It was a cold and snowy day, ice crystals shifting with the contortions of the winter breeze.
The old man led the child by the hand.
Child, looking up towards a large house, frost beneath his eyes and clinging to his eyelashes. A red scarf was pulled around his neck and covering up to just below the bridge of his nose.
Old man, glancing at the child, hope lightly dashed on the corners of his old whiskers sitting quietly below his nose—twitching as a smile formed on his face, taking in the bewilderment of the child's face.
"This…is where I am staying?"
He couldn't help but shake with warmth, and a giddiness only those with compassion could feel when tiny fingers gripped his hold on the child's gloved hand—reassuring their bond.
"This is where we are staying…"
It was a week after that Wammy intercepted L.
"The case. Yes, the case does need to be solved. But not at the expense of this child." He let the glowering looks linger on him before tipping his hat and kindly offering if the attorney needed a ride back but the attorney declined, preferring to take a taxi.
Wammy waved as the taxi drove off, snow flying from the curbs. He turned around as a tapping sound entered his ears, slowly and softly but strangely demanding.
What he saw when he turned around was a child with reckless black hair, no expression, and pale cheeks. Red nose.
"Hello," he said to him. He had walked over to the child, who was sitting in the car of the attorney's, tapping his nibbled-on fingers along the window.
"Have you come to have your say?" the child asked tonelessly, drawing his face up to look at the staring Wammy who had bent his head to get a better view of him.
"I think before I say anything, it would be proper to introduce ourselves"—the child's ears perked up—"and maybe go out for some hot chocolate."
The boy pondered Wammy's statement for a while, fingers leaving the window to dance on his lips. "I believe you may call me L, other than what I believe there is nothing I can do for you—for my name."
Wammy nodded. This child…L…he is so—old. "Yes. You may call me Quilsh Wammy."
"Quilsh Wammy." The boy blinked.
"Indeed." Wammy smiled at him. L pushed open the car door, almost knocking over Wammy, as he did not even wait for him to move away from the side.
"We leave this here," L said, and gestured to the car.
"I'm afraid so." He beckoned the child to move along with him, but L was already walking in front of him— white shirt dragging along the snow, hiding his feet from view and his figure from among the snow, a black blob shuddering every once in a while.
The car had broken down and Wammy had continued their argument from when they were driving about L—and finally won. He was to take L with him, and to care for him until L could take care of himself.
That time never came.
L always needed someone. It didn't matter that he became capable of doing things himself, the world was so needy on him that he felt compelled to be needy on someone else, clinging to the last shred of humanity he could possess from one other person—
"L, please come back here." L stood still and didn't turn back to Wammy.
Wammy sighed and caught up to the bent figure, whose hands were crossed firmly around his chest, buried in the sleeves. "You're going to catch a cold, wallowing in the snow in that."
"What do you suggest, Quilsh Wammy?"
"Please, just Wammy would do."
"It is not my intention to please you."
Wammy kept his mouth shut and instead, took L by arm, and hoisted him over his shoulder. He shook his head. He didn't even have socks on—just poor, beaten tennis shoes.
L began to protest and wiggle around but Wammy kept a firm grip on him.
As they continued walking—or, just Wammy doing the walking—L started to smile. Someone's carrying me and it is not Death.
Before they entered the ice cream shop, Wammy put L down and adjusted his shirt on his small body. "This shirt is too loose for you, L."
L didn't reply, just stared at him as Wammy brushed the snow off of the hem of his shirt.
"That hurt," L said a couple minutes later when they had entered the shop.
"Ice cream for a peace offering?" Wammy offered, but thought he might never get anywhere. He had let it slip his mind that L draping over his shoulder would prevent them from entering the shop correctly—resulting in L's bum feeling pain it bumped against the doorframe.
"I would accept your peace but it is not my intention." He was staring down at the tiled floor now.
"Oh? And what would your intention be then?" Wammy caught the amusement in his voice right after he let it out. Thankfully L didn't seem the type to be offended by it.
L looked up at Wammy from underneath the fringe of his dark hair. "Finding peace in this world I find so strange."
Wammy felt amused, hearing an odd boy question how something else could be strange. "But if you were to make peace with me, you would be making peace with a part of the world. I happen to be a part of this world, one man or not."
A finger to his lips. A nibble. "I see you have my same intention too, Wammy."
Wammy grinned. He called me my preferred name. Well-done, L.
As he ordered for L who was busy crouching on the floor and inspecting it, Wammy thought, I hope to find peace sometime, in my old age—I have yet to find any.
He found some peace in L. With L.
And then some. Because, peace very well may have began with the world, but the peace with each other and theirselves was just beginning to break apart.
"Do you not find this strange, Wammy?" L dipped a finger in his bowl of ice cream.
"What strange, L?" Wammy himself had a cone. He purposely ordered for L's to be in a bowl, he didn't want to find out if the child was a messy eater in a public place.
It was just too bad L could make a mess with a bowl since he disregarded the use of spoons.
"We choose to eat something cold when it is already cold." He stuck a glob of vanilla ice cream in his mouth, licking his lips clean. After he was finished gulping (and Wammy was afraid he would choke himself to death by how much he consumed with just one glob), he wiped his fingers on his shirt and dipped another into the bowl and his thumb from his free hand to his lip. "Is it because we, as humans, do not like change and choose to keep things constant? Is tha—"
"There is not always a deeper meaning to everything, L."
A little irked at being interrupted, L was about to retort but held back his tongue. He remembered, remembered Celia.
He didn't like change. He couldn't just forget Celia, not that much had to change. He remembered Celia's look at life—there was always a deeper something to anything. The stars, the unseen colors, the candy.
"Oh, but there is, Wammy. You might have to dig for it but it is there." He finished his ice cream and slid out the booth—landing on the balls of his feet so he could be crouching on the floor. Feet touching the cold, tiled floor.
"I did suggest we have hot chocolate…" Wammy stammered but L was already by the door, waiting for him.
He waited for her.
"When I hear the gunshot, I'll be coming."
But he hoped she never came.
"When I hear the gunshot…"
It was unfortunate for her that she always kept her word.
"…I'll be coming."
And she gave her word to him and he crumpled it up and threw it into the fires of his heart.
It was because she kept her word that she came and she came to get killed. To stop him from getting killed.
It was unfortunate for him that he saw it coming, saw her word being there—but her promise broken.
It was after they left the ice cream store that Wammy had the strange idea to buy clothing for L. No one would have stopped him if he were to just get him better shoes and socks (because L had cut the bottom out of his former ones)—but he had to go and get excited enough to want to buy him shirts and pants and more.
He spoiled the child with the gift of choice.
"This one, Wammy."
It was a shame that every choice L made was the same.
He held the bag of white shirts for Wammy to see with just the tips of his fingers and looked back at it, nodding to himself because even if Wammy were to say no he knew that he himself approved.
"That's the same as this one." Wammy held up a white T-shirt that was exactly the same as the one L was wearing except it was much shorter.
"But these come in a bag." L placed the bag of white T-shirts into the growing increasingly heavy basket. He nodded again. "That should do."
Wammy grunted, struggling with the weight of the shopping basket. "But you haven't even gotten…pants…" He regretted saying that.
The he knew it was too late as L walked away from him towards the pants section.
I will have to get a cart, then, he thought. He dropped the basket with a thud onto the floor. There were two bags of white T-shirts, three independent white T-shirts, a box of white T-shirts, and folded piece of cloth that resembled a white T-shirt.
When he came back to the basket the pile of clothes was even worse as L stacked the same blue jeans onto it.
That child…he can make me feel so uneasy around him. But then after the worse of it is over, a certain calm of peace washes over me…then it goes out again when Roger suggests I should buy him an ant farm. I can only imagine what L would do about that…
It was after Wammy had transferred the clothing onto the cart that he noticed L was gone.
Oh dear…what was I—?
Thank heavens he wasn't raiding some poor soul's cart. "L, where were you?" He kept his voice even, not displaying the anxiety that was already fading away as his charge walked up to him, heavy slouch and messy hair appearing at once.
"There is something I must tell you."
He captured his interest once L stated the obvious.
"Yes, L, what is it?" Wammy asked expectantly.
"I believe we aren't safe here," he said, eyes shifting uncomfortably. "I found something…suspicious."
"And what, pray tell, could that be?"
"I will have to show you."
"But is it not too suspi—"
L was walking ahead of him already…again.
What Wammy wasn't expecting was standing before a urinal.
He had to bite back a laugh as a man shuffled out of the room behind him and L moved behind Wammy, staring at the suspect.
"There," he breathed. He hid his face behind Wammy's coat.
Wammy sighed. How do you deal with a child's fear of a…urinal?
"L," he gently said as he turned around and bent his knees so he could look him in the eyes. He swept some of his unruly hair from his hairs to get a clearer view. "That's a toilet."
"No, this is the toilet."
"No, that's a toilet."
"That would make this a toilet room."
"L." Wammy placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's not going to hurt you."
After he explained to L what it really was and why it was there, Wammy thanked the heavens that their cart was still in the exact same spot. It must have looked too intimidating for anyone to take it.
As they made their way towards a line to pay, Wammy silently voiced to himself, I won't let anything hurt you.
As they were about to pay, and the cashier's eyes were beginning to pop out of his head as he stared at the load of clothes in the cart, the stack of clothes began to sway.
Wammy prayed desperately that it would not topple over. As he moved to keep a hold on it, something flew over his head and landed on the pile of clothes. Suddenly, the pile stopped fumbling.
It was a piece of candy. He looked at L who only shrugged. "I'm still hungry, I want to even out my appetite."
He more like evened out the balance. And Wammy was grateful for that. He would remember to give L more candy in the future, it was what saved his life from embarrassment—and it was what started L's.
And he was just happy to make it out of the mart alive, never again would he try to take L out to a strange place as that—at least, until he had practice handling it.
It was before they headed out with many bags of clothing piled into the cart that Wammy dashed back into the fray quickly. L waited next to the cart, knowing it would make him feel at peace if he were to stay in the same place.
A hand took hold of the cart's handles and nudged L on to move.
On top of the unending pile of bags was a red scarf. L stared questionably at it until Wammy said airily, "Just adding some change."
And for the first time since Wammy saw him, L grinned.
It was after the outing that they finally made it to Wammy's House, snow crestfallen among the high shingles and across gray walls and tills.
L hung onto Wammy's hand as the gates opened.
They reached the door and L suddenly felt scared, nervous, and depressed knowing there was no going back now, no chance of going back to how things were—horrible as they were but still what he knew—everything would change once he stepped through that door.
Wammy noticed his apprehension in the cold, stiff air and laid a hand on his shoulder.
L wondered, wondered if that Celia were near him she'd be doing the same thing and encouraging him to go on.
"Just one step, L. You can do it. You're not leaving me behind. You're leaving everything else behind. But I'll be right here waiting." She would smile that last smile and fall into the snow. Returning, but forever.
He felt the weight lift from his back and the comforting weight on his shoulder present itself.
Wammy never let go.