Disclaimer: Death Note and all related characters all 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: Nancy Wallace couldn't forget the Fifth of November. But the Hands of Justice made sure the Fifth of November couldn't forget Nancy either. Post Chapter 107 Fic. One-shot. Entire Series Spoilers. Companion to 'Something Near the Truth.'
Notes: Post-Chapter 107 story. This fic theoretically takes place sometime after my other story "Something Near the Truth." I wrote it on March 2nd, 2007 as a response to a much longer story that I had been working on at the time, namely a long sequence of chapters that were designed to try and fill in Ryuzaki's back-story and his time at The Wammy's House. The character Nancy Wallace has appeared or been mentioned in a couple other of my stories, including "Addictive Personality," and she was one of the key characters in the back-story. Sadly, while the back-story was never fully completed, I could never quite let go of Nancy's character. This story, then, was written with the intent of exploring how the deaths of certain characters were felt back "at home" at The Wammy's House. It also gave me a chance to write one last story with Nancy as a key player.
I decided to post this story because Illusory-Savant from Deviant Art told me it was her birthday at the end of the month, and she wondered if I could write a new story for her birthday. :3 This isn't quite something new, but hopefully it works! Happy Birthday!
Please note that I hold by the theory that Near is albino, and subsequently has poor eyesight. If you're curious, look up "albinism" online, or go to Deviant Art and find my journal on "Nia (Near) and Albinism"; my username is the same as it is here. (Or, if none of that works for you, please PM me, and I can forward you the website address.) Also, I spell L's name "Ryuzaki," not "Ryuuzaki," because that is how the name is spelt in the VIZ publication of Death Note. I understand that there are two spellings, and I have intentionally chosen the one over the other.
In case anyone does not know this piece of trivia, L died on the Fifth of November, which is Guy Fawkes Night in Britain and some British colonies. You might be familiar with the holiday if you have read the graphic novel "V for Vendetta."
"Remember, remember the Fifth of November . . ." - Traditional British Rhyme
A light snow fell from the sky. Little white puffballs tumbled downward and dotted the ground, until it looked like little cherubim had scattered their feathers about in a celebratory dance of winter. Little inch high piles had started to gather along the outside fence, which the children had quickly taken to gathering into sticky balls and throwing at each other. From inside the house, through the frost coated window panes, the orphans were visible only as coloured blobs against the landscape, dancing along with the soft reflection cast by a flaming artificial fireplace.
It was an inexplicably strange occurrence for a place like Winchester to receive any sort of snow at all in the month of November. The geography of Britain and the inherent proximity of the English Channel kept warm winds blowing throughout the Fall and Winter months. When snow did arrive, it typically came after Christmas and melted soon after it arrived. The oldest children at The Wammy's House couldn't remember having lived through a November that was so chilled, and thus took great pleasure in playing with the snow while it was still there.
The older caretaker of the House was not nearly as surprised by the weather. Nancy Wallace was by no means a young woman, and snow in November wasn't quite the rarity to her that it was to the children. Her hair had started to grey years ago, not long after she had first started working at The Wammy's House. She had been a girl then, full of ideas and no idea what she wanted to do with them. The job had been intended to be a temporary one, to tie her over to her next degree, her next jump at a career. But something about the cozy nature of the little orphanage in Winchester had captured her imagination; or perhaps, more accurately, the children had captured her, and had not let go.
She had found in the orphans a sort of challenge, one more fulfilling than anything university had presented to her. The children were often full of the psychological maladies she had learned about at college. Yet, they were still children. There were tangible rewards to fixing problems when the problems had to do with people, and nothing made Nancy happier than to see an emotionally silenced child open up and be happy because Nancy had helped them.
As she sat at the window of her office, watching the children dart around and throw snowballs out in the cold, she noted, briefly, that things had been quiet as of late. No new children had arrived for over seven months, and the ones who were there were already well adjusted. That adjustment, she observed with a wry smile, likely meant that there were also no real contemporary Newtons or Mozarts studying at the House at the moment. The smartest children, she had discovered since beginning work at The Wammy's House, never fully adjusted.
The little geniuses of the bunch were too different to ever fully understand, or at least be understood by, the rest of their kin. She had seen many smart children in her time at the House, but only a handful of them had gone beyond the label of gifted. She remembered those ones fondly, for she always saw in those children, when she looked deep into their eyes, something resembling the fate of humanity. It was, if anything, humbling to know she had played a hand in their upbringing – that she had brought them to where they were now.
A sad smile crept onto her face, for although there were rewards in raising the future leaders of society, there were also pitfalls. The children she worked the hardest with, the ones who she scraped and scratched with to try and teach them the fundamentals of life . . . they were the hardest ones to let go. Although every child was free to leave the House at fifteen years of age and required to leave at eighteen, it was never easy for her to see them walk out and never return.
They rarely returned when they did leave. So many found families, so many married, so many moved on, that she was resigned to look at the faded photographs of the children she had once known.
Outside, a group of children ran by the window, laughing as they threw snow at each other. Nancy watched them go, her eyes following their path as they ran out to a large willow tree in the middle of the yard. The snow was still falling; it mixed and intermingled with the light fog-created frost that was dropping in clumps from the tree's branches. Fleeting flashes of light, broken and distorted by the ice crystals in the air, cast rainbows onto the window, blocking the children momentarily from her view.
A deep melancholy struck her, one she had been trying to avoid for most of the day. The Fifth of November was an important day in England, one that was stamped on calendars and posters and was difficult to forget. It brought to the city of Winchester bonfires and clown masks, revelry and antics that served to warm those caught in the abnormal weather.
But for Nancy, the Fifth of November meant something altogether different. The day brought no warmth to her, but always, regardless of the weather, made her feel like the most lifeless corpse. It had been seven years to the day since a very special child had been taken from her. A very special child, whose intellect hadn't just been synonymous with Mozart or Newton. No, he had made a name for himself amongst the polymaths of years long past.
In her mind's eye, he was still eight years old – a short lanky boy with messy black hair and dark grey eyes that seemed to cut inquisitively into anything he glanced at. Sometimes, when she was lying awake at night and couldn't sleep, her mind distracted by other things, she thought she heard him speaking to her. The words were always the same, dotted with the same hidden meanings she had interpreted year after year whenever he had come to interrupt her musings in the dark of the night. She would imagine her bedroom door creaking softly, and the patter of bare feet on a wooden floor.
It was always the same.
"Nancy, I can't sleep."
If she tried, she could remember other things, other memories. Some were speckled with cakes and icing sugar, of cookies stolen from the kitchen at midnight, of the fictional novels of Arthur Conan Doyle she had introduced him to and he had treasured. Others were filled with insomnia laced nights driven by a markedly sensitive case of hypothyroidism, or of a salamander coyly placed – a child's joke – in a wash basket. But those memories were fleeting, because they were always accompanied by a throbbing hurt, like that of a mother who had lost a child. And she had lost a child.
Other children had come and gone, but he had been hers. She thought it selfish to think so, but at a time when no one else had the patience to try and help him, she had broken through the wall of silence and had managed to reach him. She had smiled at his childlike bluntness, had answered his endless questions, had laughed at the dry humour that occasionally escaped from his lips, and in doing so had nurtured the rare and beautiful smile that sometimes graced his face.
Nancy Wallace couldn't get over Ryuzaki. And she couldn't, no matter how hard she tried, get rid of the rip in her heart that he had torn. The little child with the messy hair, invisible to everyone but her, had dug the deepest of any of his fellow orphans. And it was days like this, anniversaries in cold November, when he haunted her.
She had first let go of him at such a young age – twelve, eleven, she couldn't quite remember – and had rarely seen him after that. She had received letters mostly, which had become less frequent as he had grown older. Then they started to arrive from Quillsh, who spoke often, like a bragging father, of the accomplishments the young man had made, and the good things he was doing.
A year beforeeverything fell to pieces, he returned to the House once, to speak to Roger and tie together some loose ends. Or so she had been told. She only saw him briefly, when he, in a horrible rush, popped his head into her office door to say hello. At that time, when she looked at his face and his awkward yet honest smile, she couldn't comprehend the danger he was walking into.
She hadn't predicted that a year later he would lose for the first and last time in his fight for justice.
Justice. Even a young Ryuzaki had maintained a grasp of the principle.
"But Nancy, that shouldn't be happening. Someone should stop it."
"Nancy, why didn't someone arrest that man earlier?"
"That isn't right. This is horrible."
"Why doesn't someone do something about it? Nancy?"
And then, when no one else had stepped forward to do the impossible, he had offered himself for the task.
To Nancy, he was not L. He was not some letter on a screen, or a garbled voice which gave directions and caught criminals. He was Ryuzaki, a child she had raised, and loved, like a mother. To the rest of the world he did not exist, but in her heart, he existed too much, and would never disappear.
Nancy closed her eyes and willed herself not to cry. She had tried to hold back the tears every year for six years, and every year, ever since the day Roger had come to her and told her the horrible news, she had failed. She doubted she ever would be able to stop until someone did what Ryuzaki could not. Until someone made sure his death, his sacrifice, wasn't a waste.
At the same time, her biggest fear, the one that continually haunted her every time she tucked a child in for the night, was that Ryuzaki's fight would claim more lives. Other lives, other children she had raised, not as precious to her as he had been, but precious enough in the life they had for her to want to protect them. There were fleeting memories for them as well – locks of pale hair, a sardonic grin, swimmer's goggles and a video game left open, beeping, on a table. Memories of those who had also left The Wammy's House to pursue something called justice.
Nancy realized, vaguely, that a phone was ringing somewhere in the distance. Coming to her senses, she glanced around, and discovered it was the phone on her desk. She rose slowly, feeling fully all of the fifty some years of her age pounding down upon her frame. Her fingers were wet from wiping away tears, and the receiver almost slipped from her grasp. She caught it before it hit the wooden surface of the desk.
"Hello Nancy." The voice was soft and devoid of emotion. "I hope I haven't interrupted anything."
It was also hauntingly familiar. Older perhaps, and certainly deeper in pitch, but still something uncanny and recognizable. A voice she hadn't heard for nearly six years.
Nancy laughed, a hollow laugh, and almost dropped the receiver again.
"Near?" she said, voice incredulous and wavering ever so slightly. "Is that you?"
Roger had left the week before, she remembered, and hadn't said where he was going. She had feared the worst. She had feared news of another corpse.
"Yes." He paused. "Are you all right? You sound flustered."
She stifled a laugh again, and realized she probably sounded like a blubbering idiot. Then again, Near did have a talent for asking the obvious. And it really wasn't a good time to be phoning, except that his phone call was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to her at the moment.
"I'm fine," she managed, dabbing at her eyes, trying to keep her voice steady. "Are you okay?" Then, as the thought occurred to her, "Are you done? Did you catch him?"
Near paused again. "Yes," he said vaguely, somewhat more slowly than Nancy had expected. "Yes, I'm fine."
She waited patiently, knowing that there was no pushing Near when he was thinking, yet wondering all the same how things really were, what had happened, why on Earth he was phoning her . . .
"I'm coming to see you in three days. I'm bringing a few people with who you may also want to see. Are you sitting down?"
She did, quickly, before her brain could properly comprehend the question.
Then he told her, and the tears came all over again.
The children were gathered at the front steps of the orphanage, crowded into a tight group, curious eyes all on the large vehicle which had pulled past the front gates of the House. Nancy waited with them, her hands on the shoulder of a young girl in front of her, partially to reassure the girl, partially to support herself.
The moving van stopped a few yards from where they stood, its engine falling into silence. Two cab doors opened and closed, and two figures came walking forward. One was Roger, the older man who was the current administrator and owner of The Wammy's House. The sight of the other individual, though Nancy had been prepared to see him, shocked her to the core.
Near was slightly taller now, though he was still well below the average height for most boys – young men, she corrected herself silently – his age. His face was older, leaner, and he carried himself with a strangely shy confidence, as though he did not want to be seen and yet at the same time realized he had to be. He looked down at the ground as he walked and seemed to focus more on what he heard than what he saw.
Most surprising of all, though, were the changes to his composure. Where there had previously been a contradiction between the young man's child-like attitude and the striking white colour of his hair, there was now a strange monism being observed. Near, quite simply, looked almost as old as his hair suggested he was. There were strain marks near his eyes, as though from great stress, and his lips seemed stuck halfway between a forced frown and a sad smile. His eyes did not glint, but seemed dull, tired.
The children were silent as Near approached, and Nancy wondered how many of them remembered Near from when he had lived at the House. He wasn't even twenty years old, yet he seemed infinitely aged compared to the innocent lives clustered around her. Their silence towards the young man who had finally caught Kira was respectful, reverent even.
"Sorry I'm late getting back," Roger offered, having approached aside Near. He adjusted the spectacles on his face and briefly brushed a hand over his skull as if to comb his greyed hair. "We encountered some . . . difficulties."
"That's okay," Nancy said. She felt as though she were not really speaking the words, but hearing someone else speak them from her own body. "I'm just glad you're back."
"Do you have everything ready?"
"Yeah." Nancy bit her bottom lip hard, trying to keep down the tears which had threatened to strike her continually since Near had phoned her three days ago. "Yeah, I had some trouble at this end too. But I managed to get everything together."
The thought of the whole ordeal caught her, and she couldn't stop a noise from escaping her lips. She knew the children were looking up at her, and she knew they wouldn't be able to fully understand, not now, why this hurt her so much. It was her burden alone to bear.
Shaking her head, Nancy looked at Near and Roger and gave them a pathetic smile in apology. "Right," she said, softly. "Right, let's get started."
The sun was just starting to dip below the horizon when he approached her. Nancy watched, heart numb, as the glowing orb dimmed, fell, then finally disappeared behind a gleaming curtain of golden sky. Her mind was certainly not on reality, and she was not surprised when her first indication of Near's presence came when she saw him, from the corner of her eye, kneel down beside her. The amber lighting reflected off his hair, giving it an unnatural colouring, and his skin glowed with subtle warmth that was generally absent. Although most of the snow had melted on previous days, it was still bitterly cold. Near showed no sign of discomfort, though he was hardly dressed for being outside in below freezing temperatures.
Nancy wasn't sure what to say. Roger had done most of the talking earlier. He had been the one to fill her in on the details, to tell the other children what was going on, and to officiate the rather informal ceremony that had taken place shortly afterwards. Nancy, on the other hand, had said little of anything, mostly out of fear of not really knowing what to say in the first place.
Beside her, Near rested his head upon his knee, and let his other leg fall stretched to the ground beside him, white clothing blending into the concrete walkway. He seemed lost in thought, yet Nancy suspected that he had come for a reason. Near liked to stay in one place, more out of comfort due to his poor eyesight than anything else, and he rarely walked around without purpose.
Without warning, Near reached into a pocket and pulled something out, shoving it almost violently towards Nancy. "Here," he said, quietly. "You should have this."
Nancy turned her head and regarded the glimmering object with some confusion. Then, realizing what it was, her expression softened considerably. "No." Reaching up a hand, she closed her fingers around Near's briefly. Then she let go, pushing his hand away, the Rosary still entwined tightly in his fingers. "No. It's yours."
The young man turned to face her and regarded Nancy with translucent blue eyes. His face, as always, was unreadable, and his breath left his mouth in little puffs, to drift upwards towards the clouds that were the beginning of the celestial ceiling. "You raised him."
Nancy couldn't argue with the statement; it was true. But at the same time, she felt that she had in a way failed the other boy in a way that she hadn't even failed Ryuzaki.
"No. I tried to raise him. I should have done more." She sighed. "I don't know if anything I did for him mattered."
"You couldn't have done more," Near said simply. He paused, and for a long moment looked ahead of him at the white stone cross that was quickly growing dark in the fading remnants of the sunset. "No. Mello did what he wanted to do and didn't listen to anyone except himself. But you still succeeded, because you obviously imparted on him the skills he needed to win, whether he wanted to admit it or not. Mello and I caught Kira." And though he did not say it, his eyes seemed to whisper, "We caught him together."
And then, Near reached his hand back towards her, and grasped Nancy on her shoulder, Rosary still wrapped about his fingers. Surprised, the older woman reached up her own hand, and rubbed his as she had so many times when he had been younger. When he had been younger, and had been hurt. Only now, the roles were reversed, and she suspected the action did as much for her as it did for him.
There was a strange comfort in having Near sit beside her. The presence of the young man did not bring back the dead. It did not remove the hurt inside of her; only time could heal that pain, if it healed at all. Yet she knew, deep down, that Near understood how she felt more than anyone else and that, hidden far beneath his complacent mask, he was in a great deal of pain himself. And like her, he had accepted the truth, and was now walking a long path of healing towards the future.
Nancy closed her eyes, and felt the cold steel of the Rosary brush against her fingers. "It's yours, Near. I want you to have it. You gave it to me, and I'm giving it to you."
In truth, she knew she didn't need it. Near had already given her what she had needed. In the solemn ceremony of the early afternoon, she had been able hold four small, plainly marked urns in her hands. She had taken a shovel and dug four holes in the hard, nearly frozen soil. As she had carefully tucked each urn away for safe keeping, her warm hands packing the dirt down around the metal and ashes, she had found something akin to closure.
"Are you sure?"
Nancy nodded, and the next words, though strange to her ears, seemed right to say. "I worried about Mello. Then I let him go. But you . . . you were always there for him if he wanted. You were his kin. He knew that."
Near's fingers tightened against her shoulder, then relaxed suddenly as he let go, pulling the Rosary away from her grasp, pulling it back to hold tight against his chest. He opened his mouth as if to argue, then closed his lips and lowered his head.
Many minutes passed, during which there was only the sound of their breathing and of the light winter wind, which had begun to pick up as dusk disappeared and the obsidian night, marred only by a cloud covered half moon, settled in.
Finally, as if from the sudden chill of the wind, Near shuddered and stood up. His clothing and hair reflected the muted light of the moon, and his eyes seemed to glow like those of a cat. Then the clouds passed by the moon, and the full light of the lunar sphere fell onto Near, casting his brilliant silhouette into stark contrast with the impenetrable darkness around him. Nancy shivered, the reaction half crafted from the cold, half from the sense of the sublime that seemed to penetrate the air itself. And she thought, for the briefest of moments, that Near looked like the closest thing on Earth to an angel. An angel of justice finally delivered.
The light faded shortly afterwards as the clouds again crossed the moon. Near regarded her for a moment, then closed his eyes and turned towards the building. "Thank you." The words were short and softly spoken, but carried with them the weight of many more.
Although she knew Near wouldn't see it because his back was turned to her, Nancy nodded slowly, trying to take into her heart everything Near had just given her. His words could have symbolized a thousand things, but Near, in a moment of compassionate opacity, was letting her decide on the meaning for herself.
"You're welcome," she said finally, the wind carrying her voice up and away.
As Near's figure retreated from her, Nancy stood up herself and cast one last glance at the newly dug plots in the ground behind the House.
Four individuals, she thought sadly, who had died in order to stop one man. Each of them were heroes in their own right, but though she tried to look at each of them equally, she found her eyes always came to rest on a simple head stone, carved from the darkest obsidian, much like the eyes of the young man who now rested deep below it. It was a plain yet beautiful stone, like the boy who had, not so long along, sat in her arms and talked to her about the future. And carved onto the front, in immaculate Black Letter, was not a letter, but a name.
One name, so simple, that meant the world to her.
Nancy shook her head at the absurdity of it all, then realized, contentedly, that her eyes were still dry, and had remained so since the sun had fallen. She shook her head again, a soft smile coming to her lips, before whispering, "Good night, Ryuzaki."
And she would have sworn she heard on the night wind, as she walked towards the building and the children within, the soft voice of a young man respond, "Good night, Nancy."