Aizawa muttered as he elbowed the younger man in an effort to curb his enthusiasm. Out of all of them Shuichi was the one who liked L the least. He was still unable to fully trust the strange man; Aizawa was committed to his job, L seemed to be the only one able to hold the line against Kira and he held a certain amount of respect for the detective, but that meant nothing when it came to friendly feelings.
"I had many traps set in my room," Ryuzaki revealed. "One of them involved a large spray bottle full of paint. I did not think anyone foolish enough to attempt a break-in, but one day I returned to find multiple children coated in yellow. Obviously they had tried, and failed, to gain access to my room, but none could be persuaded to explain why they'd endeavored to get past the locked door to a space they'd been expressly forbidden to enter."
Haruka picked up on the hint he'd dropped and decided that it was more than an accident. 'Multiple children'. Did he have siblings? Most people wouldn't refer to family members that way though. Children he was not related to yet lived with.
"Ryuzaki," she asked suddenly, interrupting Matsuda mid-sentence as he spoke of some similar childhood experience. "Did you grow up in a group home?"
An incomprehensible looked crossed his face as his eyes found hers, only to smooth into his usual blank stare. "I did."
"And you won't elaborate?"
He didn't answer.
The relief on her father's face when he realized she wasn't about to elope with a bum was almost comical. Hearing that she was going out with her brother had brought instant comfort; if he'd known the truth–
But, he didn't and he never would if she had anything to say about it. She hoped that secret was going to follow her into the grave. Ryuzaki had shown no interest is speaking of it, as yet there was no benefit to revealing the twisted relationship, but she couldn't be sure it would never come up.
There was no sense in worrying about it. Even he had some idea of how badly that revelation would be received. If he did like her, and that was a big 'if', he would keep his mouth shut.
That was another problem she would need to solve. Finding out how L felt would be as simple as asking, she didn't think he'd lie, but when was the right moment for that? And why should she have to ask in the first place? He could tell her on his own time. Maybe hearing nothing more from her would teach him a lesson in the importance of speaking about emotions with clarity.
She had other things to be concerned about, like what she would wear on her day out with Light.
To wear a skirt might be inviting trouble, but would be appropriate given it was supposed to be a date. She didn't think he would be pulling her into any seedy alleyways or low-class love hotels, he was too far above that, and they would be within public view the entire time.
A skirt it was then; he'd find anything else strange anyway.
Now the question was, which skirt? This was about more than just Light; to be out in the crowds brought the possibility of being recognized. That hadn't happened yet, but it was only a matter of time. Her fans were located all over Japan and sooner or later one of them would see her during the course of a normal day. She couldn't afford to look anything less than perfect. She needed to meet, better yet surpass their expectations.
It was with the utmost care that she choose her outfit. In the end she ditched the idea of a skirt and choose a white sweater dress; it was short, but no shorter than any skirt she would have worn. Her father wouldn't like it of course, but fans would.
It would be paired with a belt and ankle boots. Simple enough.
One challenge down, one to go.
She really did want to find out what L thought of her, but to ask him would defeat the purpose.
He'd told her something about himself, did that mean anything? Had he expected her to understand? He'd worn an unusual expression when she asked about where he'd grown up, perhaps he hadn't thought anyone would piece together the clues he'd provided.
Certainly the task force wouldn't have. Matsuda had already moved onto speaking of his own childhood and no one else had been prepared to speak up.
Had that been another test? He must have known they wouldn't understand what he was saying, in fact he'd been about to deny Matsuda's request for memory sharing in the first place. Why had he changed his mind?
Haruka would have liked to think it was because she'd added her petition, but that was a dangerous thought and not necessarily true. Until he came forward with a more concrete confession she would make no assumptions. Besides, he'd not detailed the revelation. Then again, he hadn't said he never would.
She sighed. This was too confusing. Ryuzaki was too confusing. Everything about this situation was off the rails and there didn't seem to be any way to get back on track. What would happen when she left high school? Before that she'd be a legal adult. They couldn't keep her in the hotel then, but would she leave?
Her father was expecting that, she knew he was. He thought she'd move into an apartment of her own the day of her birthday, but was that what she wanted? Money wasn't going to be an issue and she was almost certain her allotment of the educational fund would be coming to her; even if it didn't, she'd saved more than enough to get into a decent place in a safe neighborhood.
Would L stop her? Did she want him to?
To be honest was to admit that she wanted to stay with him, but unless he would be honest too there was no reason for her to act on those feelings.
If he didn't try to stop her, if he didn't care that she left, her heart was going to be in pieces. It might serve her right. She'd been dumb enough to fall for him, fully aware of how emotionally incognizant he was. If he wasn't as invested in her as she was in him, she had no one to blame but herself.
"Your feelings are not wholly unrequited."
What did he know about her feelings? Even if Watari had spilled the beans, and he didn't seem like the type to do that, L hadn't heard anything from her. He had no idea what she was experiencing! It was so irresponsible of him to speak of things he knew nothing about. What if she'd lied to Watari? He'd be making a total fool of himself.
"World's best detective." The title had gone to his head. She wasn't some common criminal he could puzzle out by analyzing her behavior. Unlike the people he usually dealt with she didn't have an ulterior motive and he was probably attributing more to her actions than she put behind them.
What was he even thinking she felt? Did he realize that his entire statement hung on her being aware that he knew how she felt about him? And that she wasn't?
He could think she hated him. His actions weren't those of someone who thought that way, but it was possible. He was weird! Who knew how he would react to hatred?
He could have been telling that he hated her. He could have been saying, "I like you too." He might have meant that he kind of liked her, but not as much as she liked him.
Again, he didn't really know how she felt so what he'd said meant nothing.
Ryuzaki was so conceited! He thought he knew what she was thinking and even if he was right how idiotic was it to act without finding out for sure first?
Those thoughts combined and propelled her from the bedroom to the living room where her father, Matsuda, and L remained.
"You!" she shouted, pointing at the source of her vexation and causing those in the room to jump in surprise. "Are clueless! You idiot! You don't know anything about anything and until you do don't talk to me!"
Soichiro was as concerned as any father could be about Haruka's aggravated statements. It seemed that he'd missed some crucial interaction between the head of the investigation and his eldest daughter and, though he hated to think it could be true, he had the frightening thought that it might have something to do with romantic inclinations.
He was aware of what L had said during that first meeting. Apparently Haruka had been partial to the idea of the detective and her enraged reaction proved the accusation true. The fact that she'd remained upset for so long had alleviated any fear he might have had of a resurfacing, but lately her annoyance had shifted. She didn't seem so much upset anymore as exasperated. She was annoyed by Ryuzaki, but not enough to hate him, not enough to curse at him and–
Had she just blushed?
"Uh, Chief? Do you need water or something? Maybe you should step outside? You look kind of red."
His eyes were darting between the two. L had not seemed to react, but something must have happened.
What had he just missed? What caused that faint pink tinge to touch her cheeks and why were her shorts so short? That wasn't the fashion was it? It was winter! What sense was there in wearing short shorts and–
Ryuzaki had been looking at her.
"Chief? I'm getting you a drink, okay? Just hold on a second!"
This was impossible. He had to be misreading the situation. Haruka was a minor and she had no interest in anyone, much less L. He was certainly not her type. She complained about him too often and he thought she could be Kira. He wouldn't involve himself with a potential criminal.
He was over thinking it; there was nothing to be concerned about.
"Thank you, Matsui."
Haruka was leaving the room already. Surely he'd misinterpreted her expression, had misunderstood her actions. L hadn't actually looked at her, had he? Probably not. It was unlikely. In fact, the more he thought about it the less likely it seemed.
Still, there was a small part of him that worried. Haruka often took the unpredictable route and he could think of nothing more unexpected than finding that she was interested in Ryuzaki.
It was rare that Haruka failed to acquire what she wanted. If she was after L's attention he had no doubt she would try to get it, but his real fear lay in whether or not the detective would reciprocate. He was not someone Soichiro wanted Haruka in a relationship with. His line of work was too dangerous, too close to the edge of the law.
She stopped, pivoted, and glared.
"Did I not just tell you–"
"Have your brother come here to pick you up on Sunday."
This couldn't end well.
Haruka paced back and forth in her bedroom. Light would be arriving at any minute only to be greeted by L who'd insisted that it was time for him to meet her twin.
What did he mean by it? Obviously he needed to meet Light at some point, to see if Kira would surface during a face-to-face meeting, but was there an ulterior motive?
Could he be using this as a signal to her that he was seriously going to pursue her?
"Gah!" She put her hands over her face as she fell backward onto the bed. "Too optimistic!"
Ryuzaki meeting her family. What an insane picture that brought to mind! Sayu would be accepting after a moment's hesitation, her mother bewildered. She could see it, see him sitting in that strange way in the living room. Sayu would comment on it, Sachiko would shush her, and L would explain that it heightened his mental capacity. All the while she'd be red in the and face trying not to explode on him for being so unusual, while mentally berating herself for thinking him cute despite, or perhaps because of, his odd habits.
That wasn't happening today. No, today Light would meet L, or Ryuzaki, or whatever alternate identity the detective choose to use, and everything she'd worked for would be shot.
Had they met without her around she could have pretended to be unaware, played the innocent card when Light started questioning her, but there would be no chance of that now. She'd told him at school after being given the directive and his reaction had been less than stellar.
"At the hotel."
"You've been staying with this guy at a hotel? Is that what you're telling me right now? Dad left you with some guy–"
"And an older gentleman!"
"–at a hotel?!"
He was so pissed. Nothing she did calmed him; he'd turned away her advances and then refused to speak to her. Haruka had worried he'd cancel the date, but a text came Saturday night reaffirming the address.
She wanted to strangle L, but he claimed that his plans were going to be put into action and that he needed to meet Light to do it.
She had no idea what he was going to say, but depending on what Ryuzaki told Light her plans for the day might need to be put on hold. There was only so much he could take. An unexpected encounter with the man chasing Kira down was probably going to strain his patience to the breaking point.
At ten minutes to eleven she left the bedroom for the parlor to find L standing, stooped as ever, by the door.
She didn't want to be alone with him, but he would think her weak if she turned tail to hide.
Instead she took a seat in the chair he'd claimed as his own and tried to look nonchalant by putting in an earbud and turning up the volume on her MP3 player. One ear free to hear Light knock, the other end of the listening device left to hang so she could bombard Ryuzaki with passive-aggressive lyrics hinting at how she felt because she was tired of keeping it to herself, but there was little chance to talk to him about it without the possibility of being overheard.
It was time to pull out all the stops. She'd never been timid and all this sulking was growing old, so she chose to play what she thought was the most appropriate song possible: Crush, by Mandy Moore. As it happened this was also one of the few songs she could sing along with halfway decently.
Still, it was embarrassing and she couldn't help but close her eyes because the thought of L actually paying attention was too much to bear, but so was the idea of his ignoring her. The song was half finished when she found the courage to recite the lyrics, but she thought it better than cowardly keeping quiet.
"I got a crush on you, I hope you feel the way that I do. I get a rush when I'm with you. Ooo, I got a crush on you, a crush on you. Ooo, I wish I could tell somebody, but there's no one to talk to. Nobody knows I got a crush on you–"
When had she turned into such a teenager? Such a girl? She'd never felt so airheaded in all her life! This was such a dumb thing to do, but it seemed like the only option. He wasn't stupid, surely he understood something as direct as this; if not she might have to give up for good because she didn't know how much more her heart could take.
"You say everything that no one says, but I feel everything that you're afraid to feel. I will always want you, I will always love you- I got a crush on you, I hope you feel the way that I do. I get a rush when I'm with you. Ooo, I got a crush on you, a crush on you."
Her eyes popped open when she felt a finger touch her cheek. A poke? No, it was more of a stroke and it was L standing over her, his eyes as empty as ever, but what was he doing leaning closer? He couldn't be about to–
And then he did.
He was not unaware of her presence, he never had been, and at this point it would have been impossible to mistake her behavior for anything else.
She was clearly attempting to bother him into leaving his post so he would give up on his introduction to Light.
She was sitting in his chair, perhaps in a show of defiance or maybe, he could hardly think it, possession, but that upbeat American pop-song was incredibly annoying! Was she trying to drive him to the mad house?
He didn't place any significance behind the music until Haruka started singing along, not very well he noted, midway through.
"I will always want you, I will always love you- I got a crush on you, I hope you feel the way that I do."
L was sure that he'd never been so shocked by a revelation as he was this one and he acted on it immediately.
He'd known that her sensitivity remained, but what was that? Talk of forever. I will always want you, I will always love you.
He stood over her, quickly fighting a silent internal debate. Did she know what she was saying? Of course she did. What was the purpose of this? It was easier to use words that had already been spoken than to say something like that on her own. It was immature to regulate her thoughts to the words of a song, but if she thought it was an adequate expression of her feelings then who was he to question her?
Ryuzaki hadn't meant to touch her face, it was an involuntary action, but then he'd already done it and he didn't want to take it back. So, rather than stepping away when her eyes opened, he leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers.
He didn't know what he'd expected to come of kissing Haruka, if anything he supposed she might push him back in surprise; instead, though she trembled lightly, her lips moved against his own and he didn't think he'd ever experienced something so pleasant.
Well, perhaps that wasn't exactly the word for it, but nothing else was coming to mind and it was sufficient. At least it was, until her hands moved into his hair and she pushed her tongue into his mouth.
He wasn't sure what to do about that, but apparently reciprocation was a preprogramed response because without conscious permission he'd become entangled and suddenly something that had once seemed disgusting and unhygienic was perfectly perfect.
Yagami, Light was ticked to say the least. Haruka had confessed that her living situation was not all he'd been led to believe it was. She wasn't staying with some member of the Kira Task Force, she was hotel hoping with L! She'd intimated that she was with L before, but this was more than he'd expected.
She swore she knew nothing much about who L was, that he was called Ryuzaki by the police and herself, that she had no knowledge of any secret information, but how could he believe her?
It would have been best to kill her. He should have. He had no idea what kind of dealings she might have had with L, how the detective might have poisoned her mind against Kira and yet she lived.
It was as he'd feared. He was incapable of killing Haruka.
The only course of action now was to get her away from L's influence, but their father had been fine with her staying in a hotel with the man, so what chance did he have of convincing Soichiro that Haruka would be better off at home?
He was taking her out that morning. Eleven o'clock was fast approaching and he was outside the hotel she claimed to be staying in. Should he go to the specified floor, to the indicated room number, and find that she wasn't there he could hardly be held responsible for any actions he may take.
Ryuk whistled. "Wow. Some hotel! She's livin' it up, huh?"
That was not helpful.
She was kissing Ryuzaki. Okay, heading toward second base more like, but after wanting to be with him for so long it was almost indescribable.
Had it really only been a few weeks? It felt like months! But, no. It was just the start of February.
Once they'd set in the hormones had really kicked her in the ass. The mystery of Teenage Girl Syndrome had finally been solved; she still couldn't fully comprehend the desperation behind some of the lengths her classmates were willing to go to find a relationship, but at least she understood wanting to be with someone in particular.
Reality settled hard when the knock sounded on the door.
Light had arrived.
No one knows what happens to the soul of a Shinigami who has given their life for that of a human. Most speculate it is destroyed entirely.