Disclaimer: Death Note and all related characters are the property of Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata, Shueisha, and Viz. This story is for entertainment, non-profit purposes only. Please don't sue me, I'm just a poor college student practicing her writing.
Tagline: He knew there was something wrong the moment his charge stepped into the room, face pale, composure shaken. For as experienced as he was in perseverance, Watari could not help, at that moment, but fear the imminent arrival of the future. Anime Fic. Episode 25 spoilers. One-shot.
Note: This story was inspired by Episode 25 of the Death Note anime. Specifically, it was inspired by the lovely scene at the beginning of the episode, where L goes to speak to Watari, apparently late at night, about something that has disturbed him. The scene grabbed my attention, because it's insinuated within the structure of the scene that L says something to Watari that the viewer in turn does not get to hear – likely in order to preserve suspense for the rest of the episode. "Legacy", then, is my take on what happened in the soundless portions of that scene (of which, I believe, we as viewers only saw a small portion), and what happened after the episode cut to another clip. It is meant to explain L's somewhat humble attitude towards his own death, and his apparent anticipation and understanding of the sadness he feels in later scenes of the episode. Because realistically, even Justice cries sometimes. But enough talking. If I say more, it will ruin the story you are about to read.
Thank you to b Ariel-D for beta reading this, and all the rest of my Death Note fanfiction! You are the best beta reader a writer could ask for.
The investigation complex was still, permeated with the dark silence that often accompanied office towers in the late hours of the night. It was, perhaps, a bit too late for the part of Watari that was slowly beginning to feel age creeping up like a snake, a silent boa constrictor that would suddenly and abruptly squeeze out the last few gasps of his life. As old as his body was, however, his mind was still young, and the white-haired man liked to think it would give him more than enough mileage to finish what he had started. Nearly twenty years ago – had it really been so long? – he had made a promise to a child – a promise about the future, which he intended to keep.
Therefore, as the long night passed around him, Watari kept working, silently shifting through pages and pages of digitized diagrams and flow charts, attempting to find that one piece of information which might be crucial to the investigation. Black and white numbers shifted on the monitor screens like ghosts hiding behind trees in the dark. He watched it all, observing, hand poised to stop the never ending succession of pure data in the instance that something interesting appeared.
Sometime after the second hour of solid searching he caught himself dozing once or twice, and after at least that many silent scoldings, he began to wonder if it wouldn't just be better to pack everything up for the night and sleep. No one, no matter their age, worked particularly well at three in the morning; not after already putting in such a full day of work.
Raising his hands, Watari rubbed his face wearily, noting with a reserved alarm how they shook slightly, like tree branches in the wind. His arthritis had not been that bad back in Britain. He suspected, however medically unlikely it was, the stress of the investigation was aggravating the condition. The stress, and perhaps the worry.
Watari was always worried. He had learned long ago the precious value of human life, and when human lives were subsequently hanging in the balance, he would feel the presence of concern build in his chest like an impending tsunami.
The worry never left – at least where his young protégé was concerned. That child – young man, he reminded himself with a sad smile – always had his fingers dipped into the profound, and the profound was rarely – if ever – safe. It certainly was not now, at that time – not with the presence of a real death god so near them in the investigation complex.
Shaking his head slightly, Watari chuckled softly to himself. Child, he thought, neglecting that time to correct the nickname that had become almost affectionate over the years, we, as the children might say back home, are in very deep right now.
And the worry that tugged at his chest threatened to become panic at the image of a wave rising above both their heads, so deep they could not swim nor breathe.
As if in response to the older man's internal anxiety, the door of the monitor room rushed open with a quick whooshing noise, coming to rest noiselessly in a recessed compartment inside the wall. Rotating his chair, Watari saw there, in the doorway, the shadowy form of the very person who currently occupied his thoughts.
The lanky detective took a step forward, close enough to the computers that the monitor screens cast an eerie glow onto his face, highlighting emaciated cheeks and a nose that was chiselled from something other than an Asian decent. He looked tired, and though that in itself was not a new occurrence, Watari was startled to see a look of uncertainty run, unchecked, across the young man's face.
"What's the matter, Ryuzaki?"
The words fell, muffled, to non-existence, and Watari wondered briefly if he had really spoken at all. The moment was oddly surreal, as though the sudden appearance of his charge had thrown the remaining rationality of the world into chaos. Although he seemed disordered on the surface, Ryuzaki was, fundamentally, a predictable being – and Watari had come to learn over the years to approach with some trepidation anything that could shake the young man's steel foundation of internal reason.
It had been a very long time since such a thing had occurred. A very long time.
"What's the matter?" Watari repeated softly, trying to discern just what his role at the moment was supposed to be. He began to suspect, as Ryuzaki continued to stand silently, unmoving, that his was no longer the role of the logistician. "Child. What is the matter?"
The softer tone, the words, seemed to shatter something internal in the detective. He visibly rocked where he stood, eyes growing wide, then narrowing to almost imperceptible, shadowy slits in the darkness. Watari had received similar reactions before, but none so obvious, so nearly violent, as this one.
The older man knew how hard Ryuzaki tried to shut everything out – his emotions, his feelings, and the subjective world that surrounded him, unavoidably, wherever he went. And Watari knew how horrendously shocking it was to the young man to suddenly let it all back in. Rationality was to the detective like a drug and, like a night of binge drinking, it left a sudden and emotional hangover in its wake.
The young man's lips moved, and his face furrowed in confusion when nothing came out. He shook his head, once, twice, clenched his fists, and let out a slow, deliberate breath, chin dropping to nearly touch his chest. "I . . ." The word degraded into a hollow laugh, an empty, hollow, melancholy laugh, so profoundly dead in its tone that Watari had to suppress a shudder.
Trying to maintain his own composure, Watari raised an eyebrow, and queried, softly, "Did you sleep at all?"
The odd gleam in Ryuzaki's eyes, as he snapped his head upright to stare, unblinkingly, at Watari, was horrendously disconcerting. Then, as the young man finally spoke, the older man came to understand why.
"There were bells," the detective said suddenly, drawing back at his unexpected outburst, an expression of uncertainty again crossing his face. "Bells." He reached up a hand and bit unconsciously at his thumb, a horrid and haunting look crossing his face.
Watari knew what the bells meant. He had known for years, since a ten year old Ryuzaki had left Wammy's House to live with the older man and had awakened, one winter's night, in a cold sweat, unable to speak, unable to move. Watari, having heard the single, solitary cry, had rushed to the boy's room, had sat on a worn, wooden chair beside the bed, until the first rays of the morning sun had crept out from behind the window curtains and had lighted the chamber.
The day prior to that startling experience, a young Ryuzaki had attempted to solve a murder investigation, and had failed due to unseen circumstances. Confused, distressed, he had tried to force himself to sleep, and had instead thrown himself into what soon became a reoccurring dream that plagued him at uncertain times. A dream of church bells ringing in the distance – bells from an orphanage, far away in Britain, the only place of solidity and consistency Ryuzaki had ever lived in.
Watari regarded the young man standing in front of him, noting the lines – so subtle, non-existent to the eyes of anyone but the man who had veritably raised Ryuzaki – and the creases which now lined his face. Lines of a fatigue, which went beyond the physical, and threatened to undermine the fragile stability the young man had always guarded carefully. In the battle between the rational and the irrational, there was never an even battlefield – the very nature of humanity itself gave passion, whether of joy or fear, a natural advantage. But Ryuzaki, somehow, had always persevered, even when he had been exposed to far more horrors, far more terrifying moments, than any being had a right to experience.
Long ago, before even the first incident with the bells, a much younger Watari had stood with a nameless child outside of The Wammy's House. A light snow had been falling then, the third of the winter, and blanketed the yard of the church turned orphanage like icing sugar on a cake. Watari had tightened his hand protectively about the child's, and had felt five tiny fingers close about his in return.
Would things be changing again, the child had asked suddenly, at which Watari had shaken his head and replied, no, they wouldn't be. Not for the worse, but if at all, for the better. And the child had nodded slowly, seemingly reassured, and, to Watari's surprise, had pulled at the older man's hand assertively, directing him to the open gates of the future.
A five year old child, uncertain of what that future meant, had already left little marks on the history of the world. Afterwards, when they were safely inside the home, Watari had looked back out the window and seen the tiny footprints in the snow, and had wondered how long they would last. Now, as he regarded the same child as a grown man standing in front of him, he believed it had been a silly thought, at least when it came to Ryuzaki. Wherever the young man walked, there would always be new footprints, new leads, new strengths, new perseverance. And if there wasn't . . .
The end of the footprints meant everything had come to a close.
"They won't go away," the young man whispered, his low voice raspy, barely loud enough to hear above the hum of the generators. "I'm . . ." Then a light came to his eyes, and he stopped, shook his head again, and stared at Watari like a child, lost on the streets, far from home. "They won't go away. Not this time." He laughed again, then went oddly limp, as though he had suddenly shed some great weight from his shoulders and been allowed, at last, to rest. "I've lost."
The words rippled through the room, standing Watari's hair on end, worsening the arthritic shake of his fingers against the arm rests of the chair. The words had not been a hypothesis. They were a statement.
A judicial sentence.
"And there's snow, too. The church. And the gate. I can't get it out of my mind. It all circles back, again and again. Nothing here. Only back then . . ."
Watari knew then there was no helping. There never was, really. All he could give was comfort. Comfort, reassurance, and the logic Ryuzaki could not find himself. It seemed absurd to Watari at that moment, in the cold light of the monitor screens and the impending doom that was falling upon them both, to think of such things. But absurd as it was, it was all they had left.
"What will you do, Ryuzaki?"
The detective stared at some place Watari could not see, out past his shoulder, far beyond the monitor screens, the building complex, the Kira investigation, and the entire world. He stared into the future, saw something that caused his eyes to grow infinitely sad, then finally turned his gaze to Watari.
Almost inaudibly, the young man sighed, and said softly, "What I've always done." A smile spread unexpectedly across his face, the tiny, unsure smile of a child apologizing to a parent for committing a mistake. A forced smile. "Keep going, right? Justice always wins. I'll keep going, even if . . . I . . ."
He never finished. The words cut off with a choke as reason died, and the young man stumbled forward, falling to the ground, knees crashing against the hard metal of the floor with a loud bang. Watari moved forward to catch him, hoping desperately that his hands would not fail him at such a crucial moment.
The young man was light, unnaturally so, but heavy enough that Watari was unable to lift him from the floor. Instead, the older man lowered himself carefully to the metal tiles, and drew his companion into a tight embrace. Thin, strong fingers tightened around his back, and he felt Ryuzaki's chest heave as an unrestrained sob left the young man's lips.
"Quillsh," he whispered in between gasps, "I'm not going to see it finish . . ." He shuddered, and buried his head in the older man's shoulder. "I . . . just know . . . it's not much longer."
At that moment, as he held the young man that he had raised since childhood, Quillsh Wammy reflected on everything they had accomplished together, and he knew, no matter what happened, that he was glad to have been a part of it all. Had Ryuzaki let him, Quillsh would have been proud to call the boy his son.
"Child," Quillsh said softly, gently. For the briefest moment reality seemed to shift, and he really felt as if there was a young boy again in his arms, and everything in the world was again about cake, news reports, and some far off concept of real, humane justice only one person in the world could bring into being. "Child. Ryuzaki, you are no failure. And I would wager you to be the bravest man in the world to stick things out as you have." The older man smiled briefly. "You've tried your best. We all have. That's all that matters. You're a fighter at heart, as you always will be."
And there would be, Quillsh reflected with a twinge of hope, always others. Once the trail was set, once the path was marked, there would be others to come behind and fill in the foot prints if they were overcome with snow.
"You'll be strong," he said, giving Ryuzaki a reassuring squeeze. "And as you yourself have said before, there is no use thinking 'what if' or 'maybe' or 'perhaps if that'. Appeal to reason, boy." The words seemed callous, perhaps assuming, but he said them anyway. "That's what you always do."
He was heartened to hear a muffled laugh, half chuckle, half sob, in response. Then everything grew quiet, save Ryuzaki's haggard breathing, and the thumping pulse of the older man's heart in his chest.
They sat for a long moment that way, until enough time had passed that Ryuzaki had finally fallen asleep, and Quillsh began to wonder if they had been there so long that they would be disturbed by their coworkers arriving for early work. Stiffly, the older man stood and, with a strength born of something akin to serenity, threw one of Ryuzaki's arms over his own shoulders, and took him towards a place where he could sleep better.
Outside, far beyond the city of Tokyo, a gentle sun was rising over the horizon.