This didn't come out quite the way I had anticipated, but I'll go with it.
For some reason, this popped into my head this morning when I was bleary and kind of melancholy, and after it screamed to be written, I finally did exactly that. Yes, it's depressing. Yes, it's L crying. Yes, I find him human and believed him to do this at least once in his life just like the rest of us. I mean, damn, sometimes crying is kind of nice.
Waaah. I don't know why I'm rambling. This wasn't supposed to come out so emotional, but…yeah. Sometimes it just happens.
Anyway. This is set at Wammy's House after the L.A.B.B. murder case and right before L tackles the Kira case. I'd be a little high strung, too. The lyrics are "It's So Simple" by Saosin.
I don't own Death Note, but I own lots of melancholy plot bunnies that will eventually be written.
batteries for bedlam.
[it's so simple to be afraid;
it's so simple when you know who you are.]
According to Matt, the hallways of Wammy's House are too damn clean.
He doesn't remember much of his life before entering this place, but he clearly recalls his former home being a wreck and a half. A disaster zone, littered with his mother's needles and his father's cigarettes, being kept company by molding dishes and cat piss.
Which is why, on the halfway mark between morning and noon, Matt wishes that there would be a little chaos. With each step he takes, he invisions dragons bursting through the windows, scorching the white walls into angry black char, warriors with gunmetal grey armor and swords waving proudly above their heads to take them down. A violent chorus of footfalls from their sturdy, blood-stained boots would crush the marble floors into rubble. Killer whales and centaurs and bombshell princesses locked away in cages screech into the scene, and Matt simply walks through it all, enjoying the view.
Anything would be better than this.
He's not sure where he is going. It's a Saturday, the playroom is stuffed tightly with children that know too much for their own good, and he has run out of battery juice for his game console. So, Matt walks through imagined fire and strife and sword-clashing and somehow ends up before Roger's office without ever having planned it.
His eyes, lazy jade and lidded, drop down to the dead console in his hand before glancing back up at the door. Well, he does need batteries, and Roger does have his ways of having just about everything conceivable in that desk of his, and Matt is bored shitless in this too-clean hallway.
There are voices from behind the door, but Matt's desperation for bedlam feeds off of this and turns the doorknob slowly, easing open the door just enough to see in but not to be seen.
Matt is not one to be easily surprised. He views the world as a giant clock, ticking and ticking and staying on track, and what happens in between the ticking is something that he has grown to expect the worst of. He has seen his mother struck on the side of the head with a drained beer bottle, his father wrapping his lips around the shotgun he had kept in the cabinet. He has seen test after test that proved that he is in fact worthy of being in this pristine place at all, and he has seen children turn cold and callous after so long of striving to be number one.
He thought that had been the end of his shock.
But as Matt peers carefully into the office, his stomach jumps, his back straightens, not because he sees Roger sitting gravely at his desk, or because Watari is stiffly adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose as he stands by the window, but because he sees L.
It's been weeks - no, months since his last visit, and L has his manner of slinking about when he does come by, being unseen and kept busy in the room connected to Roger's office. The lone fact that Matt is most likely the first child to have seen him first doesn't sit right with him (if he hadn't been the first, the entire orphanage would undoubtedly be buzzing in excitement, but things are just as droning and monotonous as ever).
But there he is, L, sitting in a way that Matt has never seen from him before; his wiry frame is completely lax in his chair just opposite of Roger's desk, his legs limp and sprawled open. His head is slumped down, the thick mop of dark hair completely fanning over his face, and his arms hang loose by his sides like dead weight. He is either exhausted or -
"We will keep the news quiet," Roger says with the timidity that Matt is so very used to hearing. He clears his throat, then more firmly, "For the sake of the children."
Matt sees L's head raise a fraction of an inch before dropping down again. Watari takes off his glasses and begins wiping the lenses on a handkerchief, his face solid and critical. "It wouldn't be fair for the children to be kept ignorant, Roger. It's their right to know about what occurs in-"
"This is not about keeping the children ignorant," Roger protests shakily.
Watari's glasses are back on, eyes flashing behind them. "If we are purposely keeping information in regards to the role of L from the orphans, they are ultimately being kept in the dark," he retorts, voice rising slowly. "Do you plan on keeping the entire case a secret from them as well?"
L's fingers twitch slightly at these words, and Matt catches it with a quick eye. He is still bewildered that he is so close to him without the man even knowing, without anyone but dinky, scrawny little Matt knowing, but that fashion that he is sitting stuns him even more. He looks so…ragged. Broken. Drained.
Not to mention the fact that Matt has no clue what these men are talking about in the first place.
Roger rubs his temples in a circular motion before interlacing his fingers atop his desk. "This is only a temporary arrangement," the old man says tightly. "The children will learn of B at a more appropriate time, but for now I feel it's best that we simply…"
His voice trails off when Matt latches onto that name: B. So that's what this is all about…? he ponders, half disappointed. I mean, sure, the guy ran away and all, but everyone knew about that a long time ago…nah, it's gotta be something else going on, something Roger obviously doesn't want us to know…
Watari is getting angry now, Matt can see it rising in his posture, the tension on his face. L, however, hasn't moved. "From day one, these children have been aware of the fact that they are competing for the role of L," Watari says firmly. "What is the point in fighting for such a title when we won't even tell them about the cases that they may come across once they obtain that role?"
Roger says nothing, only closes his eyes and begins massaging his temples again.
"This won't do, Roger," Watari says, dropping his voice lower so that Matt has to crane his neck slightly to hear. See, but don't be seen. "I understand that this is not a light matter to handle, but either way, B was a successor. His death needs to be made evident."
And, dammit, Matt has been surprised again. He actually sways on the spot, almost pushing the door open wider, but quickly regains his footing and holds his breath. Close one. See, but don't be seen.
"And for what reason?" Roger barks. "To start an uproar? To send countless children into panic? There is no reason why we have to inform the orphans at a time like this, when L is preparing for a new case on the most dangerous serial killer in history!"
All falls silent. The only movement in the room is L tilting his head back, staring up at the ceiling blankly. Matt can see eyes now, L's eyes, and the sight of them almost frightens him; he is so used to Mello's eyes, constantly ablaze and accusing everyone around him, or Near, whose are just as dark as L's but curious, provoking, always in a heavy state of thought.
But L…his eyes are completely flatline. As if they had once shone and glittered with disconnected rage like Mello's, or a childlike sort of curious charm like Near's, but have been taken out, rinsed off and replaced, only to dull in comparison. And so very, very tired…
Roger has stood up now, wiping his palms off on his pants. His hands are trembling. "I-if you'll excuse me," he says quietly before turning and exiting into the room that L so frequently hides away in, closing the door behind him.
The tension that had been choking the room before significantly drops once it is only Watari and L as its occupants, and yet L makes no effort to change his position in the frumpy wooden chair. Watari bows his head and inhales deeply, holds for a beat and exhales before raising his eyes to L. "I apologize," he says weakly. "In the midst of all of this I forgot to fetch your tea."
"Both A and B walked into their own deaths."
This is what takes Matt off guard every time. Whenever L speaks, it is the same as his eyes: blank, toneless, tired. Even Watari seems to be taken back at this statement, but he is silent, knowing L much better than Matt ever will.
"A took the reigns in ending his own life, and B ultimately followed suit the moment he crafted his challenge for me. Even after failing suicide, B ended his own life long before his actual death. In essence, it is all the same thing."
He is curling up into his normal position, and somethig in Matt is both relieved and troubled by this. Watari looks upon the young man, the reason for this very orphanage, with an unreadable sort of hurt to his worn eyes.
"No…no, that's not right," L amends softly. "A walked into his death, whereas B all but waltzed into his."
Watari is quick to speak now. Even Matt, who purposely keeps his distance from L for the sake of the mystery, to preserve the thrill in only seeing him occasionally, knows that something is not right in L's voice. "Their deaths were not your doing, L," Watari says carefully. "I thought you would know better than to blame yourself for this-"
"I've been wondering," L interrupts, seemingly not having noticed that Watari had been speaking. Oh, his eyes, his eyes, they are no longer tired; the only word that Matt can seem to spin in his mind is manic. Or maybe wired. Frozen?
"I've been wondering…" L repeats, his voice oddly high, air-like. "If A walked and B ran, then what am I doing?"
Watari's brow knits in concern. "L, that's not at all appropriate for you to think about right now." As firm as his words are, Matt catches a tremor in his voice waver through the air, and he almost reaches out and catches it as it reaches his ear, as if he will need it later.
L tips his head, eyes wired open. "Crawling?" At this, he gives a slight nod, approving of himself. "Yes…yes, that might be it…"
"You are not walking, running or crawling, L," Watari presses, voice hardening. "You are doing exactly what the title of world's greatest detective assumes. To solve difficult cases around the world and ensure that justice is served. Are you not confident in your abilities as of late?"
L is either not listening or is not showing that he is, because he pulls at his bottom lip with such a ferocity that Matt nearly winces, his neurotic gaze drifting off into the corner of the room where dust and shadows lurk like monsters in picture books. "If Kira was not confident in his abilities, he would have been caught within a week without ever having needed my assistance," L notes darkly. "B had been arrogant, as you are well aware."
Matt cannot help but understand his point.
Watari's jaw tightens, but he is wordless yet again. L grips at his knees so tightly that Matt, even from a distance, can see his already ashen knuckles wash out and turn a sickly pale. "You will not inform the children as a whole of B's death, nor of the murders he enacted or that Kira is now involved."
Matt cranes his neck slightly again; it is times like these that he curses L for being so soft-spoken and curses himself for being so accustomed to the rowdy sounds of imagined fantasy chaos.
"You will tell only my top two successors. That is all."
My top two successors…Near and Mello…
It's quite a shame that Matt, number three, has found his way of finding out regardless, but he ignores that and keeps his attention on L, whose eyes have widened to an almost off-putting degree.
"And, Watari…you will also tell them that if there will be another death to occur that is not Kira's, it will be mine. Please prepare them for that."
The wheels of Matt's brain turn to rust. He is acutely aware that he has swayed yet again (surprised for the second time that day, he is so confused with himself anymore) and he cannot remember if the opening in the doorway had been this wide before, but the look on Watari's face is nothing short of wrenching, even for a child such as Matt who bears memories of mommy and daddy that should sting, but have been disconnected, as if only happening to a fraction of himself and not the entire deal. He has never been naïve, but he is so very skilled at blocking things out of his mind with the efficiency of someone much more experienced and intelligent than his meant-to-be-tender age.
The look in Watari's eyes is one thing that Matt has a feeling will stick with him for awhile.
"L, you have yet to officially take on this case and already you talk about preparing others for your death?" Watari asks, bewildered. When he meets L's eyes, the latter slowly bows his head, fingers trembling atop his abused bottom lip, slightly bruised from his adamant tugging at it.
"I can't be partial to any consequences that may come with the Kira case," L murmurs, "and that includes death."
"But this isn't an affair that Near and Mello will be able to take lightly…!"
L's voice is disturbingly coarse, very much unlike his normal half-mutter, when he speaks again. "You said it yourself that it would not be fair to my successors if they are kept ignorant, am I right?"
"In reference to B, yes - b-but L, this is an entirely different affair with an entirely different outcome if you-"
And Watari does. And Matt does, whatever he had been doing, let it be breathing or biting his lip, he stops. Because Matt has become awfully, dreadfully, lucidly aware that L's voice has cracked.
"Whether in reference to B or not, however different of an outcome may result in informing Near and Mello of this, you will tell them. It is solely their right and their right alone to have knowledge of the possibility that this case may be my last, and if it takes going completely against Roger's wishes of keeping them in the dark, then so be it, but I won't have news of my death come as a shock at any point in time, and I trust that you will ensure of that as I have trusted you with-"
And just like that, in the middle of his sentence, L coils in on himself and cries, shoulders shivering, his hands gripping his hair. Watari is before him in a matter of seconds, paternal fear laying thick over his weathered face, over his eyes that Matt knows have seen far more than he lets on about, and as if predicting his arrival, L allows himself to tip forward in his chair and is caught by his caretaker in a clean sweep. Horrible, horrible sounds, gasps and chokes and sobs and Watari's all-too-knowing eyes that suddenly spot the gap in the door, where a petrified Matt stands rooted to that spotless marble floor.
He does what any child, a Wammy's House orphan or not, does upon realizing that he is the most terrified he has ever been in his life. Not because he has been caught, not because B is dead, but because even the great, mighty symbol of L is able to snap like bent wire, and that he fears death.
He whips around and bolts quicker than he most likely ever will for the short remainder of his life. The dragons and warriors and killer whales and centaurs and princesses, they are all gone now, they have all left upon realizing that L is going to either win this or die, and Near, with the infantile, curious gaze, or Mello, with his wrath of things he doesn't even understand, is going to have to take over without so much as a second's hesitation.
He runs until the adrenaline dies down into a panting, wheezing trudging before arriving in front of Mello's door.
Maybe he will spill it all to him. Maybe he can trust Mello not to tell, to not run straight to Roger's office where L sits crumpled and weeping against Watari's chest and demand a goddamn explanation.
But just as Matt reaches for the doorknob, he thinks that maybe he will keep this one thing to himself, out of respect. Out of fear and stunned silence. Maybe he will go back wandering for batteries and meet the dragons and warriors some other time, because right now, his head is heavy, his hands are cold.
And, just maybe, there is something oddly poetic about taking a secret to your early grave.
Little side note, this was originally supposed to be a Near fic, then I switched to Mello, then finally struck a chord on Matt.
Anywho, I love me some feedback. Until next time.