Title: Babylon Fading
Fandom: Death Note
Rating: Hard R
Word Count: 2,609
Author's Note: Written for 30_lemons challenge #5 'The Harem, or When in Rome'
Summary: Sometimes, Naomi wonders if this is all worth it. If the irritation and frustration and lack of emotional intimacy is really a fair exchange for what brief, fleeting moments she and L share.
The Villa Medici’s view of the hustle and bustle of modern Rome clashed spectacularly with the 17th century décor and furnishings. Stepping out onto the terrace was like traveling from one world to another. The lavishly furnished hotel strived to capture a historic setting, and achieved it quite well. Which made the hotel’s surroundings even more jarring.
Naomi sat on the balcony terrace, cigarette in hand, watching the tourists and locals alike come and go in the square below. Even this early, the city was alive and churning.
It was a good view, she had to admit. There weren’t many parts of Rome that couldn’t be seen from the balcony, and it was certainly an impressive city to look at. And since this was probably all the sight seeing she was going to be able to do, she figured she’d enjoy it while she could.
It almost wasn’t fair. She traveled the world, visiting exotic places that most people only dreamed of seeing, and all she ever did was take pictures of corpses and crime scenes and interrogate witnesses and victims. It had to be, at the very least, ironic.
But that was the trade off. No social life, no vacation time, no hobbies…all in exchange to work with L. Most of the time, Naomi felt it was a more than appropriate trade. It wasn’t as though the FBI had left much room for a social life or extensive hobbies. And being granted the opportunity to work with the world’s greatest detective wasn’t something to be sneezed at.
That was putting it lightly, Naomi corrected herself. This was something that was akin to the highest honor any investigative agent could hope for. L was known for his reclusive nature and his abhorrence to working with others. No one saw him, no one spoke to him directly, no one knew anything about the man behind the legend….
Currently, the man behind the legend was in the other room, eating gelato for breakfast and hacking into the hotel’s security system.
Maybe it was a good thing that the general public knew nothing about L. It would probably shatter the mystique and awe to discover he was a weird, socially inept screwball.
Naomi was having her own breakfast, enjoying the small bit of time she had before getting to work. Her laptop was downloading police reports back inside the room, humming along steadily. There had been a rash of tourist murders in the Testuccio area, the death toll reaching eleven at this point. Always families, always stabbed, always left clearly visible. It wasn’t a particularly difficult profile, and Naomi doubted the case would take terribly long to wrap up.
Maybe she could convince L to stay a day or two longer, once the case was finished with. She’d never been to Rome before, and she wanted to at least see the Coliseum or some other large, famous monument that the city was known for. L could stay in the hotel and eat cake, or do whatever it was he did when she wasn’t around.
At least it was a nice hotel. At this point, Naomi imagined she could write a book. ‘Luxury Hotel Across the World’ or something like that. She may not have been able to see much of the cities, but she saw a whole lot of their hotels.
Pushing aside her finished plate, the former FBI agent stretched and returned to her computer. She sat cross legged in the hotel provided bathrobe, yawning and scanning the reports. Nothing new from the Italian police, at any rate.
Maybe I ought to put on a cup of coffee. Or the espresso machine…
Naomi was still contemplating another intake of caffeine when the door opened, admitting the slouching, rumpled figure of L. He never changed.
“Murders in Italy are boring.”
“Good morning to you, too,” Naomi responded, looking back down at her computer. “Solved the case already?”
“I believe so. The paper this morning reported another murder in the area. A local woman was found raped and murdered in the ruins of Pompeii.”
“One murder? I’m surprised it caught your attention.” She wondered if L would bother telling her who he had finally fingered for the murders. They’d had a couple of suspects, but narrowing it down had proved the only challenge the case presented.
“I was hoping for a challenge.”
“And you didn’t find one.” And now Naomi would have to deal with L pestering her about the line up of cases she had saved on the computer, until she offered just the right one that piqued his interest.
“There is no challenge in a case of personalized murder and rape where the victim is left in a state of humiliation within the walls of a brothel. And while I must admit that the manner of death is somewhat worth note, I am bored with Italy.”
“What was the manner of death?” Naomi asked, slightly curious herself.
“Suffocated with a piece of a statue of Priapus.”
“I’m assuming I don’t need to ask which piece.” And no, there were no mysteries there. Just another messed up misogynist lashing out. Creatively, Naomi had to admit, but it was just another dime store murder. “Serial potential?” she asked, after the fact.
L just shrugged. He’d made it clear he didn’t want to stay in the city - he never seemed to like to stay in one place.
“Are we waiting to hear back from the police?” she went on, returning to their very reason for being here.
“Yes. I don’t expect to hear from them until this afternoon, however.” L wandered over to the balcony, peering down at Naomi’s breakfast leftovers.
“Do you need me to stick around for anything?” If there was nothing to do but sit around the hotel, Naomi was going to see the damn Coliseum.
“Rome is a hypocritical city.”
“That doesn’t exactly answer my question,” Naomi pointed out, knowing damn well he was going to find a way to keep her in the hotel all day. Half of the reason she never had any time to herself was simply because L was so ridiculously demanding of her time. And there were really only three non-work related things they did together. And since they’d already eaten….
“It is regarded, because of the Vatican, as a holy and pure place. This is, of course, the same city in which festivals of prostitution and debauchery were prevalent for centuries. In ancient Rome, high castes of prostitutes held more rights and respect than married women.”
“Are we talking about that Pompeii murder, or is this a come on line? Because if this is a come on, it‘s a horrible one.”
“You must agree that the historical evolution of how intercourse is regarded in Italy is somewhat interesting. They didn‘t even regard it as intimate or personal. Simply something done to relieve stress and bring physical pleasure to men.”
“Viva la sexual revolution.” It wasn’t interesting. Romans had loved booze and sex, Christians didn’t. Times changed, history marched on, etc etc. This wasn’t anything new or worth note.
L simply stared at her, slouching against the door of the balcony with his hands in his pockets.
“Look, I took all the classes in college, I had all those lectures on how people view sex now as opposed to how they did in the day, and we’ve had the discussion on what sex means between two people. I was up half the night, I’m in a beautiful historic city, and you just told me I had almost an entire day with nothing to do. Now before we end up on some tangent about…the female orgasm or something equally ridiculous… do you need me for anything, or can I go out for a little bit?”
“What?” God, this was frustrating. She knew what he was hinting around at, she wasn’t stupid. The problem was that L completely failed when it came to any form of intimacy. Oh, once they got going it was fine, it was just the lead up that was frustrating, awkward and sometimes mentally painful.
She’d thought the first time had been the worst it could get. She’d been wrong.
“I was simply attempting to respect your wishes. You complained that I am too ‘blunt’ regarding matters of physical relations.”
“There’s a very wide line between ‘blunt’ and ‘nonsensically boring’,” Naomi pointed out. “And somehow you’ve managed to completely cross over it.” Honestly, him just showing up when he was bored or between cases and announcing ‘I would like to have sex now’ was better than this.
“Perhaps you are simply too demanding.”
“Trying to bicker isn’t going to get me in the mood, either.”
And that was another problem. It was never when she was in the mood. It was always when he wanted it, when he was in the mood, when he was bored. But that was how everything worked with L.
After a few months, the awe and amazement at the fact that she was sleeping with L had worn off. She’d known not to expect much - L wasn’t exactly known for his empathy or interest in the feelings of other people. And she’d agreed, because what else was there? Neither one of them had much contact with anyone else, they were constantly in close quarters together…it was bound to happen.
And in the beginning, it had completely blinded her. Because L was something incredible to her. And every time she saw some little glimpse of who he really was, it had thrilled her. Who else was allowed this? It was like being admitted to the most secret of inner sanctums.
And when they’d first slept together…. It had been some strange blend of unbelievable, incredible and terrible. Though she supposed the ‘terrible’ part was her own fault. She’d been the one to call things to a halt in the middle and start talking about things.
It had been alright for a time, after that. There was still that sense of honor and awe when he tactlessly requested her presence privately. And the sex was pretty good, on top of that.
But it was turning into more of a hassle than it was worth.
And L still wasn’t saying anything. He was just watching her, seemingly unbothered by her snappish mood. She knew she could start a fight, and that would probably end in bed, but she wasn’t in the mood for a fight either. Fighting with L was like punching a brick wall. He never changed his stance, never truly fought back. He just pushed. Steadily and without relent, until Naomi gave up.
“Look…I’m just tired,” she finally said. “I haven’t even had a shower yet. It’s only…7:30 in the morning.” And while early morning tumbles between the sheets were certainly nice, she’d prefer they didn’t come with so much needless talk and distance between them.
L’s thumb was at his lips and his eyes had that intense look that told her he was studying her. Suddenly, she felt uncomfortable and guilty. It wasn’t his fault he was the way he was. And she’d accepted him for him. Maybe he never opened up to her, but she didn’t help when she pushed him away.
This was ridiculous. They were in Rome. Arguably one of the most romantic destinations in the world. The artfully landscaped private terrace behind L alone was enough to remind her what sort of place this was. Hell, the hotel was probably just as beautiful and historic as any of the tourist sights.
Or so she kept telling herself.
“I think I’m gonna skip a shower this morning and try out that giant marble tub instead,” Naomi said, standing up off the bed. “You can come too, if you want.”
Maybe all they needed was to spice things up a little bit.
L didn’t move, so Naomi crossed the distance between them, putting her hands around his neck.
“Come on,” she teased, playing with his hair. “I’ll even put on a toga and rub oil into your feet or whatever.”
“Would that enhance the experience for you?” L asked, raising his eyebrows.
“No.” He was the one who seemed to have a fixation with Roman prostitutes.
“Then I hardly see the point of going to the extra effort.” But his hands were on her hips, tugging at the belt of her robe. He was still watching her intently, and Naomi could guess at what he was thinking. He knew she was still bothered by something. But she doubted he was going to press the issue.
And to be sure, she tilted her head and kissed him, cajoling him physically to let anything he was considering drop and join her in the bath. She dropped her hands from his neck, reaching for his at the tie of her robe.
“When in Rome…” she said, wetting her lips and drawing her with him towards the bathroom. She pulled close against him once they’d passed through the doorway, pressing her lips against his neck, holding to him, desperately trying to find that thing that made her want him. It was still there, at least, as he pushed her robe open and ran his hands over her back and buttocks.
She fumbled behind them to turn on the tap, afraid of pulling away and losing the moment. As long as it was still good, as long as they still had this, it would be alright.
Steam filled the room as Naomi tugged at L’s white shirt, her robe now on the floor at her feet. The sounds of the city filtered in from the open terrace, a quiet undertone to Naomi’s small moans and gasps as L toyed with her breasts and ran his tongue over her bare shoulder.
When she stepped backward into the bath, Naomi felt a pang of something when L wasted no time joining her. He used to look at her, take his time to enjoy her visually as well as physically. This time, there was none of that.
But it was easy enough to forget as they tangled together in the steaming water, kissing and touching and sliding against one another. Water spilled out of the tub onto the floor, splashing on the marble tile. Water dripped from both of them, and Naomi licked a drop from the tip of L’s nose. She thought she caught a small smile from him.
Whatever there was between them - Naomi hesitated to give it any sort of verbal boundaries - was still there. Perhaps faded and dulled, but still there. It seemed to flare some as they tried to arrange themselves properly, the water and the slick marble making it difficult. Naomi laughed, her foot sliding on the floor of the tub as she tried to position herself in L’s lap, grabbing his shoulders to keep from falling. His arms went around her, holding her, guiding her with a gentle insistence until he was inside of her and she was held firmly in his lap.
There it was. That fading spark flashed into life again, and Naomi clung to L desperately, burying her face in his shoulder as they made love, feeling more than anything his hands pressed firmly against her shoulders. It was that one, small thing that had made it all better. The way he without thought reached for her. He could ignore her, berate her, use her, manipulate her….
As long as he always caught her. As long as he tried to protect her when he felt she needed it. As long as he was there, in his own strange and distant way, Naomi could believe everything would be alright.