Disclaimer: I don't in any way, shape, or form, own Death Note. If I did, I'd be living the life of L with someone bringing me cake and basking in my own awesomeness.

Edited!! Now in third person POV!!


June 18, 2000

"Do svidanija," Keiko Shintaro said quietly, bidding her mother goodbye in Russian (for no particular reason; she just liked the way "do svidanija" sounded). She gave her tearful mother one last hug, releasing the handle of her carry-on suitcase to do so. "It's only a few years, Mom," she said softly, trying to be the "strong" one. "I'll call you and we can talk online and everything. I'll be back before you know it. Come on, haven't I been living on my own the past four years, anyway?"

"But what if something happens to you? Police work is dangerous! You could get shot down by some miscreant! And in another country!" Her mother, Chikako Shintaro, tucked a lock of her twenty-one-year-old daughter's deep brown, almost black hair behind her ear in an overly maternal manner. Then again, Chikako had a tendency to hover over her daughters—both of them. Mizuki, Keiko's younger sister, was off at high school, currently, having given the teasing excuse that she'd hardly miss Keiko anyway; why bother saying "goodbye"? Inwardly, though, both sisters knew that Mizuki would've been too weepy at the airport, and had thus opted to say their farewells within the privacy of their home.

"Miscreant…" Keiko muttered with laughter. "Mom, I'm smart. I'll take care of myself. Plus, it isn't like I'm all bark and no bite…"

This made her laugh weakly. She squeezed her eldest daughter tightly, and sighed, letting her go with all too obvious reluctance. "I guess you're right."

"More than right," bellowed Keiko's grandfather, Noburu. He was always talking much louder than he needed to. "She's a damned genius. Especially at detective work. She'll live and be kept so busy, we won't hardly hear from her again! They'll keep her well occupied, mark my words."

She grinned up at her grandfather, but the air in Keiko's lungs came out in a whoosh as her mother hugged her again, crying.

"Calm down, Mom!" she cried. "I'm gonna miss my flight!"

"Let her go, hon," said Keiko's father, Hideyoshi, putting an arm around Chikako's shoulders. "She'll be fine. She's got what it takes."

Keiko beamed and gave him a thumbs-up sign. "Yeah! I'll be the best detective ever!" It was all false bravado; Keiko knew she could never live up to a standard like that. Even so, she would still try her best. Is there even such a person as "the world's greatest detective"? Seems a little far-fetched that anyone could be the undisputed best... Besides, how would you measure it?

With that, she waved and bowed her last goodbyes, and disappeared into the crowd that was heading through inspection, hefting her rolling suitcase and backpack onto to the moving belts.

After metaphorically crossing all the I's and dotting all the T's, Keiko took a seat in Concourse C (or something like that… she hadn't paid very much attention, beyond "find it and sit down"), playing Sudoku in a puzzle booklet whilst awaiting her row of seating to be called on board. A peeping sound emanated from her purse within her backpack, and she took out her cell phone with a heavy sigh. It was her mother sending a text message: "bye b safe".

Keiko smiled, blinking away a hint of mist in her eyes as she responded with "i will. c u l8r." With that, she turned off the phone and replaced it in her backpack, as her flight number and seating section were being called. Well... this is it. Hello, America; goodbye, Japan...

Boarding the plane took very little time for Keiko, but she did have to wait for everyone else to be seated and the stewardesses to check the passengers as well as the luggage. And soon, the plane began to rumble away from the airport. The anticipation made her shiver just slightly as she looked out the window. However, the captain's voice came on. Shoot, she thought sullenly. That never means anything good. True enough, the enormous plane stopped on the runway, where it was to unfortunately remain for a good forty minutes. Typical airport, Keiko thought with frustration, yanking out her Sudoku booklet again, focusing herself to relax. It would be several hours before she arrived in Los Angeles.

FINALLY, whatever delays or technical problems that had arisen were dealt with, and the pilot announced that they were about to take off. A new thrill of excitement ran through Keiko as the plane began to roll slowly over to the runway. Oh my gosh, I'm finally going to America… I wonder what it's really like over there. Are they really as weird and stupid as everyone says? Do they all have one or more cars apiece?

Heh heh… guess you'll find out, won't you?

Guess I will.

Why am I talking to myself?

You always talk to yourself.

Shut up.

The flight went smoothly overall, and Keiko found herself fascinated with the clouds drifting around and beneath the plane, large, fluffy masses that resembled nothing so much as cotton balls, just a little denser than one might think. At first, the sun reflecting over the tops of the clouds was nearly blinding, but as she grew accustomed to the light, Keiko saw how heavenly everything looked from here. Golden light was thown back into her eyes, playing off the stark white masses of moisture. From Keiko's point of view, it was hard to believe the clouds weren't really solid: they appeared as an enormous expanse of cotton she could throw herself into and just relax, basking in the glorious view presented to her...

Merely staring out the window kept her occupied for the next hour, until the sun descended below the clouds, shrouding the plane in darkness. Bored, Keiko pulled out her CD player and curled up next to the window, asleep within minutes. After all, she may as well attempt to block out the rest of the flight with slumber. What else did she have to do?

"...arriving in LAX in thirty minutes and are beginning our descent. Please buckle your seatbelts and replace all laptrays in the vertical position. Secure all belongings and remain seated for the duration of the flight." Keiko groggily opened her eyes and peered at the glowing indicators above her head. What time is it...? Clouds no longer were present, so the light wasn't as harsh, a fact for which Keiko was grateful. However, as she fastened her seatbelt and stowed her CD player in her backpack, her mind once again ran rampant. I wonder what my coworkers are gonna be like. Ooh, I wonder what case I'll work on, first! I'm so glad Uncle Soichiro was able to arrange for me to work on cases under detectives. That'll be fun... Unconsciously, a grin spread across the young woman's face.

That's all fine and good, but just prepare yourself for failure...

At this, she frowned. Shut up, you. I'm aware of that possibility! No one's perfect...

You least of all.

Keiko didn't bother with a retort.

Several minutes later, the plane rumbled to a stop in LAX, unnerving Keiko and giving her a distinct feeling of disorientation at the rapid English spoken all around her. She knew English pretty well, but was unused to the sheer speed of it…

Shoot! I don't understand any of it! No, no, no! This wasn't how it was supposed to be! I'm supposed to get what they're all saying...!

Geez, simmer down.

AGH!! What if I don't get it!? It's all so QUICK!!

Granted, you should've known, she told herself. It's not like it would've been much different with any other person coming to any other country. Come on! Just calm down and think. You've always been the best in language classes, especially with accents. Just listen and you'll get the hang of it. Besides, if you can't, who can?


And as she began to listen, to focus on what was being said, things became clearer. Arguments and squabbles over luggage erupted on her right; the joyous cries of families and friends reunited caught her momentary attention; a man complained loudly about having to be searched for possible arms or weapons... It wasn't that she understood every word being spoken, but a few key words here and there conveyed the general idea. A smile spread across her pale face, whiter than that of a typical Japanese due to little-to-no time outside over the past four years. See? It's not THAT hard. It just takes some getting used to.

After she finally made it through customs, got her yen exchanged for dollars, and fetched all her bags and things, Keiko found a taxi to take her to her new (pre-furnished) apartment.

It took three trips, but she managed to carry all her things up to her rooms, after which Keiko flopped down on the floor. Sprawling out on a rug, she sighed. A new feeling of loneliness swept over her. The sudden realization that there was no one at all she knew in this country made her heart grow cold. What's gonna happen to me? she wondered timidly. I don't know what the hell I'm doing here! The distinct fright at the prospect of being completely on her own on foreign turf, with no one to help her gain her bearings, paralyzed her. The only good news was, beside having a roof over her head, that she already had a solid job with the LAPD, and her first interview was tomorrow morning at nine. But she had no idea where the office was even located…

Some of the initial euphoria began to wear off as Keiko realized that it was going to be one hell of a three-year period: no friends, virtually no knowledge of the country, getting used to a new language… she was the underdog, and would have to fight her way to the top to be the detective she wanted to be… and have a good three years here. What if I don't make any friends, though? What if no one likes me? What if I can't understand anyone when they're talking? What if I make an idiot of myself? What if I just can't do it…?

Relax. Just wait, she said to herself silently, staring morosely out the window and over the panorama of the sun setting over Los Angeles. You'll get used to it. You'll see. Besides, you can go back if it doesn't work out.

No. I refuse. Her firm determination resurfaced, and she began to feel like her old self again. I won't give up. I'm gonna stick out my three years here, and I'm gonna damn like it.

I hope…

Across the city, in a five-star hotel called the Raffles L'Ermitage Beverly Hills, sat a young man of twenty years ("sat" being a rather loose term; it was more of a perch). With his thumb, he toyed with his lower lip while he surveyed the view of the city as framed by the large window. Another case, another riddle, he thought to himself. I wonder if this will ever get… more exciting. Solving cases is my life… but, I don't know. It's starting to get a little boring, even after limiting myself to cases with over ten deaths or ten million dollars at stake… It's monotonous. At this rate, I'm going to become a cynical old man by 25. How pitiful.

Then again, why are you even allowing your mind to wander like this? You don't have a life. Your sole identities are those of well-known detectives...

He gave a brief thought that perhaps 67 different aliases was rather superfluous. Then again, each of them did have a point and purpose. Damned good ones, too.

But why isn't this as much fun as it used to be...?

Why are you allowing such unnecessary concepts as "fun" into your head? "Fun" is luxury one of my stature cannot afford. Besides, you've lived for years without it.

Hm, not since leaving Hokkaido... no, before that... Pensively, he bit the tip of his thumb, almost as if that tiny bit of almost-pain would pull him from his reverie.

An elderly man came in bearing a tea set on a tray, which he set on the table before the young man. The latter reached over from his strange position to grasp between his index finger and thumb the handle of a teacup, bringing the steaming liquid to his lips. "Hmm," he grunted softly, shaking his head. Upon tasting te slight bitterness of the tea, he plopped exactly ten sugar cubes into the small cup, stirring it absently into a gelatinous syrup with a spoon (which was also held in a strange, delicate manner, as though prolonged exposure to the utensil would give him some kind of disease). "Watari…" he said, addressing the old man. "I gather that much of my life will be like this…?"

Watari nodded. "Bear in mind that you could choose to retire at any time and still have enough money to live on comfortably for the rest of your life."

The young man nodded, idly brushing a few strands of shaggy black hair from his baggy, bloodshot eyes. "Mm, yes, I know." He took a sip of the hyper-sweetened tea and turned to stare out the window once more. "But that would be giving up. And I enjoy solving cases."

"But you're unhappy."

The man's eyes narrowed slightly, but his gaze never left the window. Odd. Watari was perhaps the only person in the world who could ascertain anything about his feelings at any given time.

Feelings, hmph. Useless things that they are... That brought him back to where he'd started on his inner debate not a minute before.

"Not unhappy, per se… just restless." Granted, his restlessness was not without cause. Every day was the same for him: sitting in a high-class hotel room eating tea and cakes and solving cases for the police without even an hour or two of sleep to tell one day from the next. And for him, arguably the world's most brilliant mind, most of the cases were entirely too predictable, in the end. There was no excitement to be had—nothing to break the endless cycle of ennui.

His coal-black eyes studied the terrain: there was a magnificent twilight vista of both the nearby mountains and a hint of the Pacific Ocean glimmering in the sunset, nearly hidden by the city itself.

The older man smiled in a knowing way, unseen by the other. "And you thought there was enough crime in the world to keep you busy for the rest of your days."

He rolled his wide eyes. "There still is, but no INTERESTING crime."

Watari shook his head in resignation, adjusting his spectacles. "That is a very twisted statement, my friend."

The black-haired man took another sip of tea without any sign of acknowledgement that he'd heard Watari's words. For a moment or two, he was silent, then, "I realize that, but this is purely a hobby, do you understand?" He sighed. "You will recall Aiber, the con man we apprehended last month."

"How could anyone forget him?"

"Mm, yes. He is rather impressionable." Obviously, that little hint of sarcasm was lost on the young man—either that, or he did not see the point in responding to it. "Cases like his, where the criminal is extremely intelligent, present more of a challenge to me." He didn't elaborate further; there was no need to do so. The implication was that cases like Aiber's were more enjoyable because they presented more of a challenge to the young man. Watari, of course, knew that.

"And in cases such as Aiber's, there is little violence, as well," added Watari demurely, stirring lemon into his own tea. "That is more pleasant for me."

The young man gave a tiny nod. "Yes. You put up with a lot for my sake, and I thank you for that." He turned and gave the man a very rare smile—albeit a very watery and quite nearly imperceptible smile, as though he hadn't expressed such emotion in years, as though he'd forgotten how to.

Then again, that was probably true.

At this point, a loud beeping noise came from a laptop on the other side of the parlor, saving them from a potentially awkward moment of sentimentality, for which the younger man was greatful. He sighed and hefted himself out of the chair with his arms, crossing over to the computer, hunching as he walked (or rather, shuffled, bare feet scuffing against the carpet). A large, white screen was visible, emblazoned with a large, black, gothic-style letter "L" in the center. "This is L speaking," he said into the microphone, not without a touch of long-suffering acquiescence.

"L, we've got a new lead," came another voice from the speaker, who, as the young man jiggled the mouse, came into view—there was a camera set up at the police headquarters that he'd placed there for his own use. He hated to talk to others without being able to see and read their actions and movements, but he hated for others to see him at all. He did not want to be seen; as the world's third greatest detective, it would cause undesired publicity. He could become an easy target for criminals, if this were to happen. Furthermore, he simply didn't like people.

"Yes, Chief Inspector. I'm listening…"

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