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Yagami Light is a detective. He can iron and fold like a million dollar maid, cook a mouthwatering crepe with a perfected flick of the wrist, and not a moment of his routine to primp himself into the most faultless flavor of man goes wasted. So he’s gorgeous, he’s talented and skilled, all of which he’d call himself by name. But still at heart, soul, flesh, blood, he’s a detective, so there’s no reason for him to be knotting the necktie of his first costume change as he saunters toward the halflit stage, busy in the back with set directors planting finishing prestige, curtains raised to allow the empty rows of seats watch his arrival.

Across the wood his heels echo upon, several odd school desks line themselves, the furthest the home to a perch of bare feet, distracted looming eyes. “You’re late.”

Light pauses a pace away from him. Indents mark themselves deeply into the heel of his palm. The shit show’s decided to start early today. 

“Sorry, Ryuzaki,” he demands his tight jaw to spill, evened. He drags a hand to the chair ahead of him, claiming it as his designated place. “I was getting ready. I could hear the first overture from my dressing room, so I knew I had a few minutes to spare.”

“Uh huh.” From his place, L unfolds his limbs like a machine gearing up, standing above the corner of the next desk. “In any case, this may be another rehearsal, but the real thing-”

“The real thing is in only a few hours, I know, I know.” Brunet shakes itself. Light huffs, almost darkly. “You’re doubting me too much. If I didn’t know how important this was, I wouldn’t have shown up at all.”

As much as he’d love that. Tension curls Light’s hands together, not quite yet simmered enough in L’s imperial presence to grow venomous, though he’s certain it won’t take longer than any other practice session. Had he any sort of choice in the matter, he’d be nowhere within a thousand meter radius of this rented theater hall, because he isn’t an actor, he’s a goddamned detective- and he thought L was, too, not a director, as he’s turned himself into these past weeks of gruel. If producing an entire choreographed stage play, an hour’s worth of musical numbers included, just to somehow test its star assigned to play the serial murderer role is L’s chosen method of insanity, then so be it. ...And his father had made him come, anyhow.

“Here’s that extra mic you wanted, Ryuzaki- Oh, Light, you’re here now.” Matsuda tilts his chin into a grin, a nodded assurance as he stands between them both. “Thank goodness, I don’t know what we’d do without our starring role. Although...I could probably be a good understudy. I wouldn’t mind having a bigger part than just the stage assistant...”

“You’re a powerful asset to this production, Matsuda,” L tells him, though Light can hardly choose to focus on more than the way those thin fingers have accepted the microphone piece to clip onto Light’s lapel, leant over him and breathing so thickly. Light peels back in a swallowed sneer, readjusting the mic himself once attention has left him. “Don’t forget, you’ve got your part in Light’s first song.”

Mirth throws a fist to clench beside his sudden grin. “Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t forget, uh- Instead of loopholes for the laws to fall between, let some g-!”

“Right, very nice,” L cuts in, “Save some enthusiasm for when that song you’re supposed to be in starts in thirty seconds.”

Abrupt as he’d silenced, Matsuda takes to blinking, gripping the air as around them fill desk seats with ensemble actors for the first song. He bows and says something vaguely obedient, Light watching him fumble all the way to his spot past L and the pretty girl he shares his ten second spotlight with; Sayu appears nothing of fazed, sliding into place after a grinning wave for her brother in a far back seat. He can recall that stupid, stupid night at dinner where the both of them had been recruited for their roles, Yagami Souchirou who’d never been a fan of fine arts in his whole life glowing at the task given direct from their overseer’s mouth. Light had argued, hey, isn’t putting on a goddamned play somewhat of a distraction from the Kira investigation, and isn’t it a little obscene to sensationalize that worldwide killer by making him the main character in said goddamned play-? But Sayu had all but sprung from her seat to soak up the enthrallment, their mother the sweet fawn who’d been delighted at the idea of her sweethearts dancing up on stage, and that had been when any issue Light could possibly input was deemed mute.

Twenty four rehearsals in, he still doesn’t know exactly what the fuck L has up his sleeve with all this, but he almost guesses he just likes the attention.

Some part of Light agrees- never in his life would he count as a shy one, secluded, sure, but he’d never refuse a sycophanting glance, will choke on so many compliments before he dare think to spit one out. So being granted the starring role had at first made him scoff, though a third or fourth song into the first practice, he’d moved with a flourish in every step, lungs filled in pure gold on every note. And that doesn’t change now, no matter how much he wishes to roll either eye once they spot L’s crouch in the front audience row, he’s a professional just as soon as the lights dim properly, the beginning thrums of feedback off the actor’s mic at the very front. A stranger L had cast for the minor civics teacher to begin the whole downhill spiral. This, Light thinks, is what had hooked him on this revolution at all, the opening scene where he’d been set to discuss the ethics of the justice system among his classmates- he’d hardly needed a script for this part, going off of his most passionate stances to fight in every breath. Perhaps that’s what made his acting skills so believable. After several rolling lines, he hears the telltale pricks of music setting overhead, eyes laying closed to the measure of it as he prepares an inhale.

...Where is the justice, when the guilty all go free?

Light absconds from there, the perfect little renegade throwing himself to his feet as the beat of the song picks up, ensemble joining shortly behind to mirror him. Stalking, jolting movements contradict the cream of his voice as it croons the deepest desires of heart. 

Until the guillotine blade slams him down against reality again.

“Cut the track, please.” 

Light, his arms outstretched and throat through center syllable, stumbles only one step to the side as he blinks straightforward. L sits as the single spectator, aside from the clean cut figure of Watari poised with a stream of tea flowing into a gilded cup. Shortcake crumbs linger on L’s lips as they move around orders, mouth stuffed so full they can barely be discerned. “Light, I know you’re playing yourself, but I’m almost having a hard time believing that’s really Kira up there. It needs more...dynamism. Like when you say, let the corporations make the regulations, you really have to hit that reguLAYtions. ReguLAYtions.” He swallows, chewing instead the tips of fork tongs. “And the way you emphasize any justice, that’s good, but save it for the last chorus. I think that will really make a better impact.”

Filth tugs the glower on his face. One hand cups a jutting hip. “Anything else, Your Highness?”

Despite the scoffing sarcasm, L seems to truly contemplate the idea as he dissects another bite of cake. “No, I think that’s all for now. Just do better. Continue, everyone.”

His teeth could shatter from the snarl that hides behind them. Light inhales sharp as a tack, falling swiftly in line with the song as it starts back up again. Every accentuated gaudy vowel leaves him with a glance for the audience. L does not once blink.

The crescendo reaches its death in due time, Light lost within the symphony and spotlights as he always succumbs to by that point. Arms high above him, he breathes shallowly to the music’s silence ringing in his head, the slow tip of his jaw downward again drawing him to normalcy. Several dancers pant behind him, though no time is wasted dragging desks away to replace them with rocks and dust and dark rolled out for the oncoming scene.

“Watari, bring Wedy and Aiber out from makeup, and have the track ready for They’re Only Human.” Idly, L stirs a handful of sugar into the cup before him. He doesn’t offer to move a muscle whilst Watari nods, taking compliance in his every step away. Short stairs guide Light down toward the ground aisle, where he squints in the lack of blinding stage lights, exhaling one final gust as he traipses to sit beside the director’s chair. L sips, pulls a face, and spins six more sugar cubes into his tea. 

“I think the choreography went well that time,” Light comments, if only to speak at all. 

A smack of lips sounds in an echo. “You weren’t the one who had to watch it.”

And that’s his last grasp at conversation. The wood of the seat digs hard against his back, head tipped into an eyeroll that despises L’s very existence in any life. Working beside him on the investigation hadn’t been something Light thought he’d ever prefer. In all the languages he’s fluent in, the one word L refuses to learn is cooperate.

“Sorry, sorry! That shoot went way later than I expected! But I’m here now, ah, hi, Wedy! You make such a cute shinigami!”

As the stage above them carries forth the next stars, Light watches, though he’s taken to where Wedy, within her layers of makeup and bandages, has aimed a quick fingergun of flirtation. Jingles alert him to Misa’s every step. Whoever decided to sew bells on socks deserves the uppercut of a lifetime, he thinks.

“Ah! Liiight! There you are!” But at least they make a fine alarm system. He’s prepared for Misa and her sudden place in front of him, dressed head to toe in lacey lolita of the most gothic taste, cosmetics far too subtle to match this garish production. She smiles wide enough to creak her bones as she catches sight of him. “I’m so happy to see you, but, oh no, I didn’t miss Where is the Justice, did I? That’s one of the best songs in the whole play!”

Her pout fits between the smack of her palms on either cheek. Misa huffs where Light only nods. Another motion waves through her, a weapon of mass determination in that point forward. “Okay, I’m gonna go get ready in the dressing room, but I better not miss Hurricane. Wait ‘til I get back to do it, Ryuzaki. I promise I won’t be long!”

Without a word from either of them, she’s jingling off to take the stage, sneaking around the action going on across it to slip behind the back curtains. L licks frosting off a thumb.

“So...” Light’s taut brownline begins, “Are you actually going to comply with that? Or should I go get ready, too?”

Beside him, where his vision ends, L reaches for his script pad on the stool ahead, flips through it in absent tapping of the top lip. A humming vibrates against it. “Well...I was thinking of skipping it anyway. You clearly aren’t prepared for another solo. I think instead until Amane comes back, I’ll show you what I want out of you.”

Light has not a second to growl back the frustrations that throb instantly at both temples, not as L lays the papers down again to instead claim the walkie talkie beside it. “Watari, after this scene, have them queue up The Game Begins.”

Indentations, indentations deep in both his palms. Light cautions himself, insists a breath cool him as he watches L amble from his seat, brushing crumbs from hands the whole way. He’s certain he’d be as confused as the rest of the cast in the back dressing rooms will be once the next song starts out of line, though it’s far from the first time L has smothered them in his creative liberties to do whatever the hell he wants in whatever order he wants. Light this time isn’t certain whether the liberty shall truly be to teach, or plainly a way to flaunt L’s self proclaimed aptitude. 

Piano keys plink beside the subtle rise of acoustic strums. L sits beneath a single spotlight, scenery still set to resemble the supposed shinigami realm whilst he perches in the rolling chair dragged center stage. The whole thing stings of impromptu, but Light supposes practice is practice is practice. L can use all he can get, if he has any opinion to give. 

Empty your mind of any theories…

Sometime at the midst of L and his histrionics, Light turns focus toward the brush of fabric so sudden beside him, and in the dark of the rows he can see his father claim the seat to his right side, murmuring gallantly, “I’m unsure if this means we’re supposed to be next...”

It does occur to Light that his father-son duet follows this solo, and it does occur to him that belting out an entire song about calling L an egregious devil on this Earth would do wonders for his stress right now, though nothing feels certain in the way this production shall ever be done, so he’s null to offer the thought but a toss of an unknowing hand, eyes dropped back frontward. L’s bounded up to his feet now, surging through his final chorus with all the vigor of someone his polar opposite. Yet still, his voice does not shy away from a resounding resonance throughout the theater, clutching his hands in dynamic pantomimes all the way up to his last drawn out notes. The song ends in one clasp of instrumentals silenced. 

Light rolls his eyes.

“Incredible as always, Ryuzaki,” Souichirou nods, up on his feet to watch L clamor down off the stage sans use of the steps. As though a switch has been flicked, the energy his character bursts with is replaced by the sluggish drag of his body back into his seat, spine hunched forward, lids halfmast and shadowed. They land toward the crew racing to clean up the set. 

“That should help you to hone your own performances,” L mumbles, sliding a mouthful of tepid tea to quell the new strain of his throat. Light delights in the way he hears it choke him when he moves his own review along.

“It was alright,” he nods, finger curled to the chin. “But it could use some work, especially the ending. There’s a four second run followed by a ten second riff, you have to make sure you have enough breath left over to really drive that last note home. And the whole, ‘make the most of Kira’s first mistake’ thing, I think you need to deliver that with more passion. I wasn’t convinced you really hated Kira, you sounded more like someone who’d, oh, I don’t know, write a musical about him, or something.”

The teacup sets down with a clink.

“Okay, all ready!” Golden strands of ponytails sway at Misa’s shoulders. She appears no different than her usual style, standing before them now in short skirted leather and chains, though he supposes that matches to her character description being that of Amari Misaki, a young, spritely model and idol devoted to her boyfriend, Asahi Hikari, whom she takes on the role of the second Kira to assist. Light had argued, hey, you’re not as fucking funny as you think, Ryuzaki, only heightened that much further to read the script onward about the handsome and cynical detective R, the world’s most beloved enigma and Kira’s greatest enemy. Light wonders if L still feels the imprints of his hands around his throat. But life again blinks to view with Misa curling a finger through her hair, puckering the strawberry satisfaction of her mouth. “Can we do Stalemate next, pretty please? I’ve been practicing my part in that all morning.”

Glancing to her, Light thinks upon it, though more pressing follows his gaze to L resting hands on his bent up knee caps, tipping a tone far too even for anyone’s good. “I think that’s an excellent idea.”

Cold air shivers beneath Light’s collar. Hardly does there come a chance to appraise the notion before L is shifting toward the stage, Misa clapping her giddy way behind him while Light stiffly must bring up the rear. He sips a long breath as he watches the tech crew prepare the environment for them, spinning a pair of desks until the oak one faces Light and the chrome one toward L, already propped in position with his back toward the other. Light purses into a scowl, turning himself as well to await the entrance of the rest of the scenery. A chair burdens two set designers with its weight, tripled by the poise of Aiber atop it, hardly recognizable behind his costume makeup. “Hey, kid,” cackles the gravel of a voice he puts on for the role, a greeting Light barely breathes to in response as his bedroom is built around him. He can only assume the mirror of an office space has finished being set up behind him, for it’s only seconds until the air blossoms in a new voice.

Each time I challenge, he responds.”

Notes hit in time beneath L’s chilling voice. Light can see partially the way the stage light rests only on the other while his own half stays darkened, rigid up until the moment the focuses shift and he is the one outlined within the luminescence. 

I wonder, is this guy for real?” All over again, that real life passion returns to his character. “I wonder, is he who he claims to be? And if he is, then what’s-?”

“Hold on. Light, if I could have a word.”

After a loitering riff, the track pauses, leaving them hanging in the grating silence of the room. Teeth grit together to grind out an echoing, “What?”

When he twists to face the other side, L’s waiting for it, eyes toward him and face lax. “It’s nothing much, just, that last line should end high, not low. Claims to be! Not...claims to. Be.” His leer thins to interest. “Got it?”

Face still a tight wound pressure, Light turns back to his own space. “Got it.”

When the music picks up again, he’s faultless, right in sync where his first part had begun. He wonders if this guy’s for real, and if he’s who he claims to BE! and all else in calculated timing, allowing L’s part to oppose his anew until, together, they fit into the chorus. Guitar strums slap after it as the lights go down on them both, flicking to life upon Light alone as his next solo cue.

His name is obviously fake-”

“You were a bit flat, Light. Do better in the next chorus.”

Blinks rattle him to silence as the music continues. L’s quick to right him, “Go on, don’t let me stop you. You’ll have to get used to performing through distractions if you intend to make it through tonight.”

Still, he stands in gawking, a glance for Aiber and his snorting grin behind the painted on one helping him null. His head shakes, attempting to find his place in the tempo before it can crash down on him, though before he knows his own heartbeat to exist he’s shrouded in dark all over again. “Just like two actors on a stage, go through the motions that we both rehearsed…”

Light clenches a fist. By the time their duet climbs his throat again, he’s practically growling it, then decides he’s far better than that, he’s far better than all of this.

“This time stalemate, but just you wait! Oh, Ryuzaki, that was completely out of tune, I’m surprised. No taboos, light the fuse, win or lose, this is it.”

He hasn’t even experienced the toil of singing through such a broad smirk as he does in that ending line, watching the dark heat of L’s face as they break into a mimicking motion away from each other. Between the backs of the desks that sunder their sides of the stage, Misa emerges as though a tulip in spring, voice as angelic as the hundred other times she’d practiced her verse with them. Despite her perfection, Light cannot keep his eye from wandering to L, L and his deepset ire that demands itself silent. Sure, a stalemate. 

As Misa’s debut comes to a roaring close, they return to their roles in a flood of iridescence around them both. “All or nothing, so, let’s get to it,” streams from their complementary tones, though L to no shock breaks off the harmony to knit his own next line, “Light, you really just, sound like shit.”

With a millisecond to prepare his own lash, he tumbles against his straining mouth, ad libbing an eloquent, “Ryuzaki, I, fucking hate you.”

“Let’s begin-”

“Light the fuse-”

“Fuck you, Light-”

“Bite my ass-!”

“Suck my dick-!”

“This is it!”

The final line, finished together in pristine tandem, ends as well with the practiced move of facing one another, fingers raised forward, though in previous rehearsals had been the pointer fingers, not the middles they both raise now. Aiber chokes on a hoarse laugh. On the other side of the set, Souichirou adjusts his glasses atop a smoldering face.

“Light...I can’t say I approve of those lyrics from you.”

Reality hits him in a slam that spills his skull from the crack. He clasps his fingers down, guiding them to cover the shamed hue of his mouth. Stiffness eats his form. “...Sorry, Dad.”

“Oh, Light, you’re so...funny!” At the very least, Misa appreciates his labor. She claps her palms together, ducked out to mingle among the rest of them now, gleaming with the sunlight of merely standing at his side. “You sounded amazing the whole time, even the goofy parts. I could listen to you sing all day long…”

It’s almost charming him, until he steals a glance ahead where L stands, expression blank yet the faintest twinge darkened. “Watari…” he murmurs against the walkie talkie unclipped from his belt. “...Set the scene for Misaki and her shinigami, now.”

Around them, set managers tentatively begin to crawl from the woodwork to obey, dragging furniture out to be replaced in an attempt to recreate the macabre expanse of Misa’s bedroom. The actress chirps in excitement, reaching into a pocket for her set of jarringly scarlet contact lenses. L’s vanished by the time Light looks forward again.

He feels no time at all has met him and gone once five o’clock tempts; Sachiko can’t keep a thought to herself the whole drive from their house to the theater, smiling through her enthusiasm for the evening. Sayu hums a melody of her leading solo, over and over and over again until it’s ambiance to his buzzing mind. His father guides them, stoic behind the wheel as perhaps at last his pinch of introversion catches up to him. Light isn’t surprised, not especially once the full cast is prepping backstage, and a peek past the curtain fifteen minutes before showtime gleans a double hundred filling the crowd in droves. No, he isn’t shy, but his stomach behaves that way in its short clench that leaves only once he’s spotted his mother’s soft eyes in the front row. He lilts a breath. Showtime. 

Within the minutes following, he receives a smile from his sister, nod from his father, Matsuda’s hearty thumbs up and a hug round the middle from Misa all of which meant to boost his luck out there. He straightens his coat, his tie, his focus all in one breath, and replaces the ensemble with the glory of Yagami Light. 

Three songs in and he’s lined in a thin gleam of sweat. He’s nearly overwhelmed by his own fashioned grandeur, then thinks better to speak that at all and supposes he is entirely overwhelmed by himself, yet in the most brilliant of ways. Every step, every sway, it all weaves without flaw, and only vaguely does he notice the hollow gnawing come from swearing L hasn’t even shown up. But there’s certainly no chance, and Light’s chugs of water behind the side curtain once a refrain frees him shows just that answer, the glow in his eyes as they settle upon handsome and cynical detective R in his office chair, his first scene that bleeds slowly into the beginning sweep of piano keys. Light lowers the bottle from his lips without closing them, just watching, watching, the passion of L’s performance gripping him to the raw sinew. For all he pressures and prods, Light cannot swallow away the acceptance of L and his dashing theatrics. He’s a new person in the spotlight, nowhere close to the lazy bratty mess of a man that faces the world on the daily. Where L is lethargic, R bursts with energy in every word, and where L sends Light’s temper flaring, watching R move so elegantly about the stage only patters a tempo into Light’s chest- or, Hikari’s, that’s all. Or maybe that’s worse. Light shakes his head, staring forward as the song flows into its final eruption of voice. L had taken his advice. The ending note implodes with enough power to send the audience cheering long after the lights fade. 

Several scenes flash by him, registering the moments he and L meet each other on stage, characters clashing in wit and worth. As his life is retold there, for all eyes to see, Light cannot help but notice L’s certain spots of stiffness, curling through his lines without that extra flare he’d been begging of the rest of his cast. He doesn’t let it perturb him, not enough to jeopardize his own performance as it falls wetly off the tongue, and as though timed just for him, he feels his lungs start to ache just as the curtain trembles down for intermission. 

“This is going ah-may-zing!” hushes Sayu’s euphoria as they conviene backstage. Hands clasp against Misa’s, teeth bared in two smiles for each other as the honey blonde starlet agrees, “Mhm! I’m so excited for all my songs in Act II. It’s gonna be so much fun! Light and Ryuzaki sound stunning together, too, I can’t believe how well you guys did out there.”

Briefly does a nod of surprise alight his face, though Light lasts only a moment before he’s drawn to look toward the other shifting beside him. 

“Yes,” L mumbles. His shoulders dip forward into their usual angle, casting a thick gaze to land at his side. “Light’s done remarkably well accepting my advice. I can only hope he won’t manage to ruin things in the second half.”

“Have a little more faith in me,” Light insists, exhaling a stark note. All the reprimanding, he knows, intends to lift him to his best self, that’s all, but the way L goes about it sends a concerning tip to his pulse. But he breathes, sips again at the nozzle to a water bottle as Misa and Sayu go on chattering, the others around him mere shadows in his peripheral. He leans more toward the wall behind him, soaks up the air that cools around the hall corner. A reprieve. When L looks to him, he feels it before he matches it, blinking against the leer that reads naught but a blank skewering.

“I know I’ve been critical,” he suddenly says, speaking as if the burden of the whole world lays upon him. Sighing, he drums forth, “But there’s a lot riding on this. For all I know, Kira’s in that audience right now, prepared to kill you for making such a mockery of his name.”

“Huh?” Pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse. His body snaps itself to posture, staring the other to a molten drip. “You’re putting me up to this while knowing Kira is likely to kill me at any time?”

“Relax, Light,” forces him to just the opposite, muscles straining to clench, watching L speak with the tight grip of teeth together. “The chances of that happening are less than four percent. I wouldn’t expect Kira to commit murder while he’s up on stage singing, anyhow.”

Ryuzaki-”

“Though, then again, it’s hard to say exactly what you’re capable of-”

“You organized this entire thing just to somehow prove that I’m Kira? How insane are you?”

Slow blinks pad his way. L licks across his teeth. “Composing a play with a two million yen budget is a small price to pay to test my theories.” Rather than Light his target, he aims a gaze between the sliver of life betwixt the wall and curtain. “If you aren’t Kira, then the real one could possibly be in that crowd right now, watching us, waiting to strike at any moment. However...I doubt that, not only because your flawless transition into this role has only increased my suspicions, but because I’m almost certain Kira would love this sort of attention. No matter what he’s done, deep down, every criminal has human tendencies and desires, and the Kira I’ve studied so long is undoubtedly an exhibitionist.”

Consternation clutches Light’s jaw in its fingertips to yank it open, aghast, repulsed, molars clicking together again only to fix L in a glare. “So what you’re saying is, if I’m not Kira, we’ll for certain get some sort of reaction out of him for this.”

“Right,” L nods, tapping fingerpads to the lip. “And, if you are, well...then this has been quite the credible performance, hasn’t it?”

The skim of a breath L speaks in does not wish response to such a questioning, a single strip of light illuminating where the dark has fallen across his face. Knuckles tremble with the ache to react, though time pauses to drag him back by the scruff in form of Matsuda’s echoing steps approaching. 

“Intermission ends in sixty seconds. Wedy and Misa Misa’s big duet is next, and then you guys are up again, right?” He smiles too boldly to clasp fire still in Light’s gaze. “Awesome, I’m excited to see you guys pull this off. Rehearsal today was...a little interesting.”

“It’ll be wonderful,” draws Light to look at L. The prediction leaves him with nary a change in expression, not until his eyes are dazzling onto Light, and that is when a grin breaks his horrible, licentious face. 

The stage beckons its next act, curtain lifting to raucous applause from the second side. Light watches the silhouette of Misa knelt on the bed she’d been carried out on, relaying her lines in untouchable gusto as her shinigami listens on. Were he any thicker in the skull, he’d almost believe that corner of his mind tapping with memory, some sort of misshapen mess of what may have been or will be, the way Misa goes on with Wedy dolled up in wigs and rags, looking the part of a god sent to procure her most devastating powers. Amari Misaki, the second Kira- something almost throbs within Light. Almost.

He and L make it through their parts with meager disease. Improv does not exist during the lines to their duets, staying strictly to the moves and lyrics they’re meant to, carries it through the acting in the scenes between. Though he’s a professional at heart, Light cannot help noticing he’s awfully hot under the collar each time he meets stares with L across the stage, blood a scorching three thousand celsius to watch the most minor little smirks taunting him through L’s deliveries. At a point, he’s so caught in that japing that he does not notice the way the space around him drops dead silence, a last line finished off in the inflection of a question. Light halfway wishes he hadn’t been distracted enough by L and his motions to not realize he’s the one meant to answer whatever’s been said, though the flick of a hand saves him as L murmurs out, “Well, I suppose Hikari doesn’t have much to say about that. Still, we-”

The ad lib pops several hoots of laughter from the audience. Light burns beneath the eyes, shaking his head to demand himself attentive. He won’t let L gain any millimeter of leverage over him.

There’s less than an hour left of the performance when they hit the tennis courts.

It’d been a scene Light had balked at at a first readthrough of the script, though in time found himself savoring the stress release of acting through sport toward the end of each practice. The crew had done a handsome job recreating fencing behind and netting between, racket in his hand as genuine as the felt of the ball it waps overhead. They’d gone through the motions of reenacting one of their first meetings true to life, the tennis match he and L had conquered that one blistering afternoon. As the first swing of his arm whisks forward, music pounds an opening string with it. “Time, to rethink, and begin, with a brand new game plan…” A perfect hit strikes the ball to the other side as L’s verse rumbles up. Several practices had passed before they’d both managed to get it together enough to focus on tennis and singing in tandem, criticizing one another with every forgotten line or missed target. To Light, this performance is the cultivation of their characters together both on stage and off, the way their lines weave so swiftly into each other, as if interruptions, as if teamwork. But now, here, he’d rather slice his throat clean raw than work together with the mastermind behind this drama, the one who’d truly, truly, concocted something so elaborate just to stick it to Light. That sort of dedication sickens him in a rage that expels itself in every slap of the racket. A vibrant college student hiding his identity as Kira in order to get closer to the detectives in their investigation of him. L hadn’t even attempted to hide his intent. Light could just- he could just-

An arch drives the ball away from him. What had that last thing he’d sang been, ah, don’t lose your cool, or you’ll blow it. Uh huh. He breathes as the final chorus fills his lungs, voice crashing high to the tips of L’s, and knowing it’s all almost over, so fucking close to just being done with this whole scheme, it sets Light at a twist of ease. 

And then, again, he catches the little shit eating smirk on L’s mouth, the lift of the eyes that tells him he’s won.

White churns his knuckles as they tighten against the racket handle. The song breaks into echoing that expression in its final cry, Light’s chest aching as he follows the steps toward the center net, note hanging high from both their throats the whole stalk forward to meeting at the middle, another attempt to mirror off their characters in an inch to seperate. Up so close, Light can certainly feel the way L staggers for breath, the sheen of vigor across his skin, the most intricate workings of the most sadistic bastard the universe shall ever know. 

So long holds their ending note, until it cuts neat, both arms nearest the outside swinging back to toss rackets away behind them. Light knows he’s meant to do that, knows he’s meant to wait here til the darkness folds atop them and cues their scene over; he knows what he’s supposed to do, because he’s practiced it in hundreds of hours of lashing commands to do better, stronger, more. With L up so near him, he dines on the image of wrapping a hand to his shirt and dragging his nose against a hard crushing fist, the final thank you gift to his director for putting on this whole show. But he wouldn’t, not ever to play so foul under the public eye- Yagami Light’s a gentleman to anyone that doesn’t know him, so he’ll save the brutality for when the curtain falls over them, and he’ll keep steady in what he’s supposed to do here, which is stand in a stark combatant’s pose, right in L’s face, and perhaps it’s been hours since they’d tossed their rackets, or more likely to him, it is close to the very same second that their hands have been freed that they move to wind into each other’s hair, and kissing L has not been written into the script on any of the hundred pages, but, yes, he certainly tastes of buttercream and hate.

It does not take more than six seconds (he’s counted) before there’s a tongue in his mouth, and he’s gripping so fiercely to his hair Light’s sure it’ll ache in chasing moments, yet all the same he’ll never feel as strong as passion, a lusting for just what he’s got, than in those thirteen seconds (he’s counted) he and L make out for an audience before the curtain drops shadows upon them, and from behind it a slew of delayed applause. 

If Light can recall from rehearsals, that isn’t a cue for the curtain to fall, though there doesn’t last a minute’s quarter before he notices Matsuda’s fingers lingering on the rope that rigs it, eyes wide forward to where they stand still wrapped together; L is the one to split them, pulling against a turn around, brow cocked in tempt.

“Uh, s...sorry,” Matsuda coughs. “I didn’t know what to do. That wasn’t part of the script.”

For sure. Life taps Light on his either shoulder to tighten them in the mortification of understanding, realizing what’s just happened to him and his existence on this plane. 

L, on a hundred contraries, sparks his dull voice in order. “Just set up the interrogation room for the next scene. Don’t concern yourself with a bit of improv.”

“I- I think that was more than just improv-”

“Li-iight!” The temperature of his face thanks every realm of heaven for Misa’s interjection into the conversation. Her hair sits pushed back by the steel eye mask rested above the forehead, walking in best effort with the shackles holding her against herself. “Oh my God, Light, that was...breathtaking! I couldn’t watch you guys performing, this stupid costume takes forever to get on… But I heard the whole thing, I’m so, so amazed…”

Light’s mouth tautens together, refusing her stare if only to attempt L’s, flicks back once he finds no return of eyes though rather of the other’s tone.

“Yes. Light finally captured exactly what I’ve wanted out of him all along.” 

The corner they stand within blazes ten Julys worth of sweat. Misa grins something out about her being next up, tipping a wink to them both before shifting off toward the midst of the prepared stage again. When they find themselves alone, it’s thick in humidity on Light’s every square inch, hardly daring himself alive there in that stretch of space as the curtain begins again to lift. 

“You’re in this scene, Ryuzaki,” he mutters behind a curled hand. 

Beside him, cast in the contours of evening, L nods his head one soft motion, and says back, “I know.”

Stiffly does Light’s gaze wander, finds the other’s already pointed upon him in a clash of focus scarlet with tremors. 

His back hits the wall as L hits his chest, hands pinning his wrists’ pulsations at either side of his head, and this kiss is silent, this one just for them and not one leer, divine in its flavor of age long temptation.

Handsome and oh so cynical.