Description: L is given a second chance at life, but there are certain rules he must follow. Such conditions would normally be hardly worth mentioning for the former detective, but an unwelcome person from his past quickly appears to test his resolve.
Disclaimer: The last time I checked, my name was not Tsugumi Ohba or Takeshi Obata. Ergo, Death Note is not mine.
A/N: Well, I'm trying something different: working on two fics at once. Before now I haven't bothered starting a new one until the current one is completed because I know that the quality of my writing decreases when I have multiple projects. However, I figured I should challenge myself. This will also be my first fic that isn't based on a video game (I'm branching out. Be proud of me.) so it's a double challenge.
My thanks to ParisWriter for first getting me into Death Note. Love you, Paris.
Your request is not an original one.
"I imagine not."
Millions have made it. As to having it granted, only a select few have even been considered.
He did not reply. Merely waited for the voice to speak again.
There are rules, it said.
They are strict. The slightest infraction will result in immediate retrieval.
"I will follow them."
The voice seemed to consider this. He could almost feel an aura of amusement around him.
Such confidence. Many have made the same claim only to fail.
"I will follow them," he repeated.
I see. A long pause. Then you have one year.
He nodded, pleased. "And at the end of a year?"
This time, he knew he felt the other smiling. Who knows? No one has ever made it that long.
The short, middle-aged woman pushed open the door to the homeless shelter with a small sigh. Coming home from vacation was always hard. Her brain never wanted to admit that it was time to give up being pampered and instead settle back into real life. She could still hear the buzz of Italian around her, could still see the beautiful architecture when she closed her eyes. She sighed again as she moved into the room. Oh well, time to let it go.
"Julie!" A pretty young woman waved and was soon sprinting towards her, followed by a taller young man. The girl skidded to a halt before her and smiled up with dancing eyes. "Welcome back! How was Florence?"
"Beautiful," Julie answered. "Wish I had never left."
"Man, someday I wanna travel like you and Rich do," the boy half-whined, running a hand through his dark hair. He shook his head as if remembering. "Oh yeah, I never got to congratulate you guys before you left."
"Yeah," the girl added, her blonde hair bouncing as she nodded. "Congrats on twenty years, Julie!"
"Thank you, Mark, Annie." She lifted her head slightly and ran her eyes over the room. Her mind quickly calculated the number of needy patrons and the much smaller number of volunteers. "We should all get to work now," she concluded.
Half an hour later, Julie had completely reaccustomed herself to her normal life. It helped that her real job would not start up again until September and that she enjoyed this volunteer work so much. Smiling, she dished out another plate and handed it to the tired-looking man in front of her. His return smile was a sight that she cherished. Next to her, Annie bounced a baby on her hip while simultaneously chatting to the child's young mother and packing up a box of food and supplies for them to take. Mark had wandered off to help a few patrons fill out employment applications, and other volunteers moved back and forth around them as they all continued their work of distributing hope to those who needed it.
"Oh, look. Will's back."
Julie looked over at Mark who had come back to the main area to find a few more pencils. He had stopped in his rummaging to gaze at someone who had just walked through the door.
"Really?" Annie replied to his observation. She ran up to his side and followed his line of sight.
Julie smiled at the look on the young woman's face. "Who's Will?" she asked casually. "New boyfriend?"
Mark laughed as Annie turned a rich shade of red. "She wishes."
"I do not!"
"Well then, who is he?"
Mark inclined his head in the direction of one of the tables. "New patron," he explained. "He's really odd, doesn't say much, and doesn't come in here that often."
Julie looked in the direction Mark had indicated and saw a young man sitting alone at a table. Her eyes widened; odd was definitely the correct word. The man looked to be somewhere in his early twenties, although he could have been older. His wide blue eyes, messy red-blond hair, and fair skin could have easily knocked a few visual years off of him. He wore a dirty white shirt, torn blue jeans, and no socks or shoes -- not strange attire for those who visited the shelter -- but he sat with his legs drawn up to his chest, his feet resting on the seat, and he stared at the table with an empty, vacant expression on his face.
"Will's not his real name," Mark was continuing. "Don't know what it is. He won't tell us. Ethan and I started calling him Will after Will Hunting. You know, the movie?"
Intrigued, Julie tore her eyes from the strange man to look at her young friend. "Good Will Hunting?"
"Yeah." Mark leaned back on his heels and regarded the stranger thoughtfully. "Like I said, he doesn't say much, but when he does, it's brilliant stuff. He ran mental rings around Ethan the other day."
Julie raised an eyebrow at that. Ethan was one of the brighter students she had.
"You should go talk to him, Julie," Annie supplied, once again at her post on the other side of her.
"Yeah," Mark agreed. "Maybe you can be his Robin Williams. Then all he'll need is a Minnie Driver …" He trailed off in a very obvious fashion. Then, he added with a smirk, "Annie, you free?"
"Shut up, Mark!" She stuck her tongue out at him in a fashion rather foolish for her nineteen years. While he laughed at her, she reached over to the case of desserts and pulled one out. "Here," she told Julie. "Take him this. He likes sweet things."
Julie hesitated, although she couldn't understand why. She had talked to so many people who had walked through those doors, so why did this one feel different? No, that was a silly question. She knew why. Because if he really was as smart as her students thought, if he really was somehow special, then Julie, who had waited to have children and had found out too late that she had waited too long, Julie would want to get to know him in ways that she most certainly should not. She knew herself too well to know that she wouldn't. How many times had she mentally whipped herself for trying to turn a favorite student into a surrogate child?
"Mrs. McC?" Annie asked, confused. She still held out the slice of cake. Inwardly embarrassed, Julie smiled at her and took the plate.
Well, she thought to herself, what harm will talking to him do?
"Miss Julie, I must thank you again for the crosswords."
"Please, just Julie. And you're welcome. I'm glad you enjoy them."
"They are not my favorite, but they help keep my mind sharp."
"What are your favorite then? Cryptograms? Kakuro?"
A small laugh. "Of course. I should have seen that."
A hesitant smile. "Yes, you should have."
"I am sorry, Julie, but I cannot accept any reading material from you."
"My current living arrangements are not conducive to the longevity of paperback materials."
"Do you realize you talk more like a stuffy scholar than I do? And I'm the professor."
No reply. A long silence.
"It's been three weeks. Will you please tell me your name now?"
Another pause. Sadly, "Because I don't know it myself."
An intake of breath. "What do you mean?"
"I cannot remember anything prior to two months ago."
"It would appear so."
Another pause. Carefully, "Then can I give you a name?"
"Because someone as special as you should not go through life nameless."
Confusion. Uncertainty. "I … see."
A short wait. Then, with confidence: "Elijah."
"Your name. I'm going to call you Elijah. It fits you better than Will."
Silence. Quietly, "All right, Julie."
"You haven't eaten your soup."
"I'm not interested in soup."
"I've noticed. Nor are you interested in sandwiches or salads or meat of any kind. You only seem to be interested in cake."
Flatly. "I like cake."
Exasperated. "You can't just live on cake!"
"I know this. I eat other things."
Unconvinced. "You do?"
"Yes. I also eat cookies."
"Eat the damn soup."
Three months had passed. Three months since she had met Elijah. Classes had started a couple of weeks ago, and Julie knew she could not keep coming here like this. Normally, she would only volunteer on a Saturday or give it up entirely until the next summer. But this year, she couldn't stop coming until she was satisfied that Elijah would be all right.
Her time with him had convinced her that he was much more than just a smart young man with a blank past. She was certain he had been traumatized somehow -- abuse maybe or perhaps abandonment. The way he held his body, his closed demeanor, his deeply ingrained mistrust of people, all of it screamed of an unhappy past. His so-called amnesia seemed like simple subconscious denial to her, self-inflicted rather than caused by illness or accident. Strangely, the fact that he never complained or asked for help made her want to help him even more.
Her head resting in her hands, Julie contemplated these things as she watched Elijah breeze through the book of logic puzzles she had bought him. He seemed to have each one solved even before he read the last clue. His eyes would flick over the text, and then his hand would scratch out the answer all at once, completely ignoring the helpful diagram at the bottom of the page. She had known these would be too easy for him, but she had bought it anyway, just for the sake of the small smile he had given her upon receiving it.
"Elijah," she said quietly.
"Hmm?" he hummed in reply without lifting his eyes. The pencil held delicately in his fingers scratched out another answer with confidence.
"Come live with me."
His hand paused in the act of turning a page, but only briefly. Blue eyes began scanning the next lines of text as he answered, "No."
"Why not?" she asked, unsurprised.
"Why should I?" he asked back.
"Because you have nowhere else to go." Carefully, she reached out her hand and placed it over the puzzle he was reading. "I'm offering you a home, Elijah. A roof over your head, a place to sleep and to bathe, food and clothes. A home."
"It is unwise to offer such things without first consulting your husband."
"Rich and I have been talking about it for over a week. He thinks it's a wonderful idea."
Elijah gently laid the pencil on the table and then wrapped his arms around his knees. Giving her a blank stare, he stated, "I'm happy living like this."
"On the streets?"
"What about winter?"
Elijah blinked at her, considering for a moment. Finally, he answered, "In winter, I will be cold."
Julie sighed and lowered her head for a moment in disappointment. She moved her hand away from the book, but when he reached again for the pencil, she snatched it away before he could touch it, placed it in the book's crease to mark the page, and closed the cover. Lifting her eyes to him, she announced, "I'm not giving up on you that easily."
"Why?" he asked. When she did not answer immediately, he continued, "You want me to come live with you so that I can be the replacement for a child you never had." His blank eyes accused her mercilessly.
She just smiled at him. "Perhaps. What's wrong with that?"
"You will be disappointed and ultimately unhappy."
"Only if I have unrealistic expectations," she countered. "If I expect you to be the perfect son that I've always dreamed of." She shook her head. "I won't expect that. I'm too old to have such young, idealistic thoughts. You're a problem, Elijah, a puzzle, and I like puzzles as much as you do."
"Even ones that cannot be solved?" he queried with a small cock of his head.
"Yes, even those. There is satisfaction in the process of solving them, after all, not just in the conclusion."
Slowly, Elijah's hand lifted to his mouth, and he pressed his thumb to his lower lip. Julie smiled. She had come to recognize that gesture to mean that he was thinking. She decided then to offer her final bit of bait.
"Besides, if you come live with me and Rich, you can help me with my puzzles. The ones from work."
He shifted his focus to her again. "You are a psychology professor," he stated with a hint of question in the words.
"Yes," she answered, "specializing in criminal psychology. I think you would find my current research to be fascinating."
The small glint of excitement in Elijah's eyes flickered out as fast as it had flared, but Julie had managed to catch it before it died. She smiled to herself, watching as he went back to pushing his thumb back and forth across his lip. This was all for show now, and she knew it. She had won … no, that wasn't right. As far as winning anything was concerned, undoubtedly they both had.
Ethan turned around to see a young man walking up to him with a question in his face. "Yes?"
"Do you know where I could find Professor McCormick? She wasn't in her office."
Ethan checked his watch quickly before replying, "She has a senior seminar right now. It gets out in forty minutes."
"I see," the other said. "Thank you." He made to turn away, but Ethan stopped him.
"Hey, you're in my class, right? Abnormal Psych? Tuesday and Thursday mornings?"
"Yes, I'm in that class." The other smiled. "I believe I recognize you as well."
Ethan smiled back. He liked this guy. He had a friendly attitude, an intelligent face, and an athletic body. On an impulse, he decided to try to form a friendship and held out his hand. "I'm Ethan Moore."
The stranger blinked at the hand for a split second before taking it with an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry," he explained. "I recently transferred here from Japan, and I occasionally still forget about the differences in culture."
"Oh," Ethan quickly replied, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to --"
"No, it's okay," the other assured him. "I'm in America now. I should act like an American." He grinned. "Which means I should stop being rude and tell you my name. It's Light. Light Yagami."
"Good to meet you, Light."
"The pleasure is mine."